With 11 World Championship titles under his belt and 51 World Tour event wins, Kelly Slater (Cocoa Beach, Florida, USA) sits on an incredible list of career accomplishments and deserving respect. With the Billabong Pipe Masters under way and the 2012 ASP World Champion still undecided, Slater will focus on his precise calculations and an insane amount of experience going for his 12th WCT title at Pipe.
The Surf Channel editor, Shannon Quirk, and Australia’s Tracks Magazine reporter, Jayita A Belcourt, conducted a joint interview at the Billabong Pipe Masters press conference to discuss conditions at Pipeline, his quiver, health, and the young threats that could potentially knock out the title contenders. Take a few minutes to hear what’s on the Quiksilver rider’s mind going into competition.
This is possibly your 12th world title; how much does this one mean to you?
Kelly Slater: It would definitely be nice. It’s been a funny year… I skipped a contest, then I had a great contest and things went my way and then a couple things went against me. It’s just been an up-and-down year. I’m coming off a few bad results right now which isn’t good for the confidence, but at some point I’m bound to have a good result. I feel good at Pipeline. I surfed there the other day; it just felt like being at home, so we’ll see how it goes.
Ideal conditions for Pipeline?
Slater: It depends. If you really want Pipeline, you are talking about 15-17 second intervals at probably 6-10 ft, somewhere in that zone on the bouys. I don’t really like strong trades but if you have a touch of Southeast winds with a touch of trades, that would be perfect. If you want really good Backdoor, you need the swell interval to shorten up a little bit, 13-14 seconds, 6-8 ft. Once it starts to get 10ft at 18 seconds, you’re going to get so many waves washing throughout the back, not a lot of waves ridden, a long time inbetween waves, which only makes three waves per minute.
You just start doing the math on that and you start understanding how much energy is moving through the water on really big swells. Pipeline just gets too big pretty quickly. You kind of want a medium size swell, WNW, and you will probably get rights and lefts. As the interval gets shorter, you get more Backdoor waves.
What is your quiver look like going into this?
Slater: Mostly unwaxed. I have a whole bunch of new boards. I could ride as short as a 5’9” if it’s small, I’m thinking I’ll probably be in the 6’4”- 6’6” zone on my boards, just for that little bit of paddling power. Usually for bigger waves, I like to ride a shortboard just for maneuverability, but we’re not looking at maneuvers; we’re just trying to catch the wave at Pipeline. If it’s the size that I think it’s gonna be, then I’m gonna ride maybe a 6’6”.
You said in a recent interview that you didn’t imagine yourself competing full time at the age of 40. What do you think has made that possible?
Slater: Number one – personal desire to push myself and take care of myself, eating well, sleeping enough. I don’t party, I don’t drink. I’ve always been very vocal against drugs and that type of lifestyle. I’m sort of living proof that you can be in your prime physically as you age, but I think I’m super young for it. I know a guy that’s in his 80’s now who can bench 350 lbs and he looks like he’s 50; it’s pretty crazy.
What you can actually do and what people think you can do are two different things. Based on the diets we have in America, the amount of sugar people eat, the amount of genetically modified foods, the things we don’t know the long term effects of and just basically depleting your body and not putting stuff back in. Most diseases aren’t from anything other than not having the right things in your body as opposed to eating the wrong things. As you get old, you don’t die of being old… you die because somethings missing.
Do you feel like your attitude has shifted a lot from when you were 20?
Slater: Yes, a lot. I’m much more easy-going. I’m probably a lot slower to judge, if that makes sense. When you are young, you are quick to judge things and react. Now I tend to just know from life experience that things aren’t always what they seem. Things are not always as bad or good as you think it’s gonna be.
Who are the upcoming young threats in this competition?
Slater: A dark horse threat is Gabriel Medina. Typically, in beach breaks and aerials, you would think of him as a threat, but he’s more of the maneuver guy. He’s sort of unproven at Pipeline, but he’s figuring things out pretty quick. Then John John Florence is the obvious one, because he hasn’t won the Pipe Masters yet, but he will win by the time he’s done with his career. He’ll probably win at least five Pipe Masters. He’s gonna be a threat in every single one of them for the next 20 years plus.
There are a lot of good guys, but a lot of the younger guys are more “air guys;” they are more of air surfers. You’re going to get a lot more of the established guys that are going to be the threats at Pipeline. You either have Parko who hasn’t won Pipe, but he has had some good results in recent years, or Jeremy Flores who won the other year and no one really expected it, but he is a great barrel rider and a pretty young guy. Julian Wilson is a really good barrel rider, rights and lefts and he charges. Then you have Kieren Perrow who won last year, and he probably wasn’t in anyone’s short list to win the contest, to be honest, and he would probably say the same thing just because he hasn’t won any contest on Tour. As soon as the waves go to a different level, so does he. Everyone has known for a long time that he’s probably the craziest guy on tour. He’ll take off on anything. He’s just not scared and that can be important in big waves.
What does 2013 hold for you?
Slater: I think the world is supposed to end in about two weeks, right? So probably nothing (laughs)… I’ll figure it out when it happens. We’ll figure it out on the 1st.
Keep checking back at TheSurfChannel.com for more updates on the Billabong Pipe Masters 2012!