STATELINE, Nev. — Golf and surfing couldn’t be more yin and yang, but for surfer Kelly Slater, it’s a perfect blend that gives way to the zen that one hopes to achieve when playing sports.
Slater played his second American Century Championship at Edgewood Golf Club in South Lake Tahoe last week and has been a regular on the celebrity circuit in recent years. It’s become more than just a hobby for the No. 1 surfer in the world — it’s now a passion.
“I kind of like the individual side of it,” Slater said. “My sport is all about playing it yourself and doing it yourself and not relying on anyone else. I think when you’re in the zone in any sport it can be kind of zen-like.”
Zen-like might be the case for Slater, who boasts a five-handicap, but golf can be a precise, often frustrating game. But Slater has found that certain aspects of surfing extend through all athletics. He plays golf instinctively, much like the way he surfs.
“Sometimes you’ll see a line or an angle and it’s not necessarily the one you’re supposed to set up on, but it feels right so maybe you’ll go with that or drain a putt and that’s kind of when you’re just tuning into what’s around you,” Slater said. “Surfing is not necessarily repeating something over and over. It’s just kind of fitting into something; it’s moving. You’re just kind of trying to fit into the environment and go with it.”
Golf speaks to the competitor inside Slater. He has played in the Hawaii State Open and the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Playing golf competitively is no longer just a way to pass the time when he’s away from the ASP World Tour — it’s become serious business.
So much so that Slater, who is 41, has considered trying to make it onto the Champions Tour when he is eligible at age 50.
“It’s in the back of my mind somewhere,” Slater said. “I’ve been so committed to traveling and sport for so long I’ll see in a another five or eight years when it gets close to that time. We’ll see if I get the itch.”
Slater admits it’s easy to shelve thoughts of professional golf while he’s still surfing. And he is still clearly at the top of his game. Slater has won two of five events on the ASP World Tour and is chasing a 12th world title.
But he brings his clubs with him at nearly every tour stop. He is completely self-taught, which goes back to the individual aspect of surfing. But should he decide to go pro, he has a plan.
“If I was going to get serious competitively, I would have to get on video and work on it with somebody, but I don’t want to get too complicated with it,” Slater said. “Almost all of my friends that play golf go to a pro at some point and it doesn’t really make them that much better if they don’t put in the practice themselves.”
Until then, Slater is just enjoying the experience of traveling the world and finding that happy medium between his two polar-opposite passions.