Every sport creates a player that goes on to achieve legendary status in their field. Basketball has the likes of Michael Jordan, soccer has Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, boxing has many, including Muhammad Ali, and tennis has just seen Roger Federer hang up his racket. Surfing is no different. It too, has athletes that may not compete at the highest level anymore but who the new generation of surfers look up to and want to emulate.
Kelly Slater is considered the greatest surfer of all time, which is some accolade when one thinks of all the elite-level surfers that have ever ridden a wave.
Why is he so well thought of? Partly because he was crowned the World Surf League champion a record 11 times. Slater grew up near the water, so it was no surprise that he began surfing at age five. He was a natural surfer, one that was winning age-division events by the time he was ten. Once Slater got the taste of winning, he never looked back.
Slater became World Champion for the first time in 1992, aged 20 years old. He won consecutive titles between 1994-1998 before becoming World Champion five more times between 2005-2011. Throw into the mix a trio of Triple Crown of Surfing Champion titles, three US Open of Surfing titles, and a staggering 59 WSL Championship Tour event wins. You can easily see why the best online betting sites had Slater as a hot favorite whenever he entered a competition.
The surfing legend still competes despite being aged 50 and having many surf-related business interests. He has his own range of boards, launched a beverage company in 2014, and helped design what is described as the perfect inland wave in California!
Layne Beachley had a meteoric rise to fame in surfing. She turned professional at the tender age of 16 and was ranked as high as sixth in the world only four years later. No female surfer before or since has climbed the ranks so quickly. Beachley overcame many hurdles on her way to becoming a surfing megastar. She was adopted as a baby, and her adoptive mother sadly died unexpectedly, but these setbacks gave Beachley the inner strength and determination to make it in surfing.
Duke Kahanamoku has legendary status in surfing, and deservedly so. Kahanamoku was born in 1890 in Hawaii and had a natural ability for swimming. Despite living during a period where racial discrimination was commonplace, Kahanamoku represented the United States at the Olympics, winning gold and silver medals in 1912 and additional gold in 1920. Kahanamoku rescued eight men from a capsizing fishing vessel in June 1925, in a rescue described by local police officials as the “most superhuman surfboard rescue act the world has ever seen.” The rescue ultimately led to US lifeguards using surfboards as standard rescue equipment.
Kahanamoku spent much of his life promoting surfing and trying his utmost to make the sport mainstream. He managed this despite serving his country as a military police officer during World War II and as Sherrif of Honolulu, Hawaii, for 13 consecutive terms between 1932-1961.
His love and dedication to swimming and surfing saw Kahanamoku become the first person inducted into the Swimming Hall of Fame and the Surfing Hall of Fame. He even has a competition named after him, the Duke Kahanamoku Invitational Surfing Championships, which was the first professional surfing competition held in the colossal surf of the North Shore.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Olivia Poglianich is a nomadic brand strategist and copywriter in the surf, watersports and outdoor adventure space who has worked with brands such as Visa, Disney and Grey Goose. Her writing has taken her all over the world, from a Serbian music festival to a Malaysian art and culture event. Olivia is a graduate of Cornell University and is often writing or reading about travel, hospitality, the start-up ecosystem or career coaching. Her latest interests are at the intersection of web3 and communal living, both on and offline.