On This Day: Kelly Slater wins the 2008 Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach

Stu Nettle
The Rearview Mirror

Ten years ago today, Kelly Slater beat Bede Durbidge in the Final of the 2008 Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach.

Slater, then a mere 8-time world champion, was surfing his fourth heat of the day and from the first exchange he was on the back foot against Bede. For 27 minutes Durbidge controlled the heat till Slater rolled the dice and paddled to Rincon.

For years Slater had seemingly been able to bend the ocean to his will; waves would materialise in his presence, a quiet patch of ocean would suddenly churn. And that's just what happened in 2008*.

“I thought Bede had me,” Slater said later. “I wasn’t trying to worry too much or stress, I was happy just to be in the Final, but before the heat I heard Rabbit say something about going up to Rincon so I thought I would sneak up there to see what I could find.”

“I was really surprised Bede let me paddle up to Rincon by myself,” Slater said. “I thought that when I looked back, he would be ten yards behind me, but when I looked back, he was still in the Bowl. Then that wave came that let me do that big air.”

“It’s pretty frustrating, but he’s the champ and freakish things happen to him,” said Durbidge of Slater's move. “I saw him paddle up to Rincon and I just let him go. He just got one and went pretty freakish, did a big air, rode it all the way through and got the score.”

The 'big air' was awarded 8.83 and Slater was gifted the lead and ultimately the Final. It was Slater's third Bells title and his second contest win on the trot - he won the Quiksilver Pro just weeks earlier. He'd score four more wins through the year making 2008, with 6 wins from 11 contests, a close second to 1996 in terms of sheer Slater dominance.

1996 is considered Slater's blue ribbon year. That season he won 7 contests from 14 starts, through the middle of the year he collected 6 wins from 7 starts to wrap the 1996 World Title up with three contests to spare.

But back to 2008: Even ten years ago Slater was playing mind games with the media about competing full time. It was only after he won Bells that he confirmed he'd go to the next comp, Tahiti. As it happened he was rolled by wildcard Manoa Drollet at Teahupoo (who was eventually rolled by the other wildcard, Bruno Santos, in the Final), but then Slater won the following two contests, Tavarua and J'Bay, and later in the year Trestles and Pipe, to collect his ninth world title. It was the last year he'd win with such dominance.

*Another example of Slater's telepathy from 2008: In the semi-final of the Pipe Masters, Slater was comboed by Timmy Reyes. With five minutes left on the clock Slater grabbed first a 9.00 to get out of combo, then a Perfect 10 while paddling back out to reverse the combination situation and win the heat, and then ultimately the contest.

*The 2008 Pipeline Masters was the first outing of the Wizard Sleeve. Slater rode a 5'11" version even during the early rounds which were held in 10-12 foot Pipe. He subsequently rode various interpretations of the snub-nose design over the coming years. Whether this fact is linked with his waning dominance is another argument for another day.

Comments

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Tuesday, 27 Mar 2018 at 11:04am

His 2008 Quik Pro and Bells wins:

Christening the Wizard Sleeve at the 2008 Pipe Masters:

W41's picture
W41's picture
W41 Thursday, 29 Mar 2018 at 4:58pm

Be nice to see the Bells wave he won the comp on and the wave you spoke about.
This is what sets Bells apart from other power turn waves like sunset!
It's made for surfing like you would do at sunset or Haleiwa..But allows small Hi performance boards and Airs...
Great all round performance wave.

cswells's picture
cswells's picture
cswells Tuesday, 27 Mar 2018 at 2:21pm

Almost feels odd now seeing him on a CIS board with a Quiksilver sticker... even though they were his partners for the better part of two decades.

W41's picture
W41's picture
W41 Thursday, 29 Mar 2018 at 8:19pm

Been watching a heap of old 90s Kelly clips on youtube! Man his backhand just looks so much better and more draw out on longer boards! Even clips at Huntington beach on shitty little beach breaks ! He has that incredible stylish backhand bottom turn...that seems to have gone now with the boards he is on.

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin Thursday, 29 Mar 2018 at 8:34pm

Length is only getting the recognition it deserves now.

Surfboard fashion is palpable and oftentimes regrettable. But seeing how the whole thing is based on feelings and sensations then who gives a fuck as long as it feels good .

Till you’re caught behind the section for the umpteeth time or till you’re skating out as big blue walls run rampantly past and you’re pumping your skate inspired piece of shit for drive....then it matters.

simba's picture
simba's picture
simba Tuesday, 27 Mar 2018 at 3:41pm

personally i thought Kelly surfed /looked better riding channel islands boards than his latest designs with firewire.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 Tuesday, 27 Mar 2018 at 4:06pm

2008, he mostly rode that board shown, a 5'8" swallow tail that had more efficient planing area than most of the other pros, who were on 6'0's and 6'1"'s.

He won at a canter on equipment that was clearly superior.

The board he won Pipe on was the "Deep Six", not the wizard sleeve. A kind of 70's throwback.

2009 he went Wizard sleeve, which was a step too far.

2010 and 2011, Title years, he was mostly on 5'9" roundtail quads. As he was in 2012 and 2013, where he was clearly still well ahead of the pack despite not winning a 12th title.

The big mistake he made in equipment from 2014 onwards is making his equipment look too skittery and skatey : the exact opposite direction to what the judges wanted to see. They wanted big turns, he gave them weirded out half turns.
He zigged when he should have zagged.

memlasurf's picture
memlasurf's picture
memlasurf Tuesday, 27 Mar 2018 at 10:21pm

Yeah, his latest exploits on that Tomo look super loose and skatey; fluid but not carvey at all. Different, but I like my skatey ala Asher Pacey, not the weird hybrid Slater is pursuing.

cswells's picture
cswells's picture
cswells Wednesday, 28 Mar 2018 at 1:34pm

I imagine the equipment from 2014-onward was to keep up to trend with the 'skatey' moves of the younger guys on tour, especially the Brazilians. Although it's not my favourite style of surfing, it's certainly becoming more prevalent on the tour.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Wednesday, 28 Mar 2018 at 1:52pm

Boards actually started getting longer during that period, and thicker too. The "shorter board revolution" that Slater kickstarted in 2008 was pretty much over for everyone on tour bar Slater.

Also, kinda hard to blame Brazilians for "skatey" moves when that was the raison d'etre of the Momentum Generation that Slater himself led. They were the first to unweight the tail mid-turn and let it slide, kick the fins over the lip, or simply throw the boards sideways.

memlasurf's picture
memlasurf's picture
memlasurf Thursday, 29 Mar 2018 at 9:24pm

Stu, you forgot about Buttons and Larry B. Those were the first Skaters, and that ying and yang spray Larry had on his boards, if that is not iconic what is? Buttons 360s, l loved those as a kid. Everybody loved jerry but I was on the south shore crew as they had the moves.

Phil Jarratt's picture
Phil Jarratt's picture
Phil Jarratt Tuesday, 27 Mar 2018 at 6:40pm

I was watching from the stands that day and, as much as I love the champ, and as much as he shone right through that event, at the time I felt he was massively over scored for that punt. I think the judges, like the spectators, were just gobsmacked that he paddled over to Rincon, where nothing had broken, and then something did.

Billyw's picture
Billyw's picture
Billyw Tuesday, 27 Mar 2018 at 9:51pm

Never been a massive fan of KS style, but 10 years later no one is surfing any better.