On Monday, Kelly Slater surprised the the public (including the World's Best Surfers) in announcing his split with Quiksilver, his sponsor of 23 years, and plans to launch his own line with global fashion giant Kering.
Slater signed with Quiksilver in 1990 at the age of 18, just before winning the US$100,000 Body Glove Surfbout at Lower Trestles in a performance that put the surf world on notice. The first of his 11 ASP World Titles came just two years later, at the age of 20.
Here is Slater's open letter on the move:
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...
Bob McKnight, Founder and Executive Chairman of Quiksilver, said the following:
"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."
Todd Hymel, Kering's COO of the Sport & Lifestyle division, commented to Shop-Eat-Surf via email about Slater's new role:
"We are very excited about the announcement today and the opportunity to work with Kelly. Kelly is a surf legend/sport icon that encompasses many of the values true to Kering: most notably sustainability, transparency, and a constant quest to be the best at what we do through dedication and imagination."
"The partnership announced will be a multi-layered relationship with Kering supporting Kelly in the launch and the development of his own apparel brand, and acting as an operational partner providing assistance where possible in areas like sourcing, logistics, e-commerce, etc. In addition, Kelly will be an ambassador for Kering and be involved with certain initiatives at the Group level, notably related to sustainability, as well as at some of our brands."
Often celebrated as the greatest surfer to ever live, Slater owns 11 ASP World Titles, 54 elite ASP WCT victories and countless other accolades. At 42 years old, his ability to both compete with the world's best surfers and continually challenge for the top spot is the stuff of sports legend.