11-time world champion surfer Kelly Slater sees 2020 Olympics as a potential retirement party

Kelly Slater gives a shaka sign after a long tube ride at Surf Ranch, which is hosting its first World Surfing League competition this weekend.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
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The 2020 Summer Olympics will mark the first time surfing has been included in the Games’ program. They also will come along roughly four decades after Kelly Slater began riding competitively.

So is Slater gunning for a farewell appearance in Tokyo?

“Possibly,” he said Friday. “Like, I’m not going to be competing too much longer.”

Now 46, the winner of 11 world championships and probably the greatest competitive surfer ever talked about his future at a news conference before the World Surfing League Founders’ Cup of Surfing, a contest being held this weekend at the artificial wave pool he designed in Central California.

A serious foot injury has kept Slater out of commission for much of the past year, but he will compete in Lemoore on Saturday and was feeling healthy enough to look ahead.


“With where I’ve been in the standings, I’m definitely not a shoe-in for the [Olympic] team, so I’ve got to surf my way onto that thing,” he said. “If I do make the team, that could be sort of my swan song.”

The Founders’ Cup will feature five-person squads representing Australia, Brazil, Europe and the U.S. There also will be a world team. Competition begins Saturday and continues through Sunday.

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