QUENCHING THE THIRST FOR GOLD IN RIO
SURFING LIFE’S KILLER WAVE
They don’t call him “King Kelly” without reason. Kelly Slater is the undisputed heavyweight champion of the ocean with a staggering 11 world surfing titles to his name. Athletes Talk was on the sand with him as he spoke about his Komunity project and a charity campaign close to his heart.
Kelly it’s great to have you back in Australia mixing with the fans.
I love it here. I always get such a warm welcome here in Australia.
You were here last year to open the Manly-Freshwater World Surfing Reserve. Now this time you’re surfing the break.
Yeah well last year when I showed up it threw me a little. I definitely want to put the apology out there. I wasn’t expecting a big group or a big crowd. I thought we were doing a little private thing with a couple of media because that’s how we did the opening of the first surfing reserve. I was just totally caught off guard with all the people.
Is that something you don’t enjoy?
I’m a little intimidated to be honest. You know people might not realise that about me but I do get kind of shy and intimidated by crowds. I’ll try and sort of make up for it with the kids here today.
You’re here this time to promote a charity. What can you tell me about Surfers Against Suicide?
It’s something that means a lot to me. Just to raise awareness for suicide prevention. It’s a terrible thing.
How widespread is the problem?
I’ve lost a couple of friends myself to suicide and it’s just a horrible thing that can be prevented. People get in this dark place and they don’t know what to do so it’s always nice to see a non-profit that isn’t turning into anything else other than just trying to help people.
Sounds like it’s a great cause then.
You know I’ve dealt with depression in my own family so it’s nice to have support and have some people around to hear it.
Every little bit helps. It can’t hurt having you on board?
I’m just getting familiarised with the group myself but it’s definitely something that’s close to my heart.
A few surfing legends are helping out. Even your old mate Tom Carroll.
Tom is epic. Tom is like a big brother to me but he’s also one of the first guys I looked up to. He’s one of my favourite surfers of all time. I remember meeting Tom in Florida when I was about 12 years old. He came to Florida and he surfed my home break with all the boys and it was pretty cool.
That’s a long friendship you guys have then.
Yeah. Actually the very first time I met Tom I must have been around 10 and by the time I was about 18 I started riding for Quicksilver and Tom and I became like brothers. We trialled together on tour and he kind of showed me the ropes.
How much longer do you think you can keep surfing?
Until I die. Until I’m old.
But professionally, on the tour? What’s feasible?
I don’t know. I just don’t know to be honest. I mean I didn’t think I’d still be doing it at 40 but I am. I’m now 41. People didn’t think that I’d be anywhere near my prime at this stage so it’s all been really nice.
How much do you want a 12th world title?
That would be great. You know at this stage I’m not really all that worried about numbers and that kind of stuff.
What’s your motivation then?
I’m just worried about putting in a performance and being inspired and hopefully inspiring and pushing other people if I can.
You’ve got a board signed up by all the surfers taking part in the awareness ride?
Yeah. This board is just one of my models. It’s just an auction board to raise some money for Surfers Against Suicide. I don’t like to sell my products too much but all the boys have signed it. So it’s pretty cool.
There’s some great names of surfing there.
I can never mistake some of them. You probably can’t read Occy’s (Mark Occhilupo) signature or Tom Carroll’s but I grew up with those signatures imprinted in my brain because I got them to sign my stuff when I was a kid. So seeing that brings back memories from when I was like 9 or 10 years old at trade shows and getting to meet those guys.
There’s a touch football game on too. Tom Carroll said to remind you that it’s not gridiron. You have to throw the ball backwards, not forwards.
I like gridiron but I like rugby too. I play it with a few of my friends out on the beach. It’s good. It’s a great game.