Whether it’s his intention or not–and let’s keep in mind we’re talking about one of the fiercest, most driven competitors to ever step foot on a board–9-time world champion Kelly Slater is doing a smoking job at getting people to talk about the shrunken sticks he’s been riding as of late. Let’s face it….as supernatural and other-worldly as Slater has been throughout his surfing career, at some point that career will in fact come to an end(right?). So what next? His deep interest in board design and close relationship with Al Merrick, as well as his latest venture into shaping seem to all be pointing in one direction…
Coming into the 2008 year on the ASP World Tour, Slater’s ever-decreasing board size was already a hot talking point throughout the industry. His segment in Taylor Steele’s Trilogy was a dirty little demonstration on just how ultra-effective and super fun the boards he was riding could be. As the year progressed and Kelly stomped aside the competition, there were very few people, including the surfers on the WCT, who can honestly say they weren’t considering a reduction in board-size in their own quiver. In interviews, video segments, and especially on the water, Kelly Slater was an avid-evangelist for his new design and telling anyone who would listen that shorter was the way to go.
When the 2008 Billabong Pipeline Master rolled around, Kelly had long since wrapped up #9 and essentially rendered the back half of the tour as pointless. With the title long since wrapped up, there was speculation as to whether Slater would even make it to Ehukai for his opening heat at the Pipe Masters. Kelly Slater did indeed end up making it to his heat, and fresh from blowing up a swell in the Caroline Islands he went on to do the unthinkable….win the Pipeline Masters while riding a pig-nosed 5′11″ at 6-8 ft. Pipe. While the majority of the surfers were busy riding the standard 6′10″+ guns at Pipe, Slater was introducing us to the “Deep 6″. With the way he surfed the Deep 6, Kelly Slater brought a whole new flavor to Pipeline and once again had everyone throughout the industry peering at one thing and one thing only…his stick.
Slater’s taken it to a whole new level in 2009, as he showed up to the recent Quiksilver Pro in Australia with a bag full of boards ranging from 5′4″-5′7″. Before being taken out by Young Gun Julian Wilson in Rd. 3 of the event, Slater, while riding a 5′4″, once again put his hand-crafted design on display for all to see. There was and still is loads of chatter surrounding his choice of equipment circulating throughout. However, right or wrong from a competitive standpoint, he showcased a smooth style of surfing and once again did what any good marketer is supposed to do- get the people talking.
Whether he finishes with 9,10,11, or 15 world titles, Kelly Slater is already and will likely be forever known as one of, if not the greatest surfers to ever hit the water. Is the board reduction just an added challenge for someone who has already demonstrated his superiority over the rest of professional surfing? Or has this all been one big marketing campaign for someone looking to bridge the gap between the next phase of his career? Who knows, but either way…you’re reading this, I’m writing this, we’re not the first, we won’t be the last…Kelly Slater must be doing his job.
Posted by Shaun on Monday, March 16th, 2009 in Surfing.