Kelly's secret weapon against Andy was 'Brown Beauty'
“6’1 x 18 ¼ x 21/ touch of concave, Simon Anderson pre-shape. Busted three times. Kelly Slater rode a creased and beaten Simon a lot of the time on his way to his 7th and 8th world titles (2005, 2006) First rode it at one foot Narrabeen in front of Simon. Practically the next week buckled it at the world’s heaviest wave in beating Bruce Irons in an epic heat at the 2005 Billabong Pro Teahupoo.”
This is the compelling, first paragraph of a 2007 Tracks story by Derek Hynd, titled ‘Brown Beauty’. In the article Hynd attempts to unravel the mythology around a board that was instrumental in Kelly’s come-back world titles. “It says a fair bit that he even worried to fix it,” writes Hynd. “In removing clutter from the mission at hand. Of limits to the search for the perfect board. And the flipside, the terrors of too many boards in the quiver.”
Prior to 2005 Kelly hadn’t won a title since 1998. Conversely, Andy had claimed three titles on the trot, crushing Kelly’s confidence in the process. Andy wasn’t simply grinding out victories, he was surfing in another realm. While personal demons may have simmered beneath the surface, when Andy was on he seemed untouchable.
As a sporting champion, much of your legacy hinges on your ability to overcome a worthy rival. Beating Andy became an obsession for Kelly and having the right board was part of that. Kelly knew he needed something special beneath his feet to upset Andy’s momentum. After a seven-year hiatus from the number one spot, it was quite conceivable that Kelly would slip comfortably away into the history books with only his six titles from the 90s to his name.
In the article by Hynd, Simon Anderson reflects on the role the board played for Kelly in terms of psychology. “The board gave him confidence at times when the pressure was on. He hadn’t failed before in his career. I guess it was a magic board at a critical time …"
It's worth noting Kelly didn’t ride the Simon Anderson exclusively in 2005 and 2006, instead, he alternated between the rapidly deteriorating Anderson 6’1” and his Channel Islands Al Merricks. However, Kelly wasn’t changing boards as frequently as he swaps outfits, the way he tends to do now. In the 2007 Tracks article, Hynd actually applauds Kelly for keeping it simple.
“Kelly’s stuck with a relative thimble full of boards the past two years, choosing the known over the unknown to first challenge Andy’s track to a fourth world title, then pull away. Message to the punter from high above: Cut the crap don’t experiment with the mix. Ride what’s gone best for you no matter how far back. Stick with it.”
Kelly had narrowed it down to a few board choices. By way of comparison Hynd references a scene from a movie where Taj Burrow looks a little baffled alongside his 70-odd small wave boards and comments to the camera, "No wonder I’m confused".
In 2005 Kelly rode the Simon Anderson at Teahupoo (1st) J-Bay (1st), Japan (2nd) and Trestles (1st). In 2006 it was used at Bells (1st), J-Bay, and Trestles (2nd) again. By the time Kelly pulled it out in France in 2006, the third crease was getting repaired. The motto for Brown Beauty was, 'If it's broke fix it!'
Commenting on its design features, Simon stated, "It was turned out a little more, held its line, not as much slide, a little more rail in the water… The 6’1” rounded pin had less than normal rocker, and was good for J-Bay, which got pretty big in 2005."
Simon Anderson undoubtedly played an integral role in the resurrection of Kelly Slater's career, by helping him win the 2005 and 2006 world titles. However, because Simon made the magic board the last word on the subject belongs to him. Speaking to Hynd he commented, “What Al (Merrick) and Kelly have done is amazing – but I don’t mind taking a touch of the limelight. Thankyou Kelly, Thankyou linesmen, Thankyou ball boys.”