This week, Kelly Slater—occasional San Clemente resident and undisputed most dominant competitive surfer of all time—turned a spry 51 years old. He’s also recently kicked off yet another year on the WSL’s Championship Tour. For Slater, age truly is just a number.
In 1990, the Florida native landed on the cobblestones of Lower Trestles for the Body Glove Surfbout, where, on the beach, he inked pro surfing’s biggest contract at the time, a reported $1 million deal with Quiksilver.
The Richard Woolcot film, Kelly Slater in Black and White, detailed the moment.
“It’s the morning of the Final,” mumbles a groggy teenage Slater.
The rest, as they say, is history. Slater won his first world title and his first Pipe Masters in 1992. For some perspective, “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix-a-Lot was on the Billboard charts, A Few Good Men with Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson was in theaters, and Taylor Steele’s Momentum was lighting up VCRs.
Beating world champs Sunny Garcia and Barton Lynch, as well as Pipe specialist Liam McNamara in the final, Slater had arrived.
Owning the ’90s, Slater won title after title, appeared on the hit TV show Baywatch, alongside his then-girlfriend Pamela Anderson, graced magazine covers around the world and took the sport of surfing to never-before-seen heights. Along the way, he earned a record seven Pipe Masters wins.