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Opinion: The Terrible Legacy of Kelly Slater

Derek Rielly

by Derek Rielly

Or seven ways the greatest surfer ever ruined surfing… 

In Feb, Kelly Slater will hit 43. That ain’t news.

But what will be news is when Taj Burrow, 37 next season, officially takes the crown as the  Oldest Surfer on Tour. ‘Cause KS won’t be at the Quiksilver Pro.

Bells? Fuck no. Fiji, yeah, of course, who else is Lips Roseman going to have on his ski, Tahiti, yeah, Trestles, maybe, depending on how it looks this year, and then Pipe.

Because the sun must set on all empires, as it set on the British, the Ottoman and the French. And so next year, pro surfing will be without its great leader, the man who became, in 1992, the youngest ever world champion (20) and in 2011, on the precipice of middle age, the oldest.

But it all came at a price. Surfing? Ruined. You want a legacy of terrible?

1. He increased the retirement age by 100%

When Martin Potter won his world title in 1989, aged 24, he correctly recognised he was in the twilight of his career and soon retired. Kelly Slater, meanwhile, has slugged it out, and finished top two or better, mostly, in nearly every year he’s had a swing at the tour. For quarter of a century. Most pro’s could look forward to five years at the top then a long, sublime retirement as sales reps or as the principals of regional surf schools. Now? There ain’t no rest until the hair’s grey (or gone) and the body soft and beyond the middle age. Where’s the fun in making a million bucks a year for travelling the world your whole working life?

2. He confused the hell out of board design

It used to be so easy. Three fins. Squash tail. Something around six-two. Quads? Hadn’t they been tried and discarded in the eighties? Sub-six foot surfboards? Wasn’t that a quirk of the seventies? Kelly proved everything was rideable. But only by he.

3. Records? They ain’t going anywhere

Seven years ago, Kelly blew past Tom Curren’s record for event wins. Tom had 33. Kelly’s now at 54. Do you know what it’s going to take for anyone to amass that kinda haul? Or 11 world titles? It’ll happen, of course. All records smash. But the surfer who’s going to do it hasn’t been born yet. And you and I’ll be dead by the time this guy gets close.

4. He proved even world champs are duds at marketing

Sales used to be so easy! Get an endorsement from a world champ and watch the shekels pile up. But Kelly, from the Wizard Sleeve to the grim palette of his VSTR label, proved you can be the best in the world, handsome beyond belief, articulate, and just lovely as hell, and still stink in the market place. You think Quiksilver would’ve played such hardball if the trunks were selling?

5. He was the catalyst for the hipster-longboard movement

What are you going to do when you’re a 16-year-old pro surfer but you realise you’re never going to get close to the world champ? Ah! Ride a longboard! Grow hair! Experiment with heroin (but only smoke)! Pretend you don’t care! (But really do.) Join band! Feedback! Disappear from surfing, aged 27.

6. He made Rob Machado retire

After 1995’s sucker punch, the best screwfoot ever on tour threw it in prematurely to become an advocate for…uh…awesomeness? Hurley’s harlequin trunks? A year younger than Kelly and retired for a dozen years already.

7. Taj’ll never get a world title cup for his Yallingup mansion

Rat on him on IG (“Why don’t you thank your girlfriend?”), sure, we understand, you’re emotional, it’s your gal’s lil sis, but ruin his home decor? Just plain cruel.


Learn! 19 ways to to seduce a woman

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

Most importantly, watch your fucking voice, don't lie and smoke cigarettes…

Women are delicate creatures. Their skin is poetry. They smell like fields of perfume. Like strawberries. I love them. I like to touch them. Most men do. Many years ago the journalist Neil Strauss wrote a best seller called The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists in which he elucidates ways to “close” women. Have sex with them. He uses other ridiculous vocabulary like “peacock” and “layguide.”

It is not hard to seduce a woman. To get her to yes. It takes a handsome face, fit body, sense of style, fabulous hair, car or truck with a story, a little bit of money, a lot bit of panache.

Mostly, it takes a critical understanding of your worth.

First. Look in the mirror before you sally forth into the night. Or bar. Is your hair receding? Are you wearing a rayon shirt? Are you wearing jeans by Diesel? Is your jaw as weak as your constitution? If yes, no, yes, yes then do not NOT aim for the most attractive woman. Aim for a woman slightly uglier than you.

Unless. You are genuinely funny. And slim. Then you can aim higher.

Second. By funny, I mean not an over the top clown but someone who subtly elicits a smile. A quick witty word about global warming. Sexy Santa outfits.

Third. Target and approach. Don’t use a fixed line. Don’t be smooth. Be confident. Smile broadly and wink. Shoulders back but not awkwardly. Head up. Make sure super sure that she is in your wheelhouse. That you would not pollute her presence and she would not pollute yours. Again. If you are reading this you would probably pollute hers. Aim lower.

Fourth. Compliment. But never the shoes. Men complimenting shoes has become overly clichéd unless you know the difference between Louboutins and Manolos. Compliment her laugh. Her voice. The way she fingers her drink. The way she toes the ground.

Fifth. Watch your fucking voice as you compliment. Practice. Don’t let nerves make it waver. Or pitch too high. If you want to control a woman it begins with controlling your voice. Don’t be artificially low. Natural.

Sixth. Be totally cool with silence. Be totally cool.

Seventh. Buy her next drink.

Eighth. Buy her next next drink.

Ninth. Buy all her friends a drink. Even her man friends. Don’t glare at anyone. Smile and wink. Smile and wink.

Tenth. Take her outside for a smoke. Health issue bullshit. Nothing but nothing is sexier than a man properly smoking a cigarette. Inhale. Offer her one. Light it in your own mouth and give it to her. Don’t fish lip. Don’t smoke a cigar. Smoke a Marlboro or a Camel.

Eleventh. Hold her hand. Don’t ask. Don’t quake. Don’t sweat. Don’t interlock fingers. Just hold it.

Twelfth. Take her hand, and her, to your car. Tell her the stars are out. Don’t lie. They are.

Thirteenth. Don’t drive too fast and don’t curse other drivers. Have your music ready on car stereo. Have it be Imogen Heap. Or if you have seduced a lesbian, Tegan and Sara. Smoke another cigarette as you drive. Smoke it halfway and flick the still burning carcass at another car.

Fourteenth. Ask her where she lives. Drive to the beach. Or a hill. Sit and look at the stars. Let Imogen Heap wash over the both of you. Produce gum and chew a piece. Ask her if she’d like one too. Reach over and roll down her window. As you do, brush your lips past her neck. Cheek. Don’t kiss. Control.

Fifteenth. Don’t be wearing a fedora. Or headwear.

Sixteenth. Drive to her home. The long way.

Seventeenth. Drop her off. Have her point out her window.

Eighteenth. Drive around the block. Smoke another cigarette. Go back to her house. Sneak in her window. When she asks how you got there say, “With love’s light wings did I o’er perch these walls; For stony limits cannot hold love out, And what love can do, that dares love attempt.”

Nineteen. Make love.

The Vissla Syndrome: All Aggregate, No Bite

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

Does the surf consumer really want to watch Ollie Kurtz three separate times packaged three separate ways?

Hurricane Marie brought rarely experienced awesome to Southern California just last week. Newport Beach’s jetties, in particular, received mainland Mexico-esque swell and every surfer from Jamie O’Brien to Mason Ho to Jordan Smith came to enjoy.

Of all names, though, Ollie Kurtz from Central Florida caught the wave. A lurching and massive left off of Newport Point. I called him, while eating the most delicate xo crabmeat vermicelli, and asked how it felt.

“That wave? It completely missed where everyone was sitting. I got lucky because I had just caught one and was paddling back out and this thing swung so wide but I was right there…and I knew it was a good one because it had a shoulder on it. You need a shoulder and that one had a shoulder.”

And you certainly know which wave he we are speaking of, no? It headlined Surfline, Surfing and many more websites on the same day. Its gaping barrely, spitty mouth was, literally, everywhere. “Hmmmmm,” I said to myself when I saw it literally everywhere. “What happened to originality? What happened to exclusivity?”

I asked Ollie what he thought of getting such wide play and he answered, predictably, “Hey. As long as people are seeing it, I don’t care how many sites its on, to be honest.” Bravo enterprising young surfer, for the homogenization of surf media is great for you.

But what does this race to the middle mean for the bedraggled surf consumer sitting at home? Does she want to see the same clips on all her favourite sites? Does he want to watch Ollie Kurtz three separate times packaged three separate ways?


But what does this race to the middle mean for the bedraggled surf consumer sitting at home? Does she want to see the same clips on all her favourite sites? Does he want to watch Ollie Kurtz three separate times packaged three separate ways?

I think no.

I think the craft of surf journalism has fallen on particularly hard times due  to ever tightening budgets and ever increasing advertiser meddling. The easy thing to do is lurk on other sites and then re-post what is already there. It’s a view game, honey, and being an aggregator of proven, engaging content is a sure fire way to barely exist. But ohhhhh is it ever boring! Ohhhhh does it ever crush the very soul! Repackaging does not a new product make, see.

Take Vissla. Is the brand hip? Is it crafty? No! It simply saw “hip” and “crafty” as instantly profitable since the kids were posting handmade things on Instagram and usurped the look/feel. It ain’t real. And it probably ain’t profitable because what the kids are starving for is anything real.

But there is hope! There are fresh new entrepreneurs out there re-imagining for all of us. Yes, God bless The Inertia, I suppose, for posting things that nobody wants to see (like Laird Hamilton shooting Malibu’s pier). God bless, Desillusion, for being so damned Frenchy smokey sexy (tell me you don’t lust after Dylan Rieder). God bless Matt Warshaw for running the Devil’s errand and bringing us all The Encyclopedia of Surfing. God bless What Youth (who knew 300 pages of Craig Anderson could work?).

Those who live in glass houses, you say? Baby, BeachGrit’s abode has no walls. We believe in indoor/outdoor living.


Derek Rielly

by Derek Rielly

Buy a re-issue of the board that made Rusty Preiesendorfer famous and kicked Occ's career into gear…

I ain’t one for throwing money at useless causes. If I can get for five what sells for 10 I will. Phone plans? I’ll grind the companies into the ground for a $50 plan. Utlitilies? What’ll you give me if I combine gas and electricity? New car? I ain’t budging til those seats are nappa leather and the steering wheel has buttons.

But I like quality. I like the idea of buying something that’s been built from the ground up with the sole aim of beauty and excellence. And for that I’ll pay whatever.

See this board here? It’s 1200 shekels. I haven’t seen a board with that much on it since the nineties when Greg Noll and Miki Dora made a limited run of Da Cat boards at $1500 apiece. Now they’re worth 10-gees and up. If you can find one.

Mark Occhilupo reissue surfboard by Rusty and Billabong

You want authenticity? How about the original rice paper decals from Billabong, glass-on fins, and the same squared-off rails?

But maybe it ain’t a vanity purchase (unlike, say, a three-pack of Mandingos pawing your woman. Hello Pete Taras! You know I kid!).  This is a hand-made reproduction of the  surfboard that was made in 1983, but only ridden by its master Mark Occhhilupo who was the hottest 16-year-old surfer in the world back then, the following year and henceforth became known as the ’84.

The shaper, Russell Preisendorfer of Canyon surfboards, had been watching Occ surf heats at a contest in California in ’83 and saw the kid dying in his turns. Russ figured he could square up the rail and save him sinking.

Russ walked up to Occ, said, I wanna make you a board. 

Occ said, Yep, but didn’t ride it until the Pepsi Pro Junior the following year (he won it).

That year, Occ travelled with that one 6’2″ and used it everywhere from J-Bay to Japan to California, including a memorable win at the ’84 Op Pro

Russ calls the square rail and the squash tail his “one little contribution to the development of the thruster.”

And ’cause Occ was so hot everyone wanted a board from Russ. Soon it was 25 a month, then 75, finally 100 before he became the first guy to hire ghost shapers.

“I was making thousands,” says Russ who soon left Canyon to start up his own label.

Last year, Rusty surfboards’ Damon Hayes figured it would be rad to re-issue the board, complete with original decals, Occ’s classic Billabong sponsor logo, glass-in fins and team glassing. All hand-shaped by Russ himself. Rusty had made a version in the nineties called the ’84 but couldn’t dress it up like this ’cause of the Billabong clothing/Rusty clothing conflict.

Rusty gave a board each to their team riders at Rocky Point, Hawaii, last December for a group jam. Noa Deane, Josh Kerr and Jay Davies took ’em to the sky; Occ, meanwhile, waited half-an-hour for a set that was… just right… and put it on a rail like nothing had changed in the previous thirty years.

“It felt like I knew the board already,” says Occ. “It brings back a lot of memories. It kinda felt like home.

And the one small difference between the replicas and the original?

Because Occ was such an animal, Rusty placed the back fin 2 3/4″ from the tail so he wouldn’t spin out; the replicas are set at 3 1/4”. Russ respects you but says y’ain’t got the same jam as Occ. “No one’s got that same leg power,” says Russ.

Email: if you want one… 

EXCLUSIVE! Nike returns to Surfing! With Baby John!

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

Third time a charm for the titan of sportswear? I will answer now. No.

Two winters ago Nike sat their stable down in a North Shore home and said to each and every surf tanned face, “Go to Hurley.” Kolohe Andino looked through the window, morose. Julian Wilson stormed out of the room. And the surf world was semi-officially rid of Beaverton, Oregon.

The footwear giant first came in with a whimper called 6.0, maybe the most misbegotten idea of all time, then with a bang called Nike Surf. I embraced wholeheartedly and welcomed this second rendition. I felt their dollars would spur growth in a stagnant industry. I felt their being outside the traditional structure would help shake the evil conservatism that has rotted surf’s core. I felt that they would make a tech product that might be sexy.

Boy, was I wrong. They made one trunk and it was multi-colored yuck. And then they vanished before they could do anything of note. One measly year they lasted before disappearing in an ugly, nonsensical North Shore implosion. They added nothing. They did stupid things. They were gone before Billabong’s Graham Stapleberg (now of the ASP) could exclaim, “Hot damn! Nike’s 27 billion dollars in product sales is coming into surf? How will we compete?” while busily dreaming up horrible slogans.

Although it was disappointing to see Nike go so quietly and weirdly and pointlessly, I was happy because the company showed its true stripes (in multi-colored yuck) and who wants that? Who wants shit surf product heaped upon shit surf product (here’s looking at you Rip Curl)? The very last thing surf needs is more of that same.

But guess what? The coconut wireless is burning with rumor. Nike is returning for a third try, the whispers say. There is a plan, apparently, to take John John, who was signed by Hurley post-implosion, and Carissa Moore, hit the eject button on the rest of Bob’s crew and steal market share based on the most dynamic male surfer this side of Neco Padaratz. Part of John John’s deal was that he had to jettison Vans, which opens those feets up nicely. Nike would then be positioned holding only the Michael Jordans of surf and none of the excess baggage (also known as Michel Bourez and Alejo Muniz).

Again, it is only a rumor but my sources are good. And it was once only a rumor that Kelly Slater had thinning hair. A small, wounded part of me is happy to see Nike back because it will be very fun to see them fail miserably once again. It takes a lot more than 27 billion dollars to wow the cool kids. It takes a faux French name (just kidding D’Blanc). Really, it takes even the smallest measure of heart. Nike has none. And remember, when John John dons the Swoosh next year, you heard it here first. And Billabong’s Graham Stapleberg (now of the ASP) would like you to remember that, “Life’s better in boardshorts.”