"I’ll never forget it… that split second interaction taught me so much about earning and giving respect."
In a video shared to Instagram earlier today, the gifted surfer and genial YouTube host from North Carolina, Brett Barley, provided further evidence, as if it was necessary, of Kelly Slater’s astonishing etiquette in the water.
In the fish stew that is Skeleton Bay, all sand and surfboards, Barley is filming from inside the tube when the greatest surfer of all time appears on the shoulder. Slater examines the rider in the tube but where most other pro’s would’ve swung into the maw, consequences be damned, he politely exits the scene, allowing Barley a clean exit.
Slater, who is fifty-one, had joined the shoe-sale conga line of tube-wranglers, which also included popular surf vloggers Nathan Florence and Jamie O’Brien, to the wave called Donkey Bay or, more colourfully, “The Namibian Rickshaw.”
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After sharing the post, surfers lined up to tell their own stories of Slater’s kindness in the water.
“Immediately after @kellyslater rescued a pelican and won the King of the Peak contest in 2001, he and I were the only two in the water down the beach towards Spanish house,” writes Gilby Grams.
“We were about 10ft apart, and a random overhead storm surf peak came right to us. I had only been surfing for like 2 years. The conditions were garbage, I was right on the peak, (probably too deep for my ability), but we both paddled for it. Kelly looked back from the shoulder and we locked eyes in that unspoken “you going?” moment, and I had a split second to commit or pull back for Kelly at his home break. I committed, and he yielded. Probably didn’t even register for him, but I’ll never forget it… that split second interaction taught me so much about earning and giving respect.
“For someone in Kelly’s position: It’s who you are when no one’s watching, and it doesn’t even matter to you.
“For someone in my position: no matter who it is- they may or may not show you respect- that’s outside your control- but they can only show you as much respect as you have for yourself… IF you can muster the confidence to express it.
“When you do, you may be pleasantly surprised- and when that happens, some of that confidence you mustered may stick around moving forward.”
Actually, he’s the only reader to tell such a story but I got one!
Years back, Slater at his nineties peak, when he was unbeatable, kicked ass like a horse, grotesquely, embarrassingly dominant, is surfing Burleigh Heads. I’m riding a seven-foot gun, snapped all the six-o’s, and was digging this ancient gunslinger, when I get a set from Cove and through to the inside. I dodge half-a-dozen attempts at collision and wave sharing when I see a man, beautiful head of chestnut hair, paddling on the next section. Just as I lift my shoulders and race to fend him off, he pulls back, smiling, so close if he’d had a gun he could’ve blasted out my brains.
Lovely man, and I’ll hear no word against him.