- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Only, Dad didn't have to wear the black hat anymore now that Kelly was off the white horse. Kelly could take what Steve had to offer, not fixate on what he couldn't. Just before his father's throat got so bad that he couldn't eat, Kelly took him to the 2001 Pipe Masters in Oahu, so he could see his son compete overseas for the first time. He watched his dad shuffle away just before Kelly's heats, so no one would see him sob.
Then Dad was gone, one day in May 2002, and all Kelly asked of his mother was to snap a picture of those big gnarly feet. He and his brothers paddled into the surf where it all began, sprinkled Steve's ashes and watched half the town jam into the Beach Shack, his favorite haunt, to toast his photograph on the bar. Then Kelly, his semiretirement officially over, returned to the tour, eager to dedicate his comeback to his father ...
... and went right back to losing. The ocean had no pity for his grief. It still awaited the answer to why, really? He was still attending workshops, reeling from a question the Ironman had posed: You're not comfortable being Number 1, are you? Kelly broke down. His life's quest had swept him right past his big brother, far beyond what that little boy in the cinder-block tract house had really wanted: to bring everyone together, to be a bridge. He'd kept his trophies hidden in gear bags and car trunks, loathed being the alpha male; no one had taught him about the oneness of No. 1.
Which meant he should do ... nothing, said Trevor. Awareness. Just let the light and the breeze do their work. Watch the guilt and fear and anger begin to evaporate. But what would he compete out of, once they lost their force?
Why not out of what you want? asked the Ironman. Why not out of love?
Kelly listened to the story of tests conducted on Aussie rowers in the '90s, showing how much longer their strength lasted when they let go of their old hatred of their English rivals and replaced it with supportive thoughts. Hmmm. All right. He'd try it.
Son of a bitch, he kept getting clobbered, self-doubt raging; he didn't win once in 2002. He had to learn how the fifth why worked, how to turn everything upside down. Like ... no more goals. How to place all of his attention on the experience, not the result, how to sit on the sand before each heat, close his eyes and visualize losing. What? Yes, seeing his opponents' joy and feeling the good that could come from his losing, feeling the relaxation that created, the increase in vitality. And one more thing. Inviting his brothers to events, calling Mom between heats, e-mailing friends, evolving from politeness to engagement with his fans. Surfing as an expression of his life rather than a refuge from it.
Suddenly, in 2003, it began to flow, then to gush. He won for the first time in three years, in Tahiti, then in South Africa, Spain and Brazil, setting up the classic showdown for the world championship in the final heat of the year's final event, on the same Hawaiian beach where he'd once surfed in the suit on the door. The new kid, Irons—who went to sleep at night thinking of punching Kelly in the face—against the old kid. The old motive against the new motive. Kelly surrounded by his loved ones (his mother, two brothers and, gulp, Lisa Ann) in Jack Johnson's father's two-bedroom guesthouse. On the birthday of Kelly's dead father.
On the eve of the showdown, the tension between Lisa Ann and Kelly's mom burst. At 4 a.m., from utter exhaustion, the arguing between Lisa Ann and Kelly finally stopped. He was finished, knew that he'd lose a few hours later, and nothing—not the hug he gave Andy as it was about to begin, not the "I love you" that he uttered to him—could save him. For the first time he lost at something he deeply wanted, and in the outdoor shower, in front of strangers and cameras, with Sean's arm around him, he cried and cried, the moth that could no longer blame the flame.