Kelly Slater, from Craig Mee

December 11, 2012 |

 I have a question for Jeff Watson and Jim Sogi, our two surfing experts. Do you think Kelly Slater been able to dominate surfing for the last decade plus partly due to the conditions in surfing being so variable…so nobody gets "set" ? Not to diminish his obvious ability to take new younger opponents and their fresh techniques apart piece by piece…

I am reminded of this article I recently read from the world of cricket… Michael Vaughan (England) was commenting on when Sachin (India) (arguably, or maybe not, the second best ever batsmen in the world) should retire:

"Sachin could still eke out a few runs for another 12 months but he is not batting at the levels he used to. Look at the way he was out in the second innings in Kolkata. It was a good ball from Graeme Swann but he was just prodding at it.

He got 76 in the first innings but the man at the crease was not the Sachin Tendulkar I know. He was not playing the free-flowing way we have loved down the years. He is having to think and really work out where he can score every single run but in the past it came naturally."

… once you have a solid start, the middle order feels more comfortable and is coming in with the game already set up."

Jeff Watson replies: 

Slater is smart, is a complete waterman, and a great competitor who knows how to win. Pro surfing contests are a game, and Slater plays it better than anyone. That being said, he is an animal, a freak of nature, a surfer like one has ever seen before (and we might never see one like him again). Slater is arguably the best surfer in any and all conditions, from the slop in New Jersey to big gnarly Teahupoo in Tahiti. Slater has that uncanny ability to predict what the wave is going to do just like the best chess grandmasters are able to look 10 moves into the future.

I don't know of any other athlete in any other sport that has dominated like Kelly and been the best in the world with a 22 year run. It simply has never happened before, so there's no data to compare it too. Furthermore, whenever the naysayers say Slater has lost his mojo, he wins another title…..and the naysayers have been saying this since 1996-1998……One could argue they thought he lost it in 1991 when he was on the TV series Baywatch, and was dating Pamela Anderson . And I think that was around 10 titles ago. 

Jim Sogi adds:

Kelly was the youngest world champ and is now the oldest. He is in phenomenal shape and has muscles on his muscles in his calves. He trains constantly and scientifically down to what he eats. He has a fierce and competitive attitude. The mental part is probably the biggest factor. Many younger guys have athletic ability or gifts, but the road around the world to the competitions is tough. Kelly cherry picks the contests to which he is seeded, so doesn't have to work his way up or qualify, saving him valuable mental and physical energy. He can travel with style. He loves what he does, and this is the most important thing.

Craig Mee says:

Thanks for your thoughts gentlemen. And now a few words from Slater himself while at this years concluding event where a few points separated Slater and another world championship):

"Slater played guitar and sang at a concert at the Turtle Bay Resort while the event went on hold this week. Golf has been high on the agenda. The stress does not appear to be killing him.

'We've had enough time to think about it,' he said.

'We're trying to put it out of our heads as much as possible because when you're out in the water, if you're thinking about a world title, it's taking away from what you need your mind to be on.

It's Pipe. You have to be on your toes. Which way are the waves going? Do you have to paddle deep? How's the lineup look? How far in on the reef are you? How big is this set going to be? Where's the guy you're surfing against?

'You have to be clear-minded enough to make good decisions every time there's a peak coming at you.

'There's enough to think about in the present moment without worrying too much about the bigger picture.'


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