KELLY Slater was in France for the Quiksilver Pro and talked to Ben Mondy for Magicseaweed, about his chase for a 10th world title, board experimentation, mind-games and what ‘life’ would mean after the tour.
How good is it to here in Europe for the Quiksilver Pro and the following events?
It’s fantastic. Look, I love coming here, especially to France. I’ve been coming here for almost 20 years now and I have some good friends that live here, the food is great and yeah, you can drive real fast, which I like, a lot.
What’s best case scenario for you for the European legs?
You know I need a repeat of last year when everyone that was in running all fell by the wayside pretty early. So I kinda need that to happen, for me to be somewhere steady with the guys that are chasing the leaders. And then if it all went to plan I’d have something maybe to go to Hawaii with.
How different is it being the hunter and not the hunted? It hasn’t happened that often in your career.
Yeah, it’s a different experience for sure. You know I started this year with a really bad string of results and wasn’t very focused, but still I wasn’t too worried about it after the first event. I’ve been messing around and experimenting with my boards and you can’t really focus on the event or competition side of things when you are doing that. I mean you have to try and do both, but it’s always going to take away from your competitive aspirations at some level.
Has that board experimentation been a success?
Well its hard to say, but yeah it has affected my competition success. I become a little obsessive about things and I get my mind consumed by things - allowing them to take over. And for most of this year that’s been boards… I’ve even found myself going out in heats and not caring whether I win or lose. Now I’m kinda not sure exactly what that means, but I do know it tends to worry other people more than me. For me its all a part of my surfing, so I’ll just let it run.
And yet last year was one of your best ever statistically and landed your 9th world title. Was your competitive instinct much stronger then?
I didn’t feel like my drive was that great last year to be honest. I just was able to take it heat-by-heat and was really able to be ‘in’ the moment. I was also able to realise that this was what I had to do ‘right now’ and be able to separate that from when I was out of competition, which is crucial. I mean looking back, I think last year overall was the best year I’ve ever had and that was because I was just happy and relaxed and able to stay in the moment.
Last year you were dominant and this year first Parko and now Fanning have been. How does that type of roll come about - is it training, or a mental approach?
Well you can train all you want, but that won’t help you if you aren’t in the right frame of mind. I mean you can be in the right frame of mind and not even train and still win, so it just shows that the mind is more important than the physical side… well that’s my experience anyway. I know that year before when Mick won he trained super-hard and was really focused so you think so it was all down to the training. But there are guys that train really hard and maybe their surfing is not up to scratch. For me, personally, sometimes that training side of things can take away from just letting it happen naturally. I mean you have to healthy, and be able to paddle (laughs), but the mental side has for me personally a great deal more impact.
And what about the long term goals. There’s not really a model of retirement or career path for a 9 times world champion, so how do you think you’ll find life after competition?
Well in terms of a career path I really do see what I’m doing now as my career and then after that I’ll just be travelling and catching good waves. If that’s a career, well, so be it. You know a couple of my friends have got it wired. I mean Shane Dorian has got it wired, he spends two months in Tavarua, and spends a lot of time at home and does a few trips a year getting great waves, so for me there’s nothing better than catching great waves. A friend of mine sent me a photo from Central America a couple of days ago and I wanted to get on a plane and fly down there right away so that’s still the driver for me.
Do you think you look forward to a more settled life?
Well I am home right now. About five or six years ago I had a real problem with that, with travelling so much and not really having a home, or a base. But then I was told by someone close to me that home is where you ‘are’. It’s where your heart is and it doesn’t matter if you have a house around you or not. I always have plenty of friends around and am familiar with the places I’m in. Also love going to new places. You know my friends just like to go out and drink beer and don’t do a whole lot, so I know if I was living at home hanging with my friends I’d be thinking, jeez I want to be somewhere else surfing or travelling. So you know, there’s no complaints, I have a good life.
Interview conducted by Ben Mondy of ACM Writing on behalf of Magicseaweed.