Kelly Slater done changed the game. Again. I’ve lost count of the number of times Kelly Slater has left me in stunned silence, on the edge of my seat, or simply throwing my arms in the air with joy, amazement, disbelief…
It’s less than a week since he took a seemingly impossible drop at Backdoor in the dying seconds of his Rd4 superheat vs JJF and Fanning. He didn’t get the score he deserved and still lost the heat, but I firmly believe that had more to do with judging sympathy for Fanning the day after his brother had passed away. Not to mention keeping the title battle alive.
Slater has made a career of the seemingly impossible, and once again he has altered the paradigm. In all likelihood, he has changed the sport of surfing forever. With the emergence of the Kelly Slater Wave Company and what looks to be a damn near perfect wave, Slater has spun the world of surfing on its axis. Just as he has done so many times in competitive surfing, Kelly Slater is forcing us to recalibrate our expectations of what is possible.
It doesn’t matter what your opinions of artificial waves are. I have reflected in the past that they will probably never align with my surfing ideals. But Kelly’s wave deserves credit, if not simply as a mark of the man, then certainly from a technological achievement and aesthetic perspective.
Watching the wave break is hypnotic. It reminds me of the perfect little shoreline waves which we’ve all mind-surfed in miniature. Kelly’s reaction to it is evidence that the significance of the moment is not lost on him. How could it be? No one has a greater understanding of surfing than Slater. He’s like Neo in the Matrix, except he’s inside surfing.
Make no mistake, this wave will change the face of competitive surfing. At the conclusion of the Pipe Masters a few days ago, I couldn’t help feeling a bit flat. I dipped in and out of the coverage on the final day, and didn’t bother to watch the final at all. I had been so amped up by the early rounds, held in heaving Pipe, that to see the competition (and World Title race) play out in scraps was deflating.
Could we perhaps see a future where guaranteed perfect conditions and an artificial wave are a staple of the WSL calendar? If you’d asked me a few days ago, I’d have said that was potentially impossible, and at the very least light years away. After seeing the Kelly Slater Wave Company’s new wave, I know it’s an absolute certainty.
A consistent playing field will not only amplify the level of progression by epic proportions, but it will mean that the best surfers will consistently win (sorry, Adriano, I respect your grind, but that was your first and last title).
You’ve got to feel for the poor WaveGardeners. Kelly’s comment that “we could have put out an inferior wave years ago” is such a smack in the mouth for everyone who has already commissioned the WaveGarden technology that at this moment, they are probably frantically scanning their contracts for a get-out clause.
Kelly Slater’s importance cannot be overstated. Has there ever existed another figure, in any sport, who has been so influential, so game-changing? I doubt it. It’s funny to think that when it’s all said and done, and despite 11 World Titles and countless other achievements, we might consider The Kelly Slater Wave Company to be his magnum opus. I love the way he refers to his artificial wave as “a freak of technology.” It certainly is, but it’s a freak of technology which has been created by a freak of nature.