The 38-year-old won his 10th world championship on Nov. 6, four days after the death of fellow pro Andy Irons
How did you celebrate this championship differently than the other nine?
Kelly Slater: I was probably a little quieter. It was a tough week—we had a good friend, a three-time world champion pass away just a few days prior. So it was kind of a somber week.
You and Andy had a friendly rivalry. Do you need a rivalry?
KS: I think sports need rivalries. And personally, it helped me a lot as far as motivation when I got back on tour. I was on tour for six or seven years, then I just got burned out. When I came back [two years later], it was nice—I mean, I hated it at times—but it was nice to have somebody really pushing you and trying to get the best out of you. It definitely focuses you and makes you work on every part of your game.
What makes you decide on whether to surf a wave or wait for another one? Size?
KS: There are so many factors. The other day I was surfing waves that were 15 feet high on the face. I've surfed waves that are 40 or 50 feet high, but this day, it was really intense because it was breaking super shallow and there was a big, huge, flat table rock sticking out of the water right where we were taking off. And there was a current pulling you back in front of that rock. So if you took off in front of this rock and fell, you could die or definitely go to the hospital. Sometimes I feel totally comfortable paddling for a wave that's 35 or 40 feet if it's breaking in deep water. And then you could take off on a two-foot wave close to rocks and it could be superdangerous.