Kelly Slater, a name that reverberates through the annals of surfing history, is not just a surfer; he’s an icon, a prodigy, and a beacon for aspiring wave riders worldwide. Born on February 11, 1972, in Cocoa Beach, Florida, Slater’s journey with the waves began at a tender age. By the time he was in his teens, it was evident that he wasn’t just another surfer. His unparalleled skill, intuitive reading of the waves, and fearless approach set him apart. Over the course of his illustrious career, Slater clinched a record 11 World Surf League Championships, an accomplishment that cemented his status as the greatest surfer of all time. Beyond competitions, Slater has been an innovative force, not only pioneering advancements in wave pool technologies but also founding Outerknown, a surf company rooted in sustainable practices. His unwavering commitment to environmental causes further adds to his legendary status. Slater’s legacy isn’t merely defined by the waves he’s conquered, but also by the indelible mark he’s left on the world of surfing.
Raised in the sun-kissed coastal town of Cocoa Beach, Florida, Kelly Slater has long been synonymous with the quintessential surfer’s life. The ocean was his backyard, influencing him deeply; a fact underscored by his parents, Judy Moriarity and Stephen Slater. Even now, Slater holds close to his roots, residing in the very place that shaped his legendary career. His familial ties include his two brothers, Sean and Stephen, with whom he shares a bond as strong as the coastal tides.
From the son of a local bait-store owner to a surfing prodigy, Slater’s affinity with the waves was evident early on. He started surfing at the tender age of five and was already a formidable presence in local competitions by ten. His knack for riding the Atlantic swells earned him a national title in 1984, and not long after, he showcased his burgeoning talent on an international stage. The young Slater claimed a junior title in Australia and finished impressively at the world amateur championships in England.
A product of Cocoa Beach High School, Slater’s transition from amateur to professional surfer was as swift as it was spectacular. Turning professional in 1990, he cut his teeth on the Bud Pro Tour, clinching victory in his very first outing at the Body Glove Surf Bout in Trestles, California. This victory catapulted him onto the World Surf League Championship Tour for the 1991 season. Despite an initial struggle where he ranked 43rd out of 44 surfers, Slater’s resilience was unwavering.
The year 1992 was a turning point; Slater clinched his first professional win in France and took the revered Pipeline Masters in Hawaii, crowning him the youngest world champion in surfing at that time, just at age 20. Although his ranking dipped to sixth in 1993, he surged back with a vengeance, stringing together an astonishing five consecutive world titles from 1994 to 1998, an era that also saw the rise of surfing’s television popularity.
Following his historic run, Slater stepped away from the competitive circuit at the end of 1998, only to re-emerge with the same competitive fire on the world pro tour in 2002, proving that his passion for the sport was as enduring as the waves he mastered.
In 2007, Kelly Slater etched his name even deeper into surfing lore by surpassing the all-time record for career event wins. His victory at the Boost Mobile Pro event at Lower Trestles, near San Clemente, California, marked this milestone. He overtook the previous record held by surfing luminary and Slater’s own childhood hero, the three-time world champion Tom Curren. This achievement underscored Slater’s place among surfing’s elite.
However, Slater’s road to glory had its share of drama. In a moment of high anticipation mixed with confusion, the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) prematurely celebrated Slater’s eleventh world title due to a points miscalculation. The official crowning moment came on November 6, 2011, when Slater clinched his eleventh ASP world title at the Rip Curl Pro Search in San Francisco, after triumphing in his fourth-round heat.
The 2011 US Open at Huntington Beach witnessed Slater in his competitive element, but it was back in May 2005 at the Billabong Tahiti Pro in Teahupo’o where he made history. There, Slater achieved the unprecedented, scoring two perfect waves to total a flawless 20 out of 20 points under the ASP’s two-wave scoring system—a feat never before accomplished (although Shane Beschen had scored a perfect heat under the earlier three-wave system in 1996).
Continuing his legacy, in June 2013 during the quarterfinals of the Volcom Fiji Pro, Slater delivered another impeccable performance, riding two perfect ten waves, becoming only the fourth person in history to achieve this remarkable feat.
Demonstrating that age is but a number, at the ripe age of 47, Slater became the oldest surfer to score a perfect ten-point ride in World Surf League competition. This historic ride took place at the 2019 Billabong Pipe Masters, cementing Slater not just as a trailblazer but also as an enduring force in the competitive surfing world.
Slater’s enduring association with the surfwear titan Quiksilver, which began in 1990, came to a close on April 1, 2014. Post-Quiksilver, Slater embraced his entrepreneurial spirit and, with the support of Kering, launched ‘Outerknown.’ This venture wasn’t just another apparel line; it was a testament to Slater’s commitment to sustainability and eco-conscious fashion, reflecting his deep respect for the ocean and environment that had long shaped his legendary career.
Kelly Slater, often synonymous with Channel Islands Surfboards, was long recognized for his loyalty to their boards, complemented by his personalized series of FCS fins. The year 2015 marked a curious shift when Slater, amidst growing media buzz about his surfboard’s absent sponsor logos, was spotted riding unnamed Firewire surfboards—a company he had acquired a year prior, in 2014. Progressing his innovative journey in the surf industry, 2016 saw Slater introduce his own range of surfboards. By August 2017, Slater’s imprint on Firewire’s offerings was undeniable, with four distinct Slater Designs models gracing their lineup: the Gamma, Cymatic, Omni, and Sci-Fi.
In the early 1990s, Kelly Slater took his talents to the small screen, portraying the character Jimmy Slade in seven episodes of the acclaimed television series “Baywatch.” Slater’s charisma extended to reality TV as well, with a guest appearance on “The Girls Next Door.” Throughout his career, he has been a fixture in numerous surf films, showcasing the prowess that made him a household name.
The digital realm celebrated Slater’s surfing legacy with the release of “Kelly Slater’s Pro Surfer,” a video game developed by Treyarch and published by Activision in 2002. Before that, fans could play as Slater, complete with his signature surfboard, in the iconic video game “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3.”
While Slater’s dominance in surfing is well-documented, his athletic prowess is not confined to the waves. He showcased his versatile talents in the X-Games, claiming gold medals in both 2003 and 2004, adding another layer to his legendary status in the world of extreme sports.
Quotes by Kelly Slater
For a surfer, it’s never-ending. There’s always some wave you want to surf.
Surfing is my religion, if I have one.
There are so many different elements to surfing. Small waves, big waves, long boards, short boards. This makes it a sport you can share with people. It’s not just a solitary thing – it’s become a family thing, too. It’s about exercising and passing something on from father to son, and from mother to daughter.
Kelly Slater is a father. He has a daughter named Taylor Slater.
Kelly’s long-term girlfriend is Kalani Miller.
Kelly is an environmental activist.
Slater is a vegan.
Slater’s favorite surf break is Cloudbreak in Fiji.
Kelly’s favorite movie is “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory”.
Kelly’s favorite band is Little Dragon.
Slater has also been influential in surfboard design, working closely with shapers like Al Merrick and developing his own line of surfboards, Slater Designs, which focuses on eco-friendly materials.
Kelly won his first world championship in 1992 at age 20, making him the youngest-ever world champion. He then went on to become the oldest world champion at age 39 in 2011.
Slater has been involved in developing artificial wave technology. The Kelly Slater Wave Company created a wave pool that produces perfect, consistent barrels which are being used for training and even professional competitions.