After losing to Gabriel Medina in the quarter final, Kelly Slater had one of those moments where he decides to be candid, charming funny and revealing all at once. Kelly talked about his retirement plans, cursed his gig as a pro surfer, discussed the rivalry between John John and Gabriel Medina and hinted at his anxieties about anyone else bettering his legacy of Pipe Masters and World Title victories. The responses below were taken from a cross-section of the press (including Tracks) who were granted an audience with the King.        

Will you be back in 2018?

Kelly: Somewhere. I don’t know. We’ll see. Part of me has been thinking this time off has been really nice. You know, I had a taste of that some years ago and I really enjoyed it and I don’t know. I’ve got a few months to think about that. I did apply for the wildcard. I got my doctor to sign all the papers and all that stuff. I’ve missed five events. In one way that helps to recharge all the batteries, in another way it helps you to get a taste of freedom and get the shackles off.

Your fans hope that you will never stop.

I thought about it. (Chuckles) I’m forty-five, if I surf for three more years that’s 40 years of competitive surfing and I think if I were to do that then I think would never surf another heat in my life. I think I’d be like, ‘alright I’m done. I’m tapping out here.’

What would you occupy your time with if you weren’t competing?

I’m plenty busy. I’ve got plenty of things that I love doing. You know, I love travelling; there are a lot of places I want to go. I still want to push my surfing, work on board designs. There are a lot of waves in the world I want to surf. And a lot of time that I want to spend with certain people in my life that I haven’t really had that time very freely for years and I’ve got quite a bit of work stuff on if I want that.

Kelly compresses into a Backdoor cave. Notice how he has unweighted his injured foot? Photo: WSL/Poullenot

Are Gabriel and John John part of a rivalry that will define surfing history?

Probably so. I think that’s pretty obvious. They’re different personalities, different countries; regular and goofy foot. There are a lot of differences between them and that’s what makes for a great rivalry. If they were real good buddies or had the same sponsor; a lot of different things could make it not as interesting.

It’s cool they have totally different support groups and they approach things differently. With Gabriel nobody really knows what’s going on behind the scenes with him – at least in the States and Australia. Everyone kind of goes, ‘We don’t really hear much about Gabriel’.

You know, John’s starting to create a little bubble around himself, where you don’t really know what’s going on. He’s got his tight crew. I grew up with John and I don’t even necessarily feel a part of that. He’s really creating a support for himself that allows him to just function clear-headed. These guys are at a point now where they can really live up to their potential and they both want the same thing. It’d be a bummer if they wanted the same girl, you know. Actually maybe it would be better. It would be a really great rivalry then.

Looking at Bede and Kerrsy retiring yesterday do you really feel like it was a changing of the guard?

I mean it doesn’t happen ever in one year, it just happens gradually over time. It becomes obvious when a younger generation starts to win all the accolades. There’s also something refreshing about guys retiring happily and being like ‘cool, you can have it, you know.’ You know I had some times recently where I was like ‘you know what, sometimes I fuckin hate what I’m doing.’ Just because there’s just so much pressure all the time and you just want to be free of it and you just want to enjoy your life at some point, but that pressure’s also what makes it great for you in some ways because it creates these little challenges in your life. I think when you’re done competing as a professional athlete you should be done with most challenges and it’s all personal stuff.

Kelly congrats John John with a very gentleman handshake after claiming his second world title. Photo: WSL/Cestari

You’ve denied John John the opportunity to win in front of a home crowd before. Would you like to see him win the world title and the contest? Is that a moment you’d like to witness?

Um, yes and no. I think when you’re the guy who’s already been there, you’ve spent a lot of time with those same goals and achieved some of them there’s part of your legacy that you start thinking about. And I go, ‘God, how many Pipe Masters could John win? How many world titles could Gabriel win?’ All these things you start thinking about, but I think the safe thing probably for me is that they’ve got each other and they keep beating each other.

Have you got any view on having three judges as opposed to five for each heat when using the overlapping format you created? That may have been a factor in some of the results in this event?     

Maybe, but um, I don’t know. I’ve said why not just get some legend that was on tour before and have one guy going, you won and you lost. (Laughs at his own idea) You know, sometimes I think, just trust one guy. I don’t know, everyone’s emotional and they’re all bias; everyone’s bias in some way for some reason.

Maybe they like a different style of surfing; more the old-school power surfing as opposed to the new-school air. You know, maybe it’s a goofy footer and I want him to go left and not right. You never know what’s going to play into that decision. We live in a democracy for the most part and we try to get the popular vote on things. I don’t know if three and five … Sometimes I think after we have five judges and throw two away, so two don’t even count, travel all this way… I like the overlap because there’s more action happening and we get longer heats, technically we get another ten minutes in the water … I think for the people on the beach they see a lot more waves ridden.