Kelly’s potential post-2017 retirement has been well publicised – as it is every year Kelly could potentially retire. But even after compelling interviews and Instagrams from the Floridian, it’s unsurprising to learn that he’s still unready to give up being a competitive anomaly. After his round three exit at the Volcom Pipe Pro, Kelly spent a few minutes with Los Angeles Times reporter Joe Haakenson. As he can't help but do, Kelly delivered some wildly insightful bites...
On how it felt getting out early in a contest he won the year prior, Kelly said: "It's tough because you get in your head. It's a different place than never having won a contest. Having won a lot of contests and then not win for a long time, it's really easy to overthink things and not just go with what you have trained to do and what you know.
“I feel like watching Tiger (Woods), I can understand how little confidence he's feeling right now, because I was definitely having a tough time building up my confidence the last couple years.”
Expanding on the topic of confidence and winning contests, Kelly hinted at taking one last swing at winning a world title in 2017: "People took it that way, but it's not necessarily the case. I may pull back and just not do any full years. I don't foresee myself stopping doing contests anytime soon, but that full tour thing might not be too appealing.
"I feel healthy this year, so if I give it my all and don't win, then I doubt that I'll do more full years. I feel like I've put in four or five years just now where I honestly didn't give a full effort. Not that I didn't try when I was in heats, but it's a lot of the preparation and mindset going into contests and being excited about it and finding a reason to want to win and to want to be where you're at. Even if the waves are terrible, or you feel sick, or you're on the other side of the world and you have a family issue. You have to push past all that and want to be there and want to be prepared.”
Isn’t Kelly’s self-awareness just everything?
"I have no shortage of things to do, I have a shortage of time. I’ll be pretty full-on busy as soon as I'm off the tour with more business-side stuff. Or, I might even just pull back from that completely and just spend all my time traveling and surfing for a couple years. I love the lifestyle so much. My favourite thing on earth to do is get a good wave, that's what this whole thing in my life is all about. In a lot of ways I think surfing now is the way we wished it was then."
The champ also knows that leaning into the corporate world is no breeze.
“There's a give and take. For more opportunity as a career for people, you're naturally going to have more crowds and a lot less privacy. A lot fewer surfs where there's no people in the water and more of that corporate and business interest that's in the sport. It's the nature of the world, things are growing and expanding and anything that becomes viable financially people want to capitalise on that. It's a funny thing, it's real easy to say oh we don't need corporate. But we all make a living because there's a business behind this thing. As long as we do it responsibly and in good faith towards our sport I don't see any harm in it. But there's a sort of purity to the grass roots of surfing that none of us wants to see disappear or taken away either. So I think we all have at some level conflicted feelings inside about surfing and business mixing.”
And obviously, the most pressing question to ask the 11-time World Champ in the eyes of an LA Times reporter… will Kelly be at the US Open?
“That event makes your head spin; I really don't look forward to surfing that event again because I did it so many years it's kind of one of those 'been there, done that' things. The problem is, that time of year (early August) the wind every day is predictable. It does the same thing every darn day.”
Eleven world titles, but Kelly still gets irked by onshore winds.