Rabbit Kekai was the best 60-year-old surfer in the world, then the best 70-year-old, then the best 80-year old. Not sure when he actually had to quit, but I’m sure it wasn’t by choice. | Photo: @kellyslater

Rabbit Kekai is Dead!

Rabbit Kekai was surfing's last link to the Duke. Royalty? Yeah, he was.

Hawaii News Now is reporting that Rabbit Kekai passed away this morning at the age of 95.

I met Rabbit once, briefly.  San Diego tradeshow, he was very friendly. Posed for a picture with me. Exchanged some small talk.

But I didn’t know the guy.

So I’m not gonna bother writing some half-assed summary of his long life.  Pretend that it doesn’t even a poor job of representing who he was, what he did. Plenty of other people will have more worthwhile things to say in the coming days.

Check out the chat Warshaw and Derek had recently if you’d like some information about the man that isn’t the result of a fifteen minute internet search.

From Matt Warshaw,  “These were guys who made a decision to surf when surfing wasn’t a career, or anything close to respectable—that’s a big deal. That’s a hard decision. Surfing is so easy when your parents and teachers do it, and it’s all over People magazine, and John John’s making 3 mil a year or whatever. I love guys like Rabbit who had to do it by hook or crook, when nobody gave a shit, and nobody was watching, or if they were watching, they were thinking, Get a job, you bum. We were only ever interesting, surfers that is, when this was hard. Rabbit lived a great life, a spectacular life, rode a million waves, loved a thousand women.”

Rabbit Kekai from ENCYCLOPEDIA of SURFING videos on Vimeo.

 


Beware: “Shrunken baby brains!”

Brazil is in chaos and don't you wish you were there?

The Oi Rio Pro is off again and our heroes have yet another day to explore the host country Brazil. The problems there are clear and present and everywhere. The pollution was such they had to move the event site, crime is so bad that soccer star Rivaldo said, “Don’t come!” The Olympics, only eighty some days off, is in shambles and a Zika epidemic threatens the world. Amir Attaran, a lawyer at the University of Toronto, said, “The question is really — and it’s an ethical one — is it worth having the games in Rio when you could have it elsewhere or just delay your pleasure a little bit so as not to run the horrible risk of — I hate to say it — shrunken baby brains?”

But you know Mr. Attaran loved to say it! You know he’s been waiting much of his adult life to use the phrase “shrunken baby brains” in an appropriate context. And yesterday, to top everything off, President Dilma Rousseff was ousted in what she, and her supporters, called a coup. A coup! While our heroes are roaming the mean streets! I tell you this, and I tell you honestly, I am heartbroken not to be in Brazil right now. I cannot think of a more exciting place in the whole world. Do you think Nat Young appreciates the gravity of what he is witnessing? Do you think he wakes up, reads the news and then steps out with a notebook and camera? Do you think Ryan Callinan knows that he is nuzzled up to the bosom of history?

If I were in Brazil I would be getting detailed analysis of the geopolitical situation from the keen minds on tour. Davey Cathels on Brazil’s Budget Laws. Matt Wilkinson on double digit inflation. Adam Melling on new president Michael Temer’s cabinet choices. I feel it would be a big hit. I feel CNN would be given a run for its dwindling money.


"Do you think this is intended to replace the experience of surfing or to enhance what people already experience?" asks Kelly Slater. "Do you believe people who currently know nothing about surfing will spend a lot of money and years of their lives to get good in a machine when they don't already have a love for surfing and could learn freely in the ocean? So since this takes the soul out of surfing, you think soulfulness is outside of yourself? Do you think this wave was designed to create the feeling for you or is it your reaction to the experience which creates the feeling and fun?"

Slater vs “Irrational Fear Mongering!”

Kelly Slater's best interview this year was just on a small-time shaper's Instagram account…

A small-time shaper from Manhattan Beach, California, was gifted the thrill of a lifetime when Kelly Slater went after him on his Instagram account today.

John “Goose” Stern “considers himself a hipster in the water but a normal dude on land” and builds custom hand-shapes under the Goose Surfboards handle. 

Earlier today, his 304 Instagram followers were hit with a post of Kelly at his pool along with an anti-wavepool message:

Please take a minute to read: Here’s a little social media rant about a subject that has been bugging me lately, I am firmly against Kelly’s wave pool. Here is why. The biggest part of surfing is the dedication it takes to really be a surfer. The years spent studying your local break to know exactly what the surf is going to be like. The feeling of anticipation as you paddle out, hoping that you don’t get worked as you take a set on the head, and the ability to remain calm if you do get worked. @kellyslater your new wave pool has taken “surfing” out of surfing. My favorite part of surfing is the knowledge that, for my entire life, I will never surf two waves the same. I am comfortable with the fact that for better or worse, I will spend my entire life searching for the perfect wave. I refuse to pay a machine to create that feeling for me. Now, no longer will people have to study waves to learn what turn to do. Instead, your wave pool, and future wave pools, will bring us real life “Rick Kane’s.” There will be far too many people who think they can get barreled on an unruly day in the ocean simply because they got insanely shacked at your wave. In an age where surfing my local beachbreak on the weekend can be physically dangerous due to so many people without proper surf knowledge and etiquette in the lineup, your wave pool won’t help. I’m disappointed Kelly, you were my hero growing up. But with your artificial wave pool and your surfboards which are very proudly made in Thailand, you have taken the soul out of surfing.
Sincerely,
Goose
(I’ve tagged a bunch of people in the surf industry who have much more influence and respect than I. Hopefully they see, read, and respond to this)

Whatever, right?

Shortly after the post, the 11-time world champion removed his trumpet from its case and began to blow!

I respect all people’s rational opinions and I’ve dedicated every aspect of my life to surfing for over 35 years so I’ll bite…do you think this is intended to replace the experience of surfing or to enhance what people already experience? Do you believe people who currently know nothing about surfing will spend a lot of money and years of their lives to get good in a machine when they don’t already have a love for surfing and could learn freely in the ocean? So since this takes the soul out of surfing, you think soulfulness is outside of yourself? Do you think this wave was designed to create the feeling for you or is it your reaction to the experience which creates the feeling and fun? You would be amazed at how much easier it is to learn/teach lineup etiquette in this environment as opposed to the ocean where nobody actually does teach it. Nothing that happens with this technology would change your experience at your home break so it sounds like irrational fear-mongering. And yes… our products (boards) are made in one of the world’s most environmentally friendly surfboard factories and pays good living wages to workers. Most of my personal boards are made locally in Southern California. Probably most leashes, traction and fins you use/buy yourself are ‘proudly made in China’ in factories you likely know nothing about.

Goose responds to the Asian boards thing.

As for boards/products made in Thailand and China, in today’s global economy, it is virtually impossible to not have some aspect of your life be tied to products over there. I use future fins, whose fin boxes are made in America, but you are correct, I can’t say I know where their fins are made. I also ride a lot of glass on fins, which are proudly made by a man in Torrance Beach. You ride FCS fins, made in china or Thailand right? Id be very interested in learning more about the conditions of Firewire and GSI’s factories overseas. Because there are a ton of people in the board industry like myself who cold benefit from the Glasswork or ghostshaping that you ship overseas, to people who most likely don’t surf. @kellyslater of course most of your boards are made in SoCal…your the greatest ever. You get that extra special treatment. But I’ve already seen people with your boards with the Thailand stamp on it. What’s the ratio of southern California to Thailand for Firewire?

Kelly ain’t going anywhere.

well good interaction can be hard to come by on social media. I have the same frustrations as you do about crowds. We can all assume what’s behind the popularity but we don’t know for sure. A big percentage of the surfing population has no interest in following or watching surf contests so to point to pro surfing is slightly odd. I think it’s just fun and people have access. Of course there are millions of weekenders but they don’t know their way around a lineup and I’m sure someone of your abilities can grab all the waves you need off of that crowd. Also if people learn and love a manmade wave they would likely prefer that environment. It would be strange to see a good surfer who’s never surfed the ocean but I don’t see that happening. I did watch a 48y.o. friend who has literally never surfed a wave before get up and ride for a straight minute the other day and was stoked beyond belief. I’m not sure what the answer is or where the future goes but that actually is what surfing is all about. If you teach it you should know that. But yes…to me the whole experience is what true surfing is all about.

And I don’t know the percentage of CA boards to Thailand production boards but the huge majority are made in Thailand. And that opens up other debates about fairness in the business environment, fair trade, eco concerns and pollutants, running a feasible business, employing people, etc. Being a local shaper or running glass shops almost anywhere on earth is a passion first and foremost and a tough gig to be successful in. All the best to you @goose_surfboards.👍🏽🏄🏽

Goose is thrilled, yes!

hard to find good interaction and debate anywhere in the world today, let alone on social media. Thanks for engaging me, never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined I’d get to engage you in a debate. Always been stoked on how you bring innovation in board design to the tour and to the rest of the surf community. Now go win some events!

And so is Kelly!

kellyslater[email protected]_surfboards \!!!/

Meanwhile, surf_heckler has a question. It’s a good one.

We have a question if your still up for one. You mentioned most of your boards are made in S CA but the boards everyone else gets are made in Thailand. We understand that you are testing new designs before they go into mass production, so working with a S CA shaper makes sense some of the time. How often do you ride the boards from the Thailand Factory? Would you ever use one in competition? Are the boards your riding equal to the boards made in Thailand? Thanks in advance for any insight

Kelly says:

My last edit on Surfline from Fiji was made in Thailand. It’s generally just a weight difference in customs that is the difference for me. I also used that same board at pipe last year so yes.

Is Instagram now, officially, the equivalent of a new AAP? A refurbished Reuters?


Leo and step-daddy Belly. The thing about Belly is he instinctively knows what's…right… and I think there lies the essence of his brilliance. | Photo: WSL

Interview: Belly on Leo/Kelly!

Kelly's agonising form, Leo's ascent and "massive generational change."

The fifty-something Stephen “Belly” Bell, best friend to Kelly, step-daddy to Leo, also owns a piece of my heart. For the two years I lived in Hossegor, through the grey cloak of the long winters and the saturated golds of the too-short summers, he was kinder than he ever needed to be.

Maybe it was our mutual love of titties, short trips to Spain and whistling sand-bottom tubes that clapped like thunder across the town’s sandbanks, but it felt real.

Belly moved from Victoria to France in the mid-nineteen eighties and set up a glassing shop called Euroglass. He had the contract to build all the Quiksilver boards for Europe which, in the honey surf industry days at the turn of the century, meant everyone was coming to Belly for boards, Kelly Slater and the sixties icon Miki Dora included.

Because he was Australian, and more Australian than anyone I’d ever met (although fluent in French), Belly was the hub around which that country’s surfers revolved during the European leg of the tour.

Once Belly asked me to affix a tail-pad onto a board that was bound for Quicksilver’s flagship store in Paris. It was, ostensibly, an ex-Slater board, but it wasn’t. I put the K-Grip pad on a crooked angle and while it would’ve been justified for him to be agitated and cruel, a hard kidney punch at least, he gave me a fatherly smile and said, “you fucking idiot.”

“Loved by all” is a hoary old phrase to throw around, but it really is true.

Stephen Bell, a little man with a bald head and baggy pants, is all heart, no ego.

Did you know he also rips?

This morning, the World Surf League posted an interview with Belly on their website, covering such topics as Kelly’s agonising form, Leo’s sparkle, and how he came to be the boo of Leo’s mama.

Highlights:

On his pro surfers losing:

Kelly’s in a bit of that situation at the moment. And we’ve spent long periods of time talking about it. We were at the same house in Margaret River when Kelly lost, and he spent the next day with Leo giving him his wisdom. And that was one way of dealing with his own frustrations. I wouldn’t go past frustration, period, to describe it.

He won the Pipe contest at the start of the year, and came in fifth at the Eddie Aikau. I said, ‘Hang on a minute. Just because you’ve had three tough events, you’re the greatest surfer on the planet.’ I think he realizes, it’s a frustration point, he didn’t get good waves, versus ‘Oh my god, it’s the end of the world.’

But for the kids, it can be like that. And the QS is worse — to get to those stages, and come so close to qualifying. It’s like having my surfboard business two week away from bankruptcy.

On what separates winners from losers:

That’s a matter of how badly you want something. I will not be beaten and I’m going to do whatever morally correct thing it takes to get me there, and I’ll be smart about it. That goes with every facet of life. With my staff at the surfboard factory, I say if you want something, go and do it.

I say the same thing to the younger team riders. There’s a rider I invited to Hawaii. He said, ‘I don’t have the money.’ I said, ‘I’ll give you a free house and food, all you have to do is get a ticket. Go out, work two jobs — you get what you want in life.’ Talent comes in many forms, and I’ve seen much less talented surfers make it further competitively than more talented surfers who don’t have that drive or resourcefulness.

On generational change: 

We’re right in the crisis now of a massive generation change. From 2004 to 2011, you had your quarterfinals with Andy Irons, Kelly Slater, Joel Parkinson, Mick Fanning, Taj Burrow. You’d have — pardon my French — kids shitting themselves, scared shitless of being there. And the other guys would eat them alive.

And then those five guys have pretty much retired, or just about on the edge. And with the Matt Wilkinson and others, they’re not afraid to win anymore. 

Read more here! 


Parker: “I love Confrontation!”

I actively seek it out. I love the thrill of a battle of wills.

I might find too much joy in confrontation. Actively seek it out. Love the thrill of a battle of wills.

Returned a busted laptop to Costco yesterday. It was a bottom of the line HP hunk of shit. Dropped $350 on it, didn’t expect it to last long at that price. Ordered a decent Asus to replace it last week. But it’s gotta go to LA first, thanks to restrictions on shipping lithium batteries to Hawaii.

Safety concerns or something. Amazon won’t send it to me, so it heads to my dad first. In-laws are bringing it out in a few weeks because I’m a cheap bastard. Care more about my money than their convenience.

Planned to make do with my hunk of shit ’til then. No big deal. Word processor, torrents, and porn delivery’s all I need. Thing worked fine for that.

So stoked when a hinge exploded. Two year extended warranty on laptops. Just had to call up the concierge service, email them some pics. Spend an hour on the phone talking the guy into approving a replacement, rather than repair. I need my computer, buddy. Can’t go without for a few weeks. C’mon, be a pal. Hook me up.

Sure thing! Just head down to the warehouse. I’ve approved a refund or replacement. It’s at the manager’s discretion.

Right on. New computer. I ain’t leaving without an upgrade.

Wife came with. Thought I’d end up in cuffs after making a scene. Not unlikely. There was an incident at Best Buy many years ago. But I’ve learned a lot since then. Don’t yell. Don’t threaten. Keep your volume low. Be the river. Slow, sure, obstinate. Wear them down, bit by bit.

Might’ve picked up the ability through surfing. Head down against a current. Slow progress until you’re where you want to be. Battle out through beach break bombs. Just grind and grind and grind.

Gotta fight my way past the returns lady. Sorry, I can only provide a refund.

I don’t want a refund, I want a new computer. Can I speak to your manager.

Sorry, I don’t have the authority to provide a replacement. Only the general manager does.

Can I speak to the general manager?

I’d won already. Head honcho’s a busy guy. Got better things to do than argue with me for hours. But I’ve got nowhere to be.

I can’t do it. The closest comparable laptop is $300 more than what you paid.

So?

I can’t give upgrades on returns.

Why not?

I just can’t.

Won’t.

What?

You won’t. You say can’t, but you mean won’t. You could comp me the difference, but you won’t.

It isn’t policy.

You’re in charge. You make the policy.

I can’t do it. Every person…

Won’t. You won’t.

…Every person with a return wants more. I can’t do it for everyone.

I’m not asking you to do it for everyone. Just for me. Right now.

Back and forth. Back and forth. Forever and ever.

I love watching a man crack. So long as I don’t raise my voice, don’t insult him, he’s my captive. Can’t tell me to fuck off. Can’t have security escort me out. But he wants to, so bad. In his position I’d’ve lost it long ago. Which is why I’ve been fired from multiple retail jobs.

Look, I’ll give it to you for four hundred. You pay the difference plus tax.

No. I want a replacement. I know you can do it. Why are you making this so difficult?

He was so angry!

Left two hours after I’d arrived with a spring in my step, a smile on my face, and a box under my arm. What a victory!

Wife said good job. She enjoyed the show.

But I would have just paid the difference.

Why?

My time’s worth more than that. I need to get to work.

Hadn’t considered that. She’s a good lawyer. Her rate’s astronomical. By Kauai standards.

But my time’s worthless. And the experience was priceless.

And the warranty reset, so they’ll be seeing me again in a year or so.