Dan Patrick: Is Slater The Greatest Athlete Of All Time?

| posted on November 06, 2010

Kelly Slater has 10 World Titles. It’s an almost unfathomable feat and one that certainly wont be repeated in our lifetimes, if ever. Still, the magnitude of Slater’s accomplishments is often lost on the mainstream. But that’s not to say that they don’t try. Sports personality Dan Patrick recently asked the question: “Is Slater the greatest athlete of all time?” We certainly think so.

Listen to the discussion below:

  • Ronald

    Kelly…THE best champion of surfing, been to Huntington beach on vacation..THE hall of Fame..Seen his Stones…THE surf rerspect for my sport Hero…

  • zach

    Sad day for AI , happy day for surf star extraordinaire – Slayin’ ’em again Slater !

    RIP AI , Congrats KS !!!

    Impossible to qualify the greatest athlete ever!!! – Could Muhammed Ali kick Slaters’ ass? Could MA ride a wave?

    More hype for the hype-indoctrinated public.

  • ryan

    you say theres no ball, but you rate mohamad ali the best athlete ever?????

    you the sport is judged ?? is boxing not judged?????

    isnt college football on a point system????

    YES he is the greatest athlete ever

  • Diogo

    Stefan Everts was also 10x World Champion of Motocross. But anyway, Kelly is incredible I’m not sure if he is the greatest but for sure one of the greatest!!!

  • Jon

    Here is why Slater is the Best Athlete of all time. Yes he won 10 titles, but everyone who surfs also knows he was the best and could have won during his time off the tour. Other people may have claimed 10 world titles at some sport, but I argue that Kelly probably could have had 15+ titles if fully engaged. Andy & Mick were the only ones who stopped a fully engaged Slater for some of those years, but NObody could have stopped him in 99-2001.

  • not so fast

    the best athletes do not become pro surfers!

  • Caio

    For sure Slater is the best surfer ever, but the greatest athlete is Pelé, the soccer player.

  • danpatrickisanidiot

    Dan Patrick and these guys on this show are complete donkeys. Why dont they get their fat asses out of the office and try to ride a wave? Then they can tell me who the best athlete of all time is. Anyone can go shoot a basketball or throw a baseball or swing a tennis racquet or even kick a soccer ball. But to do what Slater has done in the water, a medium that no one even thinks about, is unreal. He has to not only worry about his scores but he has to dodge shoddy set waves and not drown. This feat should be plastered on every front page of every news paper and magazine on the planet, Kelly Slater isn’t just a King, he is a HERO.

  • JD

    I have always wanted to have this debate. I played several sports at organized levels and nothing came close to being as challenging as surfing. You have a constantly different playing surface that requires incredible balance, reflexes, and agility. The fact that most surfers are considered over the hill at 30 and he is dominating at 38 is incredible. The next closest Title Holder is Mark Richards who won 4 Titles against a much smaller pool of surfers. Compare 4 to 10 and the fact that Kelly took a few years off during his prime is ridiculous. I honestly think if you tested athletes on a variety of factors such as speed, reaction time, balance, etc…..kelly would be near the top. And I say all this as someone who hated Kelly when he came on the tour because I was a Tom Curren fan – he has redefined the sport and honestly he can continue to dominate if he chooses. As they mentioned on the audio look at the time span this guy has been dominant in….who else has done that in any sport?

  • zach

    The ‘Imaginary” Surfer is and always will be the KING.

    The added benefit; you could be the imaginary surfer on the imaginary wave you are mind-surfing.
    Trophy not included.

  • craig

    What a bunch of crap. why are people obsessed with comparing. surfing is not a competitive sport, surfing for most people is recreational activity free of the competitive spirit that other sports have. professional surfing was formed so dickheads like rabbit bartholomew and co could get paid to surf. its not what surfings about. who cares if dan patrick and his mates think surfings not a real sport. mainstream america doesn’t get surfing and thats a good thing. btw.the best surfer in the world right now is dane reynolds, and he hasn’t come close to wining an event yet. what does this tell ya. surf contests are stupid. dave rastavich has the right idea.

  • Cocoa

    No he is not maybe the top of his sport not of at all the greatest in any sport cmon we should not be discussing this lay hus ego to rest

  • Nikolay

    Kelly is for sure the greatest surfer of all time. Two decades domination.WOW!
    But there is another athlete with 10 world titles, including 8 in a row. His name is Petar Stoychev. His sport – swimming marathon.

  • Andy M

    No one here has made an argument that can match that of JD or danpatrickisanidiot ‘s arguments.

    ” Anyone can go shoot a basketball or throw a baseball or swing a tennis racquet or even kick a soccer ball.”

    So true team sports the hardest thing is getting the whole team there at the same time.
    you can not compare surfing to ball sports ball sports re easy net to surfing i mean soccer yeah some of those guys are pretty good with a ball but its a lot easier to go practice the parks always there an its always the same no so with the sea.

    Fck yes hes the greatest Athlete of this genration at least!!!!!!

  • KC

    These guys are idiots! I’ve played all the other sports mentioned relatively well at one point in my life and surfing is by far the most difficult sport to master. I would love to see one of these guys try to surf. Kelly is the greatest athlete of all time!

  • Max

    Kelly is the best surfer of all time by a long way – but he’s NOT finished. Now at 38 he is surfing better than ever and in this 2010 Search event he got the best tubes, highest wave 10 and heat score – but look at his combination of moves in the final with over-vertical attack, sliding roundhouse to vertical and finishes with a hands-free arial reverse. Its scary but Kelly is surfing faster and with more new weapons than ever and with the fire of a grommet.

    Kelly could have won more without the break, and Curren could have scored one or two more as well. Rabbit and the pros back then made next to nothing in their peak but helped this generation make millions, so let them have their jobs Goldstein. What’s wrong with talented champions sharing their experience and vision. Kelly can make 11 plus titles easy.

  • b

    In surfing they just crown one world champ, the one that surfed best for a hole year, not like many other sports where they have a world championship, a world cup, the olympic and different classes within the same sport and so on. In lets say alpine skiing you can become world champion 5 times the same year, and the most winning of them has 9 world championships and olympic medals combined. Kelly is the king.

  • zach

    Upon further examination it has been concluded(byme) that KS is the greatest athlete of 2010.
    As a life-long surfer I never came close to riding any wave like KS. With that said, I got quite a few good waves all over the world.
    So if it comes to a vote here, check yes for me!

  • Kevin

    I do not even think that this justifies a response (meaning the mainstream “debate). KS is by far and away one of the greatest athletes of all time. I do not think comparison is necessary when you reach the level of dominance he has. Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Jordan, gretzky, Armstrong, Ali blah blah blah…

    KS is more than an athlete because he defies the human condition. He rides waves. This is the most elementally difficult thing to do as gravity burdened earth species. he defies gravity. period. Any of the so called “athletes’ mainstream media could not even surf one wave let alone every wave like KS has over 20 years. he reinvented the sport, then he dominated the “great” surfers, broke their records, then retired. He came back, reinvented himself, and then caught the same sport he set afire to only put out that fire again. If that is not enough, he won Pipeline and simply became a legend there, the toughest place to do so. Add to that he won and Eddie Aikau?? and then became Hawaiian royalty.

    to keep going he wins titles from fitter faster and more powerful surfers, AI and Fanning, then he wins a title with a surfboard he shaped this year? Al Merrick was floored by this. If that is not enough, Kelly Slater is the only human being strong enough to take the enitre surf world on his back during its darkest hour—the fallen hero of AI and his passing, Slater takes the cauldron of emotion and surfs his heart out for the collective surfing world…there is only one person who could pay tribute to AI like this and make the whole surfing world feel elated for just one moment in the wake of AI’s passing.

    Slater is more than an athlete, he is one of the greatest noble warrior-people to ever live. I was floored by the inspirational performance KS put on display for all of us but for AI watching as well. Then a rainbow appears before the final? WTF.

    KS you have done the world proud during a time of sadness. It took more focus and fortitude strength both physically and emotionally and mentally than any silly “athlete” has ever shown. Truly a fitting hero’s tribute to the Legend that is AI. KS is a living legend.

  • John

    Kelly, could hold his own in any sport, maybe not at the professional level, but I would bet he is a real good basketball, baseball, football, tennis etc player. These yahoos have no idea how hard it is to master the ocean, figure out how to approach a wave, figure out when to paddle, when to stand up, how to stand up, much less rip it to shreds. Do you know how long it takes just to learn how to catch a wave (I am not talking the white water)? Much less treat it like a playing field. These guys have no clue and thus listening to them makes my head explode.

  • dave

    you can throw a football whenever you want, you can shoot a basketball whenever you want, and you can punch somebody in the face whenever you want, but you can’t surf whenever you want. That fact alone makes him the best.

  • Randy

    Kevin got it, end the discussion!!!!

  • Seve

    I think the majority of the people who have commented on this article need to brush up on their listening comprehension skills. Dan did not actually say Kelly couldn’t or shouldn’t be considered for the athlete of the year, but was posing the question to public and playing both sides of the fence. He didn’t say only bat and ball sport athletes can be the all-time greatest athlete. In fact he made mention of other non bat and ball athletes as great sportsmen in argument to the others on the show that were being sarcastic in their replies to the question. If you actually listened to the show on a regular basis you would realize their tongue in cheek attitude towards the majority of the topics they discuss. They like to be serious while have a little fun (usually at themselves). Instead you have heard a snip it of the show with a predetermined mindset that he was ripping on your beloved sport, just looking to be offended so you could puff out your chest and play the my sport is misunderstood card, cry a little bit and hope some sympathy came your way. The only disrespected surfer I know is the surfer who lives the Jeff Spicoli stereotype. If you aren’t gifted enough to make a living at surfing, and you can’t make a living for yourself that allows you to surf, then you should reevaluate what you are doing with your life . . . and this is coming from someone who grew up paddling out and enjoying the ocean, but also realized that be a productive member in society and hold onto a professional career to precedence over surfing. If a swell had to be missed to earn a dollar to support my family, then that swell was sadly missed. It’s just the lemon next to the pie. Sometimes you have to live for more than just the day, but for the future.

    For those of you that think you can just do any other sport when you want: You are wrong. You can not play for the world cup in soccer whenever you want, you can not ride a bike in the tour de France whenever you want, you can not be the starting pitcher in game seven of the world series whenever you want, you can not throw a winning super bowl pass whenever you want, you can not shoot the buzzer beater to win the NCAA final four whenever you want, you can not swim for Olympic gold whenever you want, you can not be the heavy weight champion of the world whenever you want, you can not super G for Olympic gold whenever you want, you can not hoist the Stanley Cup over your head at mid-ice after game seven whenever you want, you can not . . .

    Do not be so short sighted in life that you keep yourself from understanding what is going on around you in the rest of the world.

  • Gavin

    Seve: what kelly did is nothing like you showed. He’s like a quarterback being dominant at playing the quarterback position and the wide receiver position, or a center in basketball that can play point guard, or a pitcher that can play right field. Kelly’s accomplishments topples all. Statistically he is the greatest athlete of all time.

  • mick

    Man against Man, Man against Nature, Man against Himself, are the three conflicts (of the seven known) to mankind that apply to sports. How many other athletes have to fight or flow with the most powerful forces of nature succeed-the ocean. I am sorry but put me in front of a 100 mph pitch, a round with Mike Tyson , or a blitz against an NFL team team before 15 foot Pipe or 25 ft Waimea bay at the Eddie any day! I have played competitive Baseball, Basketball etc… and surfing is the most difficult for the aforementioned assertion that-mother nature is a bitch compared to our fellow man.

  • BG

    You should all see Slater play a round of golf. Semi-pro if not full pro, for sure. Also find it funny that the man picks up any instrument and plays it at a professional level. Pretty decent at tennis and table tennis from what i’ve seen as well. Oh and I think he dabbles a bit in surfing too.

    HANDS DOWN, among the world’s greatest athletes of all-time.

    Thank you KS and congrats.

  • http://surfermag roots

    DAN PATRICK Couldn’t even ride a Boggie board, He might not be able to swim. One does NOT have to play around with a BALL to be a Sportsman, Sports player, or Sport Star. Pat Needs a slap, and if he were out in only 6 foot surf would be crying for his mama. nuf said.

  • craig

    have any of you ignorant people ever heard of Don bradman? look him up. it will put to rest this crap about slater being best athlete ever

  • b

    Carl Lewis 17 world champion and olympic gold.

  • Seve

    The point of the conversation was what makes someone worthy of the “all time greatest athlete” status, not just athlete of the year. Using a great athlete from a sport that isn’t a mainstream weekend tv sport that gets watched by multi-millions of households weekly purely exemplified the polarity of what the majority of the people see and consider as athletes. Not everyone lives near an ocean and get exposed to ocean sports. Those who don’t are clueless about it and the people who do it professionally. DP is actually trying to get KS on his show to discuss his accomplishments. So remove your panties from between your gluteus muscles, your hero and beloved sport isn’t being disrespected.

    Different sports take different levels of metal and physical strength, motor skills and training. It is impossible to compare one to the other with complete accuracy, thus the ability to choose an all time supreme greatest athlete is impossible – it’s all subjective to the individual making the comparision.

  • Whamo

    Laird Hamilton and Brian Conley impress me a lot more than any of the contest clowns.

  • ory

    Look…what Slater has done in Surfing, surfing…no pro surfing, surfing…no one has done for their sport. He brought the sport to higher levels, the money, the exposure. There would’ve been no Andy, no Bruce, no Mick, no Dane, no Jordy’s making that much money if it wasn’t for Slater. He brought the Surfing Industry from making a few millions a year to the billions (his sponsor). And we’re not talking about competition.

    As a competitor, he’s by far the most dominating athlete ever…in any sport. Think about it, not even Jordan, Magic and Bird…together domitated the league for 20 plus years…TOGETHER! Not Pelé AND Maradona combined dominated soccer for 20 plus years! I know my futbol (soccer) so I know what I’m talking about. Russell in basketball, 11 championships…yes, did he dominate his sport for 15 years? oh, wait…he didn’t play that much!

    And we’re talking a sport that has advanced so much. “Extreme sports” grow and change more, much more that ordinary sports. MotoX, bikes, skate and surfing have changed even more that what we could ever imagine. Tricks that only a few years ago where only a dream, are done easy by the worlds best. A few years back a backflip in MotoX was unthinkable…now, they do it for breakfast. In surfing is the same.

    And his competition, well. He surfed against the best surfers of maybe 3 generations. From Curren, Occy, Hardman, Sunny, even Pottz…to Kalani Robb, Shane Dorian, Beschen, Munga, Flavio, Victor Ribas, Taylor Knox…to guys like Andy, Mick, Parko, Taj…All of them amazing surfers and without Slater in the picture, maybe a few would’ve had multiple Championships, or at least one. Any of them. But you know what, when push comes to shove, Slater had been able to keep them down.

    So, yes…he’s not only the best ever at his sport, as a surfer…. He’s the best competitor ever of his sport. He’s to Surfing what Favre is to QB’s. What Russell was to Basketball. What Ali and Duran where to Boxing. What Tiger is to golf. What L.L. Cool J is to Rap. What Bonds was to baseball, or Junior, or Williams or Dimagio or Aaron. But better!

    No other athlete has been THE BEST at his sport for so long. And don’t write stuff like “real surfers don’t compete”. Is Rasta better? Donavon? or any guy out there in your home break line-up? No. None of those guys would stand a chance surfing Indo or wherever with Slater. Not with his style, his power and his mind blowing ability.

    Is Laird Hamilton better? NO. Is Joel Tudor as amazing? YES. But even Joel, hasn’t been around for that long! But besides Joel, I don’t think any other surfer comes even close to what Slater has done.

    And Patrick, in Hawaii and Australia…people don’t even know who Jordan, Ali, Mantle, Dimaggio or any other “real athlete” are. In the States they don’t know who DIEGO FORLAN is. (the top scorer in the World Cup) everywhere else in Europe, they know. So, it depends on where you live!

  • ray

    Nobama needs to take notes.

    Kelly was the change we all believed in: A man of the people who brought everyone together and changed surfing.

    No teleprompter needed.

  • zach

    YAY RAY !!!

  • Rhonda Harper

    Here is what I think…I think the world will agree.


  • Seve
  • Seve

    I forgot to add: if you want to hear the DP/KS interview, it’s the 11/12/2010 show, hour 2.

  • ryan lang

    There was an article published years ago about the most condishioned athletes on the planet. Surfing came 2nd to cross country skiing. I’m not sure if they’ve got a 10 world title champiom amongst there sport, but surfing does and over the spand of almost 3 decades. A ball, a coach, a team, and a never changing feild can’t come close to what surfing entails. Regardless of Kelly’s accomplishments one fall at some of the waves he easily dominates year after year means one thing. Death! What sport is it again that the jocks making much more do that puts there life on the line every time they hit the field? Oh, that’s right….none. I love the fake falls in soccer to draw a foul. All the pads used in football to make sure they play another day. There’s no pads or fake falls in surfing to protect the athlete from a razor sharp reef 2 feet below the surface while the wave above them measures 20 to 30. I hope a created a scenario for the inland crew to understand that surfers are kings amongst athletes. They put there life on the line every time they paddle out to compete. When’s the last time Tiger did that. Maybe if he forgot to wear a condom i guess.

  • Ben Windsurfer

    I think you are forgetting Bjorn Dunckerbeck, multi discipline world champion, from racing to wave to speed to freestyle, and is still among the top athletes in windsuring today.. Kelly is good, but there are others that qualify for the best athlete in the world

    2010 Winner Slalom World Cup Sylt, 2nd Overall Slalom Ranking
    2009 ranked 3rd Slalom
    2008 ranked 2nd Slalom
    2007 ranked 3rd Slalom

    Björn Dunkerbeck – son of a Dutch father and a Danish mother – has won the world windsurfing championships 35 times. The man has a kind of killer instinct when it comes to winning, and as he says: “When you compete, winning’s the only thing that matters.
    Dunki has already won everything that can be won on a windsurfboard: He is twelve-fold PWA Overall World Champion (1988-1999), twelve-fold PWA Race World Champion (1988-1999) and seven-fold PWA Wave World Champion (1990, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1999, 2001). In addition, he won the PWA Freestyle World Championships in 1998 as well as the PWA Speed World Championships in 1994 and has scored more than 100 single PWA World Cup victories.


    First of all, it’s called “sailboarding” not windsurfing. Surfing uses the power of the wave, not the wind.

    Second, surfing is NOT a sport. It’s a lifestyle. A lifestyle that has been around for 4,000 years.

    3rd, Yes! Kelly Slater is the greatest athlete of all time. Surfers take on mother nature, not other human beings. It’s YOU vs. mother nature. Sometimes you win, and sometimes she kicks your ass all over the place.