“I stumbled onto a lot of things people didn’t understand."
In this thirty-four minute interview, overly long in my opinion, although the sweetest meat is always carved last from the bone, Kelly Slater plays eighteen holes with the golf presenter Iona Stephen.
It is a gentle and mature interview drawn out on the links of Kingsbarns, six miles or so from St Andrews in Scotland, although few stories the surf fan hasn’t heard before are shared.
Until the fifteen-ish minute mark, that is, when Slater reveals it was Ben Hogan’s seminal golf technique book from 1985, “Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf”, that gave him the impetus to re-examine his approach to riding waves.
“I read Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons and it got me visualising the plane of the swing and I started thinking, well, there’s mechanics in surfing, the body has to work with the board and the wave in a certain way and so I started to relate where my shoulders were and my stance was and the sequencing of my body as I rotated or compressed or pushed with my legs. And I started to envision it in a different way and so I came up with some theories of how the body relates to the board and the wave.
“I could always find what I call a neutral position no matter what part of the wave I was on, and from there I could go right or left really easily or I could stall and increase my speed. I really got it down to the basics., There was a really basic move that I used to get myself in the right position. Basically, I trained myself by grabbing the rail of my board when I turned to the left…”
Here, interviewer Stephens looses a sleepy, “mmmmm”, the encouraging sound a homely girl will use when she doesn’t want to lose her grip on the hot but boring guy.
“And what that did was drop my back shoulder, push my hip, forward and compress me down its the board and kept me in a really stable position. A lot of surfers will turn and drop their front shoulders and put their weight on their front heel and it’s easy to fall. So it really centred my weight to my feet. It became my neutral stance. I’d relate to golf, a strong grip, a neutral grip, a weak grip. “
Slater, “I stumbled onto a lot of things people didn’t understand in surfing… because of golf.”