Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times | Terms of Service | Privacy Policy

Column: Surfer Kelly Slater paddles, sings in Super Bowl commercial

Kelly Slater launches a 360 during heat 12 the US Open of Surfing men’s round of 96 on Tuesday, Aug.
Surfing legend Kelly Slater, seen here competing in the U.S. Open of Surfing on Aug. 2, 2011, will be appearing in a Super Bowl commercial during Sunday’s game between the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Sunday is the big day! It should be a national holiday, some have said. It’s a day we all get together at parties, eat, drink and watch … the commercials?

For some, the Super Bowl commercials are as entertaining and interesting as the game itself. For 11-time surfing world champion Kelly Slater, it’s fair to say he’ll be one who will focus on the commercials as much as the game. Well, at least one commercial.

Slater will be in a Michelob ULTRA commercial, helping promote the beer that prides itself on being for athletes and anyone trying to stay fit, thanks to being a low-calorie, low-carb beer.

Slater is in the commercial with actor Chris Pratt, 2017 U.S. Open men’s golf winner Brooks Koepka, and 2017 New York City Marathon winner Shalane Flanagan. In the spot, they all sing the “I Like Beer” song.

In Slater’s segment, he and several other surfers are shown paddling out while singing the song.

“I can sing … I’m not tone deaf,” Slater said during a phone call last week. “I’ve actually been singing most of my life. I was never schooled in music theory or anything like that, but for 25, 27 years now I’ve been singing, writing songs. I can sing a tune, I’ve been on stage a few times, I had a band in the past and I was a singer. I might do a remake of the song.”

That Slater is singing in the commercial is not so much of a surprise as the fact he’s in a commercial at all. Ever since a regrettable part-time role in the show “Baywatch,” Slater has been careful about the things he agrees to do in the public eye. Unless he has some ownership stake in a company, he isn’t likely to be seen hawking any products.

“When this came up, I just thought this is a good way to support one of the [World Surf League’s] new and big sponsors, and also be able to say I was in a Super Bowl commercial, which is a big thing,” Slater said. “I’ve had friends over the years be in Super Bowl commercials. Watching Super Bowl commercials is almost like a movie unto itself. Everyone’s thinking, what’s this next commercial going to be? Everyone pulls out all the stops. I just thought it was a rare opportunity to do something fun.”

And it was fun, particularly since there were no unwanted visitors during the paddle out, which was filmed a couple weeks ago in Oxnard.

“The beach where we surfing, I’ve had multiple friends chased out by sharks there,” Slater said. “I don’t think the crew knew that aspect of it, and how many sharks have been in that area in recent times. We were paddling around for five hours, and actually some of the people were out there quite a bit longer than that, maybe six, seven hours in the water.

“Near the beach, off shore, and with all those boats and stuff, with that noise and commotion … and sharks are curious. It never became a factor, but I wasn’t going to be surprised to see a fin pop up at some point and scare the crap out of us. Luckily that never happened. The water was a little murky, but I think we felt safe in our numbers. But still, it would have been interesting if a fin popped up and gone by us.”

Get a sneak peek of the commercial here:

Kelly Slater will appear in this Super Bowl commercial during Sunday's game between the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles.


I mentioned to Slater my feelings about the WSL holding a Championship Tour contest at the Kelly Slater Surf Ranch in Lemoore later this year. I told him what I wrote about it when it was announced last October — that a wave pool is great for training and coaching, and for landlocked areas where people don’t have access to a surf-able wave, but not for a contest at the highest level.

I told him that this would take Mother Nature out of the equation. No wind, no tide. No reefs, no sharks. And wave selection, such an important aspect to competitive surfing, would not be a factor.

But Slater, who owns a minority share of the Surf Ranch (the WSL owns a majority share), made some good points.

“You still have a wind factor there,” he said. “You actually get a little bit of a, I won’t call it a tide factor, but the water sloshes around in the body of water, in the lake. And you can get sections that have more or less water on them as you’re riding. You wouldn’t notice just sitting there watching, but if you knew what you were looking at and paying attention, sitting there watching hundreds of waves in a row, as I’ve done, you can tell the section breaks differently and the man or woman has to decide how to use that section the right way. Is it going to be hollow enough? Is it going to mush out on them? That skill comes back onto the surfer.”

I also told Slater my baseball analogy, that it would be like having a World Series game using a pitching machine instead of real live pitchers, pumping 95-mph fastballs right down the middle. Sure, it’s not easy to hit, but at least you know what’s coming.

“I would disagree with you because you’re talking about taking a skill set [pitching] out,” he countered. “I think over the years, one of the biggest discrepancies with contests is the luck factor, when you have inconsistent heats, you have priorities and somebody clearly gets the better waves. Is that taking their skill into account or is that taking a luck factor into account?

“In surfing you can be more philosophical and say there was karma involved and it was that guy’s time, which I can agree with, too. But what you’re doing here [with the wave pool] is taking out all those luck factors.”

On top of everything else, the CT contest at Lower Trestles was removed from the schedule. Now, the only CT contest in California for the men is not in San Onofre, but in Lemoore, which sits more than 150 miles directly east of Big Sur.

“No. 1, it’s not my choice to have a contest there, and No. 2, Trestles fell off the tour because Hurley didn’t want to sponsor it anymore,” Slater said. “It had nothing to do with pushing one out for another. There was no, ‘You give me this, I’ll give you that’ kind of thing. There was no trade. Had Trestles still happened, we would have had one extra contest.”

Super Bowl prediction: Patriots 27, Eagles 21.

JOE HAAKENSON is a Huntington Beach-based sports writer and editor. He may be reached at