The Best Surf­ing I’ve Ever Seen...

THE BEST SURF­ING I’VE EVER SEEN

Surfing World - - Introduction - BY JAY DAVIES

with Jay Davies

A good deal of lots, and not much in par­tic­u­lar, just for the sake of it

KELLY SLATER, CLOUD­BREAK, 2011 It was five years ago on my first visit to Fiji. I was stay­ing with Taj but the surf was real small and we ex­pected it to be more of a leisure trip re­ally. Even so, I was pretty psyched on the whole place. The wa­ter colour, the sun­sets; ev­ery­thing was ex­ag­ger­ated and ex­plod­ing with colour. It was like be­ing in a trance tak­ing it all in. We ac­tu­ally got su­per lucky and scored this two-day swell with enough grunt to turn on for Cloudy. Some­how, Kelly Slater ma­te­ri­alised out of nowhere and started tear­ing the place apart. None of us could be­lieve what we were wit­ness­ing, and it re­ally made us re­alise how on the pulse he is with that place. His surf­ing was on an­other level, toy­ing with big, an­gry 6-8 foot Cloudy like a two foot beachie. A lot of peo­ple don’t re­alise just how psy­cho that stretch of reef re­ally is. It’s a huge lineup and it takes a long time to fig­ure out where to sit and which waves to take. Kelly’s been surf­ing there since he was a kid and it shows, he’s got it so wired. My mind was blown that day.

The other thing with Cloud­break is it rarely gets per­fect be­cause there’s so many raw el­e­ments, but that day Kelly was mak­ing it look per­fect. He was mak­ing it look silly. On the first day, Spon­nas took a shot of him from the he­li­copter look­ing up, and you can see in the photo how re­laxed he is surf­ing the joint. He took the drop late, came off the bot­tom, set his line, and looked up at the he­li­copter with his hands by his waist as if to say, “Well this is easy.” As I’m watch­ing, won­der­ing what the hell he’s do­ing, he re­set his line as the lip folded over and he com­pletely dis­ap­peared. The next minute he was stand­ing fully up­right in a wide-open bar­rel with his arms by his waist putting it on for the cam­era. The tubes at Cloudy are al­ways breath­ing and do­ing weird things, so to be able to toy with a wave like that is so ridicu­lous. That one wave stands out in my mind, but Kelly was go­ing nuts the whole ses­sion, bust­ing crazy crit­i­cal turns in sec­tions you wouldn’t even think about, which only comes from years of time spent surf­ing out there. It was amaz­ing to see.

That ses­sion was re­ally the first time I’d surfed with Kelly and I don’t think I’ve had an­other ses­sion like that since. He’s ac­tu­ally just a big grom­met, and talk­ing with him out in the wa­ter was such a good in­sight into why he keeps do­ing what he does. He’s so pas­sion­ate about rid­ing waves, which was re­ally sick to see, and if you’re still surf­ing that good why not keep com­pet­ing? Every­one else is call­ing it a day, but he’s still froth­ing so hard. He didn’t fill me in too much on how to surf Cloud­break, but it’s one of his spots, like Pipe­line, so here and there I picked up a few tips along the way. What to look for up the top of the peak, on the top ledge, and how you can get wide ones down on the sneaky bowl. It’s funny think­ing about it, he’s such a great teacher just in his surf­ing, but in com­pe­ti­tion he still schools every­one. I surfed against him in a heat last year and didn’t even catch a wave. Within the first four sets he had me com­boed.

Op­po­site: Slats with his head in the cloud. (Macfar­lane). Oc­to­pus Mast­head: (Scott Wil­liams). Pre­vi­ous Spread: KS, the per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of ocean dome. (Maassen).

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