Robert Kelly Slater is one of the greatest surfers in the history of the sport. Born and raised in Cocoa Beach, Florida, Kelly Slater is said to have first ridden a wave when he was just 5 years old and after turning professional in 1990, when he was 18 years old, he went on earn over $4 million in career earnings and continues to have a major impact on the sport.
You probably know all of that already, but there are many things you might not know about this legendary champ, and it's those facts that we'll look at in this article.
He Appeared in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater
In 2003, Slater teamed up with Activision to launch Kelly Slater's Pro Surfer on PlayStation 2, Xbox, Gamecube, GameBoy Advance, and Windows. The game was developed by Treyarch (who later developed the Call of Duty Black Ops series), and also featured Rob Machado and Tom Curren, along with a few other pro surfers.
It performed well within the surfing community but seemingly failed to capture the attention of non-surfers, which is perhaps why we haven't seen a succession of surfing games since then.
However, this game isn't the only appearance of Kelly Slater. In fact, before the launch of Pro Surfer, he popped up in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 as a playable character. Pro Skater 3 was part of a massive game franchise (the fourth iteration actually beat Pro Surfer to an award for "Best Alternative Sports Game on Xbox") and it's clear that they wanted to introduce Slater early and replicate the success of that franchise, but it never really materialized.
We haven't seen a major surfing game since those early days. It seems that video game publishers don't want to take a risk on something that has flopped before, not when they can churn out another dozen FPS sequels and Madden releases for the same price.
He Initially Struggled
If you look at Slater's record, you'll see that he won his first world title when he was just 20 years old, two years after he turned pro. On paper, it looks like he adapted immediately and was a champion from the moment his board hit the water, but that wasn't the case.
In fact, Slater finished 90th in the world rankings at the end of his first year and improved to 43rd a year later. He soon found his feet though. He earned his first world number 1 ranking after becoming the youngest world champion following a victory in the Hawaii Pipeline Masters.
Music and Film Projects
Slater plays the guitar and ukulele and once formed a band called The Surfers with Peter King and Rob Machado. He has performed with Pearl Jam, Ben Harper, and Jack Johnson and also did some promotional work for Shirley Manson of Garbage. He even took his band on a tour of Australia and released an album titled Songs from the Pipe in 1998.
Slater has also appeared in more than his fair share of films and TV shows, including Kelly Slater in Black and White, Ultimate Wave Tahiti, Surf's Up, Wave Warriors, and Momentum Generation. He also appeared in 27 episodes of Baywatch, where he played Jimmy Slade.
The Wave Pool
Kelly Slater's name will likely live on for decades to come, not only because of his many achievements on the surf, but because he is now responsible for some of the biggest and most ambitious wave pools in the world.
California-based WSL Surf Ranch (the World Surf League acquired a major share) was developed over a period of 10 years and is now world-renowned, although it’s closed to the public.
A similar project, which is expected to open to the public, is being developed in La Quinta, California, and may be followed by projects in Florida and other locations.
Other Quick Facts About Kelly Slater
Sponsorship: He was sponsored by Quiksilver for many years, before developing his own brand, Outerknown, in collaboration with Kering.
Zero Calorie Energy: He was one of the co-founders of Purps, a zero-calorie energy drink.
Inspiration: He credits the late-great Andy Irons as being one of his biggest inspirations.
Firewire: He acquired Firewire in 2014 and released his own line of surfboards, including the Sci-Fi.
Speed: It took Slater just 7 years to become the most successful male champion, beating Mark Richards when he secured his fifth world title. In another 10 years, following an event at Lower Trestles, he also became the highest all-time earner.