Slater talks surfing with Dalai Lama

Rob Bourdon, Mike Shinoda, Kelly Slater, and will.i.am on the PTTOW panel last week. Emily Goodman/Saeger Media Group

Before the start of the Nike 6.0 Lowers Pro on Tuesday, current World No.1 Kelly Slater withdrew from the event. The waves in Australia were so good that he didn't want to leave, so he stayed an extra day and didn't arrive in the U.S. until Wednesday. "I also cut my leg a couple days ago and didn't realize how bad it was at first, so I decided to withdraw and give my spot to someone else," Slater says.

So, what did Slater do with his extra time last week? Meet the Dalai Lama, of course.

Wednesday afternoon, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama visited the UC Irvine campus to speak to a small group of action sports and corporate executives and young people as part of the third-annual PTTOW (Plan To Take On the World) Youth Media and Innovation Summit. He spoke about the power of young people to effect change in the world and their responsibility to begin thinking globally, rather than nationally. "In order to create a new shape of this planet, that is entirely on your shoulders," he said to the crowd, after asking anyone in the room who was 20 years old or younger to raise their hands. "Young people, you have a responsibility to create a better, more compassionate society. You must think in terms of global responsibility."

After his opening remarks, the Dalai Lama answered a few pre-submitted questions and then a celebrity panel including Slater and musicians will.i.am and Mike and Rob from Linkin Park discussed how companies like those represented in the room can better harness the power and passion of the young people they are trying to reach. "It goes without saying how important youth is in that way," Slater says. "But it's not only the youth, it's the way everyone works together and the platforms we create for communication."

One of the most laugh-inducing moments of the evening came when His Holiness, who was dressed in his usual red-and-gold robes and a white UC Irvine visor, answered the question submitted by Slater. (Slater first asked his Twitter followers what they thought he should ask the Dalai Lama.) His question: "Have you ever thought about catching a wave?" At first, His Holiness was confused by the wording of the question, so he turned to his translator. For the next very quiet minute or so, the extremely distinguished gentleman sitting to the right of the Dalai Lama attempted to explain surfing by gesturing with his hands and speaking in their native tongue. The Dalai Lama nodded several times, seeming to understand, and then smiled, laughed and turned back to the crowd. His response: "Never!"

He then went on to talk about he had grown up near a pond but never learned to swim. Now, when he travels, he often looks out the window of the plane while flying over great bodies of water and thinks about what would happen if the plane were to go down in the ocean. "I would be the first to go to the sharks," he said. How did Slater feel about having the opportunity to talk surfing with the spiritual leader of Tibet? "It's most likely a once-in-a-lifetime chance," Slater says. "I see it as a huge honor and on another level, he's just another person like I am."