Board review: Longtom on the Slater Designs FRK, “A board for teenaged kicks or Peter Pans who can’t let go of their youth!”

The modern shortboard has become more user-friendly in the last decade. The FRK, at least ridden as recommended by Kelly, is a return to a much more elite state of affairs.

I ain’t one for conspiracy theory, as a general rule. So when 11,000 scientists say we are in a climate emergency (today!) I tend to listen.

When I look around the normally verdant, sub-tropical paradise of Lennox Head and see something that looks more like Dustbowl Oklahoma than remnant Gondwanan rainforest I get twitchy. When the joint has been ringed by bushfires for two months before summer even starts, ash covering lineups, smoke-filled skies, air as dry as the Sahara I think, whoa, maybe we’ve cooked the goose here.

Hence the question: what the fuck can I do, what should I do?

Keep it local, according to American Author Jonathan Franzen. In an article for The New Yorker titled “What if we stopped pretending” Franzen said we’re probably fucked and we should do what little we can in our own spheres of influence.

A conundrum then, when I received the Slater Designs FRK, shipped from Thailand.

What if I kept that testing local? Reduced the carbon footprint per wave.

“The climate crisis is closely linked to excessive consumption of the wealthy lifestyle,” said the scientists and seeing as Kelly has one of the biggest lifestyles and a massive per wave carbon footprint at the tub, maybe I could offset some of his eco-footprint for the sake of future generations.

Kidding, but totally serious.

To do that meant some simple rules. No car travel. Obvs no flights, new keikis, or imported exotic foods. No new clothes etc etc. Walk or bike ride to the surf. Eat local foods. Easy crew.

The board itself. Is narrow, thin, foiled. Quite a departure from modern shortboard theory and a very big departure from the Cabianca DFK I was riding. That departure further exacerbated by the LFT construction, being EPS core and epoxy glass and following Kelly’s recommendation to go one size smaller than you would normally ride.

Yeah, right.

Been sucked into following Kelly’s board advice before, and I did it again. Mixed results, generally poor, as you might have guessed.

The 5’10” came in at twenty-seven litres, but felt far less under the arm. Very foiled rails. I walked past twin-fin doyen Torryn Martyn on the way to the opening session after a short bike ride to the Point and said, “Reckon you could ride this?”’

“Holy fuck,”he said, “that’s a pencil!”

Surprisingly, it didn’t paddle too bad.

The water was blue and I was in boardies, which always makes a board feel better to paddle. The easiness stopped there. “What do I get?” asked Pete Shelley from The Buzzcocks in the song of the same name.

In the case of the FRK: Nothing that’s nice. I kooked the first half-dozen or so waves I caught. Juicy, head-high runners, lots of bottom tension. With the thinness, narrowness, low volume and LFT construction I had very little of the things I like in a HPSB: drive and control. Stuck behind sections, mostly.

Late in the session I managed a little backside finner. Very loose in the lip.

Couple more surfs followed: local points, a longish ride and paddle across a shark-infested river to a wedgey left were conducted with low carbon footprints per wave but confirmed initial impressions.

I’d been sucker-punched by Kelly, again.

Taking advice off anyone on surfboards is fraught with danger but please, do not take Kelly’s advice and buy this board under-sized. It’s wizard level trolling if he’s done it on purpose.

Look, I made this board work. But the hit rate was low.

The Cabianca got me bangers nine times out of ten. With the FRK, I was back to four or five. The sweet spot is minute and requires precision to be millimetre perfect.

It needs a steep, bowling wave. Most of my local points have side-wave energy running through them as incoming swells rebound and run back through the line-up. That makes wedges and “knuckles” – but flatter areas where you need to run “up hill” to get into the next wedge.

The LFT/FRK hated any kind of lateral surfing like that. Stopped dead.

It’s a board for teenaged kicks or Peter Pans who can’t let go of their youth. Hardest shortboard I’ve had to ride. Sizing it up a little and a change in construction and this thing would probably work fine, for me. Changing up fins didn’t effect my ride much, because the problem was an undersized hull.

I wonder if Firewire might not start to embrace different constructions. Hayden Shapes, a fellow traveller on the EPS/Epoxy road has intro’ed PE technology, PU blanks with epoxy resin. Rusty has embraced the same. Polystyrene has come under environmental scrutiny and these headwinds as well as the ride might force a change back to PU cores. Or at least something a bit more solid, like their earlier builds.

Dan Mann has a pedigree of super user-friendly surfboards in the Firewire line. Notably, the Potato range.

He credited intuition with creating this board for Kelly, which he did on spec. It sat unridden for two years before Kelly shredded Trestles on it and it entered the Slater Designs range. And he does shred on it, just like he did the nineties potato chips that Matt Biolos claims “stole the buzz from surfing”.

By turns, the modern shortboard has become more user-friendly in the last decade. Rec surfers can easily ride pro-level boards, if sized correctly. The FRK, at least ridden as recommended by Kelly, is a return to a much more elite state of affairs.

Outlier or new beginning? I say outlier. Kelly’s equipment choices have never really suited anyone but himself, with few exceptions.

Although this board didn’t work for me, I do credit it with inspiring perhaps the lowest carbon footprint session since Pat Curren in 1959.

Pre-dawn at the base of the Point. Bagged a ten-pound Giant Trevally on a stick bait. Stashed it in a rock pool and went surfing. Rode up to the Melaleuca swamp and peeled off some paperbark. Came home and cooked it wrapped in paperbark with warrigal greens.

With carbon intensive industries and lifestyles in the cross-hairs if we all lived more simply we would, in effect, be allowing Kelly to live his resource hungry life for as long as he lives. Entertaining us in the process.

That’s a fair trade, isn’t it?

Kelly Slater (pictured) in G-Land.
Kelly Slater (pictured) in G-Land.

Revealed: WSL surprises and delights by announcing G-Land as 2020’s stop number four; Freshwater Pro as stop number eight!

Meet me in Lemoore!

And there you were last evening, or yesterday morning depending where you lay your head, wondering what the World Surf League was going to announce as its advertised “surprise” today. To be quite honest with you, I couldn’t sleep, came downstairs early and logged on to where I watched the Wall of Positive Noise in real time as traffic ambled past. I wish our Storyteller-in-Chief Erik “ELo”  would run this camera year ’round.

And as enjoyable as it was, my heart almost stopped when these two icons popped up on screen.

After some friendly banter, of course, the show started in earnest and guess what the first stop is?

Gold Coast, which was somehow sold as a semi-surprise.



The show flagged a big as the ’89 World Championship Martin Potter got on the mic. I imagine ELo took a quick coffee break but then came what Chris Cotė described as, “the first surprise on the 2020 schedule.” Margaret River. How it was a surprise was not immediately clear but no time to wonder because off we went to Michelob Pure Organic Gold CBD commercial then…

…swirling rumors in the lineups and car parks Cotë frequents, what everyone was whispering about around him. The fourth stop is…


Very nice but still no time to ponder because off we went to stop number 5 also known as the Oi Rio Pro then six, J-Bay followed by seven…

…The Olympics, which isn’t a stop but pushes real stop seven, Tahiti, then stop number eight and can you guess? Do you even dare guess?

The Freshwater Pro and HA! Listening to Cotê and Pat O trying to sell it is worth finding the video and replaying. Pure gold. Pure storytelling gold and here’s the rumors I heard. It was 100% off the tour, due surfer hate and horrible numbers, but the WSL’s head non-surfing brass forced it down Pat’s throat even though he didn’t want it either, because it is their business model and leaving it off was to admit failure.

Ha Ha!

Anyhow, number nine is France and I assume ten is Portugal while eleven is Pipeline though don’t know because my WSL feed went dead.

Freshwater Pro…

Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha!

But what do you think?

Are you excited?

Watch: “Mr. Logan… Mr. Logan, tear down this Wall of Positive Noise!”

The time has come for free surfers everywhere to stand in solidarity!

So there I was, late last week, ready to march up to Santa Monica and pound your 95 Theses onto the World Surf League’s Global Headquarter’s door, or at least five of them, when I stumbled upon one of the most odious, most egregious human rights’ abuses on earth. A throttling so aggressive as to make Red China seem open and free. A gagging that ex-Soviet KGB officers wish they had dreamt up themselves.

You see, I was so worried about The People™, and the toxic impact the Wall of Positive Noise was having on us, that I failed to see its true victims.

Professional surfers.

We The People™, we have to endure the happy racket, Joe Turpel’s cotton candy stuffed down our ears, but are essentially free as birds, can press mute from time to time and speak truth.

Professional surfers, on the other hand, are prevented by law from saying any negative word about either the World Surf League or professional surfing in general.

Almost unbelievable but also right there, plain as day, inside the WSL Rule Book for there we find Article 189 and shall we read it together?

Article 189: Damage to Surfing’s Image

Individuals bound by this Policy shall not engage in any conduct which could cause damage to the image of the sport of surfing. For purposes of this Article, “damage to the image of the sport of surfing” is defined as any act, regardless of time or place, which casts the sport of surfing or WSL in a negative light. Without restricting the application of this Article, “damage to the sport of surfing” will include any comments or broadcast from social media accounts that the Surfer is responsible for.

Any Surfer found in violation of this section shall be subject to the following disciplinary action:
(i) Monetary Fines and Disqualification. The monetary fine amounts for an offense of this Article ranges from $1,000 USD to $50,000 USD per offense.
(ii) Suspension and Expulsion. Any offender under this Article may be subject to suspension and/or expulsion from a WSL Tour upon the first offense. Where multiple offenses occur within one or more concurrent seasons which demonstrate a pattern of unacceptable conduct, the Surfer may also be subject to suspension and/or expulsion from the WSL.

Tears are welling up in my eyes as I think of our professional surfing sisters and brethren trapped like 1970s East Germans, cowering on the other side of the Wall of Positive Noise, waiting for the sound of Stasi-like Erik “ELo” Logan’s jackloafers to come marching to their doors, fines and banishment in hand. Rolled out in front of microphone after microphone having to say, “Yeah, the surf was great today. Competition is good. Really sick.”


No damn it. If one of us is living under oppression than all of us are living under oppression and so before we can even begin to discuss the betterment of professional surfing, before any theses get nailed to any door I look at you, Mr. Logan, and say, “Tear down this Wall of Positive Noise. Abolish Article 189. Let our professional surfers breathe free.”

Breaking: Chris Cotę and Pat O to deliver “surprise announcement” regarding 2020 WSL Championship Tour tomorrow morning!

What could it be? What could it possibly be?

Are your loins girded? Tunic brought up so all the fabric is above the knees? Extra material gathered in front so it is tight against your backside? Tied tightly with no chance of coming undone? Ready for the promised “surprise announcement” to be delivered tomorrow morning (Nov. 6th) at 9:00 am Pacific Standard Time regarding the 2020 World Surf League Championship Tour schedule?

Well, if they are not you still have a few hours.

And what do you think this “surprise announcement” might be? Let’s head to the press release first before guessing wildly without rhyme or reason.

LOS ANGELES, California/USA (Tuesday, November 5, 2019) – The World Surf League (WSL) will release its 2020 Championship Tour calendars for the men’s and women’s tours tomorrow, Wednesday, November 6, at 9 a.m. PT.

Not an actual video. Maybe go to Facebook? I don't really know.
Not an actual video. Maybe go to Facebook? I don’t really know.

Head to on Wednesday, Nov 6 at 9 a.m. PT to find out where the world’s best surfers will go in 2020.

Pat O’Connell and Chris Cote host the unveiling of the schedule for next season. Find out where the tour is headed, get insight on each break from athletes and commentators, and, most of all, discover what new spot is being added to the slate.

Ok, so first, which commentators are being dropped? Are any being added? Surf Ranch is for sure being dropped but is anything being added in its place?

What else?

Who else?

Where else?

Let’s guess wildly without rhyme or reason but I’ll tell you right now, if the “surprise announcement” is that cbdMD is headlining any more events I won’t be happy.

I won’t be happy at all and will certainly let the WSL’s Storyteller-in-Chief Erik “ELo” Not Logan know about it.

The creamy-beige Blake Lively as Chris Little in The Shallows.

Just in: Forster Crawling with Great Whites; Surfer dragged under says, “It felt like I was hooked up to a ski boat!”

Pretty off-the-highway town on Australia's east coast clapping to the rhythm of bellicose sharks…

What’s it feel like to be sitting in an early evening lineup, alone, pretty three-foot waves, and you get hit from below in a classic Great White ambush attack?

Chris Little, forty, from Bondi in Sydney, was on the last day of a vacay at a pretty little off-the-highway joint on Australia’s east coast near Forster, an area filled with photogenic waves that dominated surf mags worldwide for a decade.

It’s spring. Longer days, warmer nights.

It also means an increase in Great White fever as migrating whales swing on home from mating season in the tropical north. Locals know to keep a wide berth at sunrise and sunset, maybe even avoid high tide when the Whites swim close to the rocks.

Let’s place the scene. It’s six-fifteen pm, south Boomerang Beach, right there in the corner. It’s daylight saving so it’s still an hour-and-a-half before dark. One guy sitting by himself.

As Chris paddles out he passes the guy riding a wave in. The guy waves, smiles.

A set, bigger than anything that’s comes through all day, appears.

“I’ve nailed it,” thinks Chris.

Then, as he paddles out to pick off his choice of waves, Chris feels a sharp tug on his legrope. Thinks the clown he saw on the way out has paddled back to the lineup and is making a funny prank.

“I quickly realised it wasn’t him,” says Chris. “I felt like I was hooked up to a ski boat. I immediately realised it was legit.”

He keeps saying to himself, “I know, I know, I know.”

The last time Chris did that, a realisation that his world was about to come to an end, was when he was a grommet in his car with his girl and he hit some water and flew off an embankment on the Bruce Highway, near Brisbane. He grabbed her hand and said,

I know, I know, I know.

In the water, Chris feels as if it’s a reverse wipeout. His legrope gets pulled so hard the board disappears underneath him.

Then he gets pulled under.

He tries to peel off his ankle strap. Can’t reach.

“I’m getting manhandled, dragged,” says Chris.”It was power on tap, like getting in a good car. I have a thirty-two litre board (six-two DHD DX1) and I’m almost ninety kilos.”

The leash stretches until he feels it break. The board flies fifteen feet in the hair. Later, he’ll discover it’s covered in micro-cracks, these weird little breaks in the glass.,

“It was like a fucking missile from a submarine and I was left fucking sitting in the brine like a tea bag. And, I thought, this thing is going to double back and fuck me up.”

It didn’t.

“I obviously freaked it out. So I swam like Ian Thorpe, like Alexander Popov, the fastest man in the water, jumped on my board, bellied it to the beach and threw my board on the sand.

The girlfriend of the guy who’d waved to him on the way in says she saw the hit.

Tells him: “I was wondering why there was some learner out the back flailing by themselves.”

The guy sees him and and asks what happened.

“I just had a run-in with god-knows-what out there, it bit through my legrope and dragged me underwater.”

“I came in ‘cause it felt suss out there,” he says.

Chris laughs. “You gave me a smile on the way in! You fully gave me a wave.”

In the carpark, as Chris tells his wife what happened, the guy drives past and throws him a can of VB.

A local strolls by and says, “Heard you had an incident out there.”

He adds a pal of his was knocked off his board at the north on the previous Friday.

Three weeks before that, a surfer was belted by a ten-foot Great White, knocked off his board and so on, at Lighthouse Beach, near Seal Rocks, a few clicks south.

“The sheer power of the thing, it felt like I was getting hit by a bus,” Mike Bruton told a local tabloid.

Chris says the hit has ’t rattled him, per se, but he’s had a few dreams, one where he’s at a beach that’s a mix between Noosa and Bryon, and the same thing happens. In the dream it’s the same feeling, the same sensation.

He keeps the legroom in his bathroom, which he examines whoever’s he’s on the shitter.

A reminder of his mortality?

“It’s my only justification, the only proof,” he says. “Friends ask me, Who saw it? No one. Any mates? No. But I’ve got a legrope.”