A Quick Chat With Kelly Slater

22 04 2010

The nine-time ASP World Champion celebrates after winning the Rip Curl Pro. Photo: ASP/Cestari

There has been a lot of hype this year about the rookies and perhaps deservedly so. It’s a pretty strong class. But Taj and you are 1 and 2 in the ratings after two events. Does it motivate you to beat the younger guys?
It motivates me to surf well and keep progressing. It’s not personal. I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings in the process. I used to like that secretly.

Conversely, I imagine some of the younger guys are really motivated to do well when they surf against you. During your first few seasons on tour who motivated you?
For sure. I nearly beat Pottz and BL (Barton Lynch) when I was just about to turn pro and that fired me up. Then I eventually got both of them and that was good confidence building.

With the revised judging guys are routinely getting 7’s, 8’s and 9’s for one maneuver. How much does that change your approach in heats?
Not sure yet. I think the judging is finding itself. Just as you can’t give a ten for the best ever carve, you can’t do it for airs guys pull every heat. It needs to focus on combos and variety, and the quality of each individual maneuver within that. That’s where I think we should steer it.

Do you think Christian Fletcher and John Holeman are screaming “fucking finally” somewhere while watching these events?
They should be but inversely (I had to use it cause you used conversely) Gerry Lopez and Rob Machado might feeling ill at some styles and claims they see going down. 

What event would you like to see come back, or is there a spot that hasn’t had a WT event that should be a part of the Dream Tour?
GLand and more rotating mobile event licenses.

I think Bob McKnight should just hand over the keys to Quiksilver if you win title number 10. Thoughts?
The actual office? No thanks.

Since your given name is Robert Kelly have you ever thought about going by just R. Kelly? Or would that be too weird?
Maybe in the summer when I get really dark. It would probably be fun for a few days, but then just way too creepy.

I saw a video on Surfline where you were experimenting with shaving the deck to make it a concave…like a skateboard. It surprises me that someone hasn’t done something like that before. Maybe someone has. How are those boards working out?
They’re good. Don’t tell anyone. Try tend to flex too much though.

I have seen you touch on this subject before but I think the ASP is doing a disservice to fans by continually allowing events sponsors to run the webcasts of events. To me it seems so transparent and amateurish. The PGA, for instance, doesn’t allow Titleist that kind of control. But it most likely comes down to money. There is no revenue stream. Events don’t charge admission. And there is no across the board TV deal like we see in most major sports. Is it even possible as it stands now for the ASP to run webcasting/broadcasting from a financial standpoint?
No. We cater to surf fans mostly and maybe that’s all our industry wants. There are a lot of things on the ground level that need changing for that option to happen. Someone would need to figure out that revenue stream for the governing body. 

I think people are really enjoying the Occy and Curren Clash of the Icons thing. Do you think 10 or so years from now we’ll see Kelly vs. Andy?
At Pipe? I hope so.

There doesn’t seem to be any true rivalries on tour anymore. Do you think that is a true statement?
Yes. Maybe Jordy and Dane. They’re very different and polarize each other, but surf towards the same place on a wave. Dane’s the anti Jordy and vice versa.


Three’s Company

21 01 2010

For the greater part of three decades three surf companies have dominated professional surfing in terms of event sponsorship money and world titles. Nugable takes a closer look at the situation.

Most sports have Nike and Reebok. Surfing has Quiksilver, Billabong and Rip Curl. Since 1982 only four surfers have won the ASP World Championship without one of the Big 3’s stickers on their board (Barton Lynch/Instinct, Derek Ho/Gotcha, Martin Potter/Gotcha and CJ Hobgood/Globe). Since 1990 it has essentially happened twice.

It leads one to wonder if there’s a conspiracy and whether or not a surfer not sponsored by Rip Curl, Quiksilver or Billabong will ever win a world title again?

“I think the answer is yes,” says veteran Australian journalist Tim Baker. “I don’t think there is a conspiracy. Have a look at event winners over the past few years and there is not a high incidence of surfers winning their own sponsor’s events. It happens here or there, Parko at J-Bay, Mick (Fanning) in Portugal, but not enough to suggest a conspiracy, and there was nothing contentious about those wins. It would be a bit too obvious anyway and I think ASP head judge Perry Hatchett is a man of enormous integrity.”

The last time a surfer not sponsored by the Big 3 won the title was in 2001 when Florida’s CJ Hobgood took home the crown in a season cut short by the tragedy and uncertainty of the events surrounding 9/11.

“I was the last one to do it, but mine doesn’t count,” said former ASP world champion CJ Hobgood. “Look at any sport…golf, tennis, etc.  I mean when was the last time a world number one in golf or tennis wasn’t sponsored by Nike or maybe Adidas? (When) you have the most money it’s pretty easy to get the best athletes.”

Looking back, 2002 was the turning point for the ASP when the majority of the events (8/12) main sponsors were one of the Big 3. Since then the Big 3 have essentially controlled the ASP’s World Championship Tour. In 2010 they account for 8 of the 10 events.

An oligarchy is a form of power that effectively rests with a small, elite group of inside individuals. It can be argued that the ASP operates as a corporate oligarchy. Behind the scenes there are always people who complain about surfers getting “pushed” in heats.

Transworld Surf editor-in-chief Chris Cote suggests there is a morsel of truth to that argument. “I don’t think it happens often, but I think the judges, just like the media, get caught up in the hype and push the ‘it’ guys through sometimes.”

Let’s face it, today there are only a handful of surfers with a realistic chance at a title—Kelly Slater, Andy Irons, Mick Fanning, Joel Parkinson, Bede Durbidge and Taj Burrow. All except Durbidge ride for the Big 3. The current number-three in the world was recently picked up by Fox when his primary sponsor, Mada, went belly up.

There is no question the large surf companies do a fantastic job of signing, finding and nurturing talent. Just look at the junior’s scene today. Owen Wright, a 2010 WCT rookie, is a Rip Curl Team rider, as is 16-year-old Brazilian phenom Gabriel Medina.

“The big companies have the resources to get the best guys,” says Cote. “It used to be kids would come up riding for smaller companies, and then get snatched by the bigger companies. Now you see big companies like Target and Nike snatching up kids from the biggest surf companies.”

A perfect example is the recent signing of 9-time NSSA national champ Kolohe Andino by Nike. He bolsters an already impressive lineup of young Nike surfers that includes Dusty Payne, Nat Young, Kai Barger and Michel Bourez. Yesterday, Target also signed the up-and-coming San Clemente teenager. He joins Carissa Moore on team Target and more surfers will surely follow.

Baker suggests subtler forces may also play a role. “Yes, these companies do a good job of picking up the cream of the talent pool, but they also do a really good job of marketing those guys and showcasing their surfing in video and photos, so that we all get a slightly elevated view of their prowess compared to their less-well sponsored peers. If, say, Tom Whittaker was sponsored by one of the Big 3 he would be a lot more visible and we would all be more firmly convinced of how hard he rips. I think this even unconsciously can rub off on the judges at times and get the high-profile guys through tight heats. But I think all concerned know if it became a case of obvious bias pro surfing would quickly lose whatever legitimacy it has.”

If you aspire to be a world champ someday, just to be safe, you’d better make sure you sign on the dotted line with one of these three companies. Or at least until Nike and Target take over.

Five Surfers, Five Quotes

5 01 2010

Dane Reynolds
“I’m a painter in my dreams, you know.”
— Kurt Vonnegut, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater

Owen Wright
“There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and
lets the future in.”
— Graham Greene, The Power and the Glory

Mick Fanning
“Can’t repeat the past?…Why of course you can!”
— F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Joel Parkinson
“Don’t feel sorry for yourself. Only assholes do that.”
— Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood

Andy Irons
“Do anything, but let it produce joy. Do anything, but let it yield ecstasy.”
— Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer

The Top Fucking 5 ASP Partiers of the Last 20 Years

1 12 2009

Now that's a party. Pee-wee, Rodney Dangerfield and Diamond Dave.

Professional surfers can be rockstars at times. Perhaps that’s why so many think they are or try to be musicians. Musicians get a free pass. They can get arrested, do every drug in the book, drink massive amounts of booze and the end result is they sell more records. They make more money.

It’s not so simple for the professional athlete. Image is everything. Keeping sponsors happy and avoiding negative press is of utmost importance. Unless you ride for …Lost. Then partying is in the contract. There’s a reason they don’t hold the NBA All-Star Game and an ASP event in the same city at the same time. Every weed dealer in town would run dry. It’s a supply and demand thing.

But surfers and pro basketball players aren’t the only dysfunctional athletes. Stars in literally every sport enjoy the booze, the drugs and the women.

Recently, tennis player Andre Agassi wrote a book in which he admitted to doing meth at the peak of his pro career. Plus, he wore a hairpiece. He was more ashamed of the rug on his head. In 1970 Pittsburgh Pirate pitcher Dock Ellis no-hit the San Diego Padres. An impressive feat. Shockingly, he did it while on LSD. Reminds me of a certain Santa Cruz surfer we know and love. Doesn’t it?

There are so many classic and not-so-classic stories of surfers falling off the deep end or pushing the limits. There was the high-profile surfer who smuggled coke back from the world champs in Peru to Hawaii glassed into his boards. Or the eclectic Australian who once paddled out at Waimea on a 5’9″ after eating mushrooms.

Then there’s the time Rod Kerr showed up at Zarautz absolutely shitfaced after an all-nighter, paddled out against Richie Collins, threw up in the shorebreak and smoked the god-fearing Christian. Richie was so rattled he went to Rod’s place that night with a bottle of bourbon and insisted they demolish it together.

And who could forget the antics and excess of Bunker Spreckles?

Frankly, this list could be a top 100. But, I had to narrow it to five. In my criteria partying expertise alone did not win you a spot. Competitive success along with media exposure was part of the equation. And I narrowed the scope to include just the last 20 years. If you feel I missed someone, or you do not agree, be sure and voice your thoughts in the comments.

5. Eugene Fanning
He has a world title and who could forget the time he crashed Slater’s acceptance speech at the Surfer Poll drunk off his ass. When Kelly put his arm around Fanning on stage and asked what would happen if he showed up in Australia and acted that way, his response was “You’d get laid.” I miss Eugene.

4. Christian Fletcher
I first saw Christian surf in person at Churches one summer afternoon. I think it was around 1986. I was just a little tyke. I was amazed when I saw him pull off two airs on one wave. I couldn’t believe such a thing was possible. His rise and demise has been well documented. It’s even rumored Jeff Booth is no longer jealous.

3. Darryl “Flea” Virostko
Anyone who surfs Mavericks for the first time on a half a hit of acid deserves to be on this list. Flea’s struggles with meth have been widely reported and he has recently cleaned up his act and started a program called FleaHab to give back.

2. Andy Irons
The three-time world champ had a long and tumultuous 2008. He even dropped out of the WCT. Rumors of addiction and an ensuing rehab swirled wildly. He hasn’t officially told “his” story yet and I’d be surprised if he didn’t already have a book deal in place. One thing is for certain. The WCT will be better in 2010 with Andy on board.

1. Mark Occhilupo
Occy is a legend for sure. We love him. After prematurely quitting the tour at 22, Occy went into hermit mode. He story is perhaps the best and that is why he tops the list. In the late ’80s Occy drove a Harley Davidson into the back of a car and did a full somersault over the handle bars, over the car, and landed on his feet. Hard to imagine but witnesses on hand swear it’s a true story. You have to admire Billabong for not giving up on him. The fact he battled back and won the world title in 1999 was an extraordinary achievement. Don’t believe me? Nine-time champ Kelly Slater called it “one of the great sports stories of all time.” And who can argue with that?—Nug

Really Billabong? Really?

16 11 2009


After four hours of surfing on a cold, gray November morning nothing satisfies those chilly bones like warm flannel. Nothing.

It’s a little-known fact Kurt Cobain did not kill himself over depression or drugs. It was flannel. You see, he was out drinking one night with Dave Grohl. Over whiskey they complained of the flannel phenomenon they launched. Kurt told Dave that night “if I see one more asshole wearing a flannel, I’m going to kill myself.” Dave thought Kurt was joking. The rest is history.

When did Old Navy start designing Billabong ads? Leave it to Billabong to make their franchise surfers look like gay lumberjacks.  Really Billabong? You are so much better than this.