How does the greatest surfer in history switch off? He goes surfing, of course. Interview by Alison Boleyn.
What’s your greatest strength?
Never being satisfied.
What’s your greatest weakness?
Probably the same.
What scares you?
Not doing all the things in life I want to while I have the chance.
What virtues do you admire most in people?
Precision, attention to detail and confidence.
What’s one thing about you that would surprise people?
I’ve bitten my nails since I first grew teeth.
What is your idea of absolute happiness?
The freedom to choose in all areas of life.
What’s your greatest achievement?
Staying drug-free with all the freedom of my lifestyle and the influences that have surrounded it.
If you could have dinner with two famous people, who would you choose?
Stevie Wonder and André 3000. I love their music and the things they sing about.
What travel experience is on your bucket list?
I’d like to go to Nepal and Tibet some day.
How do you switch off?
I go surfing.
What are your guilty pleasures?
The Bachelor and [American rock band] Journey.
If you could turn back time, what would you change in your life?
I would be more decisive about figuring out what I wanted at a couple of key times in my life.
Who is your personal hero?
I’d say [singer-songwriter] Jack Johnson. He’s been hugely successful doing what he loves while sending a positive message out to the world. Success has probably made Jack more of who he is rather than less.
What is the most American thing about you?
I drive a really big car.
What’s your most treasured possession?
Where would we find you at a party?
On a couch. Or near the food.
If you could do any other job, what would it be?
Maybe an architect. I love designing things.
And if you were down to your last $20, what would you spend it on?
Something I could upscale and sell for more money.
How would you like to be remembered?
As honest and fair.
If you were an animal, what would it be?
It’s a cliché but a dolphin. They’re fast and agile and very few things can prey on them. They look like they have fun most of the time and they don’t need a passport.
The Florida native is an 11-time World Surf League champion. He is also a conservationist and an entrepreneur whose Kelly Slater Wave Company has brought surfing inland with man-made wave technology.
On the radar
His sustainable menswear brand, Outerknown, has released the “Nomadic” collection made from recycled materials.
Photo credit: Todd Glaser