Kelly Slater's Pro Surfer: probably the best surfing video game of all time

For many, it is the best surfing video game of all time. "Kelly Slater's Pro Surfer" was released by Activision on September 16, 2002.

The physics and depiction of water and waves have always been tricky for game developers and gaming engines.

However, there's always a way to keep it simple and simultaneously fun, entertaining, and somehow surprisingly real.

"Kelly Slater's Pro Surfer" did that and became a treasured gem; the closest thing surfers ever had to "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater."

Kelly Slater's Pro Surfer: the official PS2 game cover

The Ultimate Surf Boat Trip

The innovative surfing game was developed by Treyarch and published by Activision.

It was designed to give players a realistic surfing experience and was endorsed by the professional surfer himself, Mr. Kelly Slater.

However, the Floridian was not involved in its marketing and promotional strategy because he was always too busy training to become an 11-time world surfing champion.

The title was initially released on several platforms, including PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube, Game Boy Advance (2002), and later on PC and macOS (2003).

The idea behind the game was to give players a chance to experience the thrill and excitement of surfing without having to leave their homes.

The characters, the surf spots, and the surf-traveling narrative worked smoothly to deliver a feeling of exploration and discovery.

And you only needed a few minutes to get hooked for life aboard Slater's boat trip - despite the obstacles and environmental hazards you must face and dodge.

The game was designed to be both challenging and fun, with different game modes and difficulty levels to cater to players of all skill levels.

Oddly enough, it starts in a wave pool, a technology Slater would later invest in to build his Surf Ranch.

However, when his game was released, the idea of riding transparent waves indoors seemed something that could only come out of a video game.

Kelly Slater's Pro Surfer (2002): the GOAT anticipating the wave pool revolution

Multiple Gameplay Modes

The gameplay in "Kelly Slater's Pro Surfer" is divided into several different modes, including "Career Mode," "Free Surf," "Challenge Mode," and "Multiplayer Mode."

In "Career Mode," players create their own surfer and compete in various events around the world to become the top-ranked surfer.

"Free Surf" allows players to surf any available locations without any time limits or restrictions.

"Challenge Mode" involves completing various tasks and objectives to unlock new levels and items.

"Multiplayer Mode" allows players to compete against each other in various surfing events.

Kelly Slater's Pro Surfer: the games features 13 characters and 16 world-class surf breaks

Characters, Surf Breaks, and Soundtrack

The title features several real-life professional surfers, including:

  • Bruce Irons;
  • Donavon Frankenreiter;
  • Kalani Robb;
  • Kelly Slater;
  • Lisa Andersen;
  • Nathan Fletcher;
  • Rob Machado;
  • Tiki God (unlockable);
  • Tom Carroll;
  • Tom Curren;
  • Tony Hawk (unlockable);
  • Travis Pastrana (unlockable);
  • Surfreak (unlockable);

The game also features several famous surfing locations, including:

  • Antarctica;
  • Bells Beach;
  • Cortes Bank;
  • Cosmos;
  • Curren's Point;
  • G-Land;
  • Jeffreys Bay;
  • Jaws;
  • Kirra;
  • Mavericks;
  • Mundaka;
  • Pipeline;
  • Sebastian Inlet;
  • Teahupoo;
  • The Wave House;
  • Trestles;

The soundtrack comprises the following tracks and artists:

  • Ben Harper: "Faded";
  • Christophe Goze: "Sirocco";
  • The Funky Lowlives: "Nota Bossa - Ascension";
  • G. Love & Special Sauce: "Unified";
  • Greyboy: "Mastered the Art";
  • Jack Johnson: "Middle Man";
  • Jeremy Kay: "Back to You";
  • Mo' Horizons: "Foto Viva - Nicola Conte Remix";
  • Pearl Jam: "W.M.A.";
  • Perry Farrell: "Nua Nua";
  • Quantum Dub Force: "Quantum Zone";
  • Rae and Christian (feat. Jungle Bros.): "Play On";
  • Rae and Christian: "Ready to Roll";
  • Satan's Pilgrims: "Step it Up";
  • Shur-I-Khan: "Advance";
  • Si*Sé: "Steppin Out";
  • Smith & Mighty, Rudy Lee: "No Justice";
  • Soul Hooligan: "Psychedelic Soul";
  • The Space Cossacks: "Solaris Stomp";
  • Sunchild: "Vagabond Parade";
  • Third World: "1865 (96° In The Shade)";
  • Thunderball, Mustafa Akbar: "Heart of the Hustler";
  • Thunderball: "Vai Vai";
  • Truby Trio: "Alegre";

Kelly Slater's Pro Surfer: tube riding looks and feels real

A Realistic Feel

The game's main goal is to become the top-ranked surfer in the world by competing in various contests and winning them.

Players can earn points by performing various tricks and maneuvers in the wave, and the higher their score, the better their chances of winning the event.

There are aerial tricks, wave face tricks, floater tricks, and tube tricks for players to try and impress during photo ops.

The game received generally positive reviews from critics and fans alike, with many praising its realistic surfing mechanics and exciting gameplay.

But it was also praised for its graphics, sound, and level design. Some of them could feature in any modern surfing video game.

"Kelly Slater's Pro Surfer" raised the bar and set a new high standard for simulating wave riding on video game consoles and computers.

The overall feel helped to make it a standout title in the sports gaming genre, while its diverse range of game modes and real-life professional surfers made it appealing to a wide range of surfers and gamers.

While skateboarding and snowboarding games spread across mainstream audiences, the unexplored market of electronic surfing titles still waits for a new-generation revolution.

Interestingly, Kelly Slater appears as an unlockable guest skater at "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3."

Kelly Slater's Pro Surfer | Metacritic's Aggregate Review Score

  • PC: 82/100;
  • Xbox: 80/100;
  • GameCube: 80/100;
  • PS2: 77/100;
  • Game Boy Advance: 72/100;

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