The Limits of Friendship.

The image that comes to mind when thinking of Kelly Slater and Rob Machado is a pair of high-fiving, guitar-jamming, world-traveling pals whose hair combo pretty much bookmarks the spectrum. And that’s all good and true, but when fierce competition is in the air, there’re bound to be some clashes. For Machado and Slater, the air doesn’t get much thicker than it was at the moment this photo was taken at a friend’s farmhouse in the countryside nearly a decade ago. Rob rewinds the tape to a couple days before and lets the story roll:

“Maurice Cole calls me up and is like, ‘I shaped you a board, and I think it’s the best board I’ve ever shaped. It’s here for you to pick up.’ So I go over there a couple days later and we go down into the board room and start tearing through all these boards. Maurice goes, ‘F–k, mate, I can’t find it!’ He was freaking out. We go upstairs, and Maurice goes to get something out of the fridge and sees this note from Kelly that says, ‘I stopped by and grabbed a board.’ Kelly was getting a board from Maurice, too, but it wasn’t done yet. So then reports start coming back from people that ‘Kelly was blowing up at sandbars this morning–he loves his new board!’ Taylor Steele said, ‘Kelly was absolutely going nuts at the sandbars this morning. He’s riding this new Maurice, I don’t know where he got it.’ And I’m sitting there going, ‘That’s my board!’

“So, a couple days later, I’m waiting for him to bring it down the contest, and I saw him in the parking lot. He was like, ‘Hey, bro,’ like nothing’s going on, and I was so bent. It was an angry time in my life for whatever reason. In ’95, we were neck and neck in the ratings–it was so competitive and intense between us. It had gotten really gnarly, where we didn’t hang out that much. He could sense obviously something was wrong, so he said, ‘Hey, I got your board, you want it?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah. Let’s go get it right now,’ I said, super serious.

“So we drive to where he’s staying, and he gets the board. He peels off the stickers and then says, ‘It’s cool that I leave this traction on, right?’ ‘No, that’s not cool, dude,’ I said. ‘I don’t use whatever that shit is. Take it off.’

I was in the house waiting. I’d walk by the door and see him struggling, tearing at it. There was gooey shit everywhere. I wish I was in the photo so you could see the look on my face. But I don’t think Kelly was that fazed by it all.”