Kelly Slater Teases Retirement, Reflects on Legendary Surfing Journey

Surfing icon Kelly Slater shares poignant career reflections

by Zain ul Abedin
Kelly Slater Teases Retirement, Reflects on Legendary Surfing Journey
© Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Surfing icon Kelly Slater, aged 52, may be nearing the conclusion of his illustrious career, a journey marked by 11 world championships and a profound impact on the sport. Speaking candidly after his recent match at the Margaret River Pro in Western Australia, Slater hinted at impending retirement, reflecting on the physical and emotional toll of his long-standing career.

At the event on April 16, where Slater was outperformed by younger competitor Griffin Colapinto in round 32, the veteran surfer shared his sentiments with the World Surf League. He disclosed a poignant moment with his girlfriend, Kalani Miller, earlier this year, confessing after the 2024 Hurley Pro Sunset Beach, "This feels like the end." Despite his defeat, Slater's hope and competitive spirit were evident.

"Couldn't quite pull a miracle off this week, but I've pulled a few off over the years and I still had that hope out there," he expressed. The realization of an era's conclusion seemed to weigh heavily on him as he faced off against Colapinto, whom he referred to as a "close friend." "But to lose to the number one...

I'm kind of avoiding that emotion 'cause it's all right there bubbling up," Slater remarked, hinting at the emotional difficulty of this potential transition.

Slater's Reflective Moments

Slater's challenges have been compounded by physical setbacks, notably a hip injury in 2022 at Bells Beach, leading to surgery and a strenuous recovery.

"I'm just fighting through the pain," he admitted, revealing the struggle behind his performances post-surgery. The surfing legend, who first claimed a world title in 1992 at the age of 20 and set another record as the oldest to do so at 39 in 2011, has also been sharing reflections on his career via social media.

On Instagram Stories, alongside a post from Indonesian surfer Wayan Betet Merta, Slater noted, "So many great memories with my friends around the world." In a previous conversation with PEOPLE in February 2023, Slater contemplated the inevitable conclusion of his competitive surfing.

"At some point, everything comes to an end," he stated, acknowledging the dwindling embers of his competitive drive but also the occasional flare-ups of passion that have defined his storied journey.