Turf's Up!

Golf Digest (Malaysia) - - Contents 01/18 - WITH CHRIS­TIAN IOOSS

Surf champ Kelly Slater also ex­cels at golf (and his causes).

EDITOR’S NOTE : Kelly Slater, the World Surf League cham­pion a record 11 times, took up golf at 23 and has played more than 150 rounds a year. Chris­tian Iooss, the ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer of video at Golf Di­gest and a surfer since he was 7, in­ter­viewed Slater, 45, at his Surf Ranch wave pool in Cal­i­for­nia af­ter Slater’s re­turn from com­pet­ing in the Dun­hill Links Cham­pi­onship pro-am in Scot­land. The photo was taken by Chris­tian’s fa­ther, Wal­ter Iooss Jr., a surfer-turned-golfer who has been pho­tograph­ing Slater for 27 years. ten to 15 years ago, there were no pro­fes­sional surfers play­ing golf. now it seems like it’s the ac­tiv­ity of choice on lay days at con­tests. what about golf ap­peals to surfers?

It was about 10 years ago that it started. We’ve got a group you can fol­low on In­sta­gram [@golfgeek]. We get quite a few pro golfers who are fol­low­ers. It’s just a good yin/yang with surf­ing and golf. They’re al­most op­po­site sports. The com­mon theme is, they’re soli­tary. But in golf, noth­ing’s mov­ing, whereas surf­ing, ev­ery­thing is mov­ing. It’s a dif­fer­ent dy­namic al­to­gether. When the waves are no good, we al­ways say the golf course is six to eight feet and off­shore. golf is de­fined by rules; surf­ing has very few. do you like the bal­ance?

▶ I’ve of­ten thought if you switched the two, how dif­fer­ent the en­vi­ron­ments would be. I’ve played with a lot of pros over the years, and they like the free­dom that surfers have. When they play on their own with no cam­eras around, the shoes come off, there’s no shirt—they want to peel off that layer of for­mal­ity. Surfers are kind of the op­po­site. We’re like, Oh, we fi­nally get to dress up a few times a week with a nice shirt and tuck it in. We sort of feel like we’ve joined so­ci­ety again.

There are quite a few pro golfers that have got­ten into surf­ing. Ge­off Ogilvy. Greg Nor­man was think­ing about be­ing a pro surfer be­fore he was a golfer. I saw a doc­u­men­tary where he talked about that, and I’ve spo­ken to him about it. He knew some of the old-school shapers and pro surfers from the Gold Coast be­fore we had a world tour. Rafa Cabr­era-Bello, he’s got­ten into it. We were all stoked when Adam Scott won the Masters, be­cause he was the first surfer to win it. ▶ ▶▶

is adam the best surf­ing pro golfer? ▶ I haven’t seen them all surf yet. Nick Wat­ney loves surf­ing, too. When I see him, he starts geek­ing about John John [Florence, cur­rent surf cham­pion]. you’ve been on a break from the surf tour while nurs­ing bro­ken bones in your foot, but you seem to be find­ing time for golf. how’s the game? ▶ I was in a boot for about two months but played golf a cou­ple of times. It was nice be­cause it took the foot out of play— luck­ily it was my back foot—so I could just hit some low balls and sit on the front foot. what’s a good score for you? ▶ My best is four or five un­der. I shot four un­der at the Peb­ble event—five birdies and a bo­gey at Mon­terey Penin­sula— but mind you, that wasn’t from the pro tees. It was my birth­day; I fig­ured it was a gift from the uni­ver­sal golf god. I’ve ac­tu­ally been as low as six or seven un­der through a round, but I’ve never fin­ished it out. I flirted with shoot­ing 30 for nine holes be­fore, just one of those days where I was on and ev­ery­thing was go­ing in. [Slater’s most re­cent Hand­i­cap In­dex is 2.8.] very few pro­fes­sional surfers have been more in tune with equip­ment than you. has that trans­lated to your golf clubs and your swing? ▶ I’ve tin­kered with stuff here and there. I’ve got my the­o­ries on putting, the way to hit the ball and set up. I take things I’ve read and watched and learned from dif­fer­ent peo­ple. I’d say the ba­sis for my golf swing is two parts. No. 1, when I first started, I played with Tommy Ar­mour [III] and Sandy [Ar­mour’s brother] a lot. Sandy had a swing like Ben Ho­gan. And then I read the Ho­gan Five Lessons book, and I re­ally got into that. But I started hook­ing the ball re­ally bad. I heard that a lot of peo­ple who read that book start hook­ing the ball re­ally bad [laugh­ter]. Then eight years ago, I re­ally got into Moe Nor­man and watch­ing his old stuff. I never met him, but I felt like I had this con­nec­tion to Moe be­cause he spent six months a year down in Florida, Ti­tusville and Co­coa, the area where I grew up.

The first few months I started play­ing golf, Golf Di­gest did a 23-page ar­ti­cle about him, so I al­ways had it in the back of my mind. I felt that I’d plateaued at a 7-hand­i­cap, maybe a 6. Then I got into hit­ting the ball like Moe did—hands up on a plane and a 10-fin­ger grip. In­stantly I could feel where the plane was in my swing and where the club­face was at the top of my back­swing. I felt like I could fi­nally feel con­trol of my swing. There were sim­ple things, like keep your back heel on the ground when you hit through the ball, that would keep me from slid­ing for­ward or lift­ing my spine. So I did my ver­sion of that. some­times one small thought can make a big dif­fer­ence. ▶ For sure. Some­times you feel like you play a round or play for a cou­ple of days with that thought, and you’re like, Oh, I’ve got this game; it’s over. Then all of a sud­den you fall off the side of the cliff, and you’re like, What hap­pened to my swing? Surf­ing is a nev­erend­ing chal­lenge, and golf is a never-end­ing chal­lenge. There’s some­thing that trans­lates there. do you ever surf and play golf on the same day? ▶ Golf takes so long. When I play golf with some­one who walks, I get ir­ri­tated. If I want to walk, I go to the beach. I like to ride to keep it mov­ing. If I were at a clas­sic golf course, it’s a dif­fer­ent thing. I’m not out there for ex­er­cise. I go surf and work out for ex­er­cise. I just want to hit the ball. I don’t want some­one in front of me. I like to play, man. I want to bust through 27 holes in 2½ hours. any bet­ting when you play? ▶ We have side games, noth­ing that makes any­body ner­vous. Half the time we don’t even pay out. It’s more the brag­ging rights. the world surf league takes you all over to coun­tries with amaz­ing golf cour­ses. what’s your fa­vorite? ▶ I’ve been for­tu­nate to play in the Dun­hill a few times. I’d say Kings­barns. St. An­drews, for the ex­pe­ri­ence and the his­tory there, but Kings­barns is just such a beau­ti­ful course, and there’s a per­fect right-reef break off the 15th green. If the tide’s high and there’s a lit­tle swell, winds al­ways out of the west, you know you’re go­ing to get a good wave there. Since I first went there in ’09, I said if there were waves there, I could live in St. An­drews. The course that I play the most through the year is the Arnold Palmer course at Tur­tle Bay [in Oahu, Hawaii]. It feels like my home course. I usu­ally go out the last two hours be­fore dark with my bud­dies and get 18 in. bucket-list course? ▶ I re­ally want to get to Barn­bougle Dunes in Tas­ma­nia. I also want to go to the King Is­land course, which is half­way between Tas­ma­nia and Mel­bourne. It’s an is­land down there that I go surf. Oh, and Cape Kid­nap­pers in New Zealand, I re­ally want to go there. Ob­vi­ously Augusta and Pine Val­ley. I’ve been in­vited to both. I had a trip to Pine Val­ley, and the day I was sup­posed to fly there, I came down with a two­day flu. It was a bum­mer. travel has also given you a unique per­spec­tive on the health of our planet. has that guided your phi­lan­thropy and en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivism with omaze.com? ▶ Yeah, Omaze is a cool on­line fundrais­ing group. I’ve done three or four projects in the past with them. We’ve done two trips to Fiji, where we’ve given the win­ner a free trip to Tavarua. We raised quite a bit of money from that and gave it to a cou­ple of dif­fer­ent funds. Shane Do­rian and I do­nated to More Than Sport, which builds skate parks around the U.S. I gave money to Skate to School, which gives money for col­lege tu­itions. It helps kids get through col­lege with­out so much debt. That money is go­ing to the lo­cal com­mu­nity [Le­moore, Calif.] to do things in the area. We’ll do one more giveaway here, and that money will go to hur­ri­cane-dis­as­ter relief in the Caribbean, Puerto Rico, Florida and Texas. We had dev­as­tat­ing fires here in Cal­i­for­nia, so we might give some money to that, too. I like ed­u­cat­ing peo­ple about diet and help­ing an­i­mals. I’ve got my hands in a lot of dif­fer­ent places, but all are close to my heart.


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