Two of surfing’s favourite topics – ‘Will Kelly retire?’ and ‘What is Kelly riding?’
At nearly 46 Kelly Slater’s every move remains a source of constant intrigue for the surfing public. Whether it is Kelly’s competition dramas, injury battles, wave pool escapades or his Instagram posts on random topics like false alarm missile strikes; we can’t get enough. When the King speaks we listen. Just ask his 2.1 million followers.
Another factor that keeps us tuned into the Kelly show are his equipment choices. Over the years we’ve closely observed his experimentations with Bananas, Wizard Sleeves, Moon Tails, Sci-Fis , Rooks, Gammas, faded Simon Andersons, every kind of Channel Islands and ridiculously short competition quads – just to mention a few of his phases. On many occasions pro surfers and the general public alike have followed him down the rabbit hole on his design tangents – sometimes with mixed results.
Kelly once relied on other shapers to produce his wave tools, but since purchasing Firewire and launching Slater Designs it seems he has gotten his hands on the shaping software and begun exploring his own design ambitions. According to the Firewire website Kelly’s “interest in CAD board design, modifying variables and testing and retesting has lead to the development of an incredible all round short board.” That statement was made in relation to his recently released Gamma model. It’s also worth noting that Hawaii’s Finn McGill recently rode to victory in the World Pro Juniors, riding a Slater Designs craft.
However, none of that explains his latest, big wave board experiment, which he rode at Waimea earlier this week. Based on the photos we are not quite sure what to make of it. All we can tell is that it has a deep, swallowtail, a hatchet-shaped single fin and that it’s pretty short by Waimea standards, which you would expect from Kelly. The surf shot also suggests Kelly had little trouble steering his new craft down the slopes and through the crowds the Bay.
The craft also features the Daniel Thomson 'Tomo' logo, which No doubt suggests Kelly, a notorious non-sleeper and design obsessive, and Dan spent hours coming up with this unorthodox-looking, big-wave craft. He will certainly have his functional justifications for the design, but one also can’t help but think that at 46 Kelly also thrives on finding new ways to make the drop and the bottom turn feel just a little bit different and the ride challenging in a new way.
It’s one thing to try out a new shape on a three-foot wave, but another thing entirely to put faith in a board when you are dropping into a fifteen-foot wave. Will this model be embraced by the big wave fraternity? You know you want to give it a try.