Kelly Slater — The Surfing Legend on Routine, Rickson Gracie, Favorite Books, and Overcoming Setbacks (#461)

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“When you’re humble, you’re teachable.”

Kelly Slater

Kelly Slater (@kellyslater) is widely considered the greatest surfer of all time. He holds nearly every major record in the sport, including 11 world titles and 55 career victories. He also has the amazing distinction of being both the youngest and oldest world champion in men’s history. His most dominant days were the mid-’90s, when he won five straight titles between 1993 and 1998.

After topping Mark Richards’ previous record of four straight titles, Kelly tried his hand at retirement in 1999 but failed. He rejoined the tour full-time in 2002, and over the following five years faced his toughest rival in Hawaii’s Andy Irons, who got the better of him for three straight years. Their heated battles became the most compelling in the sport’s history, propelling it to new heights. Kelly finally reclaimed the title in 2005 and repeated in 2006. Kelly swapped titles with Mick Fanning in the years that followed.

Kelly will also be remembered for the wave pool technology that he and his team of engineers at Kelly Slater Wave Co. brought to life in 2015, which has the potential to reshape the surfing landscape for generations.

Please enjoy!

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Stitcher, Castbox, Google Podcasts, or on your favorite podcast platform.

Brought to you by Dry Farm Wines, Helix Sleep, and LMNT. More on all three below. 

The transcript of this episode can be found here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

#461: Kelly Slater — The Surfing Legend on Routine, Rickson Gracie, Favorite Books, and Overcoming Setbacks

This episode is brought to you by Dry Farm Wines. I’m a wine drinker, and I love a few glasses over meals with friends. That said, I hate hangovers. For the last few months, all of the wine in my house has been from Dry Farm Wines. Why? At least in my experience, their wine means more fun with fewer headaches. Dry Farm Wines only ships wines that meet very stringent criteria: sugar free (less than 0.15g per glass), lower alcohol (less than 12.5% alcohol), additive free (there are more than 70 FDA-approved wine-making additives), lower sulfites, organic, and produced by small family farms.

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What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.


Want to hear another episode with someone else who’s devoted their life to their sport? Listen in on my conversation with six-time Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates, in which we discuss specific workouts, how he warms up, the realities of PEDs, common mistakes, his relationship to pain, self-talk when setting records (or bouncing back), his favorite books, and much more.

#235: Dorian Yates on High Intensity Training, Injury Prevention, and Building Maximum Muscle


  • Connect with Kelly Slater:

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram


  • Why is Kelly taking a two-hour bath today? [07:02]
  • What is Kelly’s traditional morning drink? [08:30]
  • Kelly elaborates on what he confessed in Tribe of Mentors to be the failure that set him up for later success: losing the world title race to Andy Irons in 2003. [10:48]
  • How long did it take for Kelly to learn — and recover — from this loss, and what did this period of time look like? What was the turnaround point? [13:21]
  • Kelly fills us in on the unhealthy survival skills he learned during childhood in spite of his mom’s best efforts to protect him and his siblings from reality’s harshest edges, and how these days shaped him into the man he would become — one who would grow less shy about signing autographs and having his picture taken. [17:37]
  • What prompted Kelly’s friend to motivate him toward becoming a mediator in the middle of his family’s chaos? [24:11]
  • How did The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran come to influence Kelly? [28:37]
  • What was Kelly’s introduction to The Tao of Health, Sex, and Longevity by Daniel Reid, and what impact has it had on his life? [31:13]
  • What similarities and differences does Kelly see between himself and Rickson Gracie? What advice from Rickson did he thankfully choose not to follow, and what has he been grateful to learn from him? [35:54]
  • Why new surfers might want to pay close attention to the wisdom that the Big Wave Risk Assessment Group (BWRAG) can impart — now more than ever. [44:05]
  • In what direction does Kelly see the evolution of surfing headed? Does he foresee anything that might surprise the rest of us in the next five years? [46:37]
  • What advice might Kelly give his 20-year-old self about the learning process to improve his craft with the knowledge he has today? [52:16]
  • What type of bodywork does Kelly find ideal for his needs? [54:33]
  • Why does Kelly consider Thai massage “lazy man’s yoga?” [57:28]
  • How often does Kelly have bodywork done? [58:03]
  • What is Kelly’s opinion of foiling or eFoiling as a supplement or adjunct to surfing? [59:00]
  • Has Kelly had any amazing moments on the water that, for some reason or another, didn’t get captured on camera but live on only in memory? [1:04:37]
  • What personal goals is Kelly most looking forward to pursuing in the next few years? [1:07:33]
  • Why Kelly is happy to share what he knows with the younger surfers who aren’t afraid to ask for it. [1:10:01]
  • Parting thoughts. [1:12:19]


The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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6 Replies to “Kelly Slater — The Surfing Legend on Routine, Rickson Gracie, Favorite Books, and Overcoming Setbacks (#461)”

    1. I really enjoyed this… Any chance we can get Rickson Gracie on here? I love all you do Tim. I have been following you for years now and you have definitely changed my life.

  1. At last! So good to hear you night owls riffing. I particularly enjoyed being taken back to Kelly’s early days, the nuances of family dynamics and thoughts on foiling.

    As a surfer, I too am stuck with adoring the in-water wrestle with the surface friction, and I can’t quite yet pull myself to having a go at foiling, but “must have a go.”

    And it’s been a while since I pulled Kahlil Gibran off the shelf….thanks for the reminder.

  2. It was a free surf break in the middle of the Quiksilver Pro at Snapper, Australia and Kelly was running to the point to get some practice. “Please can we have a quick photo” I said to him as my 13 year old son and his cousin stared in wide eyed wonder.
    “If I stop every Grom will want one” he smiled.
    He stopped and they got the photo of a lifetime. The greatest are so often awesome people! Always curious, willing to learn and grateful.

  3. The two of you mention a “course” that Kelly was referred to by Trevor. Unfortunately, the name of it was never mentioned. Interested to know the name/technique if you know.

  4. A little late, but just listened to this episode and loved it! I grew up idolizing Kelly Slater and asking for a surf board every year for Christmas. Finding passion in surfing has deeply inspired my life and how I now choose to work and live. Also, so cool to hear he’s been looking into van conversions!