Kelly Slater lets go at Maui Film Fest
|||Awards, films begin today|
By Catherine E. Toth
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Catherine E. Toth
What does the planet's most recognizable — and arguably one of its greatest — pro surfers do after winning a record seventh world title?
Make a surf film, of course.
In "Letting Go," one of the movies showing at the Maui Film Festival, which starts today, reigning world champion Kelly Slater takes you through his 2005 title run, easily one of the greatest comebacks in surf history.
In the '90s, Slater, now 33, dominated the Association of Surfing Professionals world tour, and won the title an unprecedented six times in seven years.
In 1999, Slater took a break from the tour, returning in 2001 to a new field of athletic and talented competitors — including Kaua'i's Andy Irons, who earned No. 1 in 2002, 2003 and 2004.
By 2005 it had been seven years since Slater owned the crown, raising the question from critics: "Are his days of competitive surfing over?"
In the introspective film, Slater spills every emotion along the way, from anger at a bad beat at Bells Beach in Australia — "I was so mad I wanted to break a computer!" — to elation when he scores two perfect 10s at Teahupoo in Tahiti — "It was one of the most memorable waves I've had in my life, by all means."
You ride alongside Slater on every cutback, every bottom turn, on his way to his record seventh world title.
Last week, The Advertiser chatted by e-mail with Slater, who's rehabbing a lingering rib injury in L.A. en route to the Rip Curl Search contest somewhere in Mexico. (So don't look for him on Maui.)
Q. Why did you need to share this story about your 2005 title run in "Letting Go"?
A. I thought it was a growing experience for me to get through some things that others may relate to in their lives. I hope it gives that to someone out there. It's also nice to have a scrapbook for your year.
Q. What do you hope viewers get from watching this film?
A. Something honest and worthwhile.
Q. The film opened with your inner conflict between winning and having fun. Now that the run for your record eighth world title is on, what's your approach this time?
A. Not worrying about it. It doesn't really matter, and when you approach it that way, something else happens where it comes together for you in a good way.
Q. What would be the draw for people who aren't into surfing to watch this film?
A. Probably the mindset of a sportsman in a different environment that translates to other lives and situations in life.
Q. So what IS the deal between you and Andy Irons? The tension is obvious there. Is the media hype about the rivalry between you two really just that — hype?
A. We're friends and enemies for a common goal. We have an understanding and a respect for each other.
Q. There were moments last year that you called "spiritual." How much of competitive surfing is skill, talent, luck and divine intervention?
A. It is a total combination of the whole in a dynamic way. The differences are minute.
Q. So aside from golf and playing the guitar, what do you do in your downtime?
A. I stick with the favorites: golf, guitar, surfing. Might have to get into some other training outside of just surfing. Maybe some running and stretching.
Q. What's been better: winning the first title in '92 or winning this last one?
A. The last felt the best.
Reach Catherine E. Toth at email@example.com.