There’s a popular saying, often heard in the world of sports reporting when iconic athletes are contemplating retirement: “Father Time is undefeated.” For 44-year-old surfing legend Kelly Slater, it sounds like he might be ready to concede that point.
On Sunday, the 11-time world champion was upset by Tahitian surfer Michel Bourez in Round 3 of the 2016 Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach.
For Slater, the disappointment of losing to the relatively-unheralded Bourez was a familiar feeling of late: Slater, arguably the greatest surfer of all time, hasn’t won a championship tour event since 2013.
After the loss, the winningest surfer of all time opened up to ESPN and admitted that he is cognizant of the longterm slump he has been in, and that thoughts of retirement are always on his mind.
“I’ve been thinking about that for 15 years,” Slater told ESPN when asked about his thoughts on retirement. “I will say even my mom texted me and said ‘maybe you should think about it.'”
The idea of stepping away from competitive surfing isn’t completely foreign for the Floridian surfer. Slater famously took a competitive surfing sabbatical from 1999-2001 only to return to the sport and reinvigorate surfing by reeling off four more world titles (his most recent in 2011) while fostering a fierce rivalry with the late Andy Irons.
But that was a younger Slater. And with age, he has admitted that mentally he isn’t as focused on surfing competitively as he once was.
“Well I'm trying to get [my focus] back on my surfing, that's why I’m so stoked I won a heat,” Kelly told the WSL after winning in Round 2. “Im being challenged, that's for sure, mentally. I’ve just been having a hard time getting into the flow of it and just relaxing.”
Slater has drawn comparisons to himself and Tiger Woods, who once dominated golfing but has seen his command diminish with age and hasn’t won a major tournament in years. While he once relished the pressure of competition, Slater says he doesn’t enjoy it as much anymore, which makes it easy for him to give credence to the naysayers who claim his time has come.
“I don’t think anything is impossible,” Slater told ESPN when asked whether he thought he could return to his old form. “I just think things haven’t been done, people haven’t been on the tour at my age, and it’s really easy for people to accept that it could be the time.
“I see myself in kind of a long-term slump right now.”
More from GrindTV