Greg Webber and banana board
Will you just look at that beautiful continuous curve? Most boards are a three-part curve, a hit in the nose, a hit in the tail with a flat mid-section. But, this. Such tones, such harmonious ensembles. Question is, does it work? | Photo: Richard Freeman/

Greg Webber Just Shaped Kelly Three Banana Boards

And, this morning, he arrived at Bells with 'em… 

“If it wasn’t Kelly Slater I couldn’t give a shit,” says the semi-retired shaper Greg Webber, explaining his return to the shaping bay as he pulls a modern interpretation of his famous early-nineties banana board from the rear compartment of a station-wagon.

Greg has stopped, briefly, at a photographer’s studio in Sydney, en route to the surfboard’s destination at Bells Beach. He smiles.

“But if Kelly likes it…”

The surfboard is a five-ten squash tail, with flyer, all white, the Webber Rorshchach logo mid-deck, and when one holds it by the tail, nose down, and looks down along the deck, the famous continuous curve, or banana, reveals itself. The curve is as sculptural as it is beautiful. Such tones and harmonious ensemble. To even get the blank to shape the board, Greg had to physically bend the blanks to the required curve.

Greg Webber and banana board
This is not a flat bottom. See the concave all the way through to the nose? Anti-conventional? Yeah, it is. Dimension-wise, it’s 5’10”, 12 and a bit in the nose, 18-and-a-half in the middle, and 14″ in the tail.

Is it art or a workable machine?

A little history. In 1992, Kelly Slater won his first world title, that ain’t news. But, in that year’s first event, at Narrabeen, it was the Australian Shane Herring, on a Webber banana, who beat Kelly in the final. History has recorded Slater’s rapid upward trajectory as well as Herring’s equally rapid trajectory in the opposite direction.

But Kelly never forgot about Herring and, specifically, the turns he was able to create on Webber’s continuous curves.

“The boards didn’t have their full day in the sun, in my opinion,” Slater had told me earlier. “Did you see those turns Shane did on em? And Rommel (Michel Rommelse) and Richie (Lovett)? When the waves have substantial power and speed they’ll do whatever you want and opens up new places on the wave.”

Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely. Conventional enough outline. The art is in the rocker and the bottom curve. Photo by Richard Freeman.
Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely. Conventional enough outline. The art is in the rocker and the bottom curve. Photo by Richard Freeman.

On an earlier call, Greg had told me about a photo Kelly had sent him (super low-res, natch, so the photos can’t be reproduced even online) and I ask that he open it on his phone. Greg has talked the photo up like crazy and I’m sceptical. The little file, this photo that is pixelated even on the screen of a telephone, is almost beyond description. But let me try.

We see a wave, maybe four feet, and Kelly is 10 metres out on the face, rail buried from nose to tail. He is two-thirds of the way through a cutback, and if one imagines the final few frames, Kelly has transmitted a turn so experimental it is, absolutely, one of the best I’ve seen in surfing.

“I wish Herro had stayed with them longer and the older crew like Barton had been open to them,” said Kelly. “It seemed like Shane couldn’t deal with the huge difference in design (focused on him and his success) and carry the weight of it around and he simply quit them instead of taming them down a little. He went straight back to flatter rockers and vee-bottoms I think, which didn’t suit what he had built his surfing around with the tight pocket turns even though he had the low centre of gravity and power to ride anything. The whole design was like this crazy, radical evolution that died abruptly… They were like Greg’s Chernobyl experiment, just super volatile and unstable.”

If you’ve ever tried to surf a banana you’ll know what Kelly’s talking about. They ain’t for beginners. Unless you’re turning, you’re sinking. Get ’em moving and they’re rockets.

Greg and Kelly’s 2015 version has lowered the rocker, but not the nature of the continuous curve. Greg pulls out the analogy of the banana board as a turbo engine as opposed to the normally aspirated engine.

Nothing special, at low revs, but once the turbo kicks in? The trick, of course, is getting rid of the turbo lag. And, so, Greg and Kelly have a few different version of the curve. There are three versions in the back of Greg’s wagon, all untouched, except for my dirty fingerprints on curve #2.

“Low speeds are an issue. It’s a constant balance mixing speed and maneuverability,” said Kelly. “There’s no reason you can’t calm the curves down a bit. Different waves, different curves. We’ll all die looking still looking for the perfect board.”

Is the modern banana going to work? Will Kelly ride ’em at Bells?

“I don’t know where I’ll personally end up with it but I’m into a mix of different designs and ideas at the moment and I’m sure something good will come from it. I’m still riding CI’s and also working with Tomo a bit and even got a couple nice boards from Stacey. I’m sure Maurice will have a couple options for me at Bells also. I’ll likely hit up Simon to see if we can make something for J Bay. Just lots of design ideas getting thrown at the wall. And they all have their merits…”

Three, four, fins. And the dimensions of an ambitious experiment. Photo by Richard Freeman.
Three, four, fins. And the dimensions of an ambitious experiment. Photo by Richard Freeman.

(You like the photos? Come to Richard Freeman’s website. Click. Or Instagram. Click.)

Matt Biolos (screen left) wearing windshields and huh?
Matt Biolos (screen left) wearing windshields and huh?

Candid: Matt Biolos called me a Peruvian hooker

A sting worse than 1000 paper cuts.

Matt Biolos is known as many things. One of them is, most assuredly, not fashion icon. He generally pairs worn t-shirts with whatever else is in his closet and then liberally sprinkles fiberglass onto. His sunglasses range from overly large to why are you wearing a tinted windshield on your face? I think his shoes still have the puffiest tongues. He is perfect just the way he is and I hope his San Clemente circa 1999 never changes.

Recently, I went to pay him a visit. It was a sunny morning and the alley behind his shaping bay was alive with pleasure. I always look forward to our visits because Matt is not only very intelligent about surfboard design he is also very opinionated and well studied in global/local politics. He could be considered a sort of renaissance man, if hipsters had not utterly tainted the word.

I pushed into his shop and there he stood and he looked me up and down and said, “Did you buy those jeans that way or did they fade naturally? You look like Peruvian hooker.” I didn’t even have to look down to be mortified for I knew exactly what he was talking about.

Three years ago I found a perfect pair of jeans. They were made in Denmark by a fine label, Won Hundred, and they fit exactly, and I mean exactly, right. I wore them and wore them and wore them for two years but I became very worried that they would break down and I would be left without so I scoured the internet for another pair. Unfortunately there was only one in the same fit/measurements as my exactly right pair and it had an extreme wash. Deep dark blue everywhere except thigh and shin, where it turned a very much lighter blue. Still, I was so worried that I bought them. They came and, while I knew the wash wasn’t good, the fit was even better. I hoped that the dark deep dark would lighten a bit or the much lighter would darken or something.

Eventually, I stopped thinking about the wash because the fit was OMG. Women would ask me who designed. Men would stare with envy. And then I walked into Matt Biolos’ shaping bay and, like a very sharp tack, he popped my balloon. I could not lie to him and stuttered that I bought them that way. He laughed and continued to talk about the sorts of jeans that Peruvian hookers wear, the same sort that I was in, and I could not dismiss his description because I knew he was exactly, and I mean exactly, right.

I wear those jeans sporadically, still, but when women ask me who designed, I wonder if they are, secretly, Peruvian hookers. When men stare with envy, I wonder if they are merely pricing my services.

Maya Gabeira April Fools Day Prank
"BREAKING NEWS - Did Maya Gabeira just ride the biggest wave in history today? XXL Judges are working to determine if this late ride is eligible for the 2015 Biggest Wave Award and possibly the 100-foot wave bonus worth up to one million dollars. Stand by for more details about this potentially record-shattering day at Dungeons, South Africa." | Photo: WSL

Did Maya Gabeira Just Ride a 100-foot Wave?

Who knew the WSL was endowed with such a fine humour?

The WSL proved it isn’t averse to an April Fools prank either, and by proxy of it’s XXL arm, posted this photoshopped picture of Maya Gaberia earlier today.

The intrigue thickened with the cryptic caption: “BREAKING NEWS – Did Maya Gabeira just ride the biggest wave in history today? XXL Judges are working to determine if this late ride is eligible for the 2015 Biggest Wave Award and possibly the 100-foot wave bonus worth up to one million dollars. Stand by for more details about this potentially record-shattering day at Dungeons, South Africa.”

The gag proved a hit on Facebook, with Scott Burke keen to play along: “Guys, if this is a ‘joke’ it’s in particularly poor taste. Is it funnier because she’s a woman? Thought you’d be supporting that, rather than making jokes. (111 likes and counting)

From Gabriela: “This joke is tasteless, and disrespectful to Maya and shows that unfortunately surfing can be a sexist sport still now. Sad.”
From Juan: “If this is an April Fools joke you guys are a bunch of assholes for using Maya in it. Why use a woman that is truly breaking barriers in our sport? It truly shows the sexist bullshit that continues to plague a sport that should be pure and open to whomever can ride a wave with whatever means…”

The comments drew this response from WSL: “Don’t take it wrong people, we love Maya. She is the FIVE TIME XXL Women’s Best Overall Performance Award winner…. (And who else even has a division for women’s big wave surfing?) Happy April Fools to all (60 likes and counting).”

Oh, April Fools Day. How we love thee.

Confirmed! Kelly Slater ain’t retiring!

Gullible? Yes we are. April Fools, baby.

Kelly Slater has a surprisingly kooky sense of humour. I remember once, live, overdubbing a camp commentary, to the movie No Destination that was playing on a big-screen at Quiksilver’s head-office in France. The gag was a hit. Some party-goers were outraged (you mock homosexuals?) while others laughed at the absurdity.

Soon, another voice joined me, endowing the game with in-character banter for ten minutes.

“Oh Ross! Great turn! Who knew you had such spunk!”

“O0hh Shane, great… bottom… turn…”

Who knew Kelly had humour!

And, today, on Instagram, as April Fool’s Day fell in America, Kelly Slater announced his retirement.

“Big decisions in life don’t come easy and it’s taken a lot of quiet time and personal introspection to come this conclusion,” wrote the 43-year-old from Torquay, Victoria.

Twenty-two thousand fans double-tapped “like”; nearly two thousand were moved enough to write some kind of message, a litany of disbelief and wailing sadness.

Cruel enough for you? (Click here!)

But it ain’t true.

In a brisk email exchange, I wrote, “Yeah or non? Are you really done?”

“Non. Fucking gullible people, haha,” Kelly replied.

Mason Ho Made Me Look Stupid on the Internet

…and by beating Mick Fanning with one huck, he saved the WSL from a day of reckoning… 

If you are one of the few who didn’t happen to call me to let me know, yes, I am aware. Mason Ho won his heat at the Rip Curl Pro Bells and made me look terribly stupid on the internet.

But hate all you please, because I couldn’t be more thrilled! I may have egg on my face but we, and more importantly the WSL, have more live Mason time. Find me a contemporary shredder who ain’t glued to their screen for more action of the diminutive Hawaiian!

When Brett Simpo toppled Adriano De Souza I should have figured something was up. But at two-foot high-tide Rincon, with Mick Fanning, the three-time Bell ringer and defending champ in the red jersey, the kid never stood a chance.

But he did. And he nailed it! I was 0.03 from saying I told you so and couldn’t be more psyched! And you know what the best part was? He surfed fun!

Well, initially.

He sniffed at sections. I willed him on. He hunted closeouts. I wanted him to go. He found the sweetest little ramp of the morning and full-roted his way to an eight and the highlight reel like a young Reynolds circa 2005. He surfed exactly how he wanted to and we applauded.

And then he went into comp mode, and it got weird.

That 5.13? Sheesh. Ross Williams called it “funky” and “bordering on awkward” and it sure was. He found the lead, but it wasn’t over. If I know one thing about professional surfing it’s don’t count out the three-time world champion against the wildcard in his first ever dance on the main stage. On the beach Mike Ho was damn entertaining, tripping on every moment.

But it was enough, and Mason Ho defeated Mick Fanning and Freddy Patacchia and you all told me I was an idiot. And I was. He proved me wrong, and in doing so, Mason Ho saved the WSL from a day of reckoning.

WSL Commissioner Kieren Perrow is rubbing his hands together. Could you feel the vibe around Mason today? On a day of fat, weak Bells where only seven heats were run, the second event of the year running in sub-par waves, Mason is all anyone can talk about. You know Kelly and John John both surfed, right?

Mason is hot property. He’s the guy who you tune in to see. Even Bobby Martinez probably watched him surf! He’s different and we love it. He flared in the water and giggled at Todd Kline in his post-heat interview without mentioning three-to-the-beach or building a house or some other surf garbage. When Todd asked Mason if he’d ever dreamed he could beat Mick Fanning at Bells, Mason said, “Yes!”

The kid brings traffic, and traffic to a WSL webcast is Paul Speaker’s dream. You think the WSL is missing Alana Blanchard on the girl’s roster this season?

Mason wants to be on tour. Is very public about wanting to be on tour. And the tour wants Mason to be a part of it.

But does the tour fit Mason? Or was this an entertaining, and one-off, curio?