GOAT TOWN

Phil Jarratt
Swellnet Dispatch

Nobody paid much attention as the nattily-attired middle-aged bald man emerged from the lift into the lobby of the almost-swish Novotel Manly Pacific Hotel early on Wednesday morning. No one noticed the stylish woven shirt, the un-creased, not-too-tight chinos or the Euro-style lace-up casuals. No one noticed a damn thing until the posse of minders jumped to attention and ushered Kelly Slater out of the door, a record just-six-minutes behind schedule.

Kelly’s been on the road so long he could be forgiven for not knowing what stop he’s at, what streetscape is going to confront him as he pushes through the double-glazed doors into the soft morning rain. But not here, not this time. Whether it’s heaven or hell for him is a question that only he could refuse to answer, but the greatest of all time has woken up in GOAT TOWN. It’s all over every billboard in town, it’s all over the doors he’s just walking through. Manly has gone Kelly crazy.

And not just in the normal, sensible, autograph-my-tits-please-Kelly kind of way. Four days out from a crucial NSW election, one that sets the trend for the Federal to follow in May, Slater has become political capital. The government is not dead and buried, particularly after some race-related idiocy from the leader of the opposition this week, but it’s a bit on the nose, and has been quick to claim credit for saving the Vissla Sydney Pro, and for Slater’s blessed presence at it. Which, it must be said, is a masterstroke. The local Liberal MP, dressed trendy and about half Kelly’s age, has already been sniffing around the lobby, maybe hoping for a magic dusting, but that bird has flown as the GOAT procession, to mix an animal metaphor or three, heads down the Steyne to his first obligation.

So why is Kelly in Sydney, competing in his first QS for yonks, and his first event in Sydney since 2004? Well, money has been mentioned, but while I can confirm that a hefty appearance fee was involved, it’s much more than that. Kelly has always loved the Northern Beaches – in his first flush of pro tour earnings he bought a flat at Avalon – and he has friends and mentors there, some of whom are aging now with health issues. Plus, this is his farewell tour, and why not finish a glorious career as you started it, mixing it up with crazed Brazilian kids in a one-foot shorebreak?

And this is how Kelly’s day begins: in a packed and sweaty marquee at North Steyne where the speakers have to do battle with the beach announcers calling the end heats of the round of several million in barely do-able high tide conditions. Here he is to present Mark Richards with Surfing NSW’s Midget Farrelly Lifetime Achievement Award, in the presence of Midget’s widow Beverlie and daughter Johanna, not to mention a baying flock of media. But Kelly seems relaxed as he enters the fray, sharing some gracious chatter with the Farrelly girls, beaming smiles at Jenny and Mark Richards, whom he seems genuinely chuffed to be honouring.

Nice words about Midget, nice words about MR, media calls inside, media calls outside – wham, bam, thank you, ma’am, and he’s gone.

Later in the day he surfs his round two heat in front of the biggest crowd seen at Manly for a surf contest since Midget won the world title back in ’64. Okay, maybe a bit of poetic licence here, but it’s big, right? And guess what? GOAT barely gets out of second gear but gives the kids a lesson in strategy with a pair of fives. Enough’s enough. Long road ahead. Then he signs autographs in the rain and sows up the evening news with a half hour press conference.

What can you say? Kelly’s always given his fans the time of day but with media, well not always and not so much. I remember one morning in Munich…but, ah, that was then, this is now. And now he’s the master. And whatever they’re paying him to be there, it’s probably not enough.

Thus begins the final season, the year of the GOAT. What can we say but GOAT’s GOAT and that’s that.

// PHIL JARRATT   

Comments

blindboy's picture
blindboy's picture
blindboy commented Thursday, 21 Mar 2019 at 9:23am

Phil, follow the tour this year! It needs your keen eye for bullshit and your ability to communicate that without becoming venemous!

lost's picture
lost's picture
lost commented Thursday, 21 Mar 2019 at 9:27am

I’ve been dark on the Jelly Slater for a while - here on Swellnet bagging his liberal use of injury wildcards and show or no show not attitude. His call that he might compete in the Olympic bah ha

Yet there I was on the sand at Manly to watch his heat and bugger me he surfed really well and suddenly I loved him again and wanted him to win.

knB

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Thursday, 21 Mar 2019 at 9:53am

Who coughs the appearance fee?

Vissla or NSW/Sydney Tourism aka the taxpayer?

derra83's picture
derra83's picture
derra83 commented Thursday, 21 Mar 2019 at 10:40am

I'm curious to see how all this adoration effects the GOAT?

daisy duke kahanamoku's picture
daisy duke kahanamoku's picture
daisy duke kaha... commented Thursday, 21 Mar 2019 at 10:58am

This is Kelly not Gabriel, he surfs his best when the people are throwing bouquets. Gabs needs a rotten tomato square in the eye before he can perform.

epictard's picture
epictard's picture
epictard commented Thursday, 21 Mar 2019 at 11:04am

"[Kelly] surfs his best when the people are throwing bouquets" - Excellent, I love it!

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Thursday, 21 Mar 2019 at 11:17am

Don't think we need to worry or be curious about how Kelly will deal with adoration.

He's had 30 years of practise.

blindboy's picture
blindboy's picture
blindboy commented Thursday, 21 Mar 2019 at 11:29am

It's when the adoration stops that people have problems.

boxright's picture
boxright's picture
boxright commented Thursday, 21 Mar 2019 at 11:22am

Well I'm curious about the swansong the Brazos might throw given his reluctance to compete there. That's if he even goes to Rio.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Thursday, 21 Mar 2019 at 11:29am

well, now that the precedent of appearance money has been set it'd be no surprise if Rio didn't make an offer the GOAT couldn't refuse.

blower's picture
blower's picture
blower commented Thursday, 21 Mar 2019 at 12:59pm

I reckon as many do, Kelly might just consider MR the greatest of all time. Surfing achievement, shaping and all around good fella.

lost's picture
lost's picture
lost commented Thursday, 21 Mar 2019 at 3:35pm

Spoke too soo. Hopeless in round 3 vs the two Brazil CT frothers.

knB

memlasurf's picture
memlasurf's picture
memlasurf commented Thursday, 21 Mar 2019 at 4:03pm

'And not just in the normal, sensible, autograph-my-tits-please-Kelly kind of way' love it line of the year so far. So wrong these days but so right. Phil you need to give Kelly the swan song he deserves and write your musings on every contest.

simba's picture
simba's picture
simba commented Thursday, 21 Mar 2019 at 4:07pm

OR pump up the OUTSIDER again.........or is it LT or alias SS

simba

truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher commented Thursday, 21 Mar 2019 at 4:20pm

Phil's Goat Town is a tale of two worlds.

Slater considers himself a NSW resident of 15 years more.
He reckons he spent half a year on / off in Late 90s- early 2000's in NSW

NSW Comp Titles blow away most New South Welshmen Surfers.
1996 Narrabeen Coke Surf Classic
1997 Manly Pro/QS
2004 Oz Open Maroubra
2004 Newcastle Surfest (Local MR dreams of Kelly's #1 Newcastle Trophy)
(Kelly's Last NSW Comp win)

In any event I think he's been knocked out of todays comp?
Can anyone here decypher WSL enigma code.(1st = bypass = loss = exit ?) No idea!

Results + Watch live...
http://www.worldsurfleague.com/posts/376035/its-on-day-4-of-the-vissla-s...

jacksprat's picture
jacksprat's picture
jacksprat commented Saturday, 23 Mar 2019 at 11:17am

Slater is the surfer with the best competitive results within the very narrow definition of Pro surfing in the recent format. Best of all time? Purely subjective. My vote goes for George Greenough or Brock Little.

onetimeonly

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Saturday, 23 Mar 2019 at 11:22am

Matt Banting would be world champ if the entire tour was held in East coast beachies.

But it’s not , so he isn’t.

Christ , he rips the shit out of those beachies .

Tim Baker's picture
Tim Baker's picture
Tim Baker commented Thursday, 28 Mar 2019 at 4:59pm

Farque it' s a pleasure to read good writing Phil. Thanks for that. Don't mean to pump up your tyres too hard but so many deft turns of phrase - "almost swish" is the most damning faint praise Ive ever read.

Phil Jarratt's picture
Phil Jarratt's picture
Phil Jarratt commented Friday, 29 Mar 2019 at 9:31am

Pump away, Bakes! Like Kelly, I love a good stroke, and you're not a bad phraseologist yourself. We should get a room.

Phil Jarratt