Kelly opens the doors and turns on the pumps for a select crew, but how good is it really?
It’s been a good while since Kelly Slater dramatically pulled off the shroud and unveiled his Frankenstein wave creation. The most influential man in surfing had done it, he had replicated nature. It was perfection. It’s Alive! It’s Alive!
At first glance the wave was dark and gloomy. Exposure limited to only a handful of carefully curated shots. The wave, although perfect, was an oily black and brown.
But now the Kelly has turned on the spotlight. A tight selection of surfers were invited to come and play. No Cameras was the rule. Perhaps they were also instructed to use blindfolds and subjected to full body searches?
The result is both impressive and confusing. There’s no doubt the wave is flawless. But that’s also the reason it seems a little strange. As surfers our brains are hardwired to expect flaws in waves. We’re conditioned to expect them, many of our manoeuvres are based around them – The cutback (when the wave goes flat or we need to get back to the pocket. Airs and tail wafts are launched from flaws in waves, a snippet of lip that stands up a little more than the rest, that’s your section. Looking at a wave breaking at constant speed with an unchanging lip line has never been part of our sport before.
Watching the surfers ride Kelly’s wave, I can’t help but notice slight confusion. The tube-riding is fine although tight, but it is when a surfer emerges and looks for a section where there is none. Just the lip moving at a constant speed, too fast to really dig in or set up for anything of substance, the surfer resorts to a speed snap before inevitably being drawn back into the tube.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m infinitely impressed by what Kelly has achieved but I couldn’t help but notice. Perhaps time to adjust to the “wave” is all that’s needed? A rethink of board design for pool perfection perhaps, a look at modifying the bottom contours of the pool to create sections? Or maybe the best surfing will always come from the unpredictability of nature.
I’d absolutely love to hear Kelly’s thoughts on this, as I’m sure he’s already thought about all these things and more.