Pro Surfer Kelly Slater On Love For Jiu-Jitsu & How He 'Sponsored' Rickson

Pro Surfer Kelly Slater On Love For Jiu-Jitsu & How He 'Sponsored' Rickson

Eleven-time world surfing champion Kelly Slater opened up about his love for jiu-jitsu in a revealing interview.

Oct 4, 2016 by Hywel Teague
Pro Surfer Kelly Slater On Love For Jiu-Jitsu & How He 'Sponsored' Rickson
Eleven-time world surfing champion Kelly Slater opened up about his love for jiu-jitsu in a revealing interview shot moments after his winning performance at the 2016 Billabong Pro at Teahupoo, Tahiti. 

Speaking with Australian martial artist Dave Nagel, Slater talks at length about his initial contacts with jiu-jitsu. 

The surfing world champion also reveals his relationship with Rickson Gracie. Not only did he train at the legendary grappler's house with Kron Gracie, but he even hooked up the surfing-mad jiu-jitsu black belt with a surfboard sponsorship! 

Slater also gives his opinions on the recent fight between Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz (who he is friends with and texted after the fight). 

Training at Art of Jiu-JItsu with the Mendes brothers. L-R: Purps co-founders Dr. Chris Schaumburg, Kelly Slater and PM Tenore (far right) 

A blue belt in jiu-jitsu, Slater has been pictured many times at the Art of Jiu-Jitsu academy training with the Mendes brothers, and also reveals he has trained with a "who's who" of jiu-jitsu, including Mario Sperry, Rickson Gracie, Vitor Belfort, Ricardo Arona, Marcus "Buchecha" Almeida and more. 

Slater on His Love Affair With Jiu-Jitsu 

"There's something about jiu-jitsu that puts you in your place. Even if you're the top guy, you still have to teach little kids," Slater said.

"If you have insecurities, they get worked out on the mat. I just think it's a humbling thing. People think of martial arts, they think that'll make you a badass and you'll kick somebody's butt, but to me it's the opposite. If it's treated right and taught correctly, it's the opposite -- it gives people confidence, and I think with that confidence comes less ego and more respect for other people. 

"I first discovered jiu-jitsu from a guy called Peter Maguire, who wrote a book called Thai Stick all about the marijuana trade through Thailand. He was a surfer guy from Malibu area. 

"Eventually he became friends with Rickson [Gracie] somehow. I believe he was Rickson's first American black belt. In 1994 I ran into him randomly -- he was going to a war crimes trial in Bosnia, or something -- and he was staying at a friends house in France, and he started talking about jiu-jitsu and he gave me a little session. We played in the yard, he gave his back and let me choke him. That was my first session, back in 1994, I think it was. 95, maybe. 

"Actually, I had one session before that in Brazil, in 1992, on the beach with some security guards at a contest. They showed me how to do an armbar. 

On Meeting Rickson Gracie

"I don't now how I ended up meeting Rickson exactly, but I started reading about him and learning about him. I was reading about the Gracie Diet, so philosophically I was really aligned with what they were doing. In 1998 I started to really get into that diet." 

Rickson loves to surf, and he was getting boards from my old sponsor. And I said you know what, all my old boards -- just give them to Rickson. I was getting like a free board a month to give to somebody, and I said 'just sponsor Rickson'.
"In 2006 he took me and a body to his house and gave us a free session -- just a private at his house with him and Kron. And then I watched him and Kron roll for a while -- that was my first introduction really, to where I love this thing and couldn't stop thinking about it. 

"I enjoy watching him as much as learning. I learn a lot just from watching things and thinking about things. Just watching them roll, and pulling up videos on some of the tournaments. 

I love [jiu-jitsu]. I'm a fan definitely as much as I am into it myself. When I stop traveling so much I'll probably get more into it.

"I prefer no-gi. I like the technical aspect of the gi, but as this point in my life I only need to know it if I see something happening, if I see somebody in a fight or if I get in a fight myself -- that's no-gi. 

"It's hard to think of the level I'm at it [in jiu-jitsu] and the level I'm at in surfing. I can look at the 10 best surfers on earth and pick apart the things that they're good and bad at. In jiu-jitsu I can't do that, and I really wish I had that knowledge."