Kelly Slater Dives Deep Into Retirement and Career Milestones

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If you’re a fan of professional surfing, you’re probably aware that Kelly Slater appears to have retired from the CT. This isn’t the first time he’s done it, though, or the first time he’s hinted that he will be hanging up the jersey for good. “Retirement” in surfing, however, isn’t really the same as retiring from a normal job. When an accountant hangs up the calculator, they don’t do taxes for fun. When a surfer quits, they keep on surfing, just not for the judges. And Kelly Slater is Kelly Slater, so he’s not a normal surfer.

Slater hinted that this was the end after he missed the mid-year cut when he was eliminated at Main Break in the Round of 32 by the number-one surfer in the world, Griffin Colapinto. That means, of course, that he’d have to surf on the Challenger Series to re-qualify, but that’s hard to imagine. According to Slater in his post-heat interview after that loss, he put in for a wildcard to Fiji, and it seems likely that he’ll get one.

“It’s not necessarily the wave I want to end on,” he said of Main Break after his loss to Colapinto. “I have put in for a wildcard for Fiji, so we’ll see how that goes. It is what it is, everything comes to an end. If you don’t adapt, you don’t survive and my motivation just hasn’t quite been there to really put in that 100 percent that everyone’s doing.”

His competitive career is unrivaled, and will likely never be beaten. He’s got 11 world titles under his belt and over 50 event wins, along with a career outside surfing that far exceeds any other surfer. He’s a pop-culture figure, known around the world. Ask any non-surfer to name a surfer, and it’ll probably be Kelly Slater.

Although he has retired once already and publicly considered it many times after he un-retired, this time it feels a little more real.

“I’ve made no qualms about it,” Kelly Slater told The Inertia‘s Ben Mondy in 2023 in Portugal. “That candle is burning out. I designed my life to be the greatest competitor I can be. I’ll soon design my life to fit my new priorities like my family, friends, free surfing and my businesses.”

With a baby boy on the way, a full retirement would seem like an ideal move, especially considering the fact that chasing the tour around the world would keep him busy and far from home.

In the post-show after his Margaret River elimination, Slater sat down to talk about his next steps. He’s seen many friends from his generation retire over the years, and although his competitive fire is likely still burning, it doesn’t seem to be the raging inferno it once was.

“I look back at some of my friends who’ve retired,” he said, “and I think maybe they can relate to how I’m feeling now. Just some relief, you know? That moment of just like, ‘okay.’ There are no sleepless nights with the pressure and stuff. I think I put a lot of pressure on myself still to this day. For heats I have a certain expectation for myself, and I haven’t been putting in the work and discipline. The hours in the water; you have to surf with lots of people and really figure out your boards and the wave and all that stuff, and I just did that for so long. It’s nice to have that slightly in the rearview at least at this point.”

As Slater does, he was relatively vague when asked directly about whether or not he’s retiring completely.

“It’s a funny combination because I was trying to get myself into the Olympics,” he told Joe Turpel. “Since it doesn’t look like that will happen in any reasonable sense — about 10 people would have to get injured or something — but you know that events I like to surf. If I can get afforded into those… I’m going to give myself a week or two or three here just to settle down and see how I’m feeling. But if those opportunities arise, there are a couple of events I really love, and if those opportunities come up, I’ll see how I’m feeling.”

From a fan’s perspective, that seems like an ideal situation. Although he hasn’t been performing the way he used to, he’s still a serious threat in big, barreling waves, like Pipeline or Teahupoo. Given his past performances, it’s clear that he’s still got what it takes in waves of consequence. Just a few years ago, he won his eighth Pipeline Title in firing conditions. It was exciting to see and an emotional win for Kelly, but when the waves are lackluster, it’s tough to see him struggling against surfers who weren’t even born when he won his first world title in 1992.

It does seem likely that this isn’t the last time we’ll see him don the jersey, but as is always the case with Kelly, he’s the one making his own decisions. Whatever the case may be, surfing wouldn’t be what it is today without him, and his legacy will stand whether he chooses to compete or not.

The post Kelly Slater Dives Deep Into Retirement and Career Milestones first appeared on The Inertia.