Kelly Slater reveals stunning thirty-three-year relationship with the step-daddy to his tour nemesis, “I love him. He’s my best friend… I’m a lucky guy to’ve had him in my life all these years!”

The most-loved man in surfing is a hoary old phrase that gets thrown around, but in this case it's true!

A sort of melancholy falls over the  latest episode of Lost Tapes, the 11-part series that documents Kelly Slater’s 2019 year.

It is Autumn and we are in Hossegor, France, as Slater wrestles with a series of ninth place finishes, catastrophic by his standards.

It is lovely in the Aquitaine this time of year, tourists mostly gone, the little summer wind swells giving way to Atlantic muscle, but the sky is greyer, the days shorter.

It’s a time when even the most optimistic soul feels a little malaise.

The episode focusses on his thirty-three relationships with Stephen “Belly” Bell, an ex-pat Australian glasser who’s been living in France since 1989, and who became the step-daddy to Leo Fioravanti after finding love with the Italian’s spectacularly assembled mama Serena.

“It feels like the end of an era for me,” Slater says, as he stays at Belly’s gorgeous cubist beach house. “Belly now has only one event left in his tour managing career… he’s been there for every world title I’ve won. I love Belly. He’s my best friend. He’s a consistent person and a good guy. I can trust him with anything and everything. Everyone should have a Belly in his life. I’m a lucky guy to’ve had him in my life all these years!” 

I know the feeling.

Belly 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 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?

Californian superstar Kolohe Andino revealed as architect of recently euthanised Surf Ranch tour event, “I personally did not push for the technology to be on tour,” says Slater.

“Every time this thing runs, it’s better than ninety percent of waves ever are when we’re there!”

The Surf Ranch Pro, a WCT event held at the Kelly Slater wavepool in Lemoore, California, and also known as the Freshwater Pro, has been completed three times, and in every instance Gabriel Medina and Filipe Toledo have been in the final, Medina winning twice.

The contest was very unpopular with fans, however.

As our tour correspondent, the late and forever beautiful Longtom, wrote, “When you strip out the ocean and the possibility of anything that adds unexpected drama to pro surfing, a Medina brain explosion, lulls, a heat-winning ride in the final seconds, sharks, coral etc etc, it boils down to a bland formula.

“For the viewer, a dull ache of unrealised desire at the deathless sight of that impossibly perfect wave that fades with each wave to be replaced with niggling boredom and a jarring resentment.”

In the latest episode of Lost Tapes, an 11-part series that documents Kelly Slater’s 2019 year, he reveals that it was Kolohe Andino, and not he, who was the catalyst for the event running.

“After watching footage, Kolohe goes, ‘Why isn’t this on tour…well think about it!’” remembers Slater. “That’s when the conversation became real.”

Ironically, Kolohe’s initial enthusiasm would turn to sad when the contest did manifest, Kolohe accusing the judges of “playing mind tricks” and rewarding safety surfing and sitting in a barrel that carried with no risk.

Kelly Slater returns to site of epic Curren’s Point session for first time since 1990, “Easily forty-foot faces. No one had the balls to surf and then Tom Curren paddled out by himself!”

"Giant crazy waves!"

In episode eight of the 11-part Slater doco series, docuseries, however you wanna call it, the Champ is back roaming Miyakzaki, Japan, for the first time since 1990.

This ain’t the tour event it used to be but the 2019 ISA Olympic Games qualifier.

And, here, we see the delightfully peculiar notion of putting the greatest surfer ever, and still is at specific venues, Pipe, Teahupoo, against surfers from Iran, Afghanistan etc.

Slater didn’t make the cut for the Olympic team; he did revisit the river mouth point he was too terrified to surf, but eventually did, along with his pal Tom Carroll, back in 1990.

“What you would say is easily forty foot faces…giant crazy waves… no one had the balls to surf it, and then Tom Curren went out and surfed it by himself.”

Also in the episode is a peek behind the bamboo curtain at how localised some of these joints are, permission sought from old-timers before waves paddled.

Australian father-of-two takes family on wild eight-month surf odyssey, documents adventure in full-length feature film, “If the Phone Doesn’t Ring, It’s Me!”

At some point, we all gotta hit the road.

At some point, or not I suppose, you’ll make a family, kids will grow to a certain size, and you’ll wanna take off on the great road trip and explore the outer flanks of your country.

A rite of passage for every Family Man before the wife veers off into her Secret Garden, never to return.

In this feature-length edit, we follow Angourie big-wave surfer Laurie Towner, wife Bron and kids Chase and Iyla as they head west across this vast island continent. Laurie, you’ll remember, perused the pro surfing dream for years until reality intervened and he became a tiler, although lately, he’s been working in the design room with his sponsor, the online wetsuit and accessories brand Need Essentials.

The pair are followed by Film-maker Nathan Henshaw and his girl Bec, who only intervenes whenever some dreadful slab is about to explode.

Kelly Slater finally makes public the miracle that allowed him to film commercial for trademark high-waisted “dad jeans” at perfect, empty, eight-to-ten-foot Teahupoo!

"This is Kelly's day!"

In the latest episode Lost Tapes, the 11-part series that follows the travails of Kelly Slater on his 2019 tour run, we are transported to French Polynesia where the Tahiti Pro is taking place.

Slater, who is forty-seven, underperforms at the event he has won five times, causing the Champ a surprisingly deep sorrow.

The post-heat scene back at his ocean-front villa where he sits with Chinese girlfriend Kalani Miller and pours over the rides of his opponent Jack Freestone, bitterly lambasting the judges for a nine given to Freestone where “the wave spits and he’s on the shoulder”, is better, I think, than anything in the much-vaunted Make or Break series for Apple+.

His journey is made complete, however, when the tour’s surfers leave the archipelago the day before a clean eight-to-ten-foot swell hits.

Needing to shoot a campaign advertisement for his Outerknown high-waisted “dad jeans”  the lineup is empty but for local shredder Kauli Vaast, whom you’ll remember went over the falls with a photographer on a monster day just last week.

“This is Kelly’s day,” says OG Tahitian surf-stud Raimana Van Bastolaer, who was once described by Cindy Crawford as “walking viagra”.

And, so it is.