Photos: Kelly's last blast

Matt George
Swellnet Dispatch

It’s a scramble.

Getting in those last sessions here on Bali before the seasonal monsoon sets in. When the air goes still and the flags go sullen and the wet heat rises to the clouds until the day that the heavens open, signaling the arrival of the rains strong enough and loud enough to make friends need shout to each other to be heard over an early evening beer.

One must live in the monsoon belt to realise it is far more than just a rainy season. It becomes a world of water and ponchos, roof rattling and leaks, flooded rivers and puddled limestone lanes. The kind of rain that has a human weight, heavy enough on your shoulders to make you hunch over and ignore trying to stay dry. Eventually, it only takes a week or so, the flags switch 180° and the thousands of rainbow-coloured kites are batted from the clear blue offshore skies to be replaced by a moody, bruised heavens, always pregnant with rain. And more rain. It is a time of purification here on Bali. Usually the rains are familiar and welcomed. The heavens open up and seem to wash the island clean from tourism and litter and sin. 

Except this year, with no tourists, there hasn't been that much sin to cleanse. But gone are those long, perfectly offshore days on the Bukit peninsula - the calling card of Balinese surfing. The dreamy lefts and the dreamy conditions. Instead, sullen heat and wet onshore winds settle in for the duration. And the azure waters turn sandy with the run-off. It is an unrecognisable Bali to most.

Eyes turn to the east side of the island with its darker, more foreboding waters and gnarlier reefs and even more foreboding waves. Surfers live by the tradewinds here. That's why, with the change of season most surfers are looking for those last dreamy days at places like Padang Padang before it goes to sleep for our wet summer here at eight degrees below the equator. 

Sure, there are a few lucky sessions left here and there and it is the lucky few visitors that know how to read them. Or have the right friends to guide them. Certainly Kelly Slater has had the latter during his much hailed pandemic visit to the Island of the Gods. With royalty like Rizal Tandjung hosting and world class wave whisperer Nick Chong calling the shots, he was in the best of hands, as usual. And deservedly so. If anyone has proven that great privileges come with great achievements, it’d be Kelly. 

Kelly seems to live within a world rumours and vaporous sightings when he visits here. It's easy to disappear into the culture on this island. But once he hits the water, the word is out. And at his age, it is astonishing that he still surfs better than anyone else in the water. Inspiring both the locals and the local photographers here to step up operations. 

And so Kelly’s surf sessions here resonate long after he is gone. Like a crunch chord soaring across a stadium, the echoes playing back over and over again in the audiences mind. 

Kelly and local star Dedi Gun recently paddled out at Padang Padang for one last session before the seasonal sea change. It became a clinic in both similarity and intensity. And two local photographers were there to capture some of the more sublime moments that will be remembered until our winter of 2021 arrives, when the flags turn north-west once again and the Bukit awakens to a new year of its perrenial blessings.

// MATT GEORGE

Strange morning light creates a very different theatre at Padang Padang as the thicker clouds of the rainy season move over the break, changing both the water colour and the mood. This sequence, shot as the tide dropped out, shows Kelly's mastery of heavy, impossible situations. 

Kelly, same day, second session with a fuller tide loading up over the inside bowl so that the tube expands to twice its size. It doesn’t make it any easier to negotiate. On the contrary, it’s like a snowboarder dropping off a cliff into a giant chute. You can measure the intensity of the moment by the look on a surfer’s face. Kelly Slater, totally focused on the job at hand.

With a pulled back view, it's easy to see Padang Padang’s perfect muscle definition as it warps over the crescent-shaped reef. Bali’s veteran surfing ambassador Dedi Gun, like a bullet being loaded into a chamber, swings into the inside cylinder.  

 

 

Comments

Agitator's picture
Agitator's picture
Agitator commented Monday, 19 Oct 2020 at 12:06pm

FUCK!!...positioning in that first shot, Incredible!

mr mick's picture
mr mick's picture
mr mick commented Monday, 19 Oct 2020 at 7:37pm

Yep, at first look thought he was getting pitched forward.

Mr mick

memlasurf's picture
memlasurf's picture
memlasurf commented Tuesday, 20 Oct 2020 at 12:36pm

Yep nuts.

gordie's picture
gordie's picture
gordie commented Monday, 19 Oct 2020 at 1:47pm

Gee, Matt George waffles on.

Gordie

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Monday, 19 Oct 2020 at 9:19pm

Glad you said it Gordie.

1173

derra83's picture
derra83's picture
derra83 commented Tuesday, 20 Oct 2020 at 7:57am

He CAN waffle on but I don't think this is one of those times. I liked it.

saltman's picture
saltman's picture
saltman commented Tuesday, 20 Oct 2020 at 9:02am

Matt G might not have Bali Belly but sure has a dose of verbal diarrhea

memlasurf's picture
memlasurf's picture
memlasurf commented Tuesday, 20 Oct 2020 at 12:39pm

Ah cmon chaps him being an honorary Aussie (HA) I would call it a long winded yarn. A wee bit fluffy but a good read never the less I am sure as a HA he must cop a flogging from any Aussie he meets for dragging it out a bit too much.

Spuddups's picture
Spuddups's picture
Spuddups commented Monday, 19 Oct 2020 at 4:49pm

I remember being in Sumbawa in 96. The wind stayed SE until mid December. It was raining most afternoons, but the trades were still SE. Around Christmas time the wind changed and it went full westerly. I guess the wet season winds vary from season to season.

nextswell's picture
nextswell's picture
nextswell commented Monday, 19 Oct 2020 at 7:55pm

He doesn’t miss much does he? The king. 30 yrs at the top! Has there ever been a sportsperson that’s endured time like him. Began pro career in early 90s, killed it, then he has been the forefront of aerial revolution. Parko and fanning 10 yrs younger, they never evolved to be competitive as aerial maneuvers have evolved. GOAT!

memlasurf's picture
memlasurf's picture
memlasurf commented Tuesday, 20 Oct 2020 at 12:40pm

Rossi?

Remigogo's picture
Remigogo's picture
Remigogo commented Thursday, 22 Oct 2020 at 12:47am

Valentino Rossi?

Valentino Rossi and Kelly Slater definitely on a par with regards to global fanaticism in my opinion.

Year on year on year on year..

Few and far between that just love the fuck out of what they do, be the best at what they do and are willing to share that with the fans, young and old consistently (from what I can see).

Kelly has 4 more world titles than Valentino.

But who is counting.

Kelly just keeps on keeping on and surprises me to no end....

I ask... is he made of rubber and plastic?

On Ya. Keep it up...

Remigogo's picture
Remigogo's picture
Remigogo commented Thursday, 22 Oct 2020 at 1:09am

'Rossi and Slater on a par with global fanaticism?'
I take that back... big time.
Rossi fans sing, dance, wave flags non stop all day.
I was thinking along the lines of inspiring young folk. Just to clarify.

powermutant's picture
powermutant's picture
powermutant commented Wednesday, 21 Oct 2020 at 11:20am

Other-wordly yes, but unique?
M. Stewart.
Still at the very pointy end after 20+ years:
Federer, Loeb, Minnaar, Caldwell, Sharma.
Honourable mentions:
Fangio, Chausson (cut short by cancer...twice), Hawk.
Prediction:
Ondra.
And that's just a tiny slice of the sporting realm I know of.

btheodore's picture
btheodore's picture
btheodore commented Tuesday, 20 Oct 2020 at 7:40am

Good words Matty George.

derra83's picture
derra83's picture
derra83 commented Tuesday, 20 Oct 2020 at 7:59am

Sitting steep on a foamball yet still managing to keep the nose pointed forward and riding out....sublime skillz from KS.

Ape Anonymous's picture
Ape Anonymous's picture
Ape Anonymous commented Tuesday, 20 Oct 2020 at 8:31am

Ah yes. The ultimate skill set combined with five fins, not a place on that wave he can't go.

tango's picture
tango's picture
tango commented Tuesday, 20 Oct 2020 at 10:03am

I'm not quite sure what the punters are on about - that was great writing, Matt. Only out-bid by the ridiculous positioning and poise of Old Baldy and that eerie light..

joesydney's picture
joesydney's picture
joesydney commented Tuesday, 20 Oct 2020 at 10:38am

I thought it was great writing, captured the wet season vibe perfectly. I have found wet season confusing, you wake up for an early and look outside at the drizzle and it feels like you should throw a sweater on .....then you leave the aircon and realise its 110% humidity...

memlasurf's picture
memlasurf's picture
memlasurf commented Tuesday, 20 Oct 2020 at 12:42pm

Yeah and between you legs starts to get real rashy. Invest in talcum powder!

Agitator's picture
Agitator's picture
Agitator commented Tuesday, 20 Oct 2020 at 7:26pm

Kelly's reaching that age where he should consider changing his looks...grow his hair long and start rocking a comb over perhaps, he could take that one to the bank!

langers00's picture
langers00's picture
langers00 commented Wednesday, 21 Oct 2020 at 9:29pm

I liked the article too. I crossed paths with Nick Chong (Slater’s mate mentioned in the article). It was my first trip to Indo and he was such a legend. You always remember good vibes folks like him from your travels. Probably one of the most barrelled people on earth too.