Really quick: list a group of athletes from the late 20th/ 21st centuries who have dominated their sports’ AND revolutionized the concept of winning: Michael Jordan, Derek Jeter, Tiger Woods, Kelly Slater — Kelly Slater??
Yup. The 34-year old veteran has dominated professional surfing since his entry at the ripe age of 18, winning an unprecedented 7 world titles and becoming the face of his sport.
MF caught up with the living legend and discussed how he managed to stay on top of his game, his new DVD, and crazy female stalkers.
MF: You’re a 22-year veteran of professional surfing, yet amazingly enough, you’re only 34-years old. How do you remain in shape and maintain your physique?
Kelly Slater: Actually, I’ve been pro for 16 years now, since I was 18. I think having a good outlook and just doing a lot of activity will keep you in shape. You have to try to eat well also and remain young in your mind.
MF: You’ve won seven world titles, including 5 in a row. As winning becomes more and more routine, how do you maintain focus and, more importantly, your drive to succeed?
KS: Your mind has to have fresh outlooks on why you are winning. I surf more now for other people than myself. I feel a lot of support from people wanting me to do well and I feed off that. I can send a positive message to people from what I do.
MF: How did being a world champion at 20 years old change your life? How did you deal with the pressure then (as opposed to now)?
KS: It didn’t really change my life. I made more money and had more confidence to know what I could do but I was the same essentially. I got fed up with the pressure pretty easily then. I think I did no interviews for about 6 months at one point.
MF: You’ve been featured in video games, released an autobiography, and have even starred for a season on Baywatch. Are there any other media avenues you’re trying to take over?
KS: I’m not trying to take over anything other than things that are part of what I already do. I do love to play music and have a passion for golf somehow but the media I do is generally about what I’m already doing. I am in the process of writing a surfing technical book.
MF: While on the subject of media, the title of your upcoming DVD (“Letting Go”) hints that it may be slightly reflective on your career. Is this where you’re at mentally right now?
KS: That’s a metaphor for many things in my life that I need to follow.
MF: You’ve traveled the world throughout the span of your career; what’s the craziest thing you’ve seen on the road?
KS: A man eat his own puke off the street so his friends could get a photo of it. Oh, he was English.
MF: What is the craziest encounter you’ve had with a female fan? I’m sure one of People Magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful People” (1991) has had his fair share of groupie love.
KS: I had a crazy stalker sleep outside my door in a hotel in France and follow me all over the city and beach with signs saying things about me as if she was part of a crowd of people only she was by herself.
MF: What does a 34-year-old vet do in his downtime?
KS: Music and golf.
MF: When it’s all said and done, how would you like the world to remember you and your contributions?
KS: That I gave back and had a good heart.