This is an article from the Nov. 22, 2010 issue
The 38-year-old won his 10th world championship on Nov. 6, four days after the death of fellow pro Andy Irons
Dan Patrick:How did you celebrate this championship differently than the other nine?
Kelly Slater: I was probably a little quieter. It was a tough week—we had a good friend, a three-time world champion pass away just a few days prior. So it was kind of a somber week.
DP:You and Andy had a friendly rivalry. Do you need a rivalry?
KS: I think sports need rivalries. And personally, it helped me a lot as far as motivation when I got back on tour. I was on tour for six or seven years, then I just got burned out. When I came back [two years later], it was nice—I mean, I hated it at times—but it was nice to have somebody really pushing you and trying to get the best out of you. It definitely focuses you and makes you work on every part of your game.
DP:What makes you decide on whether to surf a wave or wait for another one? Size?
KS: There are so many factors. The other day I was surfing waves that were 15 feet high on the face. I've surfed waves that are 40 or 50 feet high, but this day, it was really intense because it was breaking super shallow and there was a big, huge, flat table rock sticking out of the water right where we were taking off. And there was a current pulling you back in front of that rock. So if you took off in front of this rock and fell, you could die or definitely go to the hospital. Sometimes I feel totally comfortable paddling for a wave that's 35 or 40 feet if it's breaking in deep water. And then you could take off on a two-foot wave close to rocks and it could be superdangerous.
DP:How long would it take me to learn to surf?
KS: With anything, it's your attitude. If you go out, you could look like a total idiot. But if you're having a good time and you're excited about it, you're going to want to learn.
DP:Is it fair to say that in a surfing competition, the guy who wins is the guy who's having the most fun?
KS: If you have two guys who are comparable in skills and one guy is having more fun, he's probably looser and more relaxed and surfing better. And probably making better decisions. When you get tense, everything sort of falls apart. So there's some truth to that.
DP:Are you going to compete next year?
KS: I don't know yet. I'm sure I'm going to compete a bit, but I'm the second-oldest guy on tour. Thirty-eight is ancient in our sport, or at least it used to be.
DP:Can you just walk away right now?
KS: I think so [laughs]. Well, I'll find out shortly. If I do, I can. It's hard when you're at the top of something to say, "That's it."
DP:Don't you want to go with the motto "11 in '11"?
KS: Well, 10 in '10 was good. I've just got to keep up. Or wait 100 years.
• Prime Cut
I asked Deion Sanders who would have won a race that included himself at age 23, fellow two-sport star Bo Jackson in his prime and Chris Johnson, the fastest man in the NFL today. "Not only am I getting out of the hole first, but the hand is behind the head within the 10th step," Prime Time said. "The hand is behind the head, and the knees are going up like I'm the drum major for Florida A&M. It ain't no question." How could he win even when showboating at the end? "When I was high-stepping, I was still gaining ground. Google me."
• Game Time
At 35 USC's Lane Kiffin is one of the younger coaches in the college ranks. Trojans QB Matt Barkley told me that it's his youthful exuberance that makes Kiffin so popular with the team. "He's a funny guy," Barkley said. "He's a little kid. It's almost like he's playing Madden football with us. He's out there controlling all the routes and just playing out all those plays in his head."
• Line of the week
Former NFL quarterback Jim McMahon lost track of how many concussions he played through during his 15 NFL seasons and now suffers from bouts of memory loss: "You meet new friends every day, even though you've known them for years."
THE FINE PRINT: Manny Pacquiao beat Antonio Margarito at Cowboys Stadium. The bout was so one-sided, Pacquiao loaned his cut man to Wade Philips.
Now Hear This
Listen to the podcasts at danpatrick.com/interviews
1. Landon Donovan on a possible return to England.
2. Portland guard Brandon Roy on his ailing knee.