If we’re honest, and we always are, Kelly Slater, aka “The Michael Jordan of Surfing,” is practically a god among surfers. He’s won eleven World Champion of Surfing titles, a record number and in 1991 he was one of People Magazines’ 50 Most Beautiful People in the World. At forty-one, he was the oldest person to win a professional surfing contest. Nowadays, the forty-seven-year-old Kelly is hosting Ultimate Surfer, and there’s no doubt that this incredibly skilled surfer deserves a film, possibly based on his 2003 novel “Pipe Dreams: A Surfer’s Journey.” We’d watch him all day, and frankly, we’d just cast him as himself if we could.
However, since Slater has been so busy surfing and hosting the show, we thought we’d come up with the top-five actors who should play Kelly Slater in a movie list for fun. Typically we list actors in order of who we’d cast first, but this time there were so many good choices we have to add a note: These are only alphabetized. Any one of these outstanding actors brings something unique to the table as the Greatest Surfer in the World (on film). Ultimately the choice came down to five of films’ finest who can surf in real life. After all, you can’t play Kelly Slater if you can’t surf.
1. Gerard Buttler
When it comes to going ‘all out’ for a role, there’s no one quite like Gerard Butler. We hear he first tried surfing at the age of seventeen, but he didn’t get serious about it until he was cast as Frosty Hesson in Chasing Mavericks, which was one of the best surf movies ever made. Part of the credit for that goes to the many professional surfers who helped with consulting on the outstanding film. Not only did Chasing Mavericks catch some of the best footage ever recorded (at the time) of people surfing real waves, but Gerard went above and beyond. He was injured during the filming process when a massive wave pulled him under. We know he’d make an outstanding Kelly Slater and do him real justice, even if he has to get hurt to pull it off right. That’s the sort of actor who deserves to be cast as The Michael Jordan of Surfing.
2. Scott Caan
When it comes to genuinely worthy surfing actors, Scott Caan, son of the famed James Caan, is right up near the top of our list. Not only has he been surfing since his childhood in Malibu, but he teaches kids to surf in his spare time. Scott has been an active volunteer with Surfer’s Healing in Malibu for a long time. It would be hard to find a better recommendation than that for the Hawaii 5-0 actor. He may not be Kelly Slater, but Caan is every bit as much a part of surfing culture, and he works hard to stay active, helping kids with Autism learn to surf. We know Scott can do his own stunts for whatever movie they might make about surfing. In our eyes, being a life long surfer is a big bonus when it comes to playing one on TV. The fact that he’s got a heart of gold and volunteers in his spare time at a surf-related charity is just the cherry on top. All we have to say to the casting Director is book ’em Danno. (For those who aren’t Hawaii 5-0 fans, that’s a reference to his character Danno on the show.)
3. Zac Efron
It seems like a lot of celebs spend their time surfing. From Cameron Diaz to Jason Momoa. While we can’t very well suggest Cameron for the part, Momoa almost made the list, given that he surfs and even worked in a surf shop. However, we felt the Polynesian hunk was probably a little too tall, and we wouldn’t want him to shave that trademark hair for anything. Hence we added Zac Efron to the list. Born in 1987, he’s one of the youngest actors we considered for the role. Don’t get us wrong; Zac deserves his spot on the list as much as anyone. He’s been surfing for a long time. He even participated in the 2010 Oakley’s Learn to Ride event on Surfing Day at Bondi Beach, Australia. Bringing focus to the sport is a worthy contribution to be sure, but that’s not the only thing he’s done on the beach lately. As Matt Brody on the Baywatch reboot, he spent plenty of time getting sand, sun, and surfing time.
4. Matthew McConaughey
We know he was in Surfer Dude, which was arguably one of the worst surf movies ever. We thought it was about time to give him a chance to redeem himself since he’s been hitting the waves ever since filming that movie back in 2008. When we think about actors with blue eyes, who look like they were born to shoot the pipe and catch gnarly waves, McConaughey is honestly the first person who comes to mind. His surf-movie faux pas notwithstanding, we think he could do a much better job playing the role of a surfer. While some movies seek to find an actor who’s the perfect look-alike, there are lots of exceptional films that don’t. Any movie with Matthew as Kelly would be in the latter category. Regardless, we think it would be a blast to see the quintessential surfer played by someone who looks like he should be ‘that guy.’
5. Ryan Sheckler
Oddly, Sheckler has a connection to both surfing and Zac Efron’s co-star Dwayne Johnson. He acted alongside Johnson as a hockey player in Tooth Fairy. Regardless of the odd links, one thing is sure. Ryan is an intensely physical person. Between pro skating and surfing, he’s done a lot to help popularize sports. As an actor, Sheckler is not quite as accomplished as the rest of our selections, but we enjoyed him in Life of Ryan, and we think he’d make an excellent young Kelly.
Casting a surfing legend is tough, and the job is made tougher by the fact that there are so many surfing actors. We hope you enjoyed our list of actors we think could do well as Kelly Slater. Do you have suggestions of your own to add? Let us know what surfing actor you think deserved a spot on the list.