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Friday, February 10, 2012

Ode to Kelly Slater

When I was 12 years old, my Mom and I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. My brother and sister were attending college there and my Mom wanted to have the family closer together. As a East Coast transplant, I quickly became mesmerized by the ocean, at least the idea of the ocean. It wasn't that I hadn't spent time near the water growing up - we often spent part of our school vacations on Sanibel Island in Florida - but I guess it was the whole idea and image that's associated with California - the beaches, the bikinis, the surfers. I would often rummage through Surfer and Surfing magazines at the local bookstore and tear out pictures of waves and surfers. Oftentimes, those pictures would include Kelly Slater.

So you can imagine how excited I was when, 20+ years later I had the chance to watch Kelly surf in person at the Quiksilver Pro New York event in Long Beach, NY. Giddy would be one way to describe it.

In between heats, I went for a walk to check out the other happenings around the contest site. As I passed the main Quiksilver tent, I saw Kelly standing there, taking pictures with fans and signing autographs. I stopped dead in my tracks. I thought briefly about running back to get Ed and the boys but there was no way that I was going to miss my chance to meet Kelly and have my picture taken with him. So I stood in line with everyone else, handed my iPhone to the guy behind me, held my breath and smiled. I also gave Kelly my Yankees baseball cap to sign. It was the only thing that I had with me!

My hands were literally shaking. What was I? A 12 year old girl? It was embarrassing. I wanted to tell Kelly congratulations on winning his heat, how great it was that the surfers were in NYC, etc. but I couldn't form any words. I just smiled and chuckled. He must have thought that I was a Japanese tourist who didn't speak any English. 

As I walked back to find Ed and the boys, I was still shaking but I had the biggest grin on my face. I showed Ed the picture and he immediately gathered up the boys so that they could have their picture taken with Kelly too. It's no secret that we want our boys to surf. How cool would it be for them to look back and see that they have a picture with one of the best surfers of all time? When we got back to the tent, Kelly was still standing there even though his heat ended over an hour ago. He could have been long gone but instead, he made the time for his fans.

I said before here, what I appreciate the most is the fact that he's been doing this for 20 years professionally and has ability to adapt to basically any ocean condition and to his competitors in order to take his game to a higher level. As his competitors get younger, Kelly gets better. 

In honor of Kelly's birthday tomorrow, I've composed a silly little poem

Here's to the best and the greatest there is. 
Eleven times over - World Champion that is.

You've elevated your game when it's counted the most. 
The fiercest competitor on every coast.

Power carves and aerials in all types of break.
There isn't a trick that you cannot make.

You've kept the young ones guessing and wondering too.
Is there anything that this bald guy can't do?

You're nimble.
You're quick.
You're adaptable too.
Flying through the air like all those younger dudes

Kobe + Jordan don't have your number.
Even despite the ASP's blunder.

So here's to one of the greatest sportsman of all time.
Watching you surf is truly sublime.

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At February 10, 2012 at 9:06 PM , Anonymous T. J. Lushen said...

Wow, that is amazing. Kelly is so good to the sport of surfing. Can you imagine NFL players waiting around 2 hours after the game to sign autographs? I hope your knee is doing better. I know it is not nearly as bad, but I got a bad case of illiotibial band syndrome and for a couple days I could barely walk. I had to stop running for 3 weeks, and as you said, I felt like I was this different person. I do have to say that these injuries tend to happen when you do something different in you training that what you are used to. I was fine after my marathon, but then we decided to run sprints with our kids and that's when I hurt my right thigh. I continued running anyway of course and I think compensating for my right thigh ended up injuring my left iliotibial band. I do have some exciting news - we signed up for another week at Surf Simply next February. Now the waiting begins ... I think before we go I will get to surf in Nag's Head this summer and then California next October. Please keep blogging, it is so interesting!

At February 10, 2012 at 9:52 PM , Blogger Christine said...

Thanks so much for your comment. Makes me happy that someone, other than me, finds my little blog interesting :-)

I'm *so* jealous about your upcoming trip to Surf Simply! A friend of ours just returned and another is heading there tomorrow. I hope that we can make it back sometime in the next year too. Great that you'll be able to surf a bit before heading back though. We are going to spend a couple of weeks out in Montauk this summer which should be fun. My knee still isn't great. Hurts when I walk so I'm pretty much stuck with doing a whole lot of nothing right now except work of course. I just have to wait and see and hope for the best.

At February 11, 2012 at 11:37 PM , Blogger surfmama101 said...

I am so jealous Christine ;)
I never met Kelly in person. I had the chance to see him surf but the crowd that swallowed him when he got out from his heat discouraged me to try to come close to him... This picture is surely a collector you want to make sure to keep: make tons of digital back ups + print outs in case ;)

At February 12, 2012 at 1:09 PM , Blogger Christine said...

Believe me - there are multiple copies and back-ups for sure! But you've gotten to meet Rob Machado in some pretty cool settings. It was wild that he wasn't totally mobbed. Maybe because I caught him at the tail end of his autograph session? Maybe because it was NYC and people just didn't know any better :-) When I was out in SF for the contest in November, it was a complete mob scene. Granted, he was about to clinch his 11th World Title but still.


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