Oliver McAfee, a 29-year-old gardener from Essex, England, is currently missing in the Negev desert, Israel. It’s feared he may be suffering from Jerusalem syndrome, a psychiatric condition triggered in certain people by a visit to the Holy Land.
The condition causes them to believe they are prophets or other biblical figures, or have in some way discovered some sort of religious truth. According to an article in the British Journal of Psychiatry in 2000, each year an average of 100 tourists with the syndrome are referred to a specialist clinic near Jerusalem, forty of them requiring admission.
I mention this partly because it’s interesting in its own right and partly in order to begin on a vaguely religious note. The main reason I mention it, though, is that Kelly Slater recently went on a “spiritual retreat” at the Rhythmia Life Advancement Centre.
The website of this luxury resort in Costa Rica claims that 93.26% of the guests “report a life-changing miracle during their stay”. Some will say this is a tenuous link but I’m afraid that tenuous links, along with the vaguely religious leitmotif, are pretty much the theme of this article.
Slater described his experience at the resort as the most profound of his life, characterising it as a “miracle of thought”. I only heard about it today, in a piece written by Surf Europe contributor Ben Mondy and published on the WSL website. The article’s called “What Will Kelly Do Next?” It’s a familiar question but a good one, and naturally Mondy makes a decent fist of it, suggesting a range of possibilities that includes a 12th world title, victory at the forthcoming Surf Ranch Open, and a berth in the WSL commentary booth.
Part of me thinks that whatever Slater does next he’ll be fine. He’s set for life: he has his own eponymous pool, and on good days can see his reflection in it. Whilst getting barrelled. It’s literally made for him. But another part of me worries for him, and the question has taken on a renewed urgency in the light of recent weeks.