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Excellence in the field of athletics is often easier to measure than excellence in other fields; that being said, excellence in sports is no less impressive than excellence in other fields. The sport of surfing has been around for hundreds of years but only in the past century has it truly been considered a sport. Throughout the past 22 years one man, Robert Kelly Slater (known just as “Kelly Slater”) has dominated this sport. Kelly Slater is by far the best surfer in history; he has shattered nearly every record in the sport and has been the youngest and oldest person to ever be called Champion in surfing. There is absolutely no debate in the surfing world that Kelly Slater is the best.
Slater was born in Cocoa Beach, Florida on February 11, 1972. Kelly Slater was born into a somewhat dysfunctional household with an alcoholic father. Throughout Kelly’s childhood his parents often fought to the point where Kelly and his brother had to leave the house. When Kelly was five years old he began surfing and from that point forward he would always turn to surfing for joy and escape. Kelly quickly found that he had a natural ability for surfing, it helped that he had a very slender and flexible body to give him greater maneuverability on the waves. By the time Slater was 18 he had won 6 Eastern Surfing Association championships and 4 national titles giving him a total of 10 amateur championship titles, at this point he had qualified for the pro tour. Before Kelly joined the pro tour he was offered sponsorships from every possible surf company but decided on Quicksilver. Kelly lived up to the hype by winning the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) World Championship Tour his first full year on the tour. This won launched Kelly Slater into surfing stardom. Since 1990 Kelly has won eleven ASP Championships and has become the most successful surfer of all time.
Kelly Slater has broken almost every surfing record that there is, he has won more world championships than any other surfer, he is the youngest and oldest person to ever be crowned world champion and he is one of four people to score a perfect 20 on the ASP’s two-wave scoring system (which he has done twice.) The measure of excellence for surfing is quite literally a measurement. The ASP has designed a point system that includes points from twelve different surfing events throughout the year and the surfer with the most points at the end of the year is champion. Eleven different times Kelly has scored more points on the world tour than any other surfer. Kelly knows that he is the champion of surfing and loves being on top, however he does not let this go to his head. The struggle to maintain his title is one of the biggest driving forces for the now 41-year-old surfer.
The main components that have made up Kelly’s excellence are natural ability, practice, drive and motivation in the form of competition. In sports these four components are often the most important, however, other factors may contribute to an athlete’s excellence. Over the past 30 years Kelly Slater has strongly expressed all four of these components and they have greatly contributed to his rise to the top of surfing.
Growing up in Cocoa Beach, Kelly rarely ever experienced “good” waves. This lack of good surfing conditions would discourage most surfers and they would therefore not surf as much, this was not the case for Kelly. Slater loved to surf and be in the water no matter the conditions, so he surfed almost every day. This constant practice helped Kelly grow and develop his talent. Kelly developed a strong passion for surfing and the ocean which led to his desire to be in the water all of the time. His desire for the sport has brought about greatness inside him. Kelly has always expressed a great love for winning in surfing. When Kelly won his first pro contest he said it felt as if he had won the entire pro tour, Kelly has continued to chase this feeling throughout his career. Kelly has also always made it a strong point of his to rarely drink alcohol and to never smoke or use any drugs. This characteristic of Kelly’s has led him to maintain very high health, which has contributed to his athletic achievements. Kelly’s pursuit of an athletic career never presented him with any serious negative side effects. Many athletes at some point in their career become depressed or discouraged with themselves; this was never the case for Kelly. His career has almost completely been filled with joy. Kelly Slater has always simply done what he loves and a career has developed because of this.
When Kelly first began surfing his goal was not to become the best but simply to have fun and be good at something. This joy for the sport eventually developed into a strong competitive passion. As Kelly dominated surfing throughout the mid 1990’s he claims that the lack of competition started to make him feel bored and tired. This led Kelly to a short retirement from surfing that ended when competition came along in the form of a surfer named Andy Irons. Surfer Andy Irons promised to be the next best thing in surfing and hearing this pulled Kelly out of retirement to defend is title as the best surfer in the world. Kelly’s first year back on the pro tour ended in a loss to Andy Irons, which Kelly claims was the most painful part of his career. This defeat led Kelly to work harder and come back out on top; he was striving once again to be the best. Kelly’s new goal for surfing was to beat Andy Irons to a world championship, this new goal sprouted from strict competition. Without this strong competition between Andy and Kelly it is likely that Kelly Slater would not be as good of a surfer as he is today. It is easy to say that at the beginning of Kelly Slater’s journey to excellence his main goal was simply joy. However, this goal quickly changed into a desire to be the best and later a desire to defeat his competition.
I strongly believe that Kelly Slater is the best surfer to ever live. Kelly can do things on a surfboard that no other surfer can do. To me it seems that the most important contributing factor to Kelly’s excellence has simply been his love for the sport. Kelly has always found time to surf throughout his life and has always loved to do this. Without this strong love for the sport he would not be as great as he is today. I also believe that Kelly’s desire to beat his competition lead him achieve his 11 world titles. Without this competition Kelly would have not earned more than 6 of his world titles. To me, Kelly Slater is the definition of excellence in surfing and also in the field of athletics. He is the best there is in his field and likely is the best there ever will be.
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