COURTESY QUIKSILVER / SHERMAN
Multi-talented Kelly Slater.
Paddling back out to the top
Pro surfer Kelly Slater explores a passion beyond winning
Who knew life as a professional surfer could be so tough? All of that travel to one exotic beach after another. And dealing with fans so obsessed they sleep outside your hotel room (in bikinis, no less!). And the worst part of all: The obligation to ride waves every day!
"Letting Go: Kelly Slater"
Screens with "Monster House" and "Chasing Dora":
Where: Maui Film Festival Celestial Cinema
When: 8 p.m. Sunday
Call: (808) 572-3456
Note: The cost of the DVD is $29.99
Maui Film Festival
Screenings in Wailea and Maui Arts & Cultural Center in Kahului:
When: Through Sunday
Admission: Varies, about $10 per film. For complete calendar and special events, visit the festival Web site.
Call: (808) 572-3456
Sounds like a life of leisure. But what's tough for the rest of us to remember is that while surfing is a lifestyle, it is, for a select few, also a lucrative career. And they take it very seriously.
In a new DVD called "Letting Go," legendary surfer Kelly Slater talks about the challenges, heartaches and triumphs in his quest for a seventh ASP World Championship title, which he won in 2005. The one-hour film premieres Sunday at the Maui Film Festival.
Emerging from the long-standing Slater/Quiksilver partnership, the documentary-of-sorts is first and foremost a surf flick with breathtaking footage.
It follows the most skilled surfers on spectacular waves in Australia, Fiji, Tahiti, Africa, Japan, France, California and Brazil -- though it is difficult to distinguish one beach from another. In an attempt to make "Letting Go" more than just another surf movie, Slater speaks directly to the camera while parked in a lawn chair on Oahu's North Shore, essentially narrating (in an unscripted format) the journey of his comeback last year at the relatively old age of 33. After winning six world championship titles between 1992 and 1998, he seemed unable to achieve that status again. The seven-year break proved agonizing for the athlete with perfectionist tendencies.
But he did win again, and something in him changed. Now 34, Slater is currently ranked No. 1 in the world. This year's championship title -- calculated in a sophisticated points system from contests throughout the year -- will be determined at the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, which takes place in November and December at Haleiwa, Pipeline and Sunset Beach.
In the movie, Slater also reveals the turmoil related to his father's death, and the intense rivalry with Kauai's Andy Irons -- one of few surfers on the tour who has been able match Slater wave for wave over a sustained period. Other stellar Hawaii surfers who make appearances in "Letting Go" include Bruce Irons and Brock Little.
Slater introduces the film by saying he's in Hawaii to figure out "what I'm going to do with my career, and where I'm going with the rest of my life. I got a lot from what happened to me in the last year, and I hope to share that here."
After losing the world championship title in the final heat against Andy Irons in 2003, Slater claims he mentally and emotionally dropped out for a while.
"I was there (on the pro surfing tour), but I wasn't really giving it my best," he said.
His breakthrough came when he started taking responsibility for his results, rather than blaming judges, conditions, or other factors, and when he focused on the most pure motivation: having fun.
The attitude shift inspired epic surfing and perfect scores.
"To me, I was letting go of worrying about the contest, worrying about the results." When he finally achieved that, he said, "I was in a place where it didn't matter if I won or lost, but because of that, I was going to win."
He went on to explain that his ability to surf has never wavered.
"But my focus has. My mind and my emotions have been a little scattered over the last few years. I needed to have a bad loss."
He did. But he turned it around.
It's easy to see how much leading his sport means to him when he finds out he will once again wear the crown of World Champion. After friends douse him with whatever alcoholic beverage is on hand, his eyes fill with tears and he calls his mother to share the news.
"The process of winning this thing has been so much more satisfying because of the loss I had in 2003, and because of the struggles I've had," he said later.
The DVD is packed with extras. An interesting few minutes follow Slater's training on land, including exercises to perfect his rhythm and balance, plyometrics and boxing.
Viewers expecting a philosophical treatise on the art of competition will have to settle for "balls to the wall." However, there is more substance than one typically expects out of a surfing movie, and the athleticism and cutting-edge maneuvers make it an entertaining way to spend an hour.