Uncanny: What your beach says about you!

Are you a closet masochist or a great philanthropist? Come find out!

We live in a wonderful mobile age, no longer bound by family or work. The internet has freed us from both! Each of us can live anywhere our heart desires! Whichever beach we choose! And so where we live speaks to our personality, to our hopes, to our dreams, to our life’s style. And what do these beaches say?

San Clemente: The surfer who chooses San Clemente as home is outwardly progressive and inwardly reactionary. He loves the latest in board design, the latest in rotational grab but also hates change. This conundrum totally blew his circuits and now he seems human, perhaps even a beautiful model, on the outside but inside is a big ball of hot, sparking, disconnected wires. (See Luke Davis.)

Venice: And I’m not talking Venice-adjacent here, I’m talking Venice proper. The surfer who lays in head in Venice hates surfing. He hates waves and is happy to spend millions and millions of dollars so he doesn’t have to live by them. (See the man who works at Google)

Bondi: The Bondi surfer is a closet masochist. On the outside he loves fine weather, beautiful nature and wholesome food cooked out of the freshest organic ingredients. On the inside he lives to watch sections close out on each side of him time and time and time again. He doesn’t want for an open racing wall, an open tube. He wants for frustration. (See a muscular German)

Rio: The Rio surfer believes in a good time but doesn’t believe in tomorrow. Pollution? Who cares! Massive inflation? Who cares! Corruption? Who cares! Those are tomorrow’s problems and tomorrow doesn’t exist! (See the Buddha)

Long Beach, NY: The New York surfer grew up playing the puzzle game Tetris and has chosen to live in a Tetris world. He loves to take his board onto subways and trains and figure out how to fit it between the overweight Puerto Rican, the very thin Hasidic Jew and the boy breakdancing for change. This gives him more joy than actually surfing since actually surfing means sitting in a pool of frozen slush. (See Will Shortz)

Puerto Escondido: There was a movement right when leg ropes, or leashes, were invented where certain surfers rebelled against them and called them “kook cords.” These rebels now live in Puerto Escondido. Their leash hatred so cemented to their souls that the possibility of regular death is a better option. (See your angry uncle)

Superbank: The Superbank surfer might, at first glance, appear aggressive, angry shallow and mean. Selfish too. But if one peels just one layer back, he will discover a surfer who loves other people so much that he wants to sit shoulder to shoulder every single time in the water. He wants his fellow surfer to fall out of the sky and onto his head. He wants his fellow surfer to enjoy his tube with him. He is a lover! A great philanthropist! (See Sir Mick Fanning)

Tyrone Swan Pascale Honore
Remember the joy of duct-tape surfing? Rewatch it.

Perspective: Your Life Doesn’t Suck!

Need a little context on what you might call your "problems"?

You hardly need me to remind you that life swings up, it swings down, back and forth and then you die. We make good decisions, we make bad decisions, love is found and love is lost. Sometimes we walk around with pain so heavy it catches in your throat and compresses your chest. Other times we dance and float.

But, nothing, no love affair gone awry, or job lost, no betrayal or game thrown away in extra-time is existential. You take it on the chin. You move on.

And, yet, sometimes it is bad. Sometimes there isn’t a motivational speech in the world that can alter your perspective.

One year ago, Burleigh Heads surfer Rob Croll was paralysed when he fell headfirst into the sand bottom at Kirra.

“The wave was one of the waves you put hamsters on or guinea pigs. It was tiny, you know,” he told the GC Bulletin at the time. “I was face down in the water — it was clear blue — and I could see my arms waving around. I tried to move and I could move my arms. I couldn’t move my legs. Then I couldn’t roll over. This is happening second by second… It was peaceful, hey. You know how they talk about it being peaceful. It was about 30 seconds where I was doing that drowning. After that it’s just blank. Clear blue water, you could just see what was going on.”

An off-duty paramedic pulled him out of the water and Rob knew he was going to be a quadriplegic.

“I cried like a baby for a month,” he said.

Two days ago, a regional Australian newspaper reported on Rob’s rehabilitation. Mostly these sorta stories talk about how the subject soars above his disability, inspiring others, launching books, movies. 

This ain’t one of ’em.

(From the South Burnett Times)

Rob Croll knows the story you’d love to read, the one about the young father adjusting to life as a quadriplegic with boundless positivity and a constant smile on his dial.

The only catch is Rob’s too honest to tell that tale.

“I’m not embarrassed to admit I struggle mentally,” the 35-year-old said a year since he was paralysed in a surfing accident at Kirra.

“I’ve actually sought help, which I’m fine with you publishing as it may raise awareness about people seeking help with their mental health. I sometimes feel I’m a burden to my family because I’ve changed their entire life for the rest of my life.”

Twelve months ago Rob was living his dream at Burleigh Heads. A plumber by trade, he had a good job, a vibrant social life, a beautiful wife and two gorgeous little boys.

Then came Kirra and after eight months in the spinal ward of Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital, he now finds himself living a new reality on the Sunshine Coast.

“My grandfather had an empty house and with Mum and Dad up here too, we felt it was the right move,” Rob explained.

“It’s eased the financial burden and the family network has been instrumental in us adjusting to life with an injury like this, but we now think it might be more of a temporary move.

“It’s been particularly hard for (my wife) Katie because she had quite a buzzing social life down the Coast.”

Rob met Czech-born Katie while living in London a decade ago and, as he puts it: “She fell victim to my clutches.”

Now, more than ever, she’s also his rock.

“I always knew she was solid but I can’t believe how great she’s been,” he said. “We have a carer come every morning to help me get going but otherwise she helps me through the day and puts me to bed. I couldn’t have got through this without her.”

The couple has two sons – Rafe, 5, and Bowie, 3 – and Rob doesn’t hold back when asked to reflect on them.

“Through everything I’ve lost, the thing that upsets me the most is that connection with my kids,” he said. “At their age, that connection with fathers is typically a physical thing more than a spoken one. They need to be shown how to do things rather than told and I get frustrated because I have to try to tell my eldest boy how to do things instead of show him.”

In a bid to ease that burden, Rob has undergone revolutionary surgery in recent months that he hopes will provide him with greater use of his hands.

“It was a big decision because some people I spoke to were dead against it and some people were all for it,” he said of the procedure that saw nerves and tendons in his arm used to “rewire” his hands.

“It was a bit of a cruel trick (after the accident) that I was able to use my arms but not my hands … (but) we’ve seen the first signs of improvement. I’ve now got some movement in my right fingers, which helps with picking things up.

“The goal is to be able to grab a stubby with one hand instead of two – among other things, of course.”

As for returning to the water he loved so much, that box has already been ticked.

“It was mixed emotions,” Rob said of trialling – and ultimately ordering – a beach wheelchair.

“That feeling of going under a wave and popping out the other side is nearly indescribable and while it was nice to be back in the water, the mediocrity of being in a wheelchair as opposed to what I used to do was bittersweet.”

Read more here. 

(And if you want to help Rob and his fam out, click here for his mycause page. They’re thirty-five k in towards a 100k target.)

And, now, it might be time to rewatch Tyrone Swan and Pascale Honore and their magical, wonderful creation of duct-tape surfing.


Long read: Tinder Sex Got Me to Tavarua!

Every boy needs his sugar mama…

Not long ago, I won the lottery. Well not really, I’m still broke as shit, but as far as surf trips go I was able to cash-in the winning ticket.

It was Saint Patrick’s Day and I was eager to get out of work to celebrate my heritage of being predisposed to alcoholism. I left work and met up with friends to do what I figured was going to be a night of booze and poor decisions, but it wasn’t quite that.

I find my friends sitting at the little back bar of the restaurant casually drinking beer and watching the Rangers hockey game. I grab a beer and try to find out what the big plan for the night was and they reply with, “You’re looking at it.”

And though I was mildly disappointed that it wasn’t going to be a typical Saint Patrick’s Day of getting blacked out drunk, I shifted gears in my head and prepared to have a mellow one. We watched the end of the game, which went to overtime, and the Rangers lost and we promptly left after that.

On the way back we stop at the gas station to get some alcohol for a nightcap at the house. We drink a few drinks and watch some TV on the couch, nothing exciting. While sitting there that little part of my brain, and by little part I mean basically 96.72 percent part of my brain, starts going “Hey, I’m horny and it’s not too late to find some one to have sexy time with.”

Seeing as I’m part of a generation that relies on a little rectangle to solve all life problems, I send out texts to my typical booty calls. No luck. Then I start swiping right to every girl hoping for a match to help me in my situation.

I swipe through my allotted amount of swipes on Tinder, thanks assholes for taking away unlimited swipes, with no luck. I then move on to Bumble They give you as many swipes as you want and swipe right on every girl that comes across my screen. I never swipe left. Always swipe right, you don’t always get the prettiest girls that way but unless you look like my friend Zander chances are you won’t get those girls anyways so have fun with the girls in that three-to-seven range. It’s good karma.

I get a few matches, but the unfortunate part of Bumble is that the women have to talk to you first. Luckily for me one of my matches strikes up a conversation, we’ll call her Sharron, and I don’t have the conversation anymore but it more or less goes that she was recently divorced and very horny and that I was very wine drunk and very horny so we decide to meet up. She sends me her address, I request an Uber, I’m on my way. I arrive to her house and we do what horny people do. It was good fun.

The next morning we talk for a little bit and I find out a little about her and her life. She’s in her early forties, she is freshly divorced, has a new pair of boobs, has a small litter of children and is trying to figure out the whole internet dating thing. She seems like a nice lady overall and she gives me a ride back to my car in the morning. I figure that would be the end of my interactions with her because that’s typically how the whole dating app scene works.

I was wrong.

The next weekend rolls around and it’s my good buddy RJ’s 30th birthday. It was a fantastic weekend filled with a Bruce Springsteen concert, dancing, stick-horse racing, friends, alcohol, and much more. The end of the night comes around and I receive a text from Sharron asking me what I was doing.

I ask RJ if he would be bummed if I left his party to go over there and he said he was going to bed soon and didn’t give a shit, so I did. The next morning I felt like pure hell. While laying in her bed thinking about how my head feels like it was just kicked for a 69-yard field goal I start up a conversation with Sharron complaining about my hangover.

Me: “Ugh, I feel awful. I have zero interest in going to work today.”
Sharron: “Aw, I’m sorry. It sounds like you need a vacation.”
Me: “Yeah, but who doesn’t?”
Sharron: “I need a vacation too. Want to go on vacation with me?”
Me: “Sure, where do you want to go?”

Now I expected her to say go to Malibu or Mexico or somewhere within driving distance. But she says, “I love Tavarua. Want to go there?”

Me: “I would love to go there, but have no where near the money for that shit I’m broke.”
Sharron: “No, like, I’ll take you there”

I tell her, of course I would like to go there, but figured she was bluffing and wrote it off in my brain that anyone would want to take me to the place that I’ve dreamed about going to more than any other place in the world.

Two weeks later I got a call from her asking for my info so she could send it to the travel agent. Suddenly I’m like D Ray from the decline, “Fiji on zero dollars a day. That’s where you have to find yourself the rich girlfriend kids.”

I’ll fast-forward two months through all the trivial shit. I’m packed, the swell is going to be firing eight-to-twelve feet with bigger sets, and I have the excitement level of a kid waking up to Christmas and sees that they have a monster truck in the front yard. (By the way, that would still be the greatest gift ever Santa.)

We arrive to Tavarua at 11:30 am Fijian time. I am still filled with excitement and disbelief as I step off the boat and my feet sink into the warm white sand surrounded by clear blue water. Videos, pictures, words and stories don’t do the place justice. It’s, literally, the best place in the world.

Alongside me and my lady friend getting off the boat is Balaram Stack, Reef McIntosh, Ryan Burch and Lucas Drikse. Bal and I talk about his recent West Oz trip and he tells me how good were going to score, which makes me think that I should tell Sharron the program I’m going to be on.

I tell her that I really like surfing, like surf-ten-hours-a-day like surfing, and that the first two days she’s not going to see me much. She tells me that she comes from a surf family and she gets it, so I should just have fun.

I’m not going to go through and tell you about the waves we scored. You’ve seen videos of Cloudbreak, it’s fucking perfect, and some idiot who barely got a 400 on his SAT writing is not going to do you any favors. I’m just going to tell you of the stuff that’s fun to hear about.

It was the second or third night there, we had just got done with another all day surf mission. I have a shit-eating smile on my face that you could not remove even if you wanted to. I walk up to Sharron who is sitting at the bar with a few other guests who are talking and drinking. She appears to be a little tipsy. I think good for her she’s having fun and is cool about me surfing all day. This is epic.

I try to strike up a conversation. She shoots it down quickly. I shrug it offand say that I’m getting food and ask if she would like any. She declines so I go get my food and eat to replenish my body. I go back over again and she appears not happy at all, so I try to keep the conversation light and happy to make her smile. She’s pissed.

I ask what she is mad about and she starts going on a tirade. Yelling at me and telling me how I suck, which I probably deserve. I try to ask what I can do to make it up to her and she just dismisses me as a piece of shit. I know there is no rationalizing with an angry drunk woman so I decide to go back to the bure to avoid a scene. The next morning, I decide to sleep in and miss the six am boat so I can talk to her and try to make amends. I wake up and find her on the beach collecting shells. I approach her and sit in the sand.

Me: “So last night you kind of snapped on me, and I would like to know what the problem is so we can fix it and have a fun time.”
Sharron: “This is just not how I thought this was going to go, whatever, it’s my own fault.”
Me: “How did you think it was going to go?”
Sharron: “I don’t know but this was not how I thought and it just seems like you’re unappreciative.”
Me: “I’m super appreciative so thank you, but just coming from my point of view, I’m at the best wave in the world and it’s pumping. I don’t know if you wanted me to stay on the beach all day and collect shells, but that’s not how I work. I love surfing more than anything.”
Sharron: “No it’s fine. Just use this opportunity and have fun.”

So that is exactly what I did. I went and traded off on head-high lefts with Balaram at restaurants for the rest of the morning. The rest of the trip we were like roommates. We’d see each other and exchange pleasantries but that was the extent of it.

It’s the last day of the trip. I get packed up and say goodbye to all the awesome staff and new friends I made while on my week in paradise and vow to them I’ll be back. That crazy swell was on the way (the one Aaron Gold almost drowned and Damo and Dane G. got the sickest lefts ever on) so the island was buzzing to get ready.

They sent us to another resort on the mainland to chill by the pool for the day and buy ten-dollar beers. I took that time to nap, use the free WiFi to cure my social media withdrawals and text my friends back at home. Sharron got up and went to get a wine. This made me nervous because she’s not a fun drunk and gets angry. Seeing as we had an eleven-hour flight coming up I just do whatever I can to make her happy.

We leave the resort and she is still in high spirits. I think that this is going to be fine. We’ll get on the plane and she’ll pass out and I can alternate sleeping with the Fiji Airways movie selection. Our bags are checked. One of her new friends tells her that she is going to give her an Ambein and I’m smiling because in my mind I’ve crossed the finish line.

Then we get to security. They want her to throw away her special sunscreen, which she is not getting rid of. It turns into a screaming match between her and the airport security. I start stepping away from the situation, no cavity search for me. She tells me to go ahead, so I did and I go to waiting area. She eventually makes it through and goes straight to the bar. She is sitting with her island drinking partner and they start going to town on some white wine.

I see my situation deteriorate before my eyes and use the excuse that I want to walk around before sitting for eleven hours on the  flight and leave the scene. I run into my friend Justin who was also in Fiji but stayed on the mainland. We start trading stories of our sessions and funny parts of our trips. They start boarding the flight so I grab Sharron to go wait in line. She looks a tipsy and decides to start up a fun conversation about one of the cute blonde girls on the island that was hanging out with our crew.

Sharron: “You like Becca more than me don’t you?”
Me: “What are you talking about? She was just hanging out with our crew.”
Sharron: “You just like young stupid, naïve girls. You wouldn’t know a good woman if you saw one.”
Me: “Can we please not do this?”
Sharron: “We can do whatever I want because I paid for all of this”
Me: “Ok, well I don’t know what you want me to say. I’m sorry.”
Sharron: “You don’t have to say you’re sorry, just know that this is the problem with your generation. You guys don’t appreciate things and don’t know when to fight for a good thing when you see it. Go fuck yourself.”

Thirty minutes later, I get on the plane and sit next to her.

Sharron: “Why did you walk away from me?”
Me: “I’m not going to stand in public and get berated. I figured walking away was the best thing to do.”
Sharron: “Well, listen, you need to know that you need to grow the fuck up and learn that you can’t just be easygoing and carefree through your life like you are now”
Me: “Ok, thanks for the life tip”
Sharron: ”You know what, FUCK YOU! Just go fuck yourself!”
Me: “Chill out there’s kids on the plane, you need to relax.”
Sharron: “Don’t tell me what to do, FUCK YOU!”
Me: “Hey shut up, this is not the place to do this.”
Sharron: “FUCK YOU don’t tell me to shut up.”

At that point I plugged my headphones in and picked a movie and stared straight ahead as she continued to scream obscenities in my ear for another couple of minutes. I told myself to stare straight ahead and hope for her to hit me so I could be relocated or get her kicked off the flight, which was the path we were on until one of the fathers who was also on the island yelled across the plane for her to chill out. She eventually simmered down into a sleep. I went to ask my buddy Justin if he could give me a ride back to my house and he said he would do whatever he could do to help me get out of that situation.

The flight lands and I’m still not looking in her direction or acknowledging her sitting next to me. I turn my phone back on, saw that I had wireless data again, plugged in my head phones, open Spotify, and turn up my favorite Mastodon album as loud as it can go.

I wait for my boardbag and brace for a final interaction with her, seeing as she put a small bag in there. While waiting I am congratulated by random passengers for my maturity in the situation and it makes me want to thank every crazy girl I’ve ever dealt with for preparing me for that encounter. My bag arrives. I pull her bag out and give it to her. That is the end of our interactions.

And that is how I scored a trip to the best place in the world. And if I could do it again I would. I would do the same trip with an even crazier broad if it came up again. I wish I could’ve made it so she had more fun, but I’m 25 and never have had a real girlfriend so I’m kind of a rookie when it comes to this kind of stuff.

Hopefully she has more fun with the next guy she told me she was bringing.

(Editor’s note: This story first appeared in the print edition of a once-popular-ish magazine called Surfing that operated between, 1964 and 2017.)

Slater: “I’m a soul surfer, man!”

Kelly Slater goes on the radio and reveals deep-ish secrets!

The great Kelly Slater was on Dan Patrick’s radio show yesterday and gave a wide ranging, very pleasant interview. Watching Kelly sit in a cute flannel, feet close together, back straight and answer questions as sincerely as possible is heart warming and even the crustiest hater would have to agree.

But wait. Does anyone really hate Kelly Slater? Oh sure we cajole sometimes, for fun, but also and obviously deeply respect etc. Does anyone actually hate him though? I have certainly never encountered such a person.

In any case, the interview is worth a watch but if you are in a hurry here is a breakdown.

On being competitive…
I’m competitive at sleeping. I had an older brother who beat me up and told me he’d beat me at anything so…

On the best weather for surf…
Not too strong wind.

On surfing Mavericks…
I’ve only surfed Mavs three times and almost drowned twice.

On drowning…
Super scary until it’s euphoric.

On holding breath…
I can hold for five minutes.

On what he writes down on tax return…
Human. Just kidding, pro surfer and it’s just so weird.

On being a great surfer translating to other sports…
Ok skater. Ok snowboarder.

On where trophies are kept…
In a pile behind the house and we just got tired of looking at them so put them out on the road…

On favorite surfboard…
A hollow wooden board from Al Merrick after I won 5th world title.

On surfing naked…
I do it at night.

On skinny dipping with Dan Patrick…

On where he is most famous…
Brazil and Australia

On strangest reaction from a fan…
I signed a dog one. And had a French stalker. Straight out of some bunny boiling movie. Sleeping in the lobby and writing all over the elevator in lipstick. And she had an infant sort of child. Really bizarre.

On his day rate for giving surf lessons…
How much you got? Just kidding. Free. I’m a soul surfer, man.

On being retired…
No. I’m full time still. There have been rumors that I’ve been retired since 1998.

On partying…
I’ve done it a couple weeks.

On Baywatch…
Yeah man, I was partying. (Ironically)

On surfing with a hangover…
Yeah. Oh yeah. (Again, ironically)

On being the Michael Jordan of surfing…
I don’t know how to answer these questions. My mom beat it into me not to talk about myself.

On which is tougher, surfing or golf…
(too golfy for me to understand)

On his who he gets mistaken for…
Christian Slater

Watch in full here!

Technique Critique: Kelly Slater!

Old dog learns unconventional versions of new tricks!

Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. Derek has tasked me with critiquing the best ever surfer and I am completely undergunned. It’s true that all my victims are twice or thrice the surfer I’ll ever be, but they are not The King. To pick apart his flaws feels nearly blasphemous. Still, the heavily subjective truth must prevail.

Like Medina, Kelly hasn’t many recent clips floating around the ether. I can’t recall a proper video section he’s worked on since Innersection in 2011.

Another difficult I’ve faced is critiquing someone whose surfing has changed dramatically over the past three decades. Anything I say could be easily refuted by citing sources as far back as 1990, which puts me in a delicate position. For the sake of this piece, I’ll speak on Kelly’s surfing of the past five-to-ten years, while cross-referencing more dated techniques when necessary.

Just to whet your palate, here’s a little clip from Slater’s science moat.

I’ll attempt to explain Kelly’s surfing through three categories: turns, barrels, and airs.


At forty-five, Kelly is still producing some of the most impressive pocket gouges in the world. When he finds a steep section and decides to let one rip, Slater’s ability to penetrate the wall and discharge massive amounts of water is right up there with Mick, Jordy, and John. But it just doesn’t happen as much as it used to.

Nowadays Slater tends to get off-balance, bog, and fall through maneuvers that he’d historically do in his sleep. Kelly once carried a Curren-esque style, but in recent times he’s become less flexible in the knees, has gotten a bit wild with the arms, and seems to have changed his footwork on the board. The best surfers appear preternaturally fixed to their stick and deeply attuned to the wave, and it’s rare to find Slater in that form today.

So, what gives?

It’d be easy to blame his age. The man is damn near fifty in a sport where the last three champs average a mere twenty-five. But while his body’s slow deterioration has surely taken its toll, I believe Slater’s boards to be most culpable in the decline of his turning ability.

I’m no board expert but from what I’ve gathered, Slater’s been working to create boards that are shorter and more curved than what he was riding ten years ago. He wants to fit tighter, more powerful turns in very steep sections of the wave, and his new shapes do just that. The shortening of the board means there’s less nose to catch in the transition, and the curvature allows for full usage of the rail, especially through positions where straighter boards may flatten out. This concept works really well for one section on any given wave, but it’s not the key to consistent, fluid surfing.

By riding boards that work for one particular turn on one particular section, Kelly’s taking half’a step forward and three steps back. The King’s surfing was best on boards that facilitated speed through maneuvers, as opposed to being built for the maneuvers themselves. Kelly’s grandeur came from his ability to read waves and link turns better than the rest, but his current stable of boards fights that notion head-on.


Perhaps still the greatest barrel rider in the world, it’d be hard to criticize anything Kelly does in or around the crystal cathedral. His ability to make late drops, set impossible lines, and remain on his feet through a gauntlet of chandeliers and foamballs has resulted in more tens than Al Hunt could ever correctly count.

While Kelly’s approach to the barrel may seem reactionary and mindless, his interviews tell a different story. Slater’s ability to verbalize mid-wave thought processes is a gift to the surfing world, as it demonstrates how much brain power goes into technical barrel-riding. Kelly is constantly reading the lip and adjusting his line, all while maintaining a stable base and using different techniques to control his speed. He is a virtuoso of the vortex.

Buuuuut I still think he rides too far back on the board sometimes. See the wavepool video above? At 2:49, Kelly sets up for a long tube across the inside section, but for some reason plants his foot on the tail block, making him appear squirrely and out of control. If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a thousand times — the more forward you ride on your board, the more ability you have to control your speed and maintain a steady line. Perhaps it’s different because the pool doesn’t have a trough, but Slater’s also done it at Pipe, plus Steph seemed to have it pretty dialed.


By simultaneously destroying Kelly’s surfing and proving him to be more extraterrestrial than ever imagined, airs have certainly had their effect on the Slater legacy. Once Dane and Gabby and John came along and started to produce video-level punts in competition, a switch was flipped in Kelly’s mind. He became obsessed with the idea of remaining modern in his craft, and that meant matching the best of the next generation.

As a result we got to see some wild shit from Slater. The New York air. The Bells air. The Portugal air — the first ever frontside 540(/720) in the history of the sport, performed by a forty-three year old. That comma is significant.

So Kelly’s proven that he’s able to stick ‘em every now and then, but are they… good? Aside from the objective positives that they’re massive and spinny, most of Kelly’s airs are performed in a non-functional fashion (Bells air excluded). Instead of the coordinated, tightly wound techniques of John and Filipe, Kelly throws his airs with a singular focus — to ride away. The man flings himself off major sections, rotates as quickly possible, sometimes throws in an accidental grab, and manages to land on his feet. I’d call it a fluke if he didn’t pull them off so damn often.

But while Kelly’s airs have brought him praise and the rare heat win, I’d argue that in his pursuit of “progressive surfing” he’s forfeited the very techniques that made him so great in the past. Where Kelly used to be a master blaster with the back foot, his surfing has become significantly more front-footed with the aerial transition, leading to a deterioration of his turns and natural style. He seems too conscious when approaching aerials, as if trying to remember how to make certain moves instead of allowing the body to work organically. This has then translated to his turns and caused, in my opinion, his current trend of unbalance and falling excessively.

It’s important to note that front-footed surfing isn’t inherently bad. In fact, all the best progressive surfers are great at utilizing the front foot — from John to Julian to Jordy — but this technique is difficult to pick up later in life.

Think of Mick and Joel: two classic, rail-first surfers. Ever seen them try a nose-pick reverse? They mostly appear awkward and forced, and the same applies to the best surfer of all time. So why are three of surfing’s greats unable to properly perform a twelve-year-old’s throwaway maneuver? Because they didn’t grow up in an era where that was a widely utilized technique, and therefore missed the window to establish the necessary muscle memory to throw a legit nose-jive. Old dogs new tricks etc.

In sum, if Kelly had stuck to his former technique and surfboards, he’d probably be surfing better than he does right now. BUT, and that is a colossal but, he’d be so much less endearing. Kelly is a dynamic little firecracker and we wouldn’t want him any other way!