Tubthumping with Kelly Slater

Stu Nettle
Swellnet Dispatch

Arguably overshadowing his spoiler role at Pipeline was Kelly's Round 3 board wrangle this afternoon. Surfing against Filipe, twelve minutes on the clock and a five point lead, Slater looked to seal the result. Pulling under the hood of a jacking left he disappeared from view, for one section, then another section, finally coming out behind the second spit.

Instead of a nose wipe claim Slater rode out the closeout shrugging his shoulders, palms upturned in a gesture of surprise. "How did that happen?"

We wondered the same at home. And the score? Had to be high nines.

Just press play, Slater's remount has been timestamped for your pleasure

Yet the first view was deceiving. The channel angle showed Kelly getting bucked from his board, desperately lunging for it while inside the barrel, somehow regathering it before jumping to his feet as the second spit smoke bombed the scene.

Incredible recovery, yet an incomplete move.

It was similar to another incident, also by Slater though this time at Trestles back in 2015. During a backside air the board disengaged from his feet yet it kept rotating through the move so he landed on it knees down in a crouch, jumping to his feet in the whitewash. For that he was awarded 4.17 points.

Writing for Surfline about the Trestles wave, Sam George gave the judges both barrels:

The score, wrote a clearly livid Sam, "was perhaps the most ludicrous judging decision ever made in the modern competitive surfing era", while the move itself was "one of the greatest displays of surfing mastery ever witnessed." 

Slater’s ride, trembled Sam, "represents everything competitive surfing should be." Meaning risky, dextrous, and spontaneous.

Ol' Sam wasn't the only one outraged, in fact there was enough enmity from fans for then head judge Richie Porta to front the cameras. "These are the best surfers in the world," said Richie emphatically. "They have to complete these maneuvers."

Back to Slater today...

It could be argued that, technically speaking, Slater did complete the tube. Though the judges disagreed and gave him just 3.07 points. Somewhere Sam George was yelling at his monitor.

But take all the competition points out of it, the arbitrary criteria too, and Slater's wave was one of the most entertaining and astonishing waves ridden all day.

What he did was risky, dextrous, and spontaneous.

Fortunately it made no difference to the result.


blindboy's picture
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blindboy commented Monday, 17 Dec 2018 at 4:36pm

True but if they scored Kelly an 8 or whatever they would have had to score Felipe 10 on his Backdoor wave.

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bill-poster commented Monday, 17 Dec 2018 at 4:45pm

Except KS made his wave and Toledo didn't?

indo-dreaming's picture
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indo-dreaming commented Monday, 17 Dec 2018 at 4:47pm

Completely scammed by the WSL both times, even more so this time, was just lucky the heat wasn't decided on this result.

Anyway it was nice to see Kelly back in sync at Pipe.

thermalben's picture
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thermalben commented Monday, 17 Dec 2018 at 5:39pm

Staggering that either wave wasn't scored highly IMO.

Hasn't there been high scoring rides in previous years/events where someone slotted into a phenomenal barrel (or similar), but then fell on the final maneuver? Can't recall specifics offhand though.

BTW thanks for the earworm, Stu. Gonna take weeks to get rid of this one.

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mattmac commented Monday, 17 Dec 2018 at 5:46pm

Absurdly low score for such a freakish recovery - seriously how can you give that a 3.07? Anyway fortunately didn't play into the final result.

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simba commented Monday, 17 Dec 2018 at 6:22pm

Was good to see him back..... and riding a Tokoro...firewire not good enough.?.....anyway a board he would have ridden back a few years when he was 'the man',be good to see a julian/ slater final....


indo-dreaming's picture
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indo-dreaming commented Monday, 17 Dec 2018 at 8:00pm

There still Firewire's/Slater designs, guessing the same as Michel's Tokoro's custom LFT boards with no deck skins. (lighter glassed boards like all pros)

You can almost guarantee that Firewire/SD will bring out at least one Tokoro model in 2019

Kelly also had a few boards for pipe from Dann Mann shaper/designer behind many of the best selling FW boards.

blindboy's picture
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blindboy commented Monday, 17 Dec 2018 at 7:58pm

So Twiggy's best ever wave would have been. ..... a 4?

indo-dreaming's picture
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indo-dreaming commented Monday, 17 Dec 2018 at 8:04pm

I was thinking about this latter, maybe WSL are right?

Where do you draw the line?...

If a surfer made a barrel coming out the doggy door prone, then stood up in the whitewater would that also be a complete ride?

linez's picture
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linez commented Monday, 17 Dec 2018 at 8:06pm

Surely his skill in being able to regain control like that was worthy of a score...and I noticed also his boards..didn't know firewire did tokoro?

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savanova commented Monday, 17 Dec 2018 at 8:37pm

Remember they gave parko a 10 in Keramas when he made the barrel but blew the round house. Ride was incomplete

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hamishbro commented Monday, 17 Dec 2018 at 9:13pm

I totally agree Stu and was thinking of penning something along these lines myself. The best most inspiring surfing is about creativity and singular personal style combined with exceptional skill. That's why Dane Reynolds still captivates. And this Kelly wave has to go down as one of the most unique physical maneuvers in surfing ever captured on film. Of course it was accidental, but that just adds to the charm. His ability to respond in that moment to that situation is what makes Kelly Slater the GOAT. It's probably stretching the envelope to hyperbole, but could this wipeout recovery actually become a "thing" in the future? Probably not, as it was simply a freak occurence. So far at outside the realm of possibility that it could not be judged according to the standards of mere mortals. But in my mind, that was a 10 for making history. And I'm sure it would make the "top 10" list of most freakish surfing moments in competitive surfing history. There ya go.

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lostdoggy commented Monday, 17 Dec 2018 at 9:38pm

If that gets points deducted, then you shouldn't be able to get a 10 for pigdogging (drop knee, grab rail).

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truebluebasher commented Monday, 17 Dec 2018 at 9:44pm

Thanks Stu...I recall original article on Kelly's antics

(Cutting edge Gymnastic & Skate) + Racing all Cheer & Reward Rad remounts.
Sister board sports dumped concrete boots prohibition in week one & or last century .
Skate or Flow don't even have prone & they're 100% fine with makeshift remounts.

Like many sports the WSL surfer is continually Judged outside of Wave Scores.
Indeed competitors are judged more so in prone position between wave scores.
Surfers are never discouraged from dismount. Surfers remount new boards often.
Add to this they're judged on Jetski mount & dismounts. Do it wrong blow final.

WSL have prone priority as instrumental rule. Competitor can prone without penalty.
Surfers can stay prone for for unlimited time on Wave face thru to shore to heat end.

Surfboard riders abandoning their Board are also judged during each event.
Deliberate bail Wipeouts/Pull outs or Paddle Out are all judged during every contest.

WSL allow a shapeshifting surfcraft . No Score scrapped & No free ride given.
This is at odds with most other sports.Many would contest this in a Final.
Should one knowingly ride defective craft putting support/competitors lives at risk?

Imagine 200ft wave & WSL Judge laser points a toe over the nose...(Busted!)
Surfletes are now big enough to let go of rails, walk off the decking and surfjustsurf

note: WSL boarding school 'deportment scholarships' available for next century .

indo-dreaming calls it as it is! truebluebasher rates both Kelly rides as [10] [10]
Judges all saw the power of Pipe today...Kelly could hand them the mop! Any takers?
1980 comp I was judged highly for my remount,simply returning the favour. No fluke!

Pick your favs' Not a slouch among them...They don't give them away.

Tanner Gadauskas [10]

Mikey Wright [10]

cd's picture
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cd commented Monday, 17 Dec 2018 at 9:52pm

Comparison to a the big lay back slash and back foot completely comes off and then recover to surf out of it. I think Curren did one at J -Bay.

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carpetman commented Monday, 17 Dec 2018 at 11:24pm

Yeah, classic Clay Mazro, one big toe on the board, rest of his body prone, head underwater, and still the best lay back out there. Ability to adapt to a unexpected situation, thats good surfing.

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rooftop commented Monday, 17 Dec 2018 at 10:18pm

From the WSL website:

"Judges analyze the following elements when scoring waves (not for Longboard or BWT Events):

Commitment and degree of difficulty
Innovative and progressive maneuvers
Combination of major maneuvers
Variety of maneuvers
Speed, power and flow"

By my estimation his ride scored highly on criteria 1, 2 and 5. And a ride clearly doesn't have to satisfy all five criteria to score a ten, as a single impressive manoeuvre or barrel often gets awarded a ten without any regards to "variety" or "combination".

This is reflected in a special note on judging criteria (article 173 of the WSL Rule Book):

"NOTE: It’s important to note that the emphasis of certain elements is contingent upon the location and the conditions on the day, as well as changes of conditions during the day."

So why wasn't it awarded a higher score? As far as I can see the value of the "completion" of a manoeuvre seems to be an unwritten rule.

Plus, I would argue that it goes against the traditionally prized elements of good surfing. As an expressive extreme sport, it has always valued the spontaneous, the radical, and the "oh-my-god-how-did-he-make-that."

What surfer has ever stood on a beach watching a lineup, suddenly clutched their hair in amazement, turned to their friend and said, "holy shit, that guy just completed a manoeuvre!"

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carpetman commented Monday, 17 Dec 2018 at 11:29pm

Don't know why you need two feet on the board to consider it a complete maneuver. If you're still riding the wave after the fact, you've regained control, then you're still surfing.
In saying that how the fuck do you score a wave like that?

truebluebasher's picture
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truebluebasher commented Tuesday, 18 Dec 2018 at 12:26am

rooftop ' champions expressive rad surfing...I can't agree more.
I retired start of '80's. Into the 90's my neighbours were mad keen stoked surfers.
I recall asking if their boards had flexible tails and if barrel rolls were the norm.
At first they thought me a freak but equally argued surfing's slip behind skate.
30 years on & It's the same cardboard cutouts.

If I could, I would love to get keen punters barrel rolling.
As for me since 2005 about 3,000 more rolls or 3 per wave....Non assist.
No shortage of Surfers compliment maneuver. So I know surfers still have stoke!

Open invite is there but needs a resourceful medium as I'm not that well.
If given free wave access for the cause boardriders could be barrel rolling in a season.

Yes! Possibly use foamies but even when mastered fins would still need some care.
As I said flexible tail/fins would suit but surfers boss own craft with added danger.
This is a wildly dynamic maneuver spinning your board into rotor blades! Think!
I'm fine waltzing with the wave. With blades it could be #1 Hospital trick?
Having said that! It is a trusted maneuver of perhaps of 8/10 makes, so evens out.

Within a year keen boardriders could combo barrel rolls + reverse roll backup finish.

Barrel rolls open new world of speed dial power boosts with tide change overdrive.
Just as easily used to stall for time or shut down or even reverse maneuver.(Very cool)
Warning! Comes with ego check as you unlock one of Huey's surf secrets.
Anyhow! It's not like I'm expecting WSL to dial up this century or next.

Love the open angles crew! I trust you didn't mind me sharing some "rad" insight.

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upnorth commented Tuesday, 18 Dec 2018 at 12:42am

Should've been a high score imo. Other maneuvers involve the surfer basically 'losing' the board - big lay backs where the back foot is off the board and control is lost for a second. Granted it wasn't deliberate but the skill involved to regain control and ride out of the barrel should've been rewarded. Certainly scores highly in the commitment and degree of difficulty + variety of maneuvers stakes.

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shoredump commented Tuesday, 18 Dec 2018 at 5:04am

Some nice words from Kelly on his Instagram. For all the Slater doubters, yesterday’s gift is your answer to your questions of why.


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Optimist commented Tuesday, 18 Dec 2018 at 5:27am

I gave Kelly an 11 for that recovery. I also liked that board under Kellys feet..looked right and like Kelly of old.

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batfink commented Wednesday, 19 Dec 2018 at 6:16pm

Yeah, freakish no doubt, but I don't even think Kelly thought it should be scored highly. If you did, what would you give to the guy who stays standing and comes out clean.

While that got a low score, Gabs didn't make it out of the barrel but bull-dogged his way through the curtain and was given a 9.17. So what score would he have got if he had picked a better wave and made it out clean or through a small doggie door?

My eyes differed from the judges on what appeals, what was critical as opposed to 'technical', etc etc, how to score a super heavy late drop into a thunderous barrel.

So, I'm no judge!