How has Kelly Slater stayed on top of the surfing world for so long? The full answer could fill a book, but since 2008 the largest contributor has been his willingness to experiment with his equipment, which is exactly what Slater was doing during his opening round of the Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach, Australia, on Thursday.
After surrendering the title to Mick Fanning in 2007, Slater was seriously contemplating retirement. But he spent that winter in Santa Barbara, California, hanging with his girlfriend and riding fishes and other alternative equipment at Rincon. After spending well over a decade confined to his standard 6’1″ x 18 1/4″ x 2 1/4″ model, the new “feel” of a wider, flatter, stubbier board opened up Kelly’s surfing to new areas, and his mind to new possibilities, providing him with a whole new incentive to compete.
Two months later, he shocked the world at the Quiksilver Pro in Australia by taking his stubby 5-foot, 8-inch to the top of the podium, and that year’s championship. By the way, Slater hasn’t stopped experimenting. During his Round One heat on Thursday, he put a little five fin through its paces en route to his heat win. In case you haven’t noticed, the 41-year-old is back out in front of the pack already. Chances are, Slater’s lessons (when applied) might bode well for your surfing. That said, they aren’t boding well for his competitors’.