Has Kelly Slater finally been deposed? Will he be jealous?
Kelly Slater has sat alone at the top of the sexy heap for 20 years. 30 even. That Syrian skin? Those piercing eyes? Pouty lips? Wonderfully symmetrical head? Etc. He is a Bruce Webber dreamboat, obvs. But guess what? There might have been a changing of the guard!
Hawaiian Surfer Koa Smith just won V-Man magazine’s VMAN/Ford model search! Andrew Sayer, editor of the equally gorgeous Later mag, sent it to me this morning in an email and asked, “How jealous are you?” I tried to be a model once but was only offered, maybe, to be shot for Playgirl because “They like men with other jobs…” i.e. I was never going to be a model i.e. I’m not Kelly Slater. Or Andrew Sayer (he is very handsome too).
It's the device that either separates or connects you to the most profound of pleasures. Get to know it!
Go buy a surfboard. Yeah, of course!
It’s that great toy that provides such thrills for so little money. But how many of us have left the shop or the bay with a mixture of disappointment and a feeling of being ripped off?
You can’t blame the shaper. Unless you’ve been going to a total backyarder you’ll get what you asked for. So how do you get the surfboard you want. And need. Think a little and know that:
1. Volume is important but rocker is everything
Everyone’s hot for knowing their surfboard’s volume in litres. I’m a 28; you’re a 24. Life’s great. But knowing volume is no different to knowing your jean size but being unaware of rises and cuts and silhouettes and how tapered you want your legs. Me? I believe the key to getting a surfboard that’s going to skyrocket your confidence is in low rockers, particularly nose rockers. Curvy boards are like standing on rolling logs. You want stable. When you paddle you want fast. Sure, know how many litres are in your board, but start thinking about rocker.
2. Board design is a game of give and take
It’s physics. A curvy board won’t have drive. A flat board won’t fit a curve. I know, I know. You read the spiel about a model and they’ll say, easy to turn and with drive! It can’t happen. The theory is concave will deliver the speed while the curve in the rocker gives the turn. What you get is a twitchy speed from the concave but not drive which is an earthy V-8 kinda torque. All board design is about adding and subtracting until you find the happiest of mediums. The more extreme one aspect of design, the more it’ll lack in another. Which leads to…
3. What kind of surfing are you chasing?
It’s no accident that the smoothest and fastest surfers (think Mick Fanning and Joel Parkinson) have shelved their air games. Both ride boards that are made for speed and drive and the most pleasing of real-estate gobbling cutbacks. Filipe Toledo, on the other hand, rides boards that… pop! Heavy tail curve! So apply it to your own game. If you want to paint trad lines, try variations of the Parko/Fanning boards; airs, try Filipe or Noa Deane.
4. Rails? Remember those?
Square or rolled, what’s it going to be? Rails used to be such a big deal and now we kinda take what we’re given. If a shaper is trying to squeeze your 28 litres into a 5’6″ you’re going to get a full rail; if it’s in a 6’1″, they’ll be rolled to the heavens. Maybe it’s time we stole some of our control back. You like basic, easy-to-ride boards? Go squared-up rails. You want volume but a thin rails and don’t mind a loss of stability. Roll ’em.
5. Team glassing
Just once in your life, order a board that is glassed the same as the pro’s. It won’t last, of course. But you’ll discover another of those semi-secrets: super-light boards are the easiest to throw around.
Rich Porta breaks down Kelly Slater's attempted air at the Hurley Pro…
Did I ever tell you about the time I became a WSL judge, if ever so briefly, at the US Open? And how, upon throwing open the door to the judges’ tower, I was greeted by naked pro surfers serving food while studs or “cockmongers” (a young pro chosen for his large penis) fondled each other in front of the judges, arousing them greatly?
Of course, the conspiracy shit that surrounds the WSL judges is as dumb as it is awesome to read. And, Rich Porta, the Australian head judge, is anything but secretive about how the game is called.
In this clip, Kelly talks through the air he nearly made at the Hurley Pro; Rich explains why it got such a shitty score.
Kelly is forensic, as usual, and admits to thinking, since he landed in an explosion of whitewater, maybe he’d be able to ride out of it and no one would know a thing. Occy did it back in the eighties at Huntington and won the contest.
“I felt like I screwed up a normal air reverse,” says Kelly. “I didn’t realise I was so detached from my board. My knees smashed into both rails ahead of the deck pad and perfectly on a plane…I got off my knees and onto my feet and I realised I was in the whitewater. (I thought) it might almost look like it was landed…”
Y’ain’t fooling Rich Porta.
“You’ve gotta remember this is the best 34 surfers in the world,” says Rich. “They have to complete these manoeuvres. If you do the most amazing aerial in the world, the most amazing aerial the world’s ever seen, and you land on your belly, it’s an incomplete manoeuvre. Everyone has to realise it’s an incomplete manoeuvre. It’s worth nothing. The surfers know all that. There’s no dissension among the athletes about that score.”
And if he’d landed clean?
“The score would’ve been no problem,” says Rich. “It would’ve been a ten.”
A world far beyond the familiar names of Darren Handley, Matt Biolos, Jason Stevenson and Al Merrick…
Who doesn’t want the best in life? Coffee, food, cars, we want the best our incomes can provide.
And the best thing about surfboards? Give or take a hundred here, a fifty there, they cost exactly the same.
So logic tells us to follow in the trails of the world’s best surfers: Mick Fanning, Julian Wilson, Joel Parkinson, Jordy Smith, Kolohe Andino, Dane Reynolds.
Therefore we ride Channel Islands and DHDs and Losts and JSs. And we rarely lose.
But what about those shapers who don’t have the same media profiles? Is it possible we’re missing out on new experiences and new approaches to our boards? Maybe, yes!
Let’s investigate five shapers with whom you need to get acquainted.
1. Johnny Cabianca
Proof his boards work: Gabriel Medina
Did you know the current world champ had been with Spanish surf co Pukas since he was 14, only leaving earlier this year when his shaper Johnny moved back to Brazil? Watch Gabriel surf, closely, and see how connected he is with his surfboard, how he neither has to over or under surf it, how it works as an extension of his limbs. His shaper Johnny Cabianca is Brazilian but, until earlier this year when he split home, lived in the Basque Country, working for Pukas, shaping Gabriel’s boards.
Further proof? Lost’s Matt Biolos says he’s as good as anyone in the world.
2. Marcio Zouvi, Sharp Eye
Proof his boards work: Filipe Toledo
You’d be alone if you didn’t watch Filipe surf and think, man, if only I could jump on one of those magic boards. Brazilian Marcio moved to California in the eighties and started Sharp Eye surfboards in 1992. Interestingly, and particularly interesting given his geographical location, he’s never shaped a longboard, preferring the thrill of the ultra high-performance. Inspect the Holy Toledo, Disco Inferno and Game Changer models, all favourites of Filipe.
3. Blake Peters, Panda
Proof his board work: Ford Archbold
This is a different buzz to the boards of Gabriel and Filipe. Panda Surboards is owned and shaped by the Australian Blake Peters. Team rider Ford ain’t one for hitting the lip 40 times to the beach, as awesome as that is. Ford likes speed, likes to layback under the lip, spreads his wings as much as poss, and so, Blake can make an easy-to-ride board that still flies. Try Ford’s model The Fried Till You Die.
4. Daniel Thomson, Tomo/Firewire
Proof his boards work: Kelly Slater
Maybe you’ve heard of Daniel Thomson, at least since Kelly whipped one out at Snapper Rocks in March. Daniel Thomson is a incredibly stylish natural footer from Lennox Head in Australia whose move to Southern California, and recent signing with Firewire, has seen his star rocket. Daniel makes surfboards that look unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Pretty? It depends upon your perspective of what a surfboard should look like. Do they go? Kelly says, yes.
5. Rich Landerer, Rickland
Proof his boards work: Jamie O’Brien.
Born in Peru, raised in Florida, learned the game in California. And it’s not just tail-throwing, Pipe hell-raising Jamie O’Brien on his boards. Sunny Garcia, Ross Williams and current WSL surfer Brett Simpson all jam on his shapes. Attention to detail is Rich’s speciality. Look him up.
How fluttery and depressing the response to Kelly Slater’s unmade air yesterday. The snarling, the bared teeth, the traumatised sphincters!
“Ridiculously ripped off!!”
“You guys suck”
“You chicken-hearted motherfuckers! All you bastards are cunts!”
“How was that not a 10!!”
And, from Millar Moaz on the WSL website, “The [sic] Judgs kiled the contast… shame on you!!”
What the judges did do, was avoid emotion. Rulebook in-hand they stuck to the criteria, dropping scores from 3.8 to 5.
No argument, no hesitation. The computer kicked out the high and the low, averaged the rest and… a 4.17.
Judges don’t give a score based on best intentions or how loud the crowd screams. Just cold hard truths.
Then again I would agree. I am a Judge.
Which means I’m just another paid cog in the wheel of the Jewish bankers’ Trojan horse, built to hold surfing back in the dark ages of three to the beach and keeping contests in big-city locations. Dutifully trained to change my scores whenever the head-judge nods his head up or down.
The Judges, the judging, I’ve heard it all. Big-ticket calls like this just fuel the fire of discontent at ground zero.
Another reason for eight-year-old Taj or Jack’s mum to accost me pre-surf in the car park two weeks after the comp, video evidence in hand.
“Everyone on the beach thought he got the score”
Another reason for the normally meek but now belligerently drunk fourth placing finalist shouting in my ear at the surf-comp after party.
“You guys don’t want me to win, ay.”
Another reason to send a text highlighting my inability to see how that window-washer turn was in fact a fins-free tail waft.
“That cost me the title”
How about we give the judges a break? It ain’t all roses.
The indignity of having muffins thrown at you by short-fused Hawaiians.
All day in the harsh sun, the only relief a sneaky behind the sunglasses cat-nap mid-heat
Pretending not to be hungover? That shit takes years of practice.
I can’t even imagine the leggy distractions walking past on the beach at some of these WSL events. I struggle with keeping an eye on the job when a seagull flies past.
People don’t realise and appreciate how hard it is to write a score down while juggling coffee and your lunch.
So lets just sweep this little noisy mess under the carpet and keep in mind it’s not always weeks spent in the best surf locations in the world for our judging panel…
… sometimes they have to go home to sweat out the coke.