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Kelly Slater Documentary: The Lost Tapes

Kelly Slater is without question the greatest competitive surfer of all time, with 11 world titles, 56 world tour event victories, and a win at The Eddie.


He was also the youngest and oldest surfing world champion, and perhaps most incredibly, his career has spanned multiple generations. He joined the world tour in 1992 at the age of 20, and has competed virtually nonstop since then, aside from a short hiatus after his first “retirement.” Now 50 years old, Slater is still rated in the top 15 on the world tour, has already qualified for next year’s 2023 season, and amazingly started 2022 with a win at Pipeline, the first event of the year. In other words, he was leading the tour and wearing the yellow jersey despite being more than twice as old as half of the surfers on tour.


Slater’s longevity and continued competitive success deep into what is considered middle age is the stuff of legends, so when he announced that he was thinking of retiring after the 2019 competitive season, it was big news. Although he obviously didn’t end up retiring after all, a team of documentarians followed him around in 2019 to capture what was supposed to be his “last year on tour” in a series of 12 films.


Ultimately, Slater didn’t retire, COVID-19 shut down professional surfing for 18 months, and the documentary series was never released. Fast-forward to 2022, when Slater is still technically in contention for a world title, and the WSL has decided to release the film project in what has been pared down to a series of 11 chapters under the name “Lost Tapes.”


Chapter 1 of “Lost Tapes” was released online this week and covers Slater’s training and preparation for the 2019 season, as well as going behind the scenes during his time at home on the Gold Coast in Australia. Check out chapter 1 here and stay tuned to our blog for the rest of the 11-chapter series!

After the successful launch of episode one of Kelly Slater: Lost Tapes, the series has gone on to release three more episodes over the past month. Episode two, titled “The Storm,” followed Slater as he prepared for the Bells Beach contest in Victoria. Bells Beach is the longest running professional surfing event in history and has a special place in Slater’s heart, as he has won numerous Bells trophies over the years. The forecast for the contest was the biggest it had been in years and Slater spent as much time in the water as possible to dial in his equipment.


Episode three, “The Dream Tour,” followed Slater as he worked through difficult news about longtime friend and competitor Sunny Garcia while preparing for and competing in the Bali event. Resetting his focus, he makes it through a number of difficult heats and seeks to regain his championship form.


Episode four, “Out of the Box,” was released earlier this week and followed Slater throughout the Margaret River area as he explored Western Australia’s culture and natural beauty before the world tour event. It also featured footage of Slater surfing Margaret River’s infamous slab, The Box, where he put on a master class in heavy-water tuberiding.


Kelly Slater: Lost Tapes is an 11-part series featuring never-before-seen footage shot during what was expected to be Slater’s last year on tour. Although he has remained on tour since that time, winning at Pipeline and competing intermittently throughout the rest of the 2022 season to requalify for 2023, the series provides a poignant, in-depth look at the motivation and preparation behind surfing’s greatest competitor, as well as the impact of his career that has transcended multiple generations. 

Episode 5 : Pure Passion


Another week means another episode of Kelly Slater: Lost Tapes released by the World Surf League. This time, the series follows Slater to Tahiti in an episode called, appropriately, The End of the Road (Teahupoo literally sits at the end of the coastal road around the island of Tahiti!). In this episode, Slater reconnects with one of his favorite places on Earth, where he is a five-time winner. He spends time with close friends that he hasn’t seen in a while and enjoys the idyllic, tropical setting, but struggles to find success in the contest.


In last week’s episode, Seize the Bay, Slater seeks to clear his mind and deals with a nagging back injury at the Jeffreys Bay contest. He is also challenged by high-profile, head-to-head matchup.


In other world tour news, the WSL announced today that local Oahu surfer Kirra Seale will be retiring from competition on the Longboard World Tour (where she is currently ranked ninth) to take over as senior manager of the Longboard Tour. Joining her in running the tour will be former longboard world champion Tori Gilkerson, who will draw on her experience as a world tour and Challenger series judge to serve as the new head judge of the Longboard Tour. The appointment of Seale and Gilkerson is a historic moment for the WSL, as this is the first time one of the league’s tours will be governed by an all-woman team.


Congratulations to Kirra Seale on her new job—we look forward to seeing how she improves the Longboard Tour over the next couple of years!