Please enjoy this transcript of my interview with Kelly Slater (@kellyslater), widely considered to be 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.
Transcripts may contain a few typos. With some episodes lasting 2+ hours, it can be difficult to catch minor errors. Enjoy!
DUE TO SOME HEADACHES IN THE PAST, PLEASE NOTE LEGAL CONDITIONS:
Tim Ferriss owns the copyright in and to all content in and transcripts of The Tim Ferriss Show podcast, with all rights reserved, as well as his right of publicity.
WHAT YOU’RE WELCOME TO DO: You are welcome to share the below transcript (up to 500 words but not more) in media articles (e.g., The New York Times, LA Times, The Guardian), on your personal website, in a non-commercial article or blog post (e.g., Medium), and/or on a personal social media account for non-commercial purposes, provided that you include attribution to “The Tim Ferriss Show” and link back to the tim.blog/podcast URL. For the sake of clarity, media outlets with advertising models are permitted to use excerpts from the transcript per the above.
WHAT IS NOT ALLOWED: No one is authorized to copy any portion of the podcast content or use Tim Ferriss’ name, image or likeness for any commercial purpose or use, including without limitation inclusion in any books, e-books, book summaries or synopses, or on a commercial website or social media site (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) that offers or promotes your or another’s products or services. For the sake of clarity, media outlets are permitted to use photos of Tim Ferriss from the media room on tim.blog or (obviously) license photos of Tim Ferriss from Getty Images, etc.
Tim Ferriss: Kelly, welcome to the show.
Kelly Slater: Hey, thanks, Tim.
Tim Ferriss: I appreciate you making the time. And speaking of time, I want to just sort of set the table for people. So you and I are on opposite sides of the planet in a sense. And I wanted to start with something that came up when we were texting, because I know in scheduling this, I am in Texas, you’re currently in Australia. And so the choice was, do we do crack of dawn your time or really late at night? And we ended up doing late at night, so it’s late your time. And you texted about taking a two-hour bath.
Kelly Slater: I actually do take a lot of baths, just because it’s kind of an easy way to just let your body detox in hot water. And for about the last two months, I haven’t been working out or really even surfing very much, so this past week, I started working out again and kind of built up a lot of the lactic acid in the muscles. I was working out with a friend of mine who is like a brother, Tom Carroll, who was a two-time world champ back in the early ’80s, fellow surfer lives right up the street here from where I’m staying. And we spent a lot of time together over the years, surfing and training together.
But did a workout the other day, and I’ve been surfing the last couple of days. Yesterday, I surfed pretty hard and the day before that, I surfed a bunch. And so those muscles are just getting kind of worked again, that I don’t usually sit and let the lethargic side of me build up too much, especially this time of year. I’m surfing almost every day, usually.
Tim Ferriss: Let’s talk about, we touched on the baths for a second and we can’t believe everything we read on the Internet, but I did see if we’re looking at morning routines. I did see that in an interview with Huckberry, it seems that you start a lot of your mornings with a glass of warm water with lemon. Is that true or is that not true?
Kelly Slater: Yeah, just to get a little warmth going in the body and loosen up. Obviously, lemon is really good for you. It’s alkalizing, even though it’s an acid, it’s alkalizing the body and it’s got a lot of minerals and some vitamins, and just a nice clean way to kind of wake your system up. And to me, it feels better than putting something heavy in my body.
Tim Ferriss: Do you drink coffee?
Kelly Slater: I do a little bit, but I’m 100 percent not a coffee addict. I don’t know, really, what good coffee is. I kind of like the smell of coffee more than I like the taste of it.
Tim Ferriss: Has that always been the case with coffee or —
Kelly Slater: Yeah, no. I’ve never been a coffee drinker. I intentionally have really kind of stayed away from coffee. I feel like I drink it a little bit now just to be ready for it. But this is the reason I really don’t drink coffee. I went to France and we spent two months prior to going to France, to compete on West Coast time and Tahitian time. And those are the events prior to going over to Europe. And we get to Europe and we compete within like a day or two of getting there.
And it’s a nine-hour time difference going east. And that’s the hardest thing when you fly east, I don’t care if it’s from West Coast to East Coast, just even three hours is tough to get back on track. But when I fly over to Europe, it’s really hard for me. It takes me almost a month to feel like I get into like a morning routine and I was going for a world title in the early 2000s over there.
And I drank a coffee one morning to wake up and I got the jitters so bad. I fell off on every wave I caught in this heat. It was a really crucial heat for me to try and win. And if I won that heat, it was pretty much a shoo-in for the world title that year. And I did everything possible to lose that heat and somehow won it, but it was because I drank a big coffee in the morning and didn’t have any food. And so it really kind of scared me away from coffee.
Tim Ferriss: Now this might be, and please, correct me if I’m wrong. But I had asked you for, and I appreciate you contributing to my last book, Tribe of Mentors. And the question was, how has a failure or apparent failure set you up for later success? Do you have a favorite failure of yours? And you mentioned, “I narrowly lost a world title in surfing in 2003, after basically having locked it up the month prior.” And then you went on to talk about how it felt terrible, but drove you to clear up a lot of things. Was that the same competition or a different competition?
Kelly Slater: That was a different competition. Yeah.
Tim Ferriss: Could you speak to that loss in 2003, since we’re on it? Just how that came to be and what it drove you to do afterwards?
Kelly Slater: You had to bring that up, huh, Tim?
Tim Ferriss: I did, just to humanize the immortal superhuman Kelly Slater. Figured we’ll stir —
Kelly Slater: No, I’m kidding. Actually, I do look back at that as I mean, obviously, there’s no world title that is sitting in your hands that slips through that you’re not upset about on some level. But, if I could go back and change anything, I really don’t think I would, because it was a real, very clear indication of where things were going wrong for me.
And also, to sort of charge the battery back up, make me dig deeper and competitively speaking, and a skill set speaking with my surfing and motivation, all these things. It was just kind of a reset for me. It was rebooting the software in my brain in a lot of ways. And those were tough lessons.
I lost that world title to Andy Irons and I was in a relationship that was just wrong, I literally didn’t sleep the night before that competition, in a fight with my then-girlfriend, literally the whole night. She was fighting with my mom. It was just a nightmare.
Tim Ferriss: That’s terrible.
Kelly Slater: Oh, it’s terrible. It was terrible. I didn’t even wake up the next morning; I didn’t sleep. Maybe I got 30 minutes, 40 minutes of sleep that night. And I walked out of my house the next morning, walked behind the house and I saw a friend of mine, two friends of mine, and I believe my little brother was there too. And I just started bawling, I just broke down; everything felt wrong. And I knew in my heart I was going to lose the world title that day.
And if you’re in the right frame of mind, I think as a competitor, if you lose, it hurts. But you know it’s not life, it’s just a loss. But that was deeper, because I had all these other things that it was such a clear indicator that I was off in a lot of different areas and I had some work to do. And those things are painful sometimes. And it was one of those days.
Tim Ferriss: Did you find that that loss took you a while to climb out of, or was it waking up the morning after and immediately deciding on changes that you were going to make? Could you just perhaps describe what the days or weeks were like following that?
Kelly Slater: It definitely wasn’t the next day. I would say it was the next year, maybe. It took me about a year to sort of get my act together and straighten a lot of things out. And I remember going into the next year, my father died in ’02, and then I’m pretty sure it was his birthday the following year that I lost the world title, actually on his birthday. And I was still a little bit down in the dumps about that, and the loss hurt so bad that I kind of just went into my shell for most of the next year, competitively speaking.
And at the start of 2005, I remember we went to our opening and sort of the end of the year, beginning of the year banquet, where they crown the world title officially, but they also start the year. And I remember walking out of there. And at that point, Andy Irons had won 2002, three, and four. And I remember walking out and as we were leaving, and I saw Joel Parkinson, who was also a world title contender. And I just said to him, I said, “Who’s it going to be this year, me or you? One of us got to take this guy out.” And I remember in that moment, just feeling like, I’m ready. I’m not scared to lose. And I really felt like I could beat Joel and would beat Joel. And I felt very confident, with no fear and just going out and feeling it, that I could, that I would beat Andy.
And so that year was a huge turnaround. And Andy and I had a lot of head to heads, the rivalry really peaked that year. He won a contest in Japan and then I won a contest in South Africa, and then he won a contest and I won a contest and we were going back and forth, and I was thriving in it, it was exciting to me. And I just thought in my head, “I’ve already lost to this guy before. It’s not going to hurt any worse this time, so I might as well put everything into it I can.” And I just took a totally different headspace than 2004, when I just kind of shied away from the whole thing.
And then it all just fell in my lap, really. Everything just kind of lined right up. And it was almost unbelievable, because it felt like The Matrix kind of thing, where you just see it playing out. Even if you make a mistake, it plays out in your favor somehow. And that whole year went that way for me.
Tim Ferriss: What did your self-talk or prep look like that particular year? When you’re seeing The Matrix unfolding, say in some of the more important competitions, how did it differ from years before, if at all?
Kelly Slater: I don’t think it differed necessarily. I think it got back into the groove. I think I fell out of that confident place and out of that, when you get in a flow and you get in the zone, you don’t question it. And if you start to question it, you start to fall out of it. But I feel like if you’re really mastering that feeling and that place for yourself, that you can kind of step back and watch it also and even get stronger and you kind of embolden yourself into that.
And so, I felt like my surfing was there, my competing was there; I felt unstoppable and I just built on that confidence and I never questioned it. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy to beat Andy, because I really did have this sort of light and dark, good and evil, kind of love-hate, all that kind of a rivalry between us. And we’re very different kinds of people, but we also identified with each other a lot. And Andy grew up watching me and saying I was kind of his inspiration. And then when he became my rival, he said he hated me and wanted me to die.
So it felt real personal, he had made no bones about it. He was the first person I ever competed with that I felt was really on that level and he just goes, “I want to just smash all his dreams.” And he would say that in interviews and stuff and you’ve either got to step up to that or step away. And yeah, it was the first time I ever felt someone that way in my face before. And in the end, I think it was really good for me, but it was tough at times.
Tim Ferriss: If we look at 2003, if you’re willing to go into it, one of the things that popped out, because I think that the wins and we’re going to talk about, obviously a lot of the successes people are aware of a lot of the successes, but how you have maintained and honed your skills with such longevity, I think is one of the more impressive things. And so I’d like to talk about the bumps along the way.
And in 2003, coming back to that, you mentioned your dad died in ’02. I was reading an Outside Magazine interview, and I’ll just read this and then I’d love to hear you speak to what it means. But here we go, “Losing his father paved the way for what Slater describes as an expanded ‘awareness.’ Then, while taking an early-season break in 2003 between events in Australia, his adopted second home (he’s owned an apartment in Sydney since 1992), a close friend challenged him to lead his family’s emotional recovery — not by not be —” let me try that again. “— not be victimized by it. The words were penetrating, and Slater, with his friend’s encouragement, enrolled in a series of local therapeutic workshops that helped him identify troublesome behavior patterns and emotional sand traps.”
Now, there is a little bit of context we need to fill in here, but could you speak to, I guess, a bit of your childhood for those who don’t have any context? And then what happened in 2003, if what I read is any way to lead into it?
Kelly Slater: Yeah, my childhood, I think, as for most kids, it feels normal; what you know seems like the normal thing. But looking back now, my dad was drinking a lot; my mom, it really made her crazy. And when you have alcoholism or gambling or whatever you have in your family, if you have some kind of big issue like that in your family, everyone else kind of falls in line. Like some people are enablers, some people are mediators, some people become aggressive, you react to it in different ways. And it kind of creates this sort of maze and puzzle that all sort of make sense in that environment, but it was a lot of unhealthy survival skills and that kind of thing.
Tim Ferriss: Right.
Kelly Slater: But there were other families that were worse off than mine that were friends of mine, so it didn’t seem that outlandish or anything. But my mom probably harbored us from a lot of the stuff and we didn’t know maybe some of the things that were happening, like kids shouldn’t.
But a lot of my memories are pretty good. I don’t feel like I grew up in any kind of a physical abuse situation like some people have or whatever. But getting on with it, I also didn’t learn a lot of skills that helped me evolve and mature emotionally at a young age. So I was at times really shy when I was younger in my teenage years, but for me, I knew I had talent. So surf-wise, it was kind of a place for me to kind of show that. But at the same time, with people or with media, that kind of thing, I was really kind of shy, to the point where I didn’t like to take pictures in front of people because it embarrassed me and that kind of thing. I didn’t like signing autographs because I just felt silly. I don’t know. I actually remember my first autograph when I was 10 years old.
Tim Ferriss: How’d that go?
Kelly Slater: Well, my mom worked at this little cafe on the beach that we grew up surfing in front of called the Islander Hut. And the owner’s wife, I won this contest at East Coast Championships. And when I got home, she was like, “Oh, my gosh, you’re going to be a famous surfer one day. You’re going to be a professional or whatever.” She’s like, “You won this big competition, you need to sign something for me.” And I was so embarrassed, took me like a half an hour to sign this piece of paper. I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know how to sign an autograph. I remember like 15, 20 minutes later, she’s like, “You got that autograph for me yet?” And I was like, “I don’t even know what that means.”
But fast-forwarding to the context of taking — I don’t know. There’s a book I read as a kid that was Adult Children of Alcoholics, or something like that. And I read that probably when I was in my early 20s, and I was experiencing a lot of — I was going through a breakup. And as you do, you get really emotional during breakups, and experiencing a lot of things. You want to evolve, you want to learn and grow quickly in those situations so you can maybe save the relationship or not blow it by making stupid mistakes. It should be natural to do, to get right.
At that age, I started identifying like, oh, there’s some weird stuff going down in my family. There’s some really unhealthy dynamics around money and around communication, all those sort of things. And as I got older, because I did really well, obviously I started winning world titles and making money; and in some ways, a lot of the, I think, family pressure or focus was around me.
I think if someone stands out as doing something extraordinary in a family, that’s kind of natural. My godson, he’s 13. I have two godsons, and one of them is 13 and he’s a really good surfer. His dad’s one of my oldest, best friends. And I heard him saying the other day on an interview, he said, “The thing about when you have a kid,” he has two kids. And he said something about, “When you have a kid who’s doing really well at something, it takes so much time up for the rest of the family. And so much of the focus of the family might be around that one person as opposed to equally amongst everybody.”
And it made me, just in the past week since I heard that, it has made me think about that a lot because I have an older brother, Sean. And I think as we got into teenage years, that was probably kind of funny for him that I started doing so well and he didn’t keep on that same trajectory as when we were kids, and I think it was tough for him. I know it was tough for him. He recently said something to me to the effect that he wished he wasn’t a pro surfer. He wished he had done something else at that time. Which was really sad for me to hear because we grew up just loving surfing so much, and it created a life for us. It created all our travel and friendships, and all these memories around the world and work.
It just became and — excuse me. As a lot of the pressure, I think, was on me. I bought a house when I was 17 and I was paying for a lot of things for everybody, and that kind of thing. There was a certain control that happens for someone in that position and it needs to be handled with care, and it might need some help. And we didn’t have that help or understanding, and so all of us, I think, suffered through that time.
And so in 2003, if we’re going to fast forward to then, when my friend said that to me, my friend Trevor, and he said, “Maybe you’re the one who needs to sort of handle this because you’re aware of it, all the problems that are going on in your family. There’s things you can see about your mom’s struggle that you could help and your brother and blah, blah, things with your daughter.” And I really kind of resented that because in some ways I took on a fatherly role in my family, but I was the middle child.
Tim Ferriss: Right.
Kelly Slater: And I think I kind of longed to be put back in that place of like, “I’m the middle child. I’m not the oldest. You’re my mom. You’re my older brother. You’re my dad.” I’m probably getting ahead of myself here because some of these conversations haven’t fully been aired out, but there’s just a dynamic that happens. And I’m not placing blame on anyone for those, but just trying to kind of objectively look and understand because I’m still growing through this stuff and wanting to understand it from all perspectives.
I did become like a mediator in my family. I was scared for my parents to break up as a kid. And I just imagined in my head, I think I lived in this dreamland where everyone got along, and it was a movie and it was a happy ending. And that’s not always the case. The happy ending comes when all the lessons are learned usually.
Yeah, when I was confronted with the fact that I might need to be the person to kind of help mend a lot of these issues in the family. I resented that because I was longing for someone else to do it, and I wouldn’t have to do the work and I wouldn’t have to come up with those answers. It’s easier if it’s not you.
Tim Ferriss: Why did Trevor say that to you? What was it about that point in time or the surrounding conversation or background that led him to say that to you?
Kelly Slater: Well, because Trevor, he was one of my best friends or still is on a deep level, but we just don’t spend a lot of time together these days. We’ve been kind of off in different directions, but Trevor was a six-time Iron Man Champion in Australia. And he’d been through a lot of the sort of emotional and financial and stardom, if you will, pitfalls, that can happen. On his own level, he had had a lot of that stuff happen to him and he was able to get through it.
I wouldn’t say anything that he hasn’t stated publicly or whatever, but he went through divorce and money problems and all sorts of things. And he was able to eventually work it out and he got married again. His current wife and his ex-wife are best of friends. All the kids get along. He really has a happy, healthy situation coming out of some things that were not so pretty at the time.
I think he saw that with me. He saw that I was learning quickly. We were doing these courses together and he was helping me a lot. And I was able to talk about things that I couldn’t talk about with anyone else before in my life. And so I think it wasn’t so much a challenge to me as it was, “Hey, I see something special here that can make you feel good. And I think you could fix these things up and make every other aspect of your life better and more coherent and happy.” It was kind of one of those things.
Tim Ferriss: What type of courses were they? Were there any particular things that you found helpful or that stuck with you?
Kelly Slater: Well, they were sort of like personal exercise courses, maybe metaphysical, if you will. I don’t know, just where you spend a lot of time with other people and do these processes of being a listener or being the person who has problems, or overseeing those things and doing these little exercises, and then just talking about your feelings. Just simple stuff, really simple stuff.
In the course, they kind of ask you to not really talk about it too much outside of it, but we would just do these exercises. And then afterwards, you talk about how you feel and you relate those feelings to the rest of your life and the way that you, as a person, approach and experience life. You just kind of look at all your filters. It’s just an experiential kind of exercise.
And I started really realizing that even in the simplest things that you do every day, the way you wake up and think about them and approach them is how you approach life. And so everything’s kind of a metaphor of another thing.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. The sort of filters and stories that we might not even be aware of.
Kelly Slater: Yeah.
Tim Ferriss: You mentioned metaphysics, and we don’t have to get super metaphysical here, but I think metaphor and —
Kelly Slater: We’ll just get quantum physical.
Tim Ferriss: We’ll just get quantum physical here for 20 minutes. Hold onto your panties, everybody. There were two books that you mentioned in Tribe of Mentors. I’d be curious to know when either or both of them came into your life, just in terms of influence and sort of shaping your thinking. The first is actually the second one you mentioned, but The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, which I also have. That’s a beautiful little book.
Kelly Slater: It’s a great book.
Tim Ferriss: Why don’t we start there and then we’ll get to the second one, but how did that enter your life?
Kelly Slater: God, that’s so weird that you just brought that up. One of my best friends is named Khalil, and I met him about, I don’t know, eight years ago, seven or eight years ago. And he’s just become such a big part of my life. And he’s an ex-drug addict who was nearly dead and homeless and penniless, and got himself together. Now, he’s more or less a health food addict and owns bunch of smoothie stores in L.A. called SunLife Organics. This guy’s a success story in his life. And I’d never known Khalil before.
But I just flashed on that because my mom gave me that book, The Prophet. And I think, I want to say it was in my early 20s, maybe late teens to early 20s, and she gave me this book. And I don’t know how she knew about it, I don’t know. It just seemed like an extraordinary book. To me, it became like my Bible because I felt like I could read a little piece of it and it would hold me over for a month, maybe one or two pages.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, totally.
Kelly Slater: Yeah. Even if I just opened it, some aspect of life that you’re questioning or whatever. They say all the great things are simple things. That book really kind of — those are Cliff’s Notes to life in a simple way. But I just felt it really was a really inspiring book and it didn’t take a lot of effort to get something from it.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. This book found me at a very tumultuous period of my life. And I ended up reading, like you mentioned, one or two very short chapters, two pages perhaps each day. It had the effect of taking what could seem like an overwhelmingly complex world and distilling it down to something simple that you could reflect on and use for the next few days.
The second book, I’ll bring it up, is one with a longer title, and that is The Tao of Health, Sex, and Longevity by Daniel Reid, R-E-I-D. Could you speak to this book, and same idea, how it came into your life, and what you take from it? What are some of the takeaways or impacts in your life?
Kelly Slater: Yeah, I started reading that book in the early 2000s, maybe 2003, four or five somewhere in there. I just found a lot of the — well, if I were to rewind a little bit. In the late ’90s, I started to learn a lot about the Gracies’ jiu-jitsu. I didn’t start practicing, but I was reading a lot about them and reading about Rickson, who I later became friends with.
And they talk about a diet, a food-combining diet, where you don’t mix proteins and carbs together at meals, and you don’t mix fruits with either, and you could have greens with sort of anything. That’s essentially what food combining is. I had read a book around ’96 or ’97 called Fit For Life, which was kind of the same thing. And I think I’d been inspired by the Gracies to read that.
I don’t remember who gave me The Tao of Health, Sex, and Longevity, but I started reading that and got really, really into the diet aspect of it, getting into the food combining thing, and started following it kind of religiously. And, gosh, I’m trying to think — sorry, I’m usually so good with years.
Tim Ferriss: That’s okay.
Kelly Slater: I think I read it in ’98 originally. I sort of kept it with me for about 10 years is what it was. And in ’98, I was traveling with Shane Dorian. That’s whose son is my godson. And Shane and I were traveling around the tour together that year. And I was kind of the chef for both of us. He just told me, “Just tell me what to eat,” because he knew I was super into diet. And so we got really into our diets, and I felt like he was helping me be a guinea pig to see if this thing worked. I found myself sleeping six hours a night and feeling like I was totally rested. My body just felt much more relaxed and energetic.
There’s other things in the book that were helpful too. There’s a lot of breathing techniques that I tried to incorporate myself. I didn’t really do them practicing with anyone else. Then it gets into all sorts of things around, obviously, the title is sexuality too. It dives into all that kind of thing too. But just using everything in your life in a healthy way.
And I don’t know, it was one of those books I just, I had to travel with it for years. I just would always keep it. It was like, just in case I need to read something and I’ll have it with me. It was always in the bottom of my bag for a long time. And I probably recommended that book literally at this point had tens of thousands of people, maybe hundreds of thousands or millions even. After this, it’ll be millions for sure.
Tim Ferriss: You mentioned a name that I’d love to come back to, and that’s Rickson Gracie. I know quite a lot about Rickson. I’ve only met him in person once very briefly, so I don’t think he would remember me. But he has, now that I think about it, an incredible physical practice that in some ways, if I had to guess, share some similarities with your physical practice. I remember long ago watching a documentary largely about Rickson called Choke, which was about, I believe, his initial competition in Pride, the early, early iterations of Pride. And watching his yoga practices, his abdominal work, his breathing, cold exposure, et cetera. How would you say the two of you are most similar or different? What similarities and differences do you see?
Kelly Slater: It’s so funny. Because remember years ago everyone was doing that ice bucket challenge and you pour some cold water on your head and that’s a big thing?
Tim Ferriss: Right. Yeah.
Kelly Slater: I remembered back watching Choke, and that was before I knew Rickson, and watching him go into basically ice cold temperature water in Japan and training for these fights, just getting his mind strong and physically, mentally, emotionally, totally prepared for war. And his breathing techniques are just out of this world. Wim Hof, the guy who’s famous for his breathing stuff. But Rickson was doing that 25 years ago or more.
I had heard that Rickson could move every muscle in his body independent of any other muscle. He had such control. For people that don’t know jiu-jitsu, the Gracies are learning jiu-jitsu by the time they’re two years old in that family. They’re wrestling — you know how kids wrestle, all boys wrestle, but they were wrestling at a young age, tiny kids with technique and learning the skills and learning how not to hurt each other. And so it was as natural as breathing or anything for them.
I always had real admiration from afar for Rickson before meeting him, and then we became friends. I don’t remember, I’m not quite sure the first time I met him. I met him at Rincon, surfing. Maybe, I think it was the early 2000s or late ’90s, met him one day in the car park. And then a few years later, a couple of years later, I got invited over to his house to go do a private session with him, and he taught me and my friend Travis some jiu-jitsu.
He gave me a few one-on-one sessions and I sort of sponsored him for surfboards and would pay for his surfboards, an informal kind of, you scratch my back, I scratch yours. But I always had this huge admiration for him. And I was just really happy to know him and get to pick his brain sometimes.
And about 2008, it was about 2008, I had saw him one day. He came to the surfboard factory who I was sponsored by, and we were up in Santa Barbara. And he goes, he’s like, “You know, man, I think you should stop now. I think you should quit.”
I said, “Why?”
And he goes, “You know, you’re going to give all these young guys a chance to beat you and you’re not going to be as sharp. You’re going to lose your desire. You’re going to get complacent. And then guys who shouldn’t beat you are going to beat you. And when you look back, you’re going to be upset about it.”
And about three years later, I saw him and I had won two or three more world titles in that time. And I said, “You know, if I had listened to you, I wouldn’t have this many. If I listened to you, I would only have eight, and now I got 11.”
And he’s like, “Oh, man, you’re right. You’re right.”
There is always that question for athletes, when do you stop and what’s the right time? And do you go out at the peak or shortly after it? It’s a weird thing because it depends on your purpose. It depends on what you’re sending, and that message can change too, and I feel like mine has. But that message, that doesn’t have to be so centered around your ego. It can be an evolution. People who say like, “Guys, people need to go out on top.” Why? So, I mean, yeah, that’s great, too. But obviously, if you’re at the top of your game, you’re still beating people, you’re still beating everyone. Passing the torch sometime, somebody’s got to take you out. And that can be a respectable and respectful way too. And I’ve always welcomed that in my later years here on tour. I’ve sort of welcomed — I want to see the level, be what my mind imagined when I was 15, 20 years old. Not somewhere behind me. I want it to just keep going and I want to be part of that evolution to push that.
And at 48 years old, I know nobody takes me lightly in a heat when they compete against me. I think that’s an honor in itself that they still — the best guys in the world, they’re still worried when they get in the heat with me. And I’m not dumb. No, I know where my level is. There’s certain times that I can be the best guy and there’s other times where I’ve got to work on it. Or I’m not right there.
But if you’re enjoying it and you love it and it’s your passion and if surfing’s a different thing — what would I compare it to? Strangely enough, golf. They’re both sports you can do till you’re old. You can do way up and late into your life. You’re not going to be doing that with football and baseball or basketball so much, not hardcore anyways.
Tim Ferriss: I’m going to ask you about the evolution of surfing in a moment. But I want to come back to Rickson just for another minute. And that is what were some of the things you learned from Rickson or that most impressed you? You mentioned picking his brain about things. Was there anything that you picked up from him or that really astonished you about him?
You mentioned that individual muscle control and I had referenced the abdominal exercises, which kind of makes it sound like crunches, but what I’m talking about is what you saw, and you probably remember this, in Choke Gracie. He’s in this freezing cold rivers, snow everywhere, and he’s also moving independently as he breathes, his abdomen, where it looks like his guts are just moving in every possible direction like an octopus under his skin. It’s one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen. But what are some of the things that you picked up from Rickson, if anything, or took note of?
Kelly Slater: Funny enough, probably one of the simplest things is the first thing that springs to mind and that is efficiency. Because anytime he’s given me a jiu-jitsu lesson — he’s given me a few privates and he did the same thing for my little brother one day with me. And it was all about efficiency of movement. He said, “Look I can fight a guy, I’m 170,” or whatever, “175.” He’s like, “I can fight a guy who’s 250 pounds and I’m stronger than him. Not because I have more strength, but because I understand leverage. I understand how the body moves and the efficiency of trapping someone’s joint. And using leverage instead of just wasting my energy and using strength. I’m using superior method and technique.” And when I’ve seen — one thing I really have always respected about Rickson is how disciplined he was, especially seeing that footage of him, knowing that the level he got to with his breathing and his muscle movements and his mastery of jiu-jitsu and his art, the amount of time it took to get there.
And he obviously had something special. He had a certain way to look at it that no one else did. And that’s why he was the greatest. And so it’s taking all the best techniques, all aspects from diet to breathing team understanding his body, understanding his opponents and what they’re good and bad at and using all that. It becomes an equation that when you get to the highest levels, you don’t think of the equation. You understand that. You know the answer. And you just trust that and use it. And so in simplicity, there’s a mastery. And I think that’s what I’ve picked up from the times I’ve spent around Rickson.
Tim Ferriss: I promised I would come back to the evolution of surfing. Where do you think the evolution of surfing might be going? Is there anything that would be inconceivable for most people today to imagine that you think is coming down the pike? Where do you think things are going?
Kelly Slater: I’ve said to a few people in the last few years, last five or 10 years, that I would hate to be a young surfer right now because the levels you’ve got to go to, whether it’s going to be just competing, just small wave performance and technique, or if you’re going to be a big wave guy, the stuff guys are doing now is so crazy that young kids who have any fear of big waves right now must be just having no understanding of what they could do to get to that level. Guys are regularly surfing 60, 70, 80-foot waves. And you need to do a lot of preparing for that ahead of time. And a lot of putting yourself in unfamiliar territory, pool work, underwater work, breathing, breath holds, water safety classes.
They have these classes called the Big Wave Rescue. There’s an acronym for it, BWRAG. Anyways, it’s all about big waves and practicing all the water safety. So there’s these courses. They’re really good for young guys to go to. Actually, they’d be good for it. They could translate to anybody, even people that don’t surf but they’re kind of built specifically for being able to be comfortable in big, gnarly situations and also go save people in the middle of in the surf. And —
Tim Ferriss: And I’ll link to that in the show notes for folks.
Kelly Slater: Yeah, all aspects of water safety, and it’s really a passion played by the surfers who do it. Everyone’s kind of looking out for each other and I’ve had a number of friends drown and not make it. And I’ve had a number of friends drown and be saved. And most of those who were saved were because all these techniques that everyone’s been learning from divers and lifeguards and all sorts of water safety people. In fact, there’s one friend of mine who drowned and was saved. And then about, I don’t know, a couple of years later, he actually did CPR on another friend of ours who drowned and saved him.
So there’s a real tight fraternity community in the surf world, especially in the big wave world and guys are looking out for each other, because they know it’s a life and death thing all the time.
Tim Ferriss: And if you look at the evolution just size-wise, performance-wise, technique-wise over the last, say five to 10 years, as it seems to be mirrored in many other places like MMA, there’s this almost exponential curve that seems to be persisting. And I’d be curious to know what you think things might look like in, say five years’ time. And you’ve been part of course, of innovating with technology. The Kelly Slater Wave Company producing the longest manmade, high-performance, open-barrel waves. I remember the initial videos making the circles and just blowing people’s minds. What do you think the state-of-the-art training will look like for people who do want to hone their skill, given how intimidating it can be, now if they want to compete as an example, what do you think it might look like five years from now?
Kelly Slater: Yeah, I kind of wonder — I think this last five years, it was really a fast evolution in wave pool technology, manmade wave technologies. I think it might — I don’t know if it’s going to speed up or slow down right now. I feel like it’s going to slow down a little bit because there’s a number of different technologies and now it’s about perfecting them, just innovating on what is already there and then having surfers ride them and give feedback to what else they would like to see. But there’s quite a lot of good waves being made by machines at this time. There’s notably, I think, I want to say three distinct different technologies with different kinds of waves. Five years from now, I just expect that there will be more of these made. There’s probably six or eight around the world that have become sort of a destination for people to go ride. There’s one in Abu Dhabi or Dubai. There was two in Texas. Now there’s one, but I think the other one is going to be rebuilt.
There’s at least one going into Florida, if not two. There’s one in England. There’s one down in Melbourne, Australia. And I think another is being built on the Gold Coast right now, and then potentially we’re building one on the Sunshine Coast as well. So there’s going to be — five years from now, I don’t think there’s going to be a time where surfers are completely stumped for waves. You’re always going to have somewhere within your access you can go get a wave on any given day.
The wave pool that they have in Australia right now is down in Melbourne. And I was talking to a friend recently and he goes, “Oh, yeah, a bunch of my buddies have gotten a flight from Byron Bay, flown all the way to Melbourne in the morning, surf two sessions at the pool and get home by dark,” or get home like just for a late dinner. And that’s a two-hour flight each way. And he said they’re happy to do it again next month or in two months or whatever. So these things are becoming destinations for people. And it’s just like a supplement to your surfing, just like vitamins would be to your diet. It’s just another way to get your fix of getting in the water and getting something done. But now you see people advancing, evolving their surfing a lot quicker and that’s going to be the case.
That’s going to be a thing. My godson, Jackson, I’ll probably just keep talking about him, but he’s 13. And he’s one of the best aerialists at his age in the world, if not the best at his age in the world right now. And he’s really only been surfing about four years and I have grown men all the time just going, “Oh, my God, how’s Jackson? He’s unbelievable.” People watch his edits and, and see the things he’s doing. But he spent a lot of time in these different wave pools already practicing the errors over and over again. And Shane was saying how, “Man, the first time we went, it was crazy to see Jackson’s evolution over the course of two days or three days. And how much better he got in that amount of time.”
There’s a real crossover now between skate and surf. So you see all the guys who are really good at airs, I would say 90 percent of them, anyways, are good skaters. And so they understand the rotations and the grabs and that kind of thing. And when we were kids, we didn’t really have access to skateparks and ramps and stuff. And now there’s a skate park in every city and almost all these guys have a bunch of friends who are great skaters or pro skaters or even someone in their family is a great skater. So there’s a real solid crossover there. But yeah, it’s just more access, more time on the mat.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. It also seems like with the wave pools, at least, I recall a friend of mine joking that surfing — he’s a very good surfer. He said surfing should really be called paddling because you’re spending a lot of your time paddling. And it would just seem that, with a wave pool, feel free to chime in, but he said with a wave pool, it seems like you get a density of repetitions of surfing that is difficult or impossible to replicate elsewhere just in terms of number of reps per hour in that sense, how does that — I heard you made a sound. How would you respond to that?
Kelly Slater: No, totally. I mean, because in the ocean you might search — all my years, I’ve thought about certain waves that look good for a certain maneuver. And I might go and surf that wave once every few years. And it might have that section I’m looking for only once every couple of times I go there and I might get that wave even less frequent than that. So the point is that the sections we need with the right speed and size and all that thing to do certain maneuvers is so rare to in the ocean. And now we can start to design those into manmade waves so that if you ever have that situation in the ocean, it’s not unfamiliar, you can master that before you ever take it to the ocean. So then you go out in the ocean and you go into competition or whatever, and you’ve got something in your back pocket that nobody else has, or that you’re not unfamiliar with.
Tim Ferriss: If you were, say, 20 years old and had the level of surfing that you had when you were 20, what, if that were today, what advice might you give yourself about the learning process? It doesn’t have to relate to technology, but is there any advice you’d give your 20-year-old self about honing the craft, improving the learning process?
Kelly Slater: Gosh. I mean, I would probably just say, go skate a lot.
Tim Ferriss: Skate.
Kelly Slater: Go get on a skateboard, because you can go carve and you can do airs. And those are the two things you need in surfing. You need to really understand and differentiate the two. In surfing, most guys are either a power surfer or an air maneuver trick surfer. And it’s almost rare to see somebody who’s really great at both. We’re starting to get more and more. There’s John Florence and there’s Gabriel Medina and there’s Jordy Smith. And there’s quite a few guys now, but when I was on tour and when I got on tour, I would say, there’s nobody. And as I was on tour, there were very few over the years that were good at all those different aspects.
I mean, my mind almost draws a blank until just this modern era now who have been able to understand there’s a real difference. And the approach of doing those maneuvers, the base of power surfing, where you’re just carving up and then the air stuff where you kind of have to be more horizontal and lateral and stay over your board unless you’re doing grabs. And then when you start doing grabs and rotations and then inverting stuff, then everything goes to a little different level and you have to be schooled in some other skill set like skating or gym work. If you were to go work with the gymnast, specifically with a gymnast who understands flips and spinning and that kind of stuff, and landing back on your feet.
If you’re really going to dive into it all, you can’t discount your diet. You can’t discount bodywork. You can’t discount doing yoga or pilates and staying supple. Getting some extra strength and bone density, but not getting too big from using weights. So there’s always this kind of balance for surfing. You don’t want to be a giant, strong dude, but you don’t want to be a little weakling either. You just kind of need this nice balance and blend between all those things.
Tim Ferriss: You mentioned bodywork. This seems to be an important component of, I suppose, just physical practice for you or regeneration. There are 1,000,001 different types of bodywork. How do you use bodywork? What are the types that you have ended up focusing on for yourself, if any?
Kelly Slater: I’ve gone through most everyone you can imagine, from shiatsu to Thai massage, to Swedish deep tissue, BioSync, I mean, all sorts of different — I’ve tried everything, all the chiropractics, and osteopaths, and all that kind of stuff. But in general, I do need a little bit of adjusting, some chiropractics, because I have scoliosis. I have a pretty big curve in my back. And from that, my muscles get really imbalanced. So I kind of need a blend. I mean, my neck will go out and my lower back will go out. So I need to get adjusted and kind of put that back. I sometimes throw a rib out.
Tim Ferriss: It sounds painful.
Kelly Slater: Yeah. And it’s different than breaking your rib. It’s just more annoying. You could still kind of surf through it with adrenaline, but it is annoying.
The way I usually do it, it kind of pinches something in my neck so I can’t turn to the left. I feel like Zoolander. “I can’t turn left.” But I really like Thai massage because it’s deep and it’s almost like lazy man’s yoga in a way. And I’ve been disciplined for many years. I spent over 30 years being pretty disciplined with my body and what I put into it and all that kind of stuff. In doing that, I’m never too obsessive about any one thing. I’ll go through binge periods where I’m really obsessive about my diet, but I don’t live to work out.
So I like to kind of consistently get some bodywork. I like to surf enough because surfing’s fun. I just love to surf. So it keeps me fit. And if I surf enough, I’m at a level that’s pretty good for my cardio and for my strength, but I generally need a little bit of extra — I should spend more time stretching, especially my hips and my hamstrings. And if you can picture a surfer paddling, we got our back arch the whole time. So I can actually bend backwards. Amazing. I can put my feet on my head and that kind of thing. But bending forward, I’m stiffer because I spend my whole life with my shoulders back and my back arched, but blend for me, if I feel like something’s out, if my back goes out or something, I’ve got to get adjusted, let it relax. Get some antiinflammatories once in a while because the stress-around contest if your body’s out of whack is annoying too. And then yeah, get that bodywork, get those muscles worked out that are imbalanced. If you’re a little too tight there, a little too weak there, the ones that are built up too much you got to stretch out and yeah.
Tim Ferriss: And just for folks who don’t know Thai massage, I’ll do my best to do a quick description, and then please add anything that we’re missing. You described it as poor man or lazy man’s yoga. A lot of it is done on a mat. People will often stretch you, This is the one form of massage I’ve explored quite a bit and use pressure. Right? The feet, lots of —
Kelly Slater: Yeah.
Tim Ferriss: — they might use blood stops.
Kelly Slater: A lot of walking.
Tim Ferriss: Lots of walking.
Kelly Slater: Lot of walking on you.
Tim Ferriss: And also traction, depending on the style. So it’s a really comprehensive system. I’ve also found Thai massage extremely helpful. How often do you have bodywork done?
Kelly Slater: Well, I’d like to get something done every week, but sometimes I’ll get it a couple of times a week. If I’m in one place and I’ve got somebody I like to work with, I’ll go two or three times in a week sometimes. And then I might not go for a month, once in a while. If I’m competing though, I like to try to get something at least once a week.
Tim Ferriss: Once a week.
Kelly Slater: But if I’m at the contest, sorry to jump in there.
Tim Ferriss: No. Go ahead.
Kelly Slater: But if I’m at a contest, we usually have massage therapists there. So each day I’ll get a little bit of something during contest days.
Tim Ferriss: Just a few more questions, Kelly. I know it’s late. What time is it over there at the moment? It’s got to be on the late side.
Kelly Slater: I don’t know 1:30.
Tim Ferriss: Oh, my God, 1:30 a.m.
Kelly Slater: Hey, we’re partying, man.
Tim Ferriss: We’re partying and yeah, this is another surprise in the Kelly story is your history as a night owl. Which is pretty astonishing, at least was unexpected for me. But just a few more questions for you. And this is one on behalf of a friend of mine who, if you haven’t ever met him, I’d actually love for you guys to meet at some point. But his name is Josh Waitzkin. I don’t think he’d mind being named. He was the basis for Searching for Bobby Fischer. So he was considered a chess prodigy as a kid. He hates that word prodigy, but nonetheless, very, very, very successful chess player.
And then was a world champion in tai chi push hands, the first black belt under Marcello Garcia, who’s the Michael Jordan of grappling.
Kelly Slater: Oh, wow. Yeah, he’s one of my all-time favorites.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Yeah. So Josh co-founded a school with him in New York. And now he is spending his time on the water and this is his new passion.
Kelly Slater: Wow.
Tim Ferriss: And he’s fascinated by all water sports. And I’d love to, and this is a question that he posed, ask you about foiling. What is your opinion of foiling or eFoiling as a supplement or adjunct to surfing or otherwise? That’s my add on, but really what he was wondering is does it connect or not connect to surfing in your mind?
Kelly Slater: Well, the best guys in the world are surfers. So yeah, it connects. I got friends, when I was a little kid, there used to be this slogan, Cocoa Beach, The Small Wave World. Small Wave Capital of the World. For whatever reason, there was a big emphasis on surfing in Cocoa Beach. And it was probably a slogan from Ron Jon Surf Shop or something. But somehow it became known as a small wave capital.
Tim Ferriss: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Kelly Slater: And then in the last 20, 30 years, Cocoa Beach is not on the surfing radar at all. No one comes to Cocoa Beach to go surfing from anywhere else in the world. They do from Orlando. And they might from down South Florida, it’s not a destination for people from other places in the world. You’re going to go to Hawaii, or Indo, or Tahiti, or France for that matter, Portugal. But with the foiling thing, so for people that don’t know foiling —
Tim Ferriss: Yeah thanks.
Kelly Slater: — Google it. You can go on YouTube.
Tim Ferriss: It’s like a surfboard on a hydrofoil.
Kelly Slater: Yeah.
Tim Ferriss: So you don’t have the resistance of the board on the water.
Kelly Slater: Yeah. Yeah. You’re riding under the water and you’re riding, it’s probably the closest thing you can imagine to flying, but being in the water. And just think of all the America’s Cup boats now. The ones that lift off or those ferries, those super high-speed ferries that ride in a foil and all the energy, all the weight lifts up off the water. So there’s just so little resistance and the bigger the foil, the more lift you have. So the faster you’re going, the less foil size you need.
I can’t really speak to it because I’m a complete kook and novice. I’ve done it three times. I’ve done eFoil once. And I think the eFoil is a little goofy, I’m just going to throw it out there. I think it’s really good for learning. It’s training wheels for foiling, in my eyes. You do it to get the feel of being lifting up off the water and not relying on your board edges and stuff to create the turns. And foiling’s a little counterintuitive. When we surf, when you lean into a rail and do a turn, you’re pushing all your energy and weight down into that rail. And you’re getting a lift back from that rail. When you foil, when you push one side, wherever you put your force, it lifts back against you in a way that throws the board the opposite way you think it might.
So if I’m surfing and then leaning my right rail down in the water that that rail goes down, of course, I’m getting pushback against it. But in foiling when if you lean to the right and then put your energy down to the right, the foil kicks the board back up against you and you fold in half. So when you right, you almost got to put an equal amount of pressure on the left at the same time. It’s hard to try to explain because I am such a novice but so there’s a little bit of counterintuitive. It’s almost like if you’re riding a bike and you’re turning right, you have to turn the steering wheel left a little bit to go right? It’s the weirdest sensation, but it’s so cool looking, the amount of speed you can get.
And what I was saying about Florida, Cocoa Beach, being the small-wave capital of the world. I’m just starting to think that Florida might be a good destination again for people that want to go foiling. Because we have these really shallow offshore shoals off of Cape Canaveral, basically where NASA Space Center is. And my friends had been getting mile-long rides out there. And you can just catch these open ocean swells and they don’t break and you can go so fast back and forth on the things. And so cool looking, it’s completely silent and there’s just no wake. And I don’t know, it looks like nothing else in the world. I want to get into it, but I’m scared once I do, it’s going to mess my surfing up. So I’m waiting. I was telling you, I was working with Tom Carroll the other day and Tom foils almost every morning. And he says, “As soon as I’m done foiling I’ve got to get back on a surfboard so I don’t forget that feeling. And also my surfing goes downhill.”
Tim Ferriss: It is a beautiful and eerie visual to see foiling. If people haven’t seen it, we’ll put some links in the show notes. But it’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen, particularly if you’re not familiar with water sports at all. It just looks, it’s hard at first, within the first few seconds to even compute what is happening. Because, like you said, there’s no wake.
Kelly Slater: Yeah. You can see a tiny wave.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, yeah.
Kelly Slater: Somebody can be on the tiniest little wave and they’re going 20 miles an hour.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. It’s —
Kelly Slater: Just flying.
Tim Ferriss: It’s really wild. Just a few more questions.
Kelly Slater: Yeah.
Tim Ferriss: Then we’ll break here. Are there any really great moments in the water that come to mind that were not captured on camera? Any, obviously there’s all of the practice and lots of sessions on the water. But does anything come to mind? Not that you regret that it wasn’t captured on camera, but a standout moment for you that has just been locked in the amber of your memory?
Kelly Slater: I went on a trip down to Central America one time and there’s this really great wave that was happening years ago. Funny enough, strangely enough, it got ruined by the 2011 tsunami. Which wasn’t huge when it hit there, but it was really powerful and small and it changed this break in particular that we were surfing. But we went down there and then I brought my friend to shoot 1,000 frames a second on a Phantom camera, just the best footage you could ever get at the time. And we shot the best day I’ve ever seen at this place. A day you get very few times in your life, maybe the best day of surf I ever had.
And he filmed the whole thing and we flew from there to Tahiti and we got to Tahiti and I said, “Hey, let me know when I can see that footage.” And the next day I called him and I said, “Have you looked at it yet?” And he’s like, “There might be a problem with it or something, but I’ll let you know later.” I’m like, “What do you mean?” And he’s like, “I don’t know. I’m just trying to go through the hard drives and stuff.”
And so I go down, I go and see him the next day. And I said, “All right, what’s going on?” And he goes, “There’s no footage.” I go, “What do you mean there’s no footage? You missed some waves? Or like?” He goes, “No, there’s no footage at all.” And I was like, “What do you mean?” And he goes, “There just — there’s no footage. I think when we were going out on the jet ski, something came loose from the hard drive to the camera and it just never even got one frame of footage.” So we don’t have any footage at all of that whole day. And I was equally upset and thought it was funny.
And I actually, in a way, I’m glad that it didn’t happen because this place was so magical. And I felt cheap filming it and showing it to the world. And it’s renowned for people dropping their cameras that have filmed good sessions. There’s this mystique around this place. And a whole bunch of people, my friends that had been down there and filmed and stuff, my friends that lived down there. And they’ve dropped cameras in the water after a whole day of filming. And somehow somebody erased the footage. All these things have happened. So the footage of this place has never really gotten out. And then the tsunami hit and ruined the sandbar that had built up for who knows how long, decades. And so it’s funny, it hid itself. And although I wanted to see that footage, we didn’t have it.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. The Bermuda Triangle. And then the beach was like. “Enough of these people with their cameras. Let’s change the landscape.”
Kelly Slater: It happened.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. It’s amazing. Kelly, last question. What are you most looking forward to in terms of goals for yourself? It doesn’t have to be related to surfing, but really it could be of course, over the next handful of years?
Kelly Slater: Gosh, obviously this period of time with the COVID thing, I hope it’s been a time of reflection for everybody. I think it was a time for all of us to sit back and think about our health, think about what’s important, put some money away. I think about all the people who lost their jobs, and who live on credit, and who don’t save for a rainy day. And people are in far worse situations, that don’t have a house over their head, don’t have a roof over their head.
I think it’s one of those times to really think about everything that’s important in your life. And strangely enough, if you look at my YouTube feed, I would say half of the stuff that I watch is converting vans to a home. And I have this, after all these years of wanting to make money from when I was a kid, so I could buy a house, to then buying homes in different parts of the world, and now I’m looking forward to either living on a boat one day or living in a van that I can just live anywhere. Making it simple. The only problem is I have too many surfboards and too many golf clubs.
Tim Ferriss: And you could have a caravan. You could have the first van be the home, and then —
Kelly Slater: Well, and too many countries I like to be in. Yeah, I think just taking some time after being on this whirlwind for 30 plus years, nearly 30 years on tour. But you know, another 10 years on top of that chasing waves from when I was a young kid to just scaling it back to who I like to surf with and where and what else I want to include in my life or take out of it. Just looking forward to enjoying the next 40 years of life. And 50 years, 80 years, I don’t know. How long can we live at that point?
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, TBD.
Kelly Slater: Looking forward to that, and I think more personal growth. Surfing has become real crowded and you almost have to become spiritual to enjoy it sometimes because there’s so many people in the water. So learning to enjoy what I have and to be able to share it.
A kid that I surfed with yesterday wrote me a message today online. And he said, “Hey, I really want to be a pro surfer. I really want to get as good as I can and try to be a pro and make a career.” And he was like, “Any advice?” And he was like, “Sorry for bugging you.” And I was like, “No.” It’s probably strange how much I enjoy sharing all this stuff that I’ve learned with the younger guys, if they want to ask me. I think maybe sometimes people are intimidated to ask me, or don’t think I’ll want to talk about it or something. But I’m really happy to share any of those things I can with younger surfers who are hungry for it.
And I thought it was cool that he had the balls to just say, “Hey, can you help me out here?” And so I gave him a nice, long rundown. Do all these things, go all these places, don’t fake it, put your heart into it, and give it your best try. And if it works out great, but there’s a long road ahead to get to that point.
And, I don’t totally know how good this particular kid is. I saw a couple of clips of him and in all honesty, there’s some work to do there. But somebody who has the desire and is willing to say, “Hey, this is what I want to do.” All the best to those people. It sounds like somebody like that’s willing to work and be humbled. And to be humble, when you’re humble, you’re teachable, you’re able to learn. Even someone in my position, I’ve won a lot of contests and all that stuff. And I still, a lot of times I need to just sit back and be willing to learn, and be humble, and not think I know something or know it better than somebody.
And, and a lot of times just they say teaching is the best way to learn. Because going back to that theme we started early on with 2003, when I lost that world title. When you teach, you mess up and then you learn something from that. And you learn better and better how to understand and comprehend something and be able to share it with somebody. Not from a place of righteousness, but of a place of you lived it.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Well, we’ll try to track down the comment and the where to go and what to do to put it in the show notes. But Kelly, this has been great. I look forward to watching the next 50, 60, 80, 150 years depending on where —
Kelly Slater: Yeah.
Tim Ferriss: — medicine takes us. And really appreciate you taking the time. I know that you have lots of demands on your time, so I appreciate you carving out a bit of it for this conversation,
Kelly Slater: Man, sorry about the coughing. I actually, if we had tried to do this a few days ago, I couldn’t have; I completely lost my voice the other day.
Tim Ferriss: No problem.
Kelly Slater: Just got the sort of throat thing. But I’m just getting past it now.
Tim Ferriss: No problem at all, we can clean that up and post as well.
Kelly Slater: Okay.
Tim Ferriss: And really appreciate the time. And I’m just going to give a little outro for folks listening. Thanks for tuning in everybody. And you can find show notes, links to everything at tim.blog/podcast. And until next time, don’t be righteous, be open-minded. If you think you really understand something, try to go teach it to somebody who’s an up and comer.
The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 600 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.