Synopses & Reviews
Chapter One Cocoa Beach
Leaving Orlando International Airport, the Beeline Expressway runs due east toward Brevard County. There's not much to see on the hourlong drive, except 3-D billboards covered with giant apes, extraterrestrials, and twisters, which lure tourists to Universal Studios and less expensive beachy versions of Ron-Jon's Surf Shop, the world's only twenty-four-hour stop for people who don't surf but want to take a T-shirt back home that says otherwise. Other than that, it's a straight road cut through the middle of dense clumps of palmetto and pine forests.
Entering Brevard County, also known as the Space Coast, the Beeline is nice enough to bypass the city of Cocoa, which in 1925 lent its name, originating from the native coconut palms, to Cocoa Beach, its new coastal neighbor. The Beeline also navigates around Cape Canaveral, the place that put Brevard on the map. Prior to 1961, the local economy was still juiced by the production of citrus products. The beach was nothing but a skinny twelve-mile strip of white sand, shoe box houses, and tiny rattrap motels sandwiched between the Atlantic Ocean and the Banana River. The Cape -- flat, undeveloped, and close to water, with a climate that allows for year-round activity -- was the perfect place to launch space shuttles. The sleepy scrubland was transformed into a major launch base, and because of the importance of beating Russia into orbit, astronauts were as valued in American culture as any movie stars. They brought a happening aura to a place that needed some life. For one glorious decade, when NASA embarked on the Apollo project, Cocoa Beach was a nonstop celebration, attracting young people from all over thenation.
Just past Canaveral, the road skirts south and morphs into Astronaut Boulevard, and eventually into the coastal highway known as A1A. Whenever I go home, I can't help but chuckle at the sign I see when I enter Cocoa Beach. "World Famous," it claims, but I can't figure out why. I guess it's because the 1960s sitcom "I Dream of Jeannie was set there, although it wasn't filmed there. You can tell because there are mountains in the background on the show, when in reality the only mountain in Florida is the Space Mountain ride at Disney World. Ask any local what's so special about Cocoa Beach, and you're likely to hear that the most endearing customs are bikini contests, beer drinking, and stabbings at the pier.
Don't get me wrong. I love my hometown, but until now it certainly hadn't been a big surfing supporter. In all my years of flying the Cocoa Beach flag around the world, the city didn't so much as give me a phone call of congratulations until I started dating Pamela Anderson. Then they asked me to come to a town meeting. I did get a street named after me and a key to the city but that wasn't until November 2002, ten years after I won my first world title. Even though there have always been a lot of surfers around town, I guess the sport wasn't mainstream enough to warrant much attention.
A Match Made In Partyville
Steve Slater, my dad, was born in Ocala, Florida, but grew up in Daytona Beach, Florida. He claimed to be a descendant of Samuel Slater, a guy who became known as "the Father of the American Industrial Revolution" when he came over from England in 1789 and built a cloth factory in Rhode Island, but I haven't yet done the research to find out if it's true.In high school, my dad played football, basketball, and ran track, but his real interest was water sports. He loved to swim and fish, and by the end of the 1950s had become a lifeguard and surfer.
Surfing in the late 1950s was experiencing a population explosion thanks to "Gidget and other beachy Hollywood films, as well as the innovation from wood to lighter and easier-to-maneuver foam surfboards. Boards were still around ten feet in length, clunky compared to today's standards, and relatively dangerous. They had the potential to inflict a lot of damage on someone. (In the late 1960s, surfboards would undergo a revolution, shrinking to nearly half as long as the overriding philosophy went from stylishly walking up and down the board to making radical direction changes.) During a hurricane swell, my dad paddled out on his longboard and wiped out on a pretty big wave. The board came straight up and hit him between the legs, which caused them to turn black and blue from his waist to his knees. He claimed that if there hadn't been another guy in the water to drag him out, and a really cute girl on the beach to drive him home, he would have drowned.
After my dad finished high school, his parents moved two hours south to Cocoa Beach. My dad stayed in Daytona. When he was nineteen, his mother died from throat cancer. After her death, my grandfather decided to remain in Cocoa Beach and live on his own. A few years later he was in a pretty serious car accident, and my dad went down from Daytona to take care of him for a while. My grandfather recovered pretty quickly, but by that point, my dad had fallen in love with Cocoa Beach -- the area had a way of sucking people in and keeping themthere. He got a job as a construction worker, and once he got in the swing of the surf scene, he couldn't leave. Cocoa Beach was Partyville, U.S.A., and the waves were tailormade for the boards of the day. (The local contingent, made up of Claude Codgen, Mike Tabeling, Gary Propper, and Dick Catri, was the best on the East Coast.) But since alcoholism ran in the family, Partyville was the last place my dad needed to be ...
From Beach Blanket Bingo to Baywatch to Blue Crush, surfing has fascinated people for years, and Kelly Slater is the sport's hottest star. He's one of the world's most popular surfers and his radical moves have revolutionized the sport. Born in Cocoa Beach, Florida, in 1972, he used surfing to escape a difficult home life. After his surfing career took off, he made the transition into acting and modeling, and spent a season starring on the popular television show Baywatch, where he won the hearts of women young and old -- including Pamela Anderson, whom he dated briefly.
For more than 25 years, Slater has ridden the waves of the surfing world and experienced all of its ups and downs. In Pipe Dreams, he shares the stories that have influenced his life and have inspired him to overcome both personal and professional hurdles -- and achieve his dreams.
I thought, Pfft, come on. People from Australia are world champions ... But a world champion from Florida? Fuhged-daboudit.
Cocoa Beach, Florida, isn't exactly a breeding ground for surfing world champions -- the waves are tiny. So when Kelly Slater was growing up, the furthest thing from his mind was becoming a world champion. He was a Florida grommet whose biggest goal was to one day make it out far enough to catch the two-foot waves his dad and brother were riding -- anything more was a dream.
Life in the Slater household wasn't perfect, and as his parents' marriage fell apart and his father battled alcoholism, Slater escaped to the beach and found peace on a surfboard. He devoured surf magazines, sat spellbound while watching surfing movies, and worshiped the gods of the sport who threw themselves into thundering walls of water along the North Shore of Hawaii and around the world. Slater never thought he'd move beyond the Florida shore breaks, but his insatiable thirst for competition and uncanny -- almost innate -- understanding of the physics of surfing destined him for waves and events much bigger than anything Cocoa Beach had to offer.
In Pipe Dreams, Slater takes you inside a churning Pipeline tube and lets you experience the rush of adrenaline and danger. He pays tribute to close friends who lost their lives surfing big waves and tells what life on the World Tour is really like, from schmoozing with celebrities to running from stalker fans to the insane competition and off-the-wall antics of the world's most famous surfers -- including Tom Curren, Tom Car-roll, Gary Elkerton, Mark Occhilupo, Rob Machado, and Shane Dorian. Slater also explains his various career moves, such as his stint as a regular on Baywatch, and the ups and downs of his love life -- from his on-again, off-again romance with Pamela Anderson to Bree, his first love, and their broken engagement.
Pipe Dreams offers unprecedented access to the globetrotting lifestyle and the rarely seen private life of the man who destroyed every record in a sport long dominated by people who thought world champions didn't grow up in Florida, himself included. Slater holds nothing back, because after six world titles, there is nothing left to prove -- not to himself or to anyone else.
Chronicles the surfing career of Kelly Slater, including childhood memories, experiences on World Tours and during competitions, his personal life, and tributes to close friends who lost their lives surfing.
Six-time world surfing champion, actor, and American heartthrob Kelly Slater tells his inspiring story of triumph over adversity. 80 b&w photos. 16-page color insert.
About the Author
Kelly Slater is a world-champion surfer who came out of semi-retirement in 2002. When he has time he sings with his band, The Surfers. He owns the Kelly Slater Boardrider's Club, a clothing and surf shop in Los Angeles, where he lives.