Peter ‘Joli’ Wilson reflects on one of his most iconic images. From the pages of Tracks, issue # 579
Going on 30 years ago now, way before instant news stories or social media being blasted out by anyone with a smartphone using Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, our surfing news turned up in monthly and bimonthly doses in surfing magazines. The only way to get some surf news out there quickly was a press release to the news media followed up by a meet and greet press conference.
This image is from around June 1991
when Kelly was in Australia on his way to Indonesia for a Tracks magazine surf trip. A few months earlier he’d signed a sponsorship deal with Quiksilver. So, they took advantage of the situation by depositing the shy teenager into the big chair at their Newport Beach office, and had a room full of mainstream and surfing press lob questions at him about the sponsorship/deal.
It was his first trip to Oz after the signing, and the Quiksilver crew took the opportunity to introduce him to the Australian press and get the word out there the best way they could at the time. On the left is Tracy Holmes from the ABC and down in the right corner is former Tracks photographer, Peter Simons.
After a crazy junior and amateur career, virtually winning every Title on offer across the US and a World Junior Title to boot, Kelly made the decision to turn pro and take on the world of pro-surfing. It was a slow start with a handful of events while he finished high school, but once school was done his pro career took off.
At the start of ‘92 he was back in Oz for the Ocean Earth - Hot Buttered Pro Junior at Narrabeen, the most prestigious junior comp in the world at the time, and along with good mate Shane Dorian, they made it an all international final, the first in the event’s history with Kelly taking it out. A couple of months later he was back at Narrabeen for the Coca Cola Surf Classic where he was runner-up behind Shane Herring.
As Kelly remembered recently, he ended up travelling with Herring and a pack of Aussies for most of ‘92 as his friends from the Momentum Generation, Shane Dorian, Rob Machado, Ross Williams and Kalani Robb weren’t on tour yet.
This was his first full-time year on the Tour and after a handful of podium finishes in the first half of the year, he nailed his first CT win in France at the Rip Curl Pro in Hossegor, before winning the Pipe Masters at the end of the year and claiming his very first World Championship Title.