Magazine article Sunset

Clean Break

Magazine article Sunset

Clean Break

Article excerpt

The greatest surfer of all time answers the door wearing fuzzy slippers. Kelly Slater offers a big smile and a handshake at the entrance to his midcentury cottage in San Clemente, California, as his Chihuahua mix, Action, warily sniffs my feet. I'm ready for Slater's squared jaw and piercing blue eyes but unprepared for all the searching questions about my tea preferences as he ticks off a full menu of loose leaves, nondairy milks, and natural sweeteners. A few minutes later, Slater shuffles back into the living room with a couple of chocolate-ginger chais with coconut nectar.

We're sipping our brews just a few miles from Trestles Beach, where Slater captured his first pro contest, back in 1990. But his surfing story begins in his hometown of Cocoa Beach, Florida. There, the towheaded boy was out on a surfboard by the age of S and winning big amateur competitions before long. "It all happened so fast," says Slater, now 45. "I started going to places like Puerto Rico and Australia and Hawaii. Pretty quickly the world became my playground."

When he was 18, he turned pro with outsize ambitions. But he didn't just hope to dominate his sport-he was determined to change it. Drawing inspiration from skateboarding and snowboarding, Slater started doing vertical air maneuvers and tail slides that no one had pulled off on a surfboard before. "I wanted to have style and grace and power like my heroes-but do something more futuristic," he says. "I wanted to create a new style of surfing."

In doing so, Slater established himself as the Michael Jordan of his sport. Slater was just 20 when he became the youngest surfer to ever win a world title. In 2011, at the age of 39, he became the oldest person to win that title, giving him a mind-boggling 11 world championships. (No one else has ever captured more than four.)

These days, though, Slater's focus has shifted from a single-minded obsession with winning to what he calls "a more balanced life." He's an entrepreneur with multiple companies, an advocate for the environment, a globe-trotter with deep passions.

One venture that has galvanized his fellow surfers' attention is the Kelly Slater Wave Company, an operation built around a manmade wave facility in California's Central Valley. Artificial surf parks are nothing new, but no one had figured out how to make a perfect tube until KSWC did last year. While not yet open to the public, online videos of Slater riding a flawless barrel have notched millions of views on YouTube. "It's not the raw experience you get by throwing your board in the car and finding a wave at some beach somewhere. …

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