Sunday, August 11, 2013

He is the finest athlete that no one knows. Most professional athletes are so into themselves that you can’t help know their names. They have baseball cards, high paying contracts, endorsements, print and TV ads and who can forget all their injuries and palacious homes with the crazy sex life. Then they retire from their sport and become a talking head commentator for years. There is no way to get away from the pampered overpaid permanently injured pro these days. They are all men and they are commentating on everything sports 24/7 somewhere. For once we have a sportsperson who has simply did his thing all his life and did it the best.

His name is Kelly Slater and you hardly read it being mentioned in the sports pages. Yet, millions regard him as a living legend. Slater is the greatest surfer of all time and has been proving that for the past two decades. He is the typical surfer dude that we all wish we were. He has the care free lifestyle of a surfer where the waves and the weather dictate his whereabouts not a job or family or monetary obligations. He had a troubled childhood and where there is trouble, you seek refuge. He sought and found refuge in the ocean.

Kelly is so good on the waves that he is regarded as a God of the sea. Mere mortals can not do and survive what he can do enveloped by the highest waves of the ocean and survive. He has a cult like fan base that do follow him wherever he goes. He is also the most dominant athlete in any sport ever. Kelly has won surfing’s World Championship eleven times. First at the age of 20 and most recently at the age of 39. Most athletes retire after 5 or 10 years of playing not 20 years of playing and he has no intention of retiring.

Slater is the youngest to win it all and both the oldest to win it all. The only person that is not in awe of his name in the surfing world is Kelly himself, being the humble non assuming person he is. His skill has made him rich and his looks has let him be boyfriend to famous sexy women like Pam Anderson and Gisele Bundchen. He tried becoming famous years ago when he accepted a role on the TV show Baywatch. He felt embarrassed by it all and quit the show after just 8 episodes against the advice of his manager and family.

For Slater it has always been about being a surfer and not being a star on TV or even at his own sport at times. It explains at times why he has been known to skip competitions at the last moment. He will simply not show up if the waves are better on some other beach. I admire that. Skip the capitalism for the love of the sport. Who has the guts to do that in their life? No one. Most of us are led by our boring obligations. Only a true surfer is only led by the waves.

“Surfing is not a sport. It is a passion and a love.” Slater says. He studies tides and global weather patterns to find the perfect swell or waves. He doesn’t have a permanent address or home field or set schedule. Wow ! Can we live his life for just one day? I am envious of his carefree life yet he is rich, loved by beautiful women and just famous enough not to be hounded by paparazzi or fans so much. He feels most at home in the barrel of a wave surrounded by water above and below him keeping an eye on reaching the opening at the end of the tunnel of wave for survival.

A true profession, even when on land, he is likely preparing for his next ride by personally shaving his own surfboards making them just the right thickness and crafting the right curve in it. He is quick to say that there are so many different design elements to a good board. Escaping from his troubled childhood gave him plenty of time to devote to surfing.

Growing up in Coco Beach , Florida he was the middle of three brothers whose father was an alcoholic and whose mother worked several jobs just to put food on the table. So, from the time Kelly was 5 years old, he would be at the ocean from dawn to dusk. The ocean was his security blanket. Where his parents weren’t there for him the ocean rhythm was always there like a comforting heartbeat.

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