“I hear people say things about me retiring, like ‘You need to just retire’, blah blah, but I think people don’t understand what a life it’s been.”

In 1992, a 20-year-old rookie named Kelly Slater hopped a ride to Bells Beach with his buddy and mentor Tom Carroll. It was the first event of his first year on tour. He won the world title that first year, but he didn’t win Bells. The event challenged him like few others. Now, 32 years later, as the greatest competitive surfer of all time prepares to step away from the heat of battle, we asked Kelly to spend some time with his old friend Tom, wandering around the Bells and Winkipop surf check spots, and talking through what he recalls of that time and about where he finds himself today. The conversation offers a rare and very candid glimpse into the changing heart of a champion, as Kelly tackles age (“Getting old sucks, man!”), his connection with three time Bells champion Michael Peterson, the loss of friends, approaching fatherhood for the second time, why he still likes surfing heats, and yes, the R-word.

Oh and why he and Kalani will not be calling their child “Thomas”.

This is a big moment in a great surfer’s life and we’re proud to bring it to you.

Two old friends. Only one with a beard thank heavens. Kelly and Tom at Winkipop, Bells Beach this year. Photo: Hannah Anderson

Filmed and edited by Hannah Anderson / Directed by Nick Carroll / Interviewing by Nick and Tom Carroll

NZ Shred