Kelly Slater Plans To Do The Unthinkable At The Paris Olympics

One last hurrah?

Kelly Slater Plans To Do The Unthinkable At The Paris Olympics

Kelly Slater wants to qualify for the Paris Games in 2024. Despite being 50 (51 next week), he plans to qualify and make history. He says if he wins a gold medal in 2024 he’ll retire, then and there.

Kelly Slater is a man with a plan. The GOAT surfer who simply refuses to quit, while contemporaries nine years younger than him (see: Mick Fanning, Joel Parkinson) are retiring in their droves, Kelly ploughs on, defiant against time (and injuries).

Less optimistic people would have given up on chasing the Olympic dream years ago. In 2019, Kelly missed out on qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics (the first year surfing was included in the Games) by one place. Instead, John John Florence and Kolohe Andino went (with John John recovering from an injury just in time to climb above Kelly in the rankings in the last event of the year).

Slater is an eternal grom though (or that’s what he would like you to believe) and has continued to compete on the WSL in the meantime. Whether you put this down to a long-term plan to end up in the Paris Olympics or whether you think he just loves the lifestyle (or both) is up to you. But he has scored some remarkable victories in that time. After an injury wracked 2021, Slater won the Pipeline Pro in 2022, beating Seth Moniz to take another world tour victory, years after people thought he would be long retired.

Slater said it was the best win of his 56. But will it give him the platform he needs to qualify for Paris? In a word: no. The slate is wiped clean every year, and everyone starts from scratch. But the confidence he has drawn from that win in 2022 has clearly made him think he has a shot in 2023, as he’s still here at 50 years of age (soon to be 51), competing with the young ones.

Per MSN, Slater recently said, while promoting his TV show Make or Break: “This will be my one chance.”

“The next [Olympics] I’ll be 55 years old. I’m not going to be on tour by then. I did say that at 40, though, when I was talking about being 50.”

Kelly Slater

“I can relate to that after so long, but I love to surf, and this is the outlet for it, still. I feel that candle kind of burning out for me. That’s been for a while, but I think I’m just going to surf until it’s totally done, and I don’t really care at all about surfing a heat and want to be somewhere else.”

If Slater did make it to the Olympics, he would be well placed to do well. The venue is one of the waves Kelly is still one of the best in the world at surfing – Teahupoo in Tahiti.

“If I can get on that team, I feel like I have a good shot at potentially winning a medal or gold medal,” Slater has reportedly said of Teahupoo, which is located in the French Polynesia. “If that were the case, I will drop the mic and quit right then, but, you know, I got a lot of work to do between now and then.”

As for Kelly’s internal psychology, this Gary Smith profile on SI offers three reasons why he surfs. Firstly, the profile suggests, it was to keep up with (and outdo) his brother (“he wasn’t going to just lie there when Sean began surfing Cocoa Beach’s 14-inch waves. Kelly lifted his stomach off his boogie board, got one foot up on it … then a knee … then, ohmygod, he did it!”).

The second reason proffered was to spite his dad (“Damn. Where’d that come from? It was the memory of what really motivated him to surf his ass off during those first few years as a pro: seeing, in the hotel on the eve of contests, his competitors—men he’d worshipped as a kid—slamming beers and cheating on their wives”).

“They wouldn’t have a clue what had hit them the next day. All they’d see was this teenage dervish slashing this startling calligraphy across the canvas of a wave that no one but Kelly could read.

F.U. F.U. F.U.

But even he couldn’t read the last word: Dad.”

The third reason was apparently to deal with his anger and confusion.

“But now Dad was disappearing, chunks of his chest and neck and lymph nodes soon to roll away on a surgical cart, weight melting off from the throat cancer ravaging his body in 2001. A piece of Kelly was vanishing as well, before he’d ever figured out where the piece fit.”

“All that anger and confusion he’d siphoned off for competitive fuel without even knowing it, now had to be confronted. All the unsaid things among brothers, all the black-and-white interpretations of Mom and Dad, all swirling around his uncertainty about his career and who he’d be without it.”