On a remote reef, with only a handful of travelling surfers, bemused locals and palm trees to witness it, Dave Kalama and Kelly Slater provided a glimpse of surfing’s future yesterday.
Using a 1200 cc jetski and specially customised surfboards with footstraps to tow into the four to six foot barrelling rights, Kalama and Kelly let loose with high speed 50 metre cutbacks into the peak, aerial flips and loops, carving 360s and outrageous floaters.
“I’ve never really surfed with straps before in small waves so I’m just learning what’s possible,” said Kelly, after the ground-breaking session. Kelly came close to landing several complete loops and bizarre spinning aerials. “You get one thing in your head and you just try to pull that one off,” he said.
“The best thing about towing in with straps in small waves is the speed and the potential for flips,” said Dave, also an accomplished windsurfer. “I think it’s best just for pushing surfing – period. All the stuff that’s possible in snowboarding is possible for straps.”
Spontaneous hoots and screams resounded through the break, as the fortunate few surfers in the water took in the futuristic show. For nearly two hours, the pair buzzed the lineup, whipping each other into the largest sets slingshot-style, launching off every available lip or ramp, and threading deep tubes from way behind the peak.
At the end of rides, the pair were pulling wild spinning aerial variations that had more in common with windsurfing, skateboarding or snowboarding. And you get the sense the pair are just warming up. If serious swell arrives, the possibilities are mind-boggling.
“You can do floaters on 10 foot waves,” said Kelly. “You can have a lot more control of the board instead of the wave controlling the board.”
“If you get on top of the wave, you can just leap off and know your board will be there when you get to the bottom,” said Dave.
“How many sessions do you have where you say, I wish I was over there, I wish I was over there? Now you can be 10 yards away in five seconds,” said Kelly.
One outrageous, nameless, mutant move of Kelly’s is still etched in my mind. As a couple of us watched slack-jawed from the shoulder, Kelly heaved into a massive gouge right in the mouth of a gaping tube, and appeared to deliberately bury his board in what I can only describe as an underwater cutback. He ended up laying back in the wave face with the nose of the board pointing vertically up at the lip. Somehow he whipped the board back around underneath him even as the wave barrelled over him and rode out of the thing.
Asked about it later, Kelly the perfectionist was unsure about the move. “You can get a little sloppy with straps because you can recover before you fall off,” he said.
Despite it’s obvious potential, strapped in surfing in small waves has yet to become popular. “It’s not fashionable. It’s peer pressure – kids don’t want to use straps yet. But it is the future,” said Dave, matter-of-factly.