My what could have been if both these guys stayed on track?
It remains one of the most celebrated heats in pro surfing history – Kelly Slater vs Shane Herring in the final of the 1992 Coke Surf classic at Narrabeen. Both surfers were twenty, still evolving and seemingly at the dawn of brilliant careers. With his jinking turns, rail mastery, and well-timed head-flicks Herring perhaps had the edge on Kelly for style – but I’m commenting from an Australian perspective and Herring was the great hope to stop the Slater juggernaut. Kelly’s physical charisma is still apparent in the footage, along with the aerial pop that saw him take surfing to a new stratosphere; even if his arms did flail a little too much back then. Kelly’s unrelenting desire to win also resonates in every hop and lip-hit.
As it was Kelly went on to win his first world title that year, while Herring was soon drifting into the surfing wilderness. It’s hard not to watch and wonder how we missed out on what should have been one of pro surfing’s greatest rivalries.
Aside from the compelling match-up there are other things to muse over in the footage – the longer, banana boards they are both riding (did they look better?), the clingy wettie pants, the rapid-fire commentary from Peter Townend and Todd Harris and some outrageous graphics. There is a lovely little moment, which time-stamps the clip. Todd refers to a Herring air as a floater and PT gently reminds him that the fins were fully released, letting him know we’re in an era beyond the lip now.
Enjoy the time warp.