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Kelly Slater and his priceless, unforgettable barter with Rickson

The surfer Kelly Slater has been practicing martial arts since he was a child. The contact with jiujitsu, however, took a little longer to happen. Once, he told the judoka-turned-interviewer Flavio Canto, in a Brazilian television program:

"When I was 8 or 9 years old, there was a guy who lived near my house in California named Don Dragon Wilson, who was a kickboxing world champion. My brother and I went to his gym and did karate for a while. Then we stopped because of surfing, but you know, when you're a kid you want to learn martial arts. So I always liked it, but I only found out about jiujitsu when I came to Brazil for the first time in 1992."

It was around this time that Slater understood the philosophical and educational power of the jiujitsu of the Gracie family, and started relentlessly telling his fans and followers to "put your kids in jiujitsu before other sports."

"After I started training, I ended up meeting and becoming friends with many members of the Gracie family," said Slater. "Rickson was surfing in California and I would barter with him, swapping boards for jiujitsu lessons. In fact, martial arts are part of the Brazilian culture and I wish it was like that in the United States too. I wish I had grown up practicing jiujitsu." 

"I think both surfing and jiujitsu come in stages," he continued. "The things you learn always start with the basics and then everything gets more dynamic. There's also technique—the way you use your body has to be as efficient as possible. I've read a lot of Bruce Lee's stuff throughout my life. And a lot of his philosophy is that the physical, the mental and the emotional work together. You don't have to do a lot of things, but what you do has to be done very well."

Slater also said he always wanted to reach a high level, although it wasn't a priority. "I don't care about the color of the belts. It's more a matter of discipline, of learning, of developing."

In fact, on the beach or on the mats, Master Rickson Gracie's mantra holds true, and Slater has incorporated it into his way of life: "Jiujitsu is effective as a fighting technique, but it is not restricted to that: it is an essential art to leverage the development of human beings."


bradley gerlach Avatar
bradley gerlach commented:

Slater is an amazing human. Very intelligent along with mega physical talent. He is one of my favorite surfers and a friend too. I appreciate his contributions to surfing and have learned so much from watching him over the years. Stoked to learn that Rickson gave him his first lesson. I would be stoked to show Rickson some Wave Ki one day as I know he still loves to surf. Hit me anytime Rickson. I am a big fan and loved your book too. Brad

September 20, 2023 07:43 AM
carlos gama Avatar
carlos gama replied:

Thank you for the valuable feedback Brad.. We will forward it to Master Rickson

September 26, 2023 09:35 AM