Wednesday, March 10, 2004
Wondering what six-time World Champ Kelly Slater does on a day off from competition? Today, Kelly and fellow Quiksilver teammate Luke Munro were invited to Queensland’s Sea World amusement park to swim with dolphins and do interviews with local TV news crews. What started out as simply something to do instead of staring at flat Gold Coast beaches, the little press junket turned out to be another lesson in Kelly Slaterology.
As we made our way to the dolphin area at the back of Sea World, lots of park-goers recognized Slater (remember, this is Australia, where surf stars are as famous as any big-time athlete), who spent most of our first half-hour in the part doing interviews on his cell phone.
When we got to the dolphin tank, Kelly, Luke, and Michael Petersen’s sister Dot changed into their suits and strapped on some life vests. Kelly met Dot recently, and when he found out she’s battling cancer, he invited her to come along to Sea World and share the experience.
After some brief instruction, they got in the pool and got to know the dolphins, which seemed smarter than most the people I know. After a few minutes, the group swam out into the tank, and the trainers coached the dolphins through a series of jumps and stunts. Slater and Munro seemed very at home in the tank, and they helped Dot overcome her understandable apprehension toward hugging several-hundred pound mammals in their natural environment.
Afterwards, the media swarmed and asked some questions. Kelly is an interview master. His responses are thoughtful, but he avoids rambling. He talked about his experiences with dolphins in the lineups around the world and even managed to throw in a perfect news sound-bite: “We should train these guys (dolphins) to do tow-ins. That would be epic!