"As Slater’s competitiveness has fizzled, his narcissism has been lit like a flare," writes JP Currie.
I pity Kelly Slater. Really. It’s difficult to reconcile just how I arrived here. Once a hero, now almost a meme.
His descent into absurdity has been rapid. I loved Kelly once, truly. But there comes a time when even our deities need to be put out to pasture. A time when they should slip away with dignity to burn brighter in our memories with every passing year. I think, by this point, Kelly has fucked that dead.
As Slater’s competitiveness has fizzled, his narcissism has been lit like a flare. Though, to be fair, he has always grasped for attention outside of the surf world. Unfortunately, being a surfer just isn’t very interesting.
Nick Carroll once said (in this very comment section) that Kelly doesn’t get enough credit for being a psycho. A flippant but accurate summation of Kelly’s sociopathic dedication to surfing performance. It’s just a pity he can’t stick to that. As Slater’s competitiveness has fizzled, his narcissism has been lit like a flare. Though, to be fair, he has always grasped for attention outside of the surf world. Unfortunately, being a surfer just isn’t very interesting.
Kelly’s appearance on Joe Rogan was, in my estimation, one of the most embarrassing clashes of surfing and pop culture. If this man is our king, then he just made the rest of us look really, really silly.
“Kelly Slater.” Joe says in the intro. “We’ve been talking about doing this for how long?”
(Subtext: please stop emailing me now cunt).
Rogan’s podcast is the biggest there is. You can be damned sure Kelly’s been badgering him. That was obvious as he ticked off the Rogan tropes (MMA, hunting, shit you should/shouldn’t eat, BIG FUCKING SCARY ANIMALS), and as he awkwardly hoisted out-of-character attempts at bawdy humour “That’s not the kind of three-way you like, huh?” He even tried out Australian and South African accents as he recounted stories. C-R-I-N-G-E. Slater had all the poise of a teenage girl taking a selfie with her favourite pop star whilst simultaneously pissing her pants.
Despite what David Lee Scales (famous for co-hosting a podcast with Chas Smith) might think, Joe Rogan can be a great interviewer. Different, sure. Sometimes a little irreverent, sometimes a little stoned. But he has a way of eliciting gold from his subjects by simply letting them speak, guiding the conversation where necessary. Colloquialism and playing dumb can be disarming weapons. (John McPhee, Draft No.4, the chapter on Elicitation. You’re welcome, Scales.) Rogan’s podcasts aren’t always good, but sometimes they’re truly great. And he has a back catalogue of tremendous guests.
Not so with Kelly Slater.
The entire conversation was like a classic schoolboy lunchtime debate. The only missing ingredients were whose dad would kick fuck out of whose, and which bird got a wild fingering up behind the bins at the weekend.
It would be fair to say that Joe Rogan was perhaps a little baked, and clearly wasn’t interested in surfing. Why would he be? What’s interesting to a non-surfer beyond sharks? But that wasn’t really the problem.
Slater just didn’t have anything interesting to say. He hijacked Rogan’s anecdotes and attempted to tell them better. He name dropped (“I actually was with Samuel L Jackson three weeks ago in Paris…”). He shoehorned terms he thought Rogan might bite on like “flow state”. And he tried vainly to accredit himself as an MMA guy (“I actually trained with Don The Dragon Wilson”). Worst of all was the repeated “I had a buddy…my friend…I know a guy…etc” as the conversation skipped jauntily from non sequitur to non entity and back again.
“My friend has a giraffe.”
“Bears are so primal.”
“You sure it wasn’t a skunk ape that did it?”
“I thought I pooped out my colon.”
For the two-hour duration of the podcast Kelly was not the king of surfing, he was the guy at the party who always has a story bigger and better than yours. The guy you desperately want to disappear.
Crocodiles “his buddy” told him about that are 29 feet long and 15 feet wide.
Thirty-five foot Great White sharks that his “friend” told him about. “Bruh, the biggest sharks are way bigger than you think…” (in mock SA accent).
Embarrassingly, Rogan tried to end it early. I’ve never heard him do that before.
After this Kelly went into hyper mode as he desperately tried to grasp something to extend the conversation. With absolutely no relevance he starts talking about his foot injury again. He shills his buddy’s juice. He asks Rogan a question as if he’s the host, except it’s not really a question. And he tries desperately to get back to me, me, ME.
Joe: “I worked out for five-anda-a-half hours yesterday.”
Kelly: “I surfed for five hours yesterday.”
Joe: “I’ve done intermittent fasting. I like to do 16 hrs”
Kelly: “I’ve done, like, nine or 10 day fasts.”
And then, just when you think it can’t get any more ridiculous, he says the most American thing ever. (When Rogan mentions Sober October) “You got me in, man. I don’t drink much, but I feel so much better not having a beer.”
Despite his 46 years, Kelly Slater is a child of the Internet. A little knowledge of lots of things but no real depth. It’s a sad indictment of the effects of the Internet on learning in general, and it’s a shame to see someone who is a true expert in his field not be satisfied with that. Just talk about surfing, Kelly. We want to hear about it even if Joe Rogan doesn’t.
You know Of Mice and Men, right? Course you do. School n that. A play that became a novel. The story of loneliness and a beautiful but ultimately tragic relationship. Two men: one small, sharp of feature and wit. The other a big spaz. Lots of foreshadowing –should have killed the cunt ages ago etc.
These last few years of Kelly’s career have felt a little like a performance of the story. Kelly (of course) plays multiple characters.
He’s Curley’s Wife, flaunting himself anywhere people will have him. Craving attention, whorish rouged lips parted suggestively. Deeply tragic.
He’s Candy and Candy’s dog. Old, knackered, long past his best. A bit whiffy. We’ll keep him around out of guilt, respect. But sooner or later someone will shoot the fucker and we’ll all be secretly glad.
He’s Curley. Bouncing around with his dukes up, picking internet fights in places he has no business. Trying desperately to prove something.
And he’s Lennie. Poor, thick Lennie. Probably harmless but maybe not. We’ve habitually excused him.
We play George. All of us.