Rebel for Hire

Johnny-Boy Gomes, like heavyweight champ Mike Tyson, was a knockout talent, with blinding speed, explosive power, and awesome confidence. He was also a bully and a thug. As surf journalist Tim Baker put it, Gomes had "soured more surf sessions, for more people, than anyone alive.”

Kelly Slater hand-painted his own boards, told reporters that Noam Chomsky was his favorite writer, and occasionally pulled a world-tour no-show. In other words, he did just enough to be thought of as independent and mildly quirky. Yet Slater was never less than a model surfer-citizen: likable and well-mannered and always acting—in the hoary but still-popular phrase—for “the good of the sport.” H...

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