What makes a surfer a legend?
Some of our heroes are legends because they were first; they made the drop on the biggest wave, shaped a new board, or just tried a new trick or approach. Many surf legends made the list because of their natural or amazing skill that e love to watch them perform. A lot of our legends are great because they embody the spirit of surfing at it’s best embracing each other as a community respecting the ocean simply and honestly for the pure joy of surfing.
There are dozens of surf legends we look up to as heroes, trail blazers sportsman and just amazing human beings. Like this list of legends; King Kamehameha, Greg Knoll, Buzy Trent, George Downing, Fred Van dyke, Butch Van Artsdalen, Woody brown, Miki Dora, Pat Curren, Mike Stang, Paul Strauch, Mike Martinson, Ben Alpa, Herbie Fletcher, Dale Velzy and more.
I am spotlighting two surf legends the first being Duke Kahanamoka the father of modern surfing and the ever so present Kelly Slater.
Duke introduced the spirit of Aloha and the joy of riding waves to the first generation of modern surfers. Duke’s life revolved around the ocean and as surfing’s first ambassador, he spent it generously sharing his enthusiasm.
Growing up on Honolulu, he was the strongest and most skilled of the Waikiki beach boys. As a young man he mastered the arts of surfing, swimming, diving and the outrigger canoe.
Duke won five Olympic medals—three of ‘em gold—in the 1912, 1920 and 1924 summer games. He also played on the U. S water polo team in 1932 while in his 40’s. His Olympic Accomplishments allowed him to travel the world for swimming and surfing exhibitions. He was also the first inducted to both the International Swimming Hall of Fame and International Surfing Hall of Fame. He became one of the greatest swimmers of he 20 century.
In 1999, Surfer Magazine named him Surfer of the Century—a fitting title for a man who put the sport in the global spotlight. Duke brought surfing for the first time to two continents America and Australia and instantly became famous as the world’s foremost surfer. Surfers on two continents ca trace back their surfing roots to the exact day that Duke rode a wave into their country.
Duke’s legacy is not only being the first but also being the best. As surfing’s , and Hawaii’s , first ambassador to the world, he carried himself with dignity and distinction. He embodied the characteristics of a true sportsman grace, strength and humility and in doing so set a high standard. Later in life when Duke was asked for advice by young surfers he would say, ” Just take your time-wave comes. Let the other guys go, catch another one. As usual, his take on surfing extolled the primary virtues of surfing; patience and fun. If ever there was a surfer owed a wave of gratitude it is Duke Kahanamoku.
Our next surfer is a “living legend” . If one was to ask any surfer “who is the best?” Surfers do not hesitate their answer with his 11 world titles, innovations in surfing, or the number of supermodels he has dated the name is well known and the answer is rarely challenged. We all know who our sport greatest all time champ is: Kelly Slater.
Kelly Slater was not born into a “wave-rich” environment. Raised in the surf capital of Florida, Cocoa Beach, he took less than ideal waves to and surf contests with gusto. The small and inconsistent surf of Central Florida was the kiddie pool in which he learned to generate speed and power.
Speed, power, flexibility and tube his tube riding skills are his strengths in his over flowing tricks . During contests, the fact that he without fail always gives us sick maneuvers with speed, power, and poise, at the most inopportune times for his opponents, has propelled him to the pinnacle of the sport and nailed him 11 World Titles!
One part competitive animal and the other natural born talent, KELLY SLATER IS HARD TO BEAT, and hard to date, impossible to beat consistently. At 40 years old he sit astride surfing’s throne as the best surfer in the world. Like any aspiring east coast surfer, he clocked many trips to Central America while competing in contests up and down the eastern seaboard. It is during this period that he honed in on and vertical attack and developed his signature power and contortionists moves, all while absorbing competitive experience. In 1992, Kelly Slater came to the surfing stage and won the first of his 11 world titles. Through his surfing not only subtly announced the arrival of a new generation, and established himself as a leader. From 1994-1998, he ran off five more titles, crossing the line from great surfer to one of the greatest. Along the way he starred in Baywatch, dated Pamela Sue Anderson and other high-profile beautiful people, but he never lost his reputation as the man to beat. After taking some time off from the sport, he came roaring back to reassert his dominance by winning more world titles (05, 07, 08) against much younger men. November 2011 Kelly Slater won his 11 world title.
Great athletes accomplishments flirt with degrees of permanence or fade quickly, while a legend resonates for generations. Kelly Slater’s competitive supremacy and mastery of the art of riding waves makes him a “living legend.” It is difficult to call the most dominant surfer of all time anything else.
Just writing about these two legend gives one a sense of honor that transcends into a period of surfing a great session.
See you at the beach!