Kelly Slater's signed jersey is aboard the International Space Station

January 10, 2020 | Surfing
Kelly Slater's number 11 jersey: orbiting around the Earth on the International Space Station | Photo: Koch/NASA

Kelly Slater's 2019 Oi Rio Pro jersey is currently orbiting around the Earth on the International Space Station (ISS).

The 11-time world champion gifted American astronaut and scientist, Christina H. Koch, the signed singlet Slater competed with in Rio de Janeiro, in June 2019.

Koch joined the crew at the ISS as a flight engineer on March 14, 2019, and soon showed her passion for surfing by tweeting and reporting ocean conditions as seen from the sky.

World Surf League and NASA worked together to get the iconic shirt in space during a re-supply mission.

On October 18, 2019, she and Jessica Meir became the first women to participate in an all-female spacewalk. And, by December 28, 2019, she broke the record for most time spent in space.

Kelly Slater was obviously thrilled with having his autographed jersey floating at an average altitude of 250 miles (400 kilometers) above Earth's surface.

"So, my Oi Rio Pro jersey made its way into lower Earth orbit on the ISS to my friend Christina, who is spending 11 months up there!" said Slater.

Kelly Slater has reasons to be proud of himself. His number 11 jersey is the first surf contest single to have been blasted into space.

Christina H. Koch has always praised the champion's skill. She said his abilities are were "out of this world."

It is fair to say that Slater's clothing brand name - Outerknown - has never been so appropriate.

In the early 1990s, American naval officer and Space Shuttle commander David M. Walker took a copy of Eastern Surf Magazine (ESM) into orbit.

At the time, his son Matt Walker was the editor of the surf publication.

An Interstellar Surf Chat

The Floridian has already had a private live chat with the astronaut, but another interstellar public conversation took place on Friday, January 10, 2020.

Surfing fans and space enthusiasts were invited to ask questions.

Here are some lightly edited excerpts from the interview:

Kelly Slater: How long the wait list is to get up to the space station?

Christina H. Koch: Well it is pretty long but it is something that I think everyone has a shot at. Being an astronaut is an awesome career and I never personally thought that I would be lucky enough to be here.

It has been something I wanted to do my entire life and I was fortunate enough to be able to do it.

The things I'm passionate about actually led me here eventually so I think the waiting list is as short as your dreams are big, really, because anybody that puts her mind to it could be here and I think the opportunities are going to keep growing.

Kelly Slater: People online want to know if there's trash floating around in space?

Christina H. Koch: I think maybe they mean the trash that could be out in space like space debris.

And yes, that actually is something that we deal with onboard the space station because if we collide with something - even if it's a really small - because we're going 17,500 miles per hour can actually cause a lot of damage. Potentially even a leak in the hull of the space station or if we're on a spacewalk, it could cause a problem with our spacesuit.

So that is something we pay attention to, but it's not something we see a lot of thankfully.

Kelly Slater: I saw that you guys watched the meteor shower the other day from the space station.

Christina H. Koch: Yes, that's correct. I've actually been meaning to do that my whole mission up here. It took me till almost the 300th day, but I heard about it.

I was reading the news, and I heard about it, and I literally went straight to the cupola and set up a time-lapse to try and capture it, and I got really lucky and got to see some meteors. So that was awesome.

Kelly Slater: Do you miss the blue skies?

Christina H. Koch: That is such an awesome question. In fact, it took me about halfway through my mission before I even realized that I hadn't seen the sky. We do not have any blueness to the the environment around us at all.

We just look out the window into space facing the Earth, and I we see is the blackness of space and we when we look on the Earth, the only blue that we see is from the water usually for overland.

It just looks like normal land color, either green or a beautiful red over a desert, so we don't see that blue of the sky.

The one place you could say we do see it is at the time of the sunrise or sunset when we can actually kind of make out the atmosphere on the horizon of the earth and its really, really beautiful.

But no, I have not seen a blue sky since I've been up here and I was just thinking the other day that I cannot wait to look up and see the blue sky.

Christina H. Koch: floating in space alongside Slater's number 11 jersey

Kelly Slater: How did you get into surfing and, obviously, are you missing it while being up there?

Christina H. Koch: I do miss it a ton. In fact, I think that's - aside from seeing my family and friends - getting back into that is one of the things I'm looking forward to the most - in the very least, just getting back to the beach.

I do live at the beach in Galveston, Texas, so taking a walk on the beach is going to be kind of the top of my list when I'm back. I got into surfing through my husband. I met him in American Samoa where I was working on a remote climate station for NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

And, you know, he's a hardcore surfer, and he had taken a job in Samoa as well. Partially for work but surfing a little bit more to do with it, so since then we've been surfing and taking surf trips all over the place, and of course we surf in Galveston together.

I've always been a water person. I went to the beach. I grew up in coastal North Carolina and basically lived at the beach in the summers.

And I was a big sailor and did stand-up paddleboarding and things like that, so getting into surfing was kind of a natural progression, and it was a way really kind of embrace the outdoors in Galveston.

Kelly Slater: What's your favorite bit of coast around the world that you've looked at from up there?

Christina H. Koch: That is a great question. I have had the chance to take so many amazing pictures of coastlines, and they're definitely my favorite thing to take pictures of.

There's one that just stands out so much because it was so starkly beautiful and so unique. And that's the Skeleton Coast of Namibia.

Skeleton Bay is famous - I think - for that left, and it was just seeing how the wind sculpts both the waves and the desert that's around that area and how remote it was and just what a beautiful piece of the planet it was, I'll never forget flying over that. It was awesome.

Kelly Slater: I look forward to catching up in person and getting to surf this year once you get back and congratulations on all this. You've inspired so many people.

Thanks for the chat, and I guess I'll see you soon.

Christina H. Koch: Kelly, that sounds great. Thanks so much for taking the time to be with us today and for your interest. I would definitely love to check out some surfing sometime. We can definitely host you in Galveston and take you surfing like we do down there on the Texas coast. Have a great day!