Kelly Slater | How to improve Surfing Technique by Golfing

How did Kelly Slater, the best surfer on this planet, improve his surfing technique by golfing – after he already had four world titles under his belt? Kelly states in his biography Pipe Dreams – A Surfer’s Journey” that he improved his surfing tremendously when he started golfing. But how did he do that? And what has surfing in common with golfing? If you want to find out πŸ‘‰πŸ½ you should definitely keep reading.

If you’re interested in how to improve surfing technique you might be interested in that article as well How Surfskate Practice will make you a better Surfer

The featured image for this article was taken from the Website AtlantikSurf.


1. Intro – Kelly Slater about Golfing
2. Why Golfing?
3. Improve Surfing Technique by Golfing?
4. How can you improve Surfing Technique using that?
4.1. Keep a “Beginners Mind”
4.2. Take a targeted approach
4.3. Become an analyst of yourself
4.4. Small things can have a huge impact
5. Conclusion

Intro – Kelly Slater about Golfing

From here on out all the quotes you’re reading are taken from Kelly Slater’s biography Pipe Dreams – A Surfer’s Journey”.

Kelly had already four World Titles under his belt, when he started golfing. Nevertheless he claims to have had his best run ever competitivley, because he started to golf.

“Competitivley, I was having my best run ever, and I can say with confidence that it was because I started golfing.”

As a long time fan of Kelly Slater and being very interested in performance surfing, this really caught my attention. How could he say such a thing? What is it about golfing that Kelly found so special?

“When I go to a golf tournament, it’s like being at a pro surfing contest as a kid. I study all the players and check out their gear like I used to, and I’m still just as amazed.”

Now this is a quote I want to put an emphasize on for one reason πŸ‘‰πŸ½ I always thought there is a power in approaching things with a “beginners mind“.
You can’t improve at anything thinking you’re at the top of your game. Keeping that “beginners mind” helps to look at things from all angles and perspectives. It helps keeping your eyes open to things you might miss otherwise and seeing Kelly Slater taking that approach confirmed that theory for me.

Why Golfing?

But why golfing? Golfing wouldn’t rank high up on my list of sports that helped improve surfing technique. I’d probably have the likes of skateboarding, snowboarding and wakeboarding on that list.

“I’ll be the first to admit that surfing and golfing, on the surface, don’t have much in common.”

Well, at least it seems that Kelly is aware of that fact himself. But the answer is a little hidden underneath the surface.

“The key element I took from golfing was that the guys with the best technique were the most consistent.”

Isn’t that quote interesting? Wouldn’t you think a four time World Champion already knows that technique is the most important thing? I wonder if he would’ve been able to make that assessment hadn’t he approached golfing with the “beginners mind” I talked about a bit earlierπŸ‘†πŸ½.

Improve Surfing Technique by Golfing?

How does this all translate to surfing now? It seems that Kelly needed to learn that it is the little things, that can have a major impact on the bigger picture.

“So many little things can go wrong with your swing, and that got me thinking about my technique on a surfboard. I began obsessing over pictures and trying to figure out how my weight was distributed on my board, how that applied to the curve of the wave, and whether I came out of a turn with more speed or less, and if that was intentional […] I reasoned that if I had to recover from a move, I’d performed it slightly wrong.”

So the ultimate lesson Kelly Slater learned by starting to golf πŸ‘‰πŸ½ was the awareness on how the smallest mistake can have a huge impact on his overall performance. He also learned how important it is to keep a “beginners mind“, always looking for ways to improve even more.

“Instead of ever being fully satisfied with my surfing, I constantly search for ways to do it better. There’s always room for micro-improvements.”

How can You improve Surfing Technique using that?

Okay as interesting as this journey into Kelly’s mind might have been, how can all that help you improve surfing technique? Let me break this down into 4 lessons I have drawn from this excursion.

1. Keep a “Beginners Mind”

Keeping a “beginners mind”Β will help you to approach the whole thing from different perspectives. It will allow you to look at surfing from down below keeping a curious eye to things you might otherwise miss. It will give you the chance of looking out for new hints everywhere – instead of staying within your comfort zone falling victim to confirmation biasΒ πŸ‘‰πŸ½ only listening to the things youΒ already believe to be true.
Furthermore it will keep you improving for the rest of your life, never quite being satisfied with where you are from a performance standpoint. Just make sure that doesn’t turn into frustration – the beginner has fun doing what he’s doing.

2. Take a targeted approach

There are so many surfers out there (I know I used the be one of those) that simply don’t have a roadmap to improve their surfing. It is just surf session after surf session, not really concentrating on anything specific and even less so trying to look for ways to improve on land.
If you think you might fall into that category or you just want to take a more targeted approach you should definitely check out the Ombe Accelerated Surfer Program. You can start by reading my review of the Cardboard Surfer module.

3. Become an analyst of yourself

Start looking at footage of yourself surfing and skating. There is no way of knowing what you’re doing wrong, without looking at yourself performing. But that is simply fixed by filming yourself.
It might not be the easiest to get somebody to film you while you’re out surfing, but it’s darn easy to film yourself on a surfskate doing simulation practice. I’ve recently written the article How Surfskate Practice will make you a better Surfer and you should check it out, if you’re interested in that approach at all.

Surfskating practice Chris Genau improving surfing technique
Me in the process to Improve Surfing Technique by Surfskating (Instagram Account)

4. Small things can have a huge impact

In a highly technical demanding sport like surfing it is often the little things that can have an enormous impact on the way we’re performing in the water and this ties in nicely with the point I made above.
Film yourself and start becoming a student of the sport of surfing. You will only be able to find the little things if you a.) know what to look for in your own surfing and b.) have footage of your own performance to look at it to begin with.


Surfing and Golfing have one big thing in common – they’re both highly technical sports. By analyzing what it is the best surfers do and comparing these observations to your own performance, you will make leaps towards being a better surfer.
You will be able to lay out a roadmap of the things you have to work on and start taking a targeted approach.

In case you liked this article and you want to support me in writing more just like it – I would really appreciate if you supported me with the equivalent of buying me a coup of coffee β˜•οΈ.

Buy me a coffee Chris genau

If that article helped you, you might find this article interesting as well How Surfskate Practice will make you a better Surfer. I’m constantly looking for ways to improve my own surfing and writing articles about these topics – if you like to follow me along on that journey – I would love for you to go over there πŸ‘‰πŸ½ on desktop or down there πŸ‘‡πŸ½ on mobile and subscribe to my email list.

I hope this will help you improve your surfing and that you had a successful day wherever you might be in the big wide world out thee πŸ€™πŸ½

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