Kelly Slater in GQ

10-time world champ chosen as one of the 25 coolest athletes of all time

| posted on January 24, 2011

Kelly Slater, 10-time world champion and ambassador of cool.

Surfing has always been incredibly “cool” through the lens of the mainstream, and it looks like Kelly Slater has just been elected as the surfing world’s ambassador of coolness. GQ Magazine has recently released a teaser gallery for their feature, “The 25 Coolest Athletes of all Time,” one being the 10-time world champion. Slater joins the esteemed company of the greatest sports stars of past and present, including Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, Joe Namath, and Arnold Palmer, to name a few. The new issue will have nine different covers, one featuring Kelly Slater.

  • curtis

    Sure is Kelly is great and all, but all this hype of him being the greatest, coolest, etc…’s all a bunch of CRAP! Everyone knows Laird runs circles around this guy even while standing still. Laird and his ‘crew’ are THE upper eschelon. somewhere on the lower rungs you will find Kelly.

  • roger

    curtis has said it all… yea kelly is grate but Laird is so way above.

  • roger

    curtis has said it all… yea kelly is grate but Laird is so way above.

  • brad

    Kelly epitomises cool. When he’s not dating supermodels, inventing new formats for surf competitions, refining board and fin design, designing wave pools, or doing moves that guys half his age can’t even imagine – in heats – he’s a down-to-earth, funny and genuine guy. Oh, who has incidentally won 10 world titles and pretty much revolutionised our approach to riding waves.

  • Mik

    evidently Curtis didn’t notice Kelly pulling into a 25′ barrell, backdooring it, at Waimea, on a wave he paddled into, not towed into. Or the ten World Championships against the top 40 best performance surfers in the world—surfers who on any given 2 to 12 ft day would surf circles around Laird. no doubt that Laird charges heavy waves with performance levels that are exceptional, and for sure he would definitely fit into this group of top examples of coolness (had he not associated himself with SUPs!!!!)… but come on dude. face reality. Kelly deserves the honor. Easily. Kelly is the best all-around surfer I can think of, with about 10 others who are in the realm performance wise, if not competition wise.

  • jc

    laird running circles around kelly? obviously, you are not a surfer.

    to the non surfer, GQ readers, kelly and laird are both unique and are not comparable.

  • Headplant

    I agree with Mik – “he would be the best if he competed” is an unfair statement. Laird DIDN’T compete, and there’s no way to say for sure he could hang tough in a competitive environment, a grueling travel schedule and the many years that SL8R put in. Name another athlete that’s won world titles in 3 decades. Or 10 world titles. Or a title at age 38. It’s a pretty short list.

    LOL on the SUP line too.

  • kyle

    the fact that anyone would compare laird to kelly is ridiculous. laird is waterman not a surfer, getting towed into massive waves takes balls not so much skill, and he has a nasty butt squat stance that makes watching him in small waves unbearable. laird is alright but any real surfer knows kelly is the best.

  • Spanky

    You just cannot compare the 2, big wave surfing (towing) and competition/performance surfing may as well be 2 different sports.

  • James De Lorenzo

    ” SL8R ” ? Come on. Thats kinda weak. Why not just type Slater ?

  • mg

    Apples to oranges comparison: Hamilton was and is a groundbreaking waterman who blazed trails all over the surfing world with hard work, dedication, and style. He well deserves the admiration and respect a lifetime in the water brings. He does have something of a rep for being a jerk in his home break but hey, that might just be hype. From a competitive standpoint, however, Slater is clearly best chosen to represent the surfing world. I guess it depends on how you define “athlete.” Can we have a tie?

  • KVH

    Kelly rocks, plus he is totally hot!

  • Haley

    Can’t you guys just be happy for Kelly?


    I can see Slater taking the time out to connect, and be an inspiration to, a child. I don’t get that vibe from Hamilton.
    I believe that Slater has been more of a diplomat for surfing as a whole. He has never, as far as I know, been arrogant, condescending, or has gotten too big for his britches.

    As far as skill level?

    For Slater to come out of East Coast Slop and go on to completely destroy some of the most ridiculously stupid waves on the planet is a testament to his natural ability. Slater was born a competitive athlete and I’m glad he fell in love with surfing at a young age because it has been quite a spectacle to watch. I’m greatful that he found his nitch and stuck with it. That’s very rare.

    Hamilton grew up around the best waves in the world and from what I understand, he’s very competitive. Why he never did put his money where his mouth was and join the World Circuit I don’t know. I’m not talking about a contest here and there; I’m talking about getting in there and grinding month after month after year after year.

    The World Circuit is no walk in the park people. You’ve got to be a lover of the game.

    More people have picked up a surfboard because of Slater. More people have thought that surfing was “cool” because of Slater. More people have been inspired to do their best and take advantage of their God Given Talents (whatever they are) because of Slater. Slater is proof that you can be your best no matter whare you come from and that is much bigger than Surfing.

    Slater deserves the cover of a magazine much more than Hamilton and the “cool” thing is is that Slater could take it or leave it. He just wants to be his best.

  • Robert Name

    Slater is the greatest! That’s how it is! WAY above Laird Hamilton… I would like to see them in a heat on whatever wave…

  • Mike-guel

    What? don’t you guys remember when Laird pulled Rick Cane’s leash and cheated in the final heat at the Banzai Pipline! It was even in the papers! You think Slater would have pulled that manoeuver??!? ha!

  • BP

    Why not ask Laird about Kelly, then maybe you’ll get an idea of the kind of well deserved respect he gets from his peers and the rest of the surfing world, he’s a freakishly talented human and a nice guy. Why anyone who actually surfs (and isn’t competing against him) would bad mouth him is ……… well anyway. Even if you don’t like him, his ability, accomplishments and contribution to surfing as a whole, can’t even be questioned.

  • andy

    if you got my pic cool via email attached i bought a 7-9 bic board at a surf shop in n myrtle beach sc berts if it should be goto go

  • mark

    laird is an ok big wave surfer but has an ugly stance and bad style. Probably couldn’t even win a heat in a pro contest.

  • wladimir

    I’m sure Kelly’s reading these comments (Is it the Bible of the Sport’s website or not ?).

    Come on, Kelly, leave us a message : are you really cool ?

    P.S. : where did you get that nice quiksilver t-shirt (with a nice beach babe bottom printed on it) that you wore during the last french pro ?

  • Tony Carson Big Island

    Screw Kelly and Laird. You guys should be more concerned about catching waves, and what you are dong in the water, than what some else is doing. When they asked Phil Edwards, one of the greatest surfers of all time, who the best surfer in the water was, he replied, “the guy having the most fun”. I think that sums it up pretty well, if your out there catching waves for some other reason or obsessing on someone else, your missing out on the whole point of being a surfer. Peace.

  • Max Emberson

    Kelly deserves the GQ rap and Laird gets loads of media – so they are both great ambassadors of surfing. They are both unique and surfing is richer for it. Tow boards may have influenced Kelly to shorter boards and new design. Kelly may focus on big wave and tow surfing when he leaves the WCT – so Kellys book isn’t finished yet..

  • Kimo

    What’s with the Laird/Kelly debate? Laird is a great waterman and Kelly is the best all round surfer ever (he’s an excellent big wave surfer) but I am going to give the cool award to either Shane Dorian or Mark Healy and anyone who surfs knows what I mean. But if you are going to pick one person to personify surfing you have to go with Kelly.

  • Tony Carson Big Island

    Dudes, once again, you guys are obsessing over other people, when you should be more concerned about your relationship with the waves. If anyone gets a cool award, it should go to all the surfers out there, who are surfing everyday, just for the fun of it, getting away from all the trappings of society, (including competition). The real surfing experience, (lifestyle), isn’t about competition. Its about having fun, catching waves, hanging out at the beach, feeling the salt water and the sand beneath your feet, and all the other good vibes that go with it.. Peace

  • stu

    Laird’s the greatest cause Sam George said so

  • Tony Carson Big Island

    Well, I guess there is some justice in the world after all. After years of Slater surfing for money and helping quicksilver, (quickdollars), exploit surfing to the masses, so they can sell a T shirt to some land locked grand ma in the mid west, Slater’s pay off, is to get lumped together with some of the squarest sports figures ever, (at least from a surfers point of view), joe namah, arnold palmer, ect. I can’t think of a fate much worse for a surfer, as to be as to be lumped together with these guys. Most surfers I know, started to surf, to get away from this type of regimented sports crap. The true surfing experience, (lifestyle), has never been about competition, its about catching waves, hanging out at the beach, feeling the salt water and the sand beneath your feet, and all the other good vibes that go with it. Peace.

  • Maharichie

    Having read the recent interview with Kelly in Surfer mag, I have even greater respect for him both in surfing and in philosophy. He’s matured as a human being, stayed humble, all while keeping at the forefront of surfing as evident by his titles. By ‘cool’, it’s not just about wow ‘cool! he won 10 world titles!’ To me when they say he’s cool it’s cos he actually is a really cool person. And hell yeah, that should be recognized. In fact, I’d love to see that Surfer interview in a mag like GQ. Educate some of those kooks. We need more genuinely cool people in the limelight instead of the low lifes they give us.