Kelly Slater, Surfer
At a pretty early age, it was clear that surfing was going to be my life’s journey. It was a feeling inside that I was sort of chosen, if that’s the word.
I first surfed when I was five, on a boogie board my dad gave me. I remember feeling back then that the ocean was talking to me. You find the wave, and the wave finds you. You’re so in tune with the ocean that you’re both more and less aware than normal. I remember being aware of this connection but not knowing what to make of it.
I also remember there being these little ripples that would come at me, refractions of waves. I used to think there was a friend miles away from me sending me messages through the ocean. And I had to respond by being a part of the ocean — it seemed like a world that was mine and no one else’s. No one bothered me or told me what to do or told me to do things a certain way. I grew up skateboarding, and that helped me imagine a different way to surf. At 14, I won a couple of pro events and
I started beating guys who were 18.
I will say that the goal of being the best surfer ever was definitely in my mind. I didn’t know if it was reachable, but people who achieve great things set those kinds of goals for themselves. I’d set all sorts of goals: I’m going to catch this wave, win the title this year, beat this guy. I would think to myself, I beat this guy, who beat that guy, who beat the world champion — so, by extension, I’d convince myself I could beat the world champion.
The decisive moment was when I beat my brother Sean in the 1986 pro-am Excalibur Cup at Sebastian Inlet in Florida. He was older. He had surfed longer than I had. At the time, we talked about how I might have caught a better wave than him, but I think that was the beginning of my tuning in and taking off.
I’ve always done a lot of visualization. No one ever taught me how. If your mind is fertile, it’s natural — we call it mind-surfing. I’d do it just before I’d surf. I’d imagine the whole beach with the word no written all over it, covering the beach. Even if I was running late, I couldn’t go into the water until, in my mind, I’d changed every no to yes.