“The gnarly thing is, you never really moved on, you never got a coach. It was hard!”
The former #9 surfer, Pipe Master runner-up and veteran of a decade on the world tour has levelled an extraordinary historic charge against the world’s greatest athlete, Kelly Slater.
On the insanely popular surf podcast Ain’t that Swell, run by the two best broadcast journalists in the game, Vaughan Blakey and Jedaum Smith, we find Dean Morrison, the third prong in the Coolangatta trident alongside Joel Parkinson and Mick Fanning although its least successful competitively ‘cause he wasn’t into raking his teeth across the erected cherry nipples of ASP judges, describing the day a wedge was driven between he and “mentor, coach, and surrogate father” Wayne “Rabbit” Bartholomew.
In 1995, fifteen-year-old Morrison had fled the family home in Tweed Heads following a messy divorce and moved in with Bugs at his beachfront joint at Kirra.
“Rab was there to guide me from an early age,” Morrison tells ATS. “That wisdom that I learned from then prepared me onto the Championship Tour. Having someone like that guide me was invaluable.”
In 2002, Morrison qualified for the tour.
Bugs, meanwhile, had manoeuvred his way into the top job of the ASP, the forerunner to today’s WSL.
As Morrison describes it, following a heat against Peterson Rosa in the opening event at Snapper Rocks, “Kelly seen me and Rab having a conversation and he goes, ‘This is not fucking on! You cannot do this!’”
The implication being, the head of the ASP shouldn’t be tender-hearted on one of the competitors.
Kelly, then a six-time world champ, had a point of course and Morrison knew it.
“It separated us (but) you can’t run the tour and coach someone.”
Rabbit says, “That very first event, you were against Peterson Rosa, Kelly came up, said, ‘You reckon that was a seven! I’m watching you!’”
Rabbit remembers thinking, “Wow! This is gnarly!”
At one point, Rabbit looks over at his little pal and says, “The gnarly thing is, you never really moved on, you never got a coach. It was hard!”