Kelly Slater On Problems in His Perfect Life

My life was getting worse, not better, and it should have been getting better, because I’ve accomplished all the things I wanted to accomplish.

Josh Baron

Interview by

November 17, 2008

My life was getting worse, not better, and it should have been getting better, because I’ve accomplished all the things I wanted to accomplish.


* Interview by Josh Baron | The Bowery Hotel, New York City, November 2008 | digital recorder
* Executive producer: David Gerlach | Illustrations: Lena Chandhok


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David Gerlach: Today we’re happy to bring you a conversation with world champion surfer Kelly Slater. Now if you haven’t heard of Slater before let’s put it this way: He’s arguably the best of all-time, an icon of the sport. The Michael Jordan of surfing. So it is pretty remarkable to hear him completely open up about his failings out of the water. Family problems. This is Kelly Slater on his not-so-perfect-life.

Now as usual, you’ll hear some great music accompanying the interview, but what’s unique is this soundtrack comes from Slater himself. You see, he played the guitar and sang at different points throughout his conversation with Josh Baron, the editor-in-chief of Relix magazine. I really think you’ll enjoy it. This is Blank on Blank.

[Music:  Kelly Slater playing guitar: It’s hard to play when you’re cold. (Slater begins to sing.) Days are passing so fast may not make it through this. My self belief: better on my own.]

Kelly Slater: Early on, I would just want to win a contest on a tour, whatever. Win a regional contest when I was an amateur. Eventually it became ‘I want to win a world title’ and then ‘I want to win multiple world titles.’ I was going for all these kind of things, but I never felt comfortable in that moment in my skin. I was always worried about the past. Worried about the future and thinking about something that happened in the past and never like in that moment.

[Music:  Kelly Slater playing guitar and singing: The time is now, please don’t let this go. So let’s just sail away, and find our place today. Get their yesterday to living.]

Kelly Slater: When you break through whatever it is you need to break through to actually live in the moment, to have the experiences that are happening right now, for me that was a very special thing, which only probably happened, you know, in this decade for me. I had a few situations. My personal life, where I was forced… My dad dying. Cheated on a girlfriend. All these kind of things converged in one year for me in my life and I just sort of saw it pointing to the fact that my life was getting worse not better. And it should have been getting better, because I’ve done all the things, met all the people, been all the places, accomplished all the things I wanted to accomplish, but life was somehow getting worse. You know?

Josh Baron: You sort of alluded to it a little bit earlier: Eight world titles. It sounds like…

Kelly Slater: Nine, actually. (Laughs)

Josh Baron: Nine, excuse me. Sorry. Nine. My bad. A little embarrassing. Nine.

Kelly Slater: (Laughs)

Josh Baron: Sounds like you found someone you care and love deeply. You’ve traveled to pretty much any place I think you’d want to travel to on Earth thus far. Has anything eluded you?

Kelly Slater: Probably just experiences at home with family and friends and with my daughter who’s 12 now. I have some residual guilt there, because I’m just not home much. I don’t get to see her that often.

David Gerlach: Slater really opened up here about troubles in his family life and a few minutes later he again picked up his guitar and continued on that train of thought. Here it is:

Kelly Slater (playing guitar): I woke up on my mom’s birthday and wrote this one. It’s probably three years ago. I’ll just sing a verse. (Slater begins to sing.) I never really needed a father. I’ve never been that close to my daughter. Oh, but I, I’m coming home to you. (Slater stops singing, but continues playing.) Sorry, I haven’t probably played it probably since then.

David Gerlach: That’s champion surfer and musician Kelly Slater on his not-so-perfect-life and this is Blank on Blank. Thanks again to Josh Baron, editor-in-chief of Relix magazine, for adding his interview to the archive. For more interviews that you can hear nowhere else, head over to BlankonBlank.org. I’m David Gerlach. Keep listening.

[Music:  Kelly Slater playing guitar and singing:  I’m coming home to you. Just like heaven in your eyes.  Now I think I realize.  Something like that.  Kind of summing up the people around me.] 

Music: Kelly Slater
Photos: Wanaku via Flickr | WaveRidersTheFilm via Flickr | jarvis gray / Shutterstock.com