"I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Kelly hasn’t actually read many books, including the two he recommended. Call it intuition honed by listening to high school kids lie about reading."
I love deconstructing Slater’s attention whoring. I’m like a dog, rooting around its scummy blankets before curling up, happy.
It’s my genre.
And he listens. I know he does.
Zach Weisberg fielded his ire on my behalf. Ashton Goggans recently mailed me a lovely little ditty. It goes like this:
“So probably my best day of surf last year was the evening after they called off Jeffrey’s, the day before the final. Like six-foot, bigger sets, a little stormy and lurchy but just fucked up fun. Jed Smith and I were surfing Supers and Kelly was surfing past us over and over again, on a heater, while Jed and I just sort of hunted inside scraps, super stoned and just kind of tripping on the whole scene. Everytime he’d paddled by he’d make some little remark, and I kicked out kind of close to him on one of the better waves I think I’ve ever caught in my life, and he yelled at me: which one of you is fucking JP Currie, you or Jed?”
I loved Slater once. I wouldn’t say he was my hero. I didn’t love him like Steve Shearer does, or Negatron, and almost certainly not like Nick Carroll. And absolutely, definitely, 100% not like Eric Logan. But I did have a deep admiration for him. Not
Oh, Kelly Slater, what are you thinking?
But more to the point, why are you thinking about it?
You ought to be better than this.
I loved Slater once. I wouldn’t say he was my hero. I didn’t love him like Steve Shearer does, or Negatron, and almost certainly not like Nick Carroll. And absolutely, definitely, 100% not like Eric Logan. But I did have a deep admiration for him. Not so much anymore.
The coup de grace is long overdue. But his acolytes quiver around him, knowing they’ll never deliver the blow.
It’s a sad truth that the older we get, the less visible we become. Our glory days are all relative, but for those who have tasted adulation, like Slater has in spades, it’s tough to fade away.
So they shout louder, views become more extreme, opinion becomes spittle-flecked conviction. Social media accounts burn with white hot nonsense.
Notice me. Talk about me. Love me.
When a mate Whatsapped me – Kelly Slater on the Tim Ferriss podcast, check it out – little frissons of excitement ran from my fingers to my toes.
Yes, I thought. More Slater puking conspiracy theories and half-baked thoughts into the airwaves.
I readied the popcorn, and Slater went full chameleon.
Tim Ferriss is not Joe Rogan. He’s earnest. His bag is life-hacking, health, performance, experimentation. So, in inimitable fashion, Slater delivered a Tim Ferriss podcast rote perfect.
It was a little too earnest for my tastes. Some of it was even, dare I say, interesting?
But there was some stone cold bullshit, too.
To the layman Tim Ferriss listener I’m sure it flew under the radar, but my ear is tuned to Slater.
So what did we learn?
We learned that he likes to take two-hour baths and drink hot water with lemon in the morning. (From this we can infer that his social media outbursts are likely menopausal.)
He didn’t rate Parko as an adversary. “I felt very confident I could beat Joel and would beat Joel.”
He refers to his battles with Andy as “light and dark, good and evil.” (But which does he think he is?)
He was awfully shy as a boy. (What a transformation!) He remembers his first autograph as a mildly traumatic event that he spent a long time over and didn’t know what to do. (No shit, Kelly. You were ten years old.)
We learn that he has scoliosis. Sounds serious. Is this news?
He loves Jackson Dorian (henceforth to be known as “My Godson”) and is almost certainly to be credited for some of My Godson’s talent because My Godson has learned all his skills in My Wavepool.
Everyone he knows is one of his best friends.
He’s not ready to quit competition because he doesn’t feel the need to go out on top. He’s not concerned about being the best anymore. (LIE).
Ticking off a Ferriss trope, he says his message and goals are no longer centered around his ego. (MASSIVE LIE).
He desires personal growth, he’s magnanimous and willing to imbue strangers on the internet with his wisdom. He embraces humility. He believes teaching is the best way to learn.
And none of these things are in any way connected to the key phrases and themes of nearly five hundred other Tim Ferriss podcasts.
He’s done “courses” and “learning”.
You know, metaphysical stuff.
Me neither. And I suspect Kelly least of all.
Just as Kelly came front loaded to Joe Rogan ready to blast off the latest viral memes, UFC stats and big scary animals to shoot/get eaten by; so Tim Ferriss gets both barrels of self-help, learning and growth.
But he did drop some fucking clangers.
Like when he was asked about books. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Kelly hasn’t actually read many books, including the two he recommended. Call it intuition honed by listening to high school kids lie about reading.
Try it for yourself.
All you need to hear is four words from Kelly just after the twenty-nine minute mark, when Ferriss asks him about The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. A book Kelly references in his contribution to Ferriss’ book Tribe of Mentors.
“It’s a great book.” Kelly claims.
But the tone of it, the inflection, screams: I HAVE NOT ACTUALLY READ THIS BOOK AND NOW I’M PANICKING.
This gut feeling is compounded by Kelly’s response: “God, that’s so weird you brought that up…”
Is it, Kelly? Because I thought he introduced it by saying it was a book you told him about?
In a desperate attempt to tread water and steer the conversation away from books that have influenced him that he hasn’t actually read, he offers “one of my best friends is called Kahlil…”
Fascinating, Kelly. Fucking riveting in fact!
Please tell us more about this random friend who happens to share a name with the author of a book you haven’t read…
One of his best friends (what other type is there?) Big part of his life. Ex drug addict. Nearly died etc. Now owns a “bunch of smoothie stores in LA”.
Apropos of absolutely nothing.
But then…it comes flooding back: his mum gave him the book. It became his bible. A Cliff Notes for life. You only need to read one or two pages every couple of years, apparently.
Appropriately symbolic of Kelly’s depth of knowledge on every subject except surfing, I would suggest.
I’d be surprised if Kelly has read any whole books. He doesn’t have the concentration. He flits merrily from idea to fad to viral sensation. There’s no depth, not really. He’ll say he reads, but only because it’s cool to seem intellectual and informed. He’s probably in triple figures of unused Audible credits.
He‘s dipped his toe in a million pools.
He’s tried everything, spoken to everyone, been everywhere.
In closing, Ferriss asks him what’s next?
What does he still want to do?
Kelly says he’s addicted to watching van conversion videos on YouTube. He fantasises about living on a van or a boat, stripping things back, making life more simple. Yet with the very next breath he says that he has too many surfboards and golf clubs, and there are too many different countries he likes being in.
I’m not Kelly’s brain nanny, nor am I expert in anything in particular.
But for me, one thing remains clear: somehow, Kelly Slater still doesn’t quite know who he is or what he wants.
Obviously mastery of surfing isn’t enough, and maybe that’s his real lesson to us.