Where have you just come back from?
‘I went to Philadelphia and New Jersey recently. I’d never been before and was in south New Jersey to play golf at Pine Valley, one of the top golf clubs in the world. Driving around, you see a lot of small, run-down towns and then you hit the beautiful scenery of Pine Valley.’
Where in the world have you felt happiest?
‘My favourite place is Hawaii. As a kid I looked at so many surf magazines and always imagined what it would be like to go there. When I was 12 I won a surf contest and the prize was a trip to Hawaii. I went for the amateur championships and won. I made a bunch of lifelong friends who I’m still really close with today. I’ve been going back for years, so it feels like home. It’s incredibly beautiful. There are islands with almost every climate on earth. In the middle of winter you can snowboard and on the same day you can surf. If you want to learn, go to Waikiki beach, get longboards and meet the beach boys who carry on the surfing tradition.’
Name a place that most lived up to the hype
‘Paris, just because there’s so much rich history. I love how normal, everyday people get to live in these incredible old buildings. Because I’m always so locked into the surf, visiting somewhere like Paris is such a valuable cultural experience.’
Name a place that least lived up to the hype
‘Los Angeles. Don’t get me wrong, I love LA. It has good food, a lot of my friends live there and there are plenty of things to do, but the first time I flew into the city I was 12 years old and I remember sitting at the window of the plane and descending through this layer of smog, it was so dirty and gross I didn’t want to breathe the air when I landed. Then the traffic is just horrendous but there’s good with the bad for sure. The coastline is nice as you get out to Malibu…’
Which is your favourite city, and why?
‘Sydney. I like that it’s on the coast, you can go from the city to surfing in 10 minutes. I love the outskirts, all the Northern Beaches where you can just get away. Drive in the right direction for half an hour and you won’t even see a house.’
Describe your favourite view
‘The view inside a tube of water on a wave. Pipeline, a surf reef break in Hawaii, is great because it’s so close to the beach that everyone can experience it with you on some level. When there’s a really good one, the whole beach lights up and lets you know it.’
Describe a childhood holiday memory
‘My mom’s side of the family is from Maryland, so we used to go a lot when I was a kid. We loved it there, we’d go every Christmas and sometimes it would snow. We didn’t get snow in Florida. I remember one time we were messing around, digging in the back yard, and we found this ruby. It wasn’t worth anything, but we thought we’d found a million dollars.’
Describe a holiday disaster
‘I have them all the time but one sticks out. Some friends and I were going to Cornwall for an event once. We flew into London and then travelled by road. My friend’s boards fell off the truck and got run over. They were completely smashed, and we watched it happen!’
Tell us about a Great Little Place you know
‘For my birthday this year I went up in the Pyrenees in France to Balnéa Spa, which is set on all these incredible hot springs. We drove for three hours to get there and the route was really beautiful.’
Which is the smartest hotel you’ve ever stayed in?
‘I actually didn’t stay there, but a friend of mine had booked into the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah in Dubai. It’s on the water and it’s built to look like a giant sail boat. My friend was staying in this incredible room, all the furniture was giant, like something out of Dr Seuss. Everything was gold and there was a tennis court on the roof.’
Confess to one thing you’ve taken from a hotel room
‘I used to collect the silverware from room service – it was my thing. For a long time, I had this mishmash of cutlery. And then, you know, if I need a towel and a hotel has a really nice towel, then of course I’ll grab one.’
I lost my heart in…
‘Fiji – Tavarua Island. I fell in love with it when I was 18 and became close friends with the chief. He told me I could come to stay there whenever I wanted for as long as I wanted; it’s become a second home. It’s literally a heart-shaped island with the perfect surf, and the people are the nicest in the world, so it’s got everything going for it.’
Who is the most interesting person you’ve met on your travels?
‘I’ve been lucky enough to encounter such a vast array of people over the years. The first person that springs to mind is Bill Murray. I’ve met Bill a lot of times, I’ve got to know him over the last 12 years or so and he’s such an interesting guy. He’s very intelligent, witty and knowledgeable about a lot of different subjects. I first met him at Pebble Beach, where we were both taking part in this golf tournament, and we’ve played golf many times since. He’s surfed in the past too. In the 1980s he went to Bali and was taught by these old legends. I recently spent a day with him in New York, playing golf and talking about our lives.’
Kelly Slater was speaking to Shannon Mahanty. He stars in the documentary ‘Momentum Generation’ alongside fellow surfers Rob Machado and Taylor Steele. It is out on digital download via Universal Pictures on 5 November
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