Kelly Slater leaves longtime sponsor Quiksilver

Kelly Slater at Pipeline; photo Glaser/Surfer magazine

Kelly Slater at Pipeline; photo by Glaser/Surfer magazine

After 23 years and 11 ASP world titles, Kelly Slater and clothing brand Quiksilver have parted ways, ending one of the most successful sponsorship arrangements in sports history. Slater, now 42, signed with Quiksilver back in 1990, when he was just 18 years old. He won his first professional contest the week after he signed, and his first ASP world title by the time he was 20, becoming the youngest world champion ever.

Today Slater holds 11 world titles, 50 elite ASP World Tour victories, and virtually every record in the sport. His two decades of utter dominance in his field have placed him in the “best athlete ever” conversation numerous times.

Slater dropped the news about his departure on April Fool's Day while in Australia, which left many of his fans wondering if the announcement was some elaborate ruse. But it’s no joke. “As a brand and on a human level, they have been a part of my life, career, and personal relationships for more than 23 years now, well over half my life. They’ve supported me through good times and bad, personal hardships and competitive triumphs,” Slater wrote on his Facebook page.

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Kelly Slater is stepping away from his longtime sponsor after 23 years of racking up trophies together. Photo: Steve Sherman/Surfing Magazine

Kelly Slater is stepping away from his longtime sponsor after 23 years of racking up trophies together. Photo by Steve Sherman/Surfing Magazine

The news was confirmed by Quiksilver executive chairman Bob McKnight in a quote he gave to the ASP: "Kelly has been a part of the Quiksilver family for over 20 years. It's been an incredible journey watching him grow from a young surfer with great potential, to the 11-time World Champion he is today. We wish Kelly all the best as he enters this next phase of his career.”

According to Slater, his next venture will be with the Kering Group, which began trading lumber in the early '60s but now specializes in apparel and accessory brands like Volcom, Electric, Gucci, Puma, Stella McCartney, and more. According to Slater, he's "dreamt of developing a brand that combines my love of clean living, responsibility, and style." Slater's last endeavor into the clothing market didn't end so well, and his line, VSTR, was shuttered by Quiksilver shortly after it began.

Slater is scheduled to compete as early as today in the Drug Aware Pro in Margaret River, Western Australia, and barring a well-executed April Fool's prank, he'll be doing so without the iconic "mountain and wave" Quiksilver sticker on the nose of his surfboards.

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