Kelly Slater, widely considered to be the greatest surfer in the history of the sport, announced through his official Facebook page that he is ending a 23-year partnership with longtime sponsor Quiksilver.
There is little I can say that would give the credit due or cover the debt of gratitude I feel on a personal and professional level to Quiksilver. 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, and never wavered in backing my choices and desires in all that time. Under the tutelage of Bob McKnight, Bruce Raymond, Alan Green, Pierre Agnes and Danny Kwock (and many others), Quiksilver signed me to a 100% sponsorship deal in 1990, finishing up my amateur career and guiding me into my professional life and adulthood. Having their support group around the world allowed me to create a life I only dreamt of as a child...making a documentary (Kelly Slater In Black and White) about the start of my professional career, going on boat trips and small charter planes to remote locations I'd likely never see, taking long car rides and promo tours to places I'd otherwise never visit, doing film trips to tropical islands few people have ever seen, etc. There could have been no better partner for me to have than Quiksilver. The memories I have of joining the team and becoming like brothers with my heroes and team riders Tom Carroll and Ross Clarke-Jones and making lifelong friendships with Stephen Bell and others has fulfilled my life exponentially. There aren't enough pages or words to express my heartfelt thanks and appreciation for the experiences that have come from this relationship we've shared together. So it is with a heavy heart and a lifetime of positive memories that I move in a new chapter of my life.
As I contemplate the amazing opportunities I've had in life and the amount of good fortune I've encountered along the way, I'm excited to announce today that I'm embarking on a new journey. For years I've dreamt of developing a brand that combines my love of clean living, responsibility and style. The inspiration for this brand comes from the people and cultures I encounter in my constant global travels and this is my opportunity to build something the way I have always wanted to. So I am excited to tell you that I've chosen The Kering Group as a partner. They share my values and have the ability to support me in all of my endeavors. I look forward to exploring all of the new opportunities this partnership will provide, but this hasn't happened by chance, nor has it happened without an incredible amount of work by a few key individuals. As I embark on this new journey, I am sticking to my gut instincts and the belief that your dreams can become reality with the right intentions. I look forward to sharing more about it soon...
Slater, 42, signed with Quiksilver when he was 18-years-old and since then achieved nearly every significant record in surfing. Slater became the youngest World Champion in Association of Surfing Professionals history, winning his first World Title at the age of 20. Slater also set the record for being the oldest surfer to claim a World Title, winning his 11th ASP World Championship at the age of 39. Slater holds the record for the most World Titles in ASP history with 11 and in the past 2 years finished runner-up in the overall standings, coming just short of achieving an unprecedented 12th ASP World Title. Slater also holds the record for the most contest victories ever, winning a startling 54 career events.
Quiksilver founder and Executive Chairman Bob McKnight released a statement about Slater's departure from his company.
"Kelly has been a part of the Quiksilver family for over 20 years," said McKnight. "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."
It's unknown was exactly led to the split. Quiksilver has struggled financially for years, with their stock value plummeting from a high of $16.79 in June of 2005 to its current price of $7.87. The surf industry has seen its share of financial success decline through the years with numerous labels cutting ties with their sponsored athletes.
It's likely though that it was Slater who pulled the trigger and made the decision to leave Quiksilver. Given his status as the greatest surfer ever and the amount of success he brought the company, it shouldn't have come as a surprise that he decided to leave given he gets paid less money than Hurley surfer John John Florence and, perhaps more importantly, fellow Quiksilver team member Dane Reynolds.
Slater is joining The Kering Group, a fashion corporation featuring luxury and sports divisions including such major brands as Gucci, Volcom and Electric. The organization has tremendous resources particularly with logistics, distribution, and marketing, and offered collaboration with Slater for his own clothing line in addition to supporting him for passion projects of sustainability-related initiatives.
Immediately following the announcement, Slater was getting ready to compete in the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro, where he was photographed without the Quiksilver logo on his surfboard for the first time in nearly 24 years.
Here's an interview with Slater following his opening round heat at the event where he elaborated on the decision to leave Quiksilver. Slater also explained why April 1st was the day he made the announcement, saying the most recent contract he previously signed with Quiksilver was on that same day five years ago.