Kelly Slater’s freakish competitive streak inspires.

18 June 2024, Tuesday

This past weekend Senegal pulled off something sensational with their first win in the African Nations Cup, but what woke me up most, was what happened on the other side of the world in HAWAII.

Everybody has their own self chosen “GOAT” in sport, commonly referred to as the :


It is a highly argumentative subject and makes for great fun over a few beers.

On Monday, I received a short note from a friend, saying that your man Kelly, your common choice, did it again: GOAT.

Kelly Slater won the Billabong Pro Pipeline in Hawaii – just days shy of his 50th birthday on Friday 11th February. WOW!

Kelly is a legendary 11 times World Surfing Champion – the final pitted him against Seth Moniz, a 24-year-old whose father Tony competed against Slater decades ago.

Slater took down the younger competitor to win the Pipeline for the 8th time.

Many moons back Mark Richards, himself a four times World Surfing Champion, said the following:

“Kelly Slater is the greatest competitive athlete to ever put foot on this planet”

Australian Mark Richards called it early – and right.

This win was the 56th career victory for the ageless Slater over three decades of high-level competitive surfing – in a sport that often goes unnoticed in the toughest of tough competing areanas.

His win reminded me of Phil Michelson’s US PGA major triumph at age nearly 51, and also Tom Watson with his near win at the British Open  – aged nearly 60.

To put it in further age perspective is the golfing genius in Tiger Woods – who last won the Masters, aged 43.

Jack Nicklaus notched one at age 46 at the 1986 Masters.

But that is golf, and surfing is surfing – a far more physical human challenge and encounter.

It is a sport that can inspire or ground one in instant near death situations – from Pipeline to Teehepo to Mavericks in the cold Californian waters.

How can anyone come close to winning at The Pipeline Pro, aged near fifty – having grown up in flat Florida waves?

Improbable and near impossible competing against pure youth and agility.  

Kelly can only be described as having a freakish innate ‘competitive talent ‘in life – in a sport where no competitive stage is alike – and the competition is at its severest.

In no other sport has any one captured 11 world titles, NO ONE.

Kelly Slater defines what human great is all about achieving:


For him to bounce back and win at FIFTY says something special of this sporting legend on a sporting platform where conditions are mostly uncontrollable in nature.

In my interactive breakfast talks I often ask my audience who their chosen “GOAT “is?

Roger Federer is normally the crowd favorite for what he has achieved on and off the court, but naturally everybody has their own favorite.

Understandably, we all have our own sporting bias.

Yes, Roger is a GREAT human being with close ties to South Africa, but in my mind the greatest of them all is Kelly Slater -11 times World Champion – who like Roger, also understands the bigger picture beyond sport – having been awarded one of the highest honors by USA House of representatives – for his outstanding and unprecedented success in the world of surfing – and being an ambassador to fame a cleaner, safer planet.

Surely no one wins Pipeline as his own 50th birthday present?

Some words from Kelly:

“I was out there telling myself, just be in the moment, no matter how much tension there is. Just breathe. I committed my life to this, to all of this. To all of the heartbreak and all of the winning and all of this cr_p. I’ve hated lots of it, but I just savor this. This is the best win of my life.”

“The middle road is not where I ever wanted to be “

“Some of my best performances have happened because my mind was in the right place. The mind is definitely stronger than the body. It is all about where your mind is at.”

Thoughts from a competitive freak, an enigma, who nearly threw it all in back in 2008 citing “ competitive burn out “ and taking semi- retirement.

Thoughts from a surfing and human icon for competitiveness, and definitely encouraging for all of us now on the seniors ‘golf tour ha ha.

Even our own great Ernie Els – now aged 52 – must have taken heed of that performance .

Maybe Ernie and Kelly should play golf together – as apparently Kelly is a near scratch golfer as well.

Those two would bring the best out in each other.

Please do let me know who YOU personally think is the GOAT of all sport?

Your feedback is always appreciated.

Your feedback stories inspire.





It is inherent to the human condition that we bond

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Rob Opie is a Brand Strategist, Keynote Speaker, Author, Performance Consultant to Business & Sports Teams – and Life Coach to those on a journey to self-actualisation.

His game- changing THE GAME PLAN METHOD, is helping both teams and individuals throughout South Africa to achieve their greatest potential.