The SURFING Blog: Kelly Slater on the New Good

posted by / Blogs / September 19, 2010

Kelly has been an agent of change since he was around 17. Photo: Steve Sherman

Kelly has been an agent of change since he was around 17. Photo: Steve Sherman


Kelly Slater said something interesting when we sat down with him last week:

“You know, Dane is kinda the poster child for what surfing is right now. He likes to surf beach breaks and do airs, do maneuvers. That’s kind of what surfing does: Goes in and out of different periods. Even the Tour was the Dream Tour, trying to find perfect waves — it started in G-Land, then J-Bay, Teahupo’o, all these perfect waves — but now there’s kinda this emphasis on beach breaks again. Like wedges and tricky little spots. So I could definitely foresee the Tour trying to tap into that, putting more emphasis on that type of surfing as opposed to down-the-line carving and barrel riding. I think that’s probably a natural evolution.”


There’s a fascinating dichotomy in the notion of “good surfing” right now. At the Hurley Pro this week, some surfers got Excellent scores for a single air. Others got Excellent scores for carves, hacks and flow — but when those same surfers did attempt airs, the result was sometimes ugly and quite revealing of the progression gap. Whatever the official definition of what’s “good” — and the ASP does have an obligation to define it — Kelly seems to have his bases covered.

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  • Jimmicane

    Watching Bede, Mick, and sometimes Slater trying airs can be pretty horrendous. Most are double grabs and most the tail is barely above the lip. Glad the judges haven’t been rewarding them like they used to. Just because you do an air doesn’t mean it warrants extra points.

  • Jackson

    The guys who CAN do airs and the guys who CAN’T do airs were clearly revealed for all to see at Lowers. Some guys should just not try them.

  • Mik

    On the face power moves are easier than true airs (not hops), and airs with rotation, or reverse rotation are harder still. Very unpredictable in terms of where the board is going, and where you will land. So they deserve consistent points. Jadsen and Wright got underscored in this contest. What sets them apart is that they do airs with full conviction. Allot of guys, and this includes Kelly at times, look like they know how to boost, but then lose the conviction that they are going to land it, so it is more of a Hail Mary, than a move they are looking for on the wave’s face. Dane is probably the most masterfully innovative of the entire WTC, with Jordy, Owen, Jadsen, and Taj close behind (although Taj seems to doubt himself in contests). Having said that, there are a group of surfers who surf on the face of the wave with more electricity than others: Kelly, Andy, Mick, Kai, Ace, Martinez, Smith, Dane, Adriano, CJ, Bourez. So there is where the battle lines are: If you are going to do airs, you better stick the, or you will be beat by exciting on the face surfing. And similarly, if you are staying oon the face, you better be doing it with radicalness, or one big air is going to eliminate you. In this respect, the judges better start judging consistently, with utter indifference to rank or race. I’m personally sick of seeing Martinez, Jadsen, and Bourez underscored, etc.

  • Bg

    At Mik, in my opinion on the face power moves are harder to do than airs. that is why you do not see them very often. I’m talking Dane and Jordy only. Maybe Kelly at times when it all comes together, Mick when he unleashes a giant turn, and Taylor Knox when his timing is on. Parko too when he’s not injured.
    The rest of the field doesn’t seem to have the full force drive to wow. Big airs are nuts and hard to land but every kid can do them. No kids can do power moves like the guys I mention above. At least not what I’ve seen… yet. That was my take from Lowers anyway.

  • RH

    Yeah, that’s why Owen was apologizing after a heat at Trestles for pimping a reverse for points… it’s cuz they’re harder… yeah. Actually, the landings on a flat spin are much easier to make than on a straight air, which is why when John Holeman used to routinely do them in contests a quarter century ago, out of mid-face ollies, Florida judges did compensate him, but sure didn’t give him eights. Jadson and Owen’s are much bigger, and more off-the-lip… but Owen knows. And Jimmicane, you’re a youth-pimping barney… surely even you know (if you saw them) that NOTHING was uglier and more pitiful than the two little airs Jordy did on one wave at J-Bay (which he even received a high score for because of preconception). And that the big “straight air” that Bede attempted in the Hurley final would have, in reality (had Bede somehow made the landing), richly deserved a higher score than anything Jadson or Owen pulled in this contest. It’s okay to be a kook, Jimmicane, but don’t be a disingenuous one.

  • RH

    And conserve your bullets for a good target on the race card, Mik. Matty Wilkinson, without even resorting to his aerial arsenal or his forehand, was more underscored for steezily electric surfing, in his heat with Taj, than anybody… and was it cuz he is of some funky faced (sorry, Matt… ), not-heavily-pimped RACE? It’s all about pimp pressure. Not that the judging doesn’t have its IRrational prejudices; seems like when Adriano surfs ugly he routinely gets overscored, but when he surfs beautifully (and “carries” more power) he gets underscored. (Maybe some of the judges are in love with their own ugly surfing?)

  • JimmyJazz

    little trick reverse airs are for sissies. leave that for the expression sessions.

    the title should always come down to Pipe or some other heavy break.

  • Donniedarko

    Kelly cant do airs… stoopidest thing Ive heard all nite.

  • yeah mate.

    Jimmicane talking liquid poo yet again.
    Bede does great airs, as does Slater and Mick.
    The difficulty of landing an air is appreciated when you can do them yourself Jimmy.
    How many Guys attempt daily and still cant stick them? Heaps.
    how many Guys can get fat and develop an attitude toward People that outshine them? You for one fatso.
    For the last time Jimmy stfu. Fanning shouldve kicked your fat head in.