Category Archives: Interviews

LONG TIME COMING

We're in the midst of summer doldrums.  No ASP events running, no big swells to hype, no big controversies that haven't already been covered.  Nothing to do but drink and fornicate... and endlessly gossip about Kelly Slater's new Super-Dreamy Tour.

It's an understatement to say that the online speculation concerning this new World Tour has been at frothfest levels.

I have very little to offer, but I'd like to clarify one crucial point.

Many pundits have speculated that Mr. Slater's involvement in this new tour is on some level vindictive: that Kelly is championing this alternative because he's pissed about losing this year.

Not so.

I offer as evidence the following transcript of a conversation I had with Mr. Slater in May of 2008 - while he was in the midst of his record-breaking run towards a ninth title.  At the time, Kelly had no reason to be vindictive towards the ASP - yet he laid out his grievances.  He spoke of the same issues that have surfaced in his recent brief communications concerning the impetus for a new tour: the need for less surfers, more money, outside sponsors, a consistent product, and media rights owned by the league instead of the sponsors.

Kelly's views are not impulsive - they have been germinating for quite a while.

slaters

KELLY SLATER INTERVIEW, MAY 2008

LS: When you first came back on tour in 2002, you talked about one of your goals being to help change the ASP, as opposed to just winning titles.  How do you feel about the progress that’s been made in the last 6 years?

KS: I think there’s been some good progress made, in certain ways... The one thing I will say is it’s a little bit frustrating with the ASP, to be honest, because every 5 or 8 years it seems like there’s some monumental idea to change things.  They moved ASP off to Australia, they were talking about getting bigger global umbrella sponsorships, there was all sorts of talk about things changing.  They hired Brodie (Carr) and Rabbit, pumped a lot of new life into it, but I’m not sure if there’s a whole lot of tangible difference.  At the end of the day there’s not more dollars in it.  We’re still surfing with the same prize money as years ago.  The price of living has gone way up, the cost of housing has doubled, and the amount of money guys are making hasn’t gone up.

When fans picture the ASP they think of a giant organization, like the NBA, but it’s more like a small company.

Yeah, when I talk to people who are out of touch with the ASP and pro surfing, just business people, they ask about how much we make, about the structure and organization of pro surfing.  And it’s almost, on a global sports level, I don’t know if this is too harsh a word, but it’s almost embarrassing when it gets down to it.  When people don’t know, they’ll say “Wow, I figured you were surfing for $100,000 first place minimum.  Maybe half a million when you have to surf Teahupoo or Pipe.”  The one thing about it, is it proves surfers don’t do what they do for money.  They do it for the love of what they do.  The reward for us is getting to surf those waves with only one other guy out.  Spots like J-Bay, Pipe, G-land back in the day…That’s really more the payment for us, when we get classic conditions and it really is the dream tour.  We get to have that experience of controlling those line-ups, probably the only time in your life with one other guy out.  That’s more our payment right there.

I don’t know what the answer is to the question – why isn’t it bigger?  Why isn’t the ASP a stronger business presence, why haven’t they been able to capitalize on marketing like the NBA or NFL? There’s something inherently missing in the professional side of it, and I don’t know if that finger should be pointed and blamed on administration, or if it’s just the nature of what we to.  I can’t say it’s not a marketable thing, but it’s not based on marketing.

slater_k7421mundaka08cestari_s

So much of it comes down to three major brands driving 90% percent of the tour.
There could definitely be a wall there, blocking everything else to be able to come in.  There really haven’t been any outside companies able to penetrate that wall.

Right -  I’m not an insider, but I imagine it doesn’t just have to do with a lack of interest from outside companies – it has to do with those major surf brands blocking them from coming in.
Yeah.  And the way the tour is set up is pretty ass-backwards.  The sponsors own all the media rights to their events.  And the ASP does not.  It takes a lot more infrastructure to set that up, but once you do you have so much more control and ability to do what you need to do with the tour.  At each event you go to, you don’t know if you’re going to get a good webcast – Billabong is doing that one, Quik is doing that one, Rip Curl that one,.. all of a sudden you’re going, “Wow I hope this next one works good.”  Some stops don’t have a dedicated web commentary.  If the ASP owned the events themselves, and the money would just be brought in by sponsors, instead of having a whole independent crew for each event to run the webcast, you’d have a more standardized system.
I’m just saying, in a perfect world, if the ASP had the structure set up properly, where they owned all the events, they owned the rights to the events, etc, they were doing the webcast, they had dedicated commentators – you create a show, you create a product, and it stays that way.  And I think that would be step a in the right direction.

I remember when I first started out, in the early nineties, and I was at an event, in a hotel room, really sick, and I was looking down at the contest site, and I was thinking, “Gosh  how amatauerish is this entire thing?”  The whole way it’s set up – I didn’t get the feeling I was at a worldwide professional event, I got the feeling we were at a local contest.  I’ve always thought that ASP has a long way to go, even though we have what we call a Dream Tour.  But ultimately the structure needs to be changed around.  That would allow for a more standardized product, and I don’t think that would pasteurize or water it down too much.

The ASP should have a log of all the footage from all the events they own.  I’m not sure where they stand now, but I know that there’s about 10 years of the tour that a guy named Allen Gibby owns the footage for, cause he worked for a company called Dynocom, or whoever, and they own all that footage for years and years of the tour.  Can you imagine the NBA or NFL just saying “Oh, we don’t have '84 to '92 cause some guy owns it.”  It’s crazy – you should be able to draw on that footage at any time.

slater_k8005arica07tostee

Another issue is simply having 48 guys in each event.
Well, if you’re talking about a real “world” tour, with guys’ careers on the line… maybe we should look back and see who’s the lowest ranked guy to win an event.  Not wildcards, who’ve won quite a few, but the lowest tour seed.  Start from there…

But to really answer your question I think there are far too many people on tour.  When it really comes down to it, fortunately or unfortunately, there aren’t 48 guys that people are getting online to see.  There’s far fewer than that.  It just takes so much extra time, most swells are only two days - you can’t run through 48 guys and give everyone an equal, fair opportunity to surf their best.  To really present to the public what the best surfing is, you’d probably need an hour long heat, maybe two two man heats out…  I’m getting into the idea of having a totally different type of system for surfing altogether.  I think the judging criteria, the number of heats, the people in it, I think all those things should be changed and that’s probably the only way to bring out real big revenue for prize money.

...Like I said before, I’m starting to think of ways for professional surfing to be presented a little bit differently.  Does everyone have to surf against everyone, or can we start thinking about who people want to see surf against each other, and base events around that?  I’m a just a little fed up with ASP, as are most of the guys on tour right now.  We butted heads with them about a few things, when it really should be seen as our organization.  It’s not unlike the people of a county getting upset at their government.  There’s this "us against them" feel, when it’s actually supposed to be our government.  We’re supposed to be all for them, but the pro surfers, a good percentage of them, view the ASP as limiting us, limiting what can be done in some way.  So there’s a sense of frustration there when you talk to me.

Brazil Preview: Almost Journalism!

If the ASP thought outside the box, a surf contest in Brazil could achieve the same shiny pink, saccharine, end-of-days entertainment value that Reality TV provides.

Picture this: The Top 45 descend on a sport-crazed, surf-fanatical melting pot, surrounded by small mountain ranges of coke and the hottest g-stringed women on earth. Package the debauchery right, and who cares about the quality of the shorebreak?

A shockingly large number of ASP world titles have come down to how well top surfers deal with copious drug and alcohol abuse combined with fame-drunk groupies. Why shouldn’t fans be made privy to the details? Each stop on tour should test a different aspect of each competitor’s skillset. Bells, coldwater. Teahupoo, hucking pits. Brazil, coke and whores. We know Jihad Khodr can’t navigate a backside shack, but perhaps he parties like Keith Richards? We have a right to know.

heitor alves. photo reposarphoto.com

Back to reality: The Brazil ASP event starts next week. I sent off some interview requests to prominent Top 45 surfers. Some responded, some didn’t. I reckon it’s uncharted territory for these guys – who knows what to make of the PostSurf experiment?

I tried to ask about the partying, but predictably that line of questioning didn’t really get me anywhere.

“I remember being in this night club in Floripa with a pro from Oz, and these two chicks were fighting over him,” Taylor Knox told me. “It worked out pretty good for him because instead of having to pick, they both took him home!”

knox photo tostee

Fair enough. I asked CJ Hobgood if he can count on a certain group of guys being distracted in Brazil, due to the easy access to coke and whores. “It use to be that way,” CJ told me. “But ever since the internet and that PostSurf, turns out a post a day, surfers don't have enough time… without the internet I'd be occupying my time with all those distractions in Brazil.”

Ug. Flattery will get you nowhere, Floridiot.

cjwithfans_photo gio

More seriously, there is a world title up for grabs. Many pundits maintain the Mick Fanning has the best shot at challenging frontrunner Joel Parkinson – but will friendship get in the way of a good race?

I asked Mick if he um, wants to see mate Joel Parkinson win a world title.

“Joel's a good mate but he's also a good rival,” Mick told PostSurf. “It's weird, I don't want to him to win the world title when I'm going for it but if he got there I'd be happy for him. He helped me celebrate my title and I'd love to do the same for him someday. So yeah, I'd like to see him win a world title but maybe after I've won a few more. Ha!”

Unsatisfied with that media-savvy response, I asked Mick if he’d have any hesitancy digging in the knife if it came down to it - say utilizing priority to beat Parko in a heat and end his dreams of a title.

Mick wins. photo tostee

“We've been surfing with and against each other since we were 14 so competition has always been a part of our friendship,” Fanning told me. “The friendship definitely doesn't challenge my focus and it's never affected my decision making in heats. I'll always do what I can to beat the person I'm surfing against, even if it's my good mate and he's going for a World Title. It might mean ending his dream but I'm chasing my own dream like every other bloke on tour.”

For every surfer except Bobby Martinez, the first challenge will be getting over recent losses and focusing on the present. Bede Durbidge won Brazil last year, but in ‘09 he’s had a less-than stellar season. I asked Bede if he’s haunted by the heats that haven’t gone his way this year.

Bede Durbidge. Photo Rowland ASP

“I definitely go over in my head what mistakes I made and how I could of won the heat, and then I move forward,” Bede told PostSurf. “Sometimes when you lose, you learn more than you do from a win.”

Overly Dramatic

Despite their laid-back demeanor, surfers love a little drama.

On a rainy day in France last fall, CJ Hobgood and I discussed how dramatic surfing helped him get his competitive career back on track.  And on track it has remained - yesterday in Tasmania, CJ put up 18.57 points. Now, it looks like Parko may have caught the drama bug.

CJ gets dramatic. Photo: Robertson / ASP / Oneill

CJ gets dramatic yesterday in Tasmania. Photo: Robertson / ASP / Oneill

CJ Hobgood Interview

LS: Did you change your technique in '08?
CJ: It's hard when you're doing bad and things are frustrating to stick with a plan.  But if you stick with a plan, don't give up, you gain some insights.  I started trying to work on technique, become a better technical surfer.  And I got better at technique.

But then Gally and I sat down, and I was kinda like, "OK, we're getting better at technique, but that's not what the judges are into right now.  The judges are into flipping out, just, they wanted you to freak out, spazz out, throw confetti, hands everywhere, layback, grunt reverses, drop the wallet for a while, stand back up, big airs, and all that stuff.  That was good, that was great, so I had to find a balance.  I'd worked on technique, worked on one thing, gotten better in one area, but then you might not get any results.  You have to balance it with other things.

Me and Gally were like, "the technique we were working on, great, but it didn't work.  Let's try to find a balance.  I don't care how gross you look, I don't care how bad the form is, I don't care where your hands are, just go out there and freak out and fly around."

So... whether it works or not, it is a struggle.  I mean, what do you do? When Kelly surfs, he's such a great surfer, but he's so over-dramatic.  You see photos and he looks like a wizard half the time. (CJ strikes the Slater Wizard Cutback pose)

But he's the best surfer in the world.

Shazam! Slater strikes his Wizard Pose. Photo: Robertson/ASP/CI

Shazam! Slater strikes his Wizard Pose. Photo: Robertson/ASP/CI

LS: How would you compare that to Parko?

CJ: Parko's the exact opposite, he's so beautiful to watch it almost lulls the judges to sleep.  Fortunate for him, fortunate for the judges, they know what a great technical surfer he is, so they have 8's on stand-by for him the majority of the time, which I agree with much of the time.

LS: I've talked before about Benny B being too smooth.
His technique is so perfect, that there never looks like there's fire, there never looks like there's flash.  So someone needs to go out there and help him find that balance.  He should go out there and do twirly-birds, I want to see spinner-kicks, I want to see Clay Marzo, I want to see this, that... don't frickin' worry about the technique.  That's what happens.  That's surfing.

Shards Still Falling: Part 3

I thought I'd close the loop with the final chapter of my revisit of Shards Still Falling, an article I wrote back in '03. (Part One Here and Part Two Here.)  It would be nice if I could spend my time researching in-depth, introspective pieces with gargantuan word-counts, like this one clumsily attempts to be.  But for the most part, editors at the majors pass on anything over 800 words, especially if it doesn't have a feel-good vibe.  Often, if an article doesn't sell trunks, it doesn't sell.

G-Land. Photo: Dave Collyer/Sickshots.com

G-Land. Photo: Dave Collyer/Sickshots.com

The Aftermath of the Bali Bombings

As the one year anniversary of the Bali Bombings approached, Kuta Beach seemed to be trying to heal itself.  Most prominently, Kuta Karnival, "A Celebration of Life; A Remembrance of Love," was scheduled to run from September 11 to October 12.  Organized by local Balinese, expatriates, local businesses, and international sponsors, the Kuta Karnival aimed to bring visitors back to Kuta and act as a remembrance of the Bali Bombing.  As the promotional posters stated, "It's surf, skate, sounds, and sun... a fair, a festival, a fanfare of food, a fantasy of fun, and a free-for-all, for you - for the world..."  One morning in early October, after another night of liver abuse, I decided to walk my hangover down the sandy expanse of Kuta Beach. In the distance stood scaffolding and sponsor's tents; the tell-tale signs of a major surf contest.  I sat myself down in the sand, directly next to the judges tower, along with a handful of other quiet spectators.  Out in the water, six competitors half-heartedly slogged it out in boring two foot surf.  They all seemed to be on ancient equipment.  I sat there, perplexed for a moment, until the contest announcer cleared things up over the loudspeaker.  I was watching the Retro Division, in which Bali surfing pioneers squared off against present day local pros, with all competitors riding vintage boards from the 70's and 80's.  It looked like fun - a lighthearted event, bridging the gap between generations.  When surfing first came to Bali, the local people were terrified of it.  They lined the cliffs at Uluwatu, praying for the lives of the crazy foreigners, sure that the evil spirits of the sea would drag them to their deaths.  It took a number of years for the younger, more open-minded Balinese children to get over their cultural fear of the sea.  But it happened, and now Balinese surfers are some of the finest in the world.

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Powers that Be

I'll be honest here.  My limited wit is otherwise engaged today, trying to finish up the Power Rankings.  Writing for PostSurf doesn't pay the Vodka bills -  therefore it's rather low on my list of priorities.  So I'm posting an interview I did with Roy Powers way back during the Mundaka contest.  This is the rough equivalent of rifling through your kitchen cabinets instead of going grocery shopping, and then settling for a meal of  canned artichoke hearts and Matzoh that's past its expiration date.  Enjoy!

Roy Powers. Photo: Hodgson

Roy Powers. Photo: Hodgson

Lewis: How does it feel to watch the same guy win over and over again?
Roy Powers: Kelly? He's a Fag!  No, I'm joking, I'm joking.  Ultimately he deserves it.  Every heat he goes out there and he blows doors.  Crappy waves, good waves.  Fact of the matter is that guy's the best surfer in the world, and he's definitely proved it, and that's why he's getting another world title.

Seems like some of the guys are not taking it too seriously at this point in the season.  What's your take on that?
If you're not doing the events, it's a disrespect to the people who are doing them, taking them seriously.  And then there's the fans - they want to see their favorite surfer, and he's probably not here.  But everyone has their own reason they don't want to be here.  I'm enjoying myself, still learning, I'm still trying to learn this whole game.  I'll be at every event, just try to get up in that top league.

Do you see Mundaka as an event that shouldn't be on tour?
Bottom line, what we're surfing right now, this is not a CT event.  It's ridiculous. I was definitely a person who voted not (to have this event) just because there are other good waves in the world.  What are we doing here?  200km away, France is probably a lot better than this.  Why aren't there other CT events there, or Portugal?  It's like having the Pipemasters in August, but knowing you're gonna end up at Sandy Beach.  No disrespect to the wave, it's an incredible wave, but it's too inconsistent.  We don't have time for that.

What would you say to Spanish fans who would perceive the pros as being spoiled?
That's what we qualified for - to surf perfect waves.  Do you think race car drivers want to drive on a bumpy road?  Do pro basketball players want to play in preschools?  We qualified to surf in the best waves - that's what we signed up for, that's what we put our hearts, souls into. No disrespect to them in any way, I'm totally grateful we're here, being able to surf their premier wave, but if it's not breaking what are we doing?  Just sitting around taking up their parking stalls.  If anyone says we don't deserve to surf the best waves in the world, tell 'em to call me up, I'll meet you anywhere.  That's bullshit.  What I did, to qualify, to get to this level.  It took a lot, not only for myself, but for my family, everybody.  I take it really personal when people say we're spoiled.  Fuck you.  It's bullshit.  We work too hard for people to criticize us so much with that.  They think this job is a lot easier than it is - it's not that easy.

Some fans think everyone is making millions in surfing.

We're not all millionaires.  There's probably 5 millionaires, maybe 7.  The reality is I'm not struggling, But I still think about every month, making heats.  We have families - I don't come from a wealthy family - my main focus is supporting my family, put food on the table, to be able eventually to help my parents retire.  That's my main goal.  It might be different for other guys but that's my main focus and I won't stop till I accomplish that."

Roy Powers at Mundaka.  Photo: Kristin CI/ ASP

Roy Powers at Mundaka. Photo: Kristin CI/ ASP

Shards Still Falling: Part 2

Here's the second part of the reprint of Shards Still Falling, an article I wrote back in 2003 when I was young and relatively idealistic.  (Read part one here.) My life was in shambles when I did this piece.  I had just spent 9 months writing a novel while muddling through the disintegration of various aspects of my personal and professional life - deaths, business failures, break-ups, rejections, etc.  Then I spent 3 months surfing G-land and Desert Point and decided my life was pretty great after all, especially compared to lives more effected by still recent tragedies such as the Bali Bombings, War in Afghanistan, and 9/11.

G-Land.  Photo: Dave Collyer/ Sickshots.com

G-Land. Photo: Dave Collyer/ Sickshots.com

The Aftermath of the Bali Bombings: Part 2 (Read part one here.)

The return trip from Grajagan to Kuta Beach takes about nine hours.  There isn’t much to do, once you become used to the beautiful and monotonous rice paddies and Balinese temples that stream by outside the car window.  You can listen to music.  You can talk to your companions.  And you can drink.  When I traveled back to Kuta in late September, the trip was particularly long.  By the time we reached the main street of Jalan Legian, the sun was setting beyond all the cells of commerce, and my Australian companions had been drinking long-neck Bintang beers for 11 hours.  They had started shortly before breakfast.  It’s always a strange feeling; returning to Kuta after weeks spent in the wilderness, surfing with monastic focus.  Nearly everything looks out of place in Kuta — garish, oversimplified, culturally insensitive.  But Kuta isn’t about style.  It’s about supply and demand, convenience and availability.  Driving down the main drag, one is mostly struck by how plentiful everything is — just how many stores there are, how many people, t-shirts, tattoos, restaurants, taxis, how many places where one might sit and drink with girls.  The girls, of course, are just as plentiful as anything else — Australian girls, Balinese girls, European girls, Japanese girls.  Shy tourist girls, wild party girls, two-week vacation girls and working girls.  As we drove into the heart of Kuta, already well and truly demolished from 11 hours of drinking, the consensus seemed to be that we should check into a hotel, and then regroup and proceed directly to more drinking, and the company of women.  I had a dim feeling at that point that any night so drenched in alcohol would eventually end poorly.
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SHARDS STILL FALLING

This article is a reprint from 2003. I had more time on my hands then.  Time enough to spend a few months a year in Indo, time enough to write long, sprawling, vaguely earnest articles about things I cared about.  I had more time than money - especially since no one wanted to pay me for articles like this.  In life, as a rule of thumb, I've learned that the more you care about what you do, the less likely you are to be well-compensated for it.  Aid work?  Art?  Expect to live month to month.  A unexplainable position in finance making faceless old white men rich?  Expect to get rich yourself and forget what you even care about by the time you get there.

6 years ago, after writing "Shards Still Falling" I had coffee with Matt Warshaw and asked for advice concerning becoming a successful surf journalist.  Matt had just finished the Encyclopedia of Surfing, and I considered him to be at the top of the game.  "Is there anything else you can do to make money?" Warshaw asked me.  I told him there was - I had walked away from a career in usability consulting to travel and surf.  "Do that then.  Do anything but this.  Writing about surfing is no way to make a living.  If you want to write about surfing, do it because you enjoy it."

I more or less took Matt's advice to heart.  2009, and it's time for me to head to the 19th floor of an office building in my nice pants, to bill hours and invest time into something I don't care about.  I consider myself lucky to still be employed.  And this site?  It's something I do to entertain myself.  I do it the way most people watch TV.  An hour a day or so, a distraction from real life.  Lately I haven't even had that much time to spare.  Hence this flashback.

2002 bombing victims.  Photo: Lewis Samuels

2002 bombing victims. Photo: Lewis Samuels

The Aftermath of the Bali Bombings

I met Blaine Pecaut late in September of 2003, when he walked into a clearing in the dense foliage of the Plengkung Jungle in the Banyuwangi province of Eastern Java.  Blaine has wide child eyes, simple, honest eyes, and although there were hints of gray in the stubble on his face, there was something very young and new about him.  We both were there for the same reason, as were the other hundred or so travelers who slept there by the Indian Ocean.  A congregation of international travelers, all there to surf.  The name of the place was Grajagan, the name of the surf spot G-land - a shallow mile long stretch of reef that is widely regarded as one of the best waves in the world.  I had already been there for two weeks when Blaine walked into the Jungle Camp, fresh off a speed boat, the final leg in an eight hour trek from Bali's Kuta Beach.  Blaine showed all the signs of a G-land rookie.  He was a bit nervous, hesitant, seemingly unfamiliar with the camp set-up.  I introduced myself, and offered to walk down to the beach with him; explain a bit about the surf spot.  It was my eighth trip to Indonesia, my sixth trip to G-land.  We went through the usual introductions; Blaine told me he was from San Clemente, California.  One of only a handful of "yanks" that I had come across in Indonesia that season.  Blaine is an electrician, and a dedicated, skilled surfer.  He has a quiet voice and mellow, spacey demeanor.  We sat on a bamboo bench facing the surf.  The waves were good that day, as they often are at Grajagan.  Blaine and I discussed the surf - where to paddle out, which waves to avoid, how to read the barrel sections.  During our conversation, I got the impression that this was Blaine's first trip to Indonesia.  He didn't say directly whether he had been to Indonesia or not - yet something about Blaine's voice, the Southern California surfer patois, something about his openness, trepidation...  I just got the feeling that Blaine was seeing it all through new eyes.  I told him that I thought it was pretty cool, that he had decided to come to Bali, alone, with the negative press and all.  The travel advisories.  The newspaper articles.  The aftermath of the Bali Bombing, which destroyed two prominent Kuta clubs on October 12, 2002.  Blaine told me that he was "a little scared to travel to Bali, but that it was important to face his fears."  I nodded, and we walked back towards the camp, ready to go surfing.

It would be another week before I discovered that Blaine had been to Indonesia before, after all - five times in all.  In fact, he had been there last fall.  Blaine Pecaut had spent the night of October 12 pulling injured survivors and burnt bodies out of the wreckage of the Sari Club, searching for the friends that he was supposed to meet there that night.

Speed Reef during our stay.  Photo: Dave Collyer/Sickshots.com

Speed Reef during our stay. Photo: Dave Collyer/Sickshots.com

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Bobby Revisited

I interviewed Bobby Martinez last fall in Mundaka, at one of the least-attended events in ASP history (not counting every Brazilian event, of course.)  I already posted the first part of this unused interview - here's the second part of our discussion, which centered on the apathy that swept through the ranks  as Kelly dominated 2008.

Bobby somewhere in Mex. Photo: ASP/ Sean Rowland

Bobby somewhere in Mex. Photo: ASP/ Sean Rowland

Lewis Samuels: Seems like a lot of top guys are pretty over it right now.

Bobby Martinez: Almost all the guys in the Top 10 have been here for years.  I don’t know if they’re over it or not, I just hear that from you guys.  For me, no way.  I’m not gonna quit, not gonna give up, I’ve worked too long and too hard to give up.  I’ve struggled for years while these guys were up on top, so I’m never gonna quit.

A lot of guys follow the Dane/ Kelly “I don’t care” attitude whereas you’re pretty focused on every event.  Is it hard to see the top guys have that attitude? Do you think it’s disrespectful to the sport?
I think they’re lying to everybody… I honestly think, deep down inside, if you didn’t care, why would you be here?  The QS is the worst tour, why would you go through that if you get here and don’t care.  I think it’s all bullshit.  Personally from what I’ve experienced I think you go through the hard yards to get here for a reason.  If Dane didn’t care, he wouldn’t surf a wave and try a backflip twist every wave.  He cares.  I don’t care what he says. I look at him, when he needs an 8, he’ll surf a wave.  When Kelly needs a score, he’ll surf a wave.  That’s bullshit to me.  I honestly feel like why would you be here… I do look at it as kinda disrespectful, because people work so hard for this.  You know, people in these other countries, Brazil and stuff, where it’s third world and they don’t have anything, this is their life.  Same with me, I don’t have nothing, this is my life.  To hear people come and say they don’t care, for some of us who maybe have a different mentality, I kinda look at it as a let down.  For people who have struggled for a positive way of life, come out of bad neighborhoods and shit… I could never say I don’t care, cause I do care.

Bobby in Chile.  Photo: ASP / Sean Rowland

Bobby in Chile. Photo: ASP / Sean Rowland

Do you ever feel like you’re coming at it from a perspective similar to the guys from Brazil?
Yeah, I do, I feel like I have more of a connection to those guys as far as where I come from, it’s different - the school I went to, the neighborhood I grew up in, there wasn’t one kid who surfed.  Brazil, you go there, there’s so much poverty, the people are struggling, that’s how it was where I’m from.  There would be like 15 people, families, in a 2 bedroom house, struggling, just trying to make a better life.  I’ve seen that, and they don’t quit, so I don’t understand how people can go through this tour and act like “I don’t care.”

Fans kinda feel cheated when those really good guys don’t give it their all.
I think heart succeeds sometimes more than talent.  If you grow up in a neighborhood where shit happens, and you want to leave where you’re from, you give it your all when you have that opportunity. People are striving for a better way of life.  That’s why people who come from nothing, and strive to succeed, sometimes that heart is worth more than talent and an “I don’t give a fuck” attitude.  If you live where everything is all good, why would you care?  If you’re striving to get more for your family, which a lot of guys on this tour are, it means more for you, it’s deeper, more meaningful.  This tour is our life – it’s how we make money, how we survive.  I’m not writing Kelly or those guys off if they don’t care.  I mean, Kelly, he’s done his job.  He’s in a position not to care.  It would be great to be there but it’s not where I’m at.  Cause he’s the freak of our sport, it’s understandable if he doesn’t care.  And Andy, he got 3 titles.  They’ve got their titles, accomplished their goals, where a lot of us haven’t got there yet, and we might never get there, but at least we’ll know we tried.  But the people who haven’t got there, and already don’t care… it trips me out.  How is that possible?  It trips me out, it’s weird to me.

A Word from our Contenders

The ASP season kicks off Saturday, so I thought I'd turn the hype-volume up a bit further by sharing a few words from our top contenders: Slater and Fanning.  The following quotes didn't make the QuikPro Peview I did for Surfline last week.

Kelly at Duranbah, 2006. Photo: ASP/Tostee

Kelly at Duranbah, 2006. Photo: ASP/Tostee

Lewis: One could argue that you haven't been challenged for the #1 spot since winning Bells last year.  Do you have any sense of looking forward to a challenge with the start of the new season?

Kelly Slater: Well, if you ever get a chance to have a little breathing room like I was able to get last year for a while you would always rather have that position.  But everyone loves a good race and a close battle and after everyone saying I was done years ago, I'm probably lucky to even be in sight of those other guys.  It'd be nice to get a good result on the Gold Coast for sure.

Lewis: Has your perspective on equipment changed much since this time last year?
Kelly: Not changed but has gone in the same direction as it was starting to.

Mick Fanning, Snapper, 07.  Photo: ASP/Robbo

Mick Fanning, Snapper, 07. Photo: ASP/Robbo

Lewis: Where does the motivation come from for 2009?
Mick Fanning: Well, it’s probably like climbing Everest: If you get to the top once and go back to climb it the next year and don’t quite make it to the summit again you’re gonna be bummed. Once you’ve been to the top nothing matches it. My motivation is to get back up there.

Lewis: Any changes to your approach for this season (boards, training, strategy, etc)?
Mick: Yeah, 2008 was my worst year on tour to date but I think I learned more last year than I have in any previous years. The big change for me has been learning how to switch on and switch off as a competitor. I’ve had better preparation for 2009 than any other year. I feel relaxed, I’ve minimized distractions, I got the right equipment, I know exactly how often I should train without burning myself out before events and I’m feeling more comfortable. I'm ready to go.

Contending is all about fitness.  Word on the street is that Taj has been training with these two.

Contending is all about fitness.  Word on the street is that Taj has been training with this fierce  couple.

TAJ has a PLAN

Just finished a preview for Surfline of the QuikPro.  As usual, plenty of quotes don't make it into the final text.

Taj Burrow, Uluwatu.  Photo: Chris Burkard /BurkardPhoto.com

Taj Burrow, Uluwatu. Photo: Chris Burkard /BurkardPhoto.com

More than a couple guys in the 45 told me that Taj will be the one to challenge Kelly this year.  "He's the only one in my book who did it last year," CJ Hobgood said.  "Plus everyone's kinda been on the band wagon of writing him off. So I think he'll come out blazing and everyone will say 'I told you how good he is, etc.'"

I suspect the "everyone" CJ alludes to is me.  Fair enough.  I've definitely been hard on Taj in the past.  Despite this, Burrow answered a couple questions about the kickoff for me, including the one below:

Lewis:Any changes to your approach for 2009?

Taj : Yeah, I'm aiming for runner up this year, that way I may win..

BOBBY on KELLY

A few days before Kelly won his 9th title, I interviewed Bobby Martinez.  I was hoping to put together an article on "Is Kelly's Dominance Good For Surfing?"  The article never came together - partly because most guys dodged the question.  But Bobby is his own man; he did not dodge the question.

Lewis: Do you feel like Slater’s dominance in ‘08 is bad for the sport?

Bobby: For him it’s cool, for us it’s boring.  Same old guy, and he’s so much older than us.  I honestly don’t think he’s surfing the best out of the previous years he’s been on tour.  He’s surfing the best, but he surfed the best for him personally years ago.  But now he’s winning more than ever.  I don’t understand it, especially when there’s all these guys like Andy, Mick, and Joel, who I think personally are just as good as Kelly.  But somehow he’s just been able to win every event.  It blows my mind, with so many people right at the level he’s at, for him to dominate like that is weird, and for me, it’s boring to see Kelly win again… I know Kelly is loving it, but for just fans, I think it’s boring.

Bobby Martinez, Spain.  Photo: Gio

Bobby Martinez, Spain. Photo: Gio

Is it good for the ASP to have Kelly be so dominant? Do you ever feel like the ASP is pushing him towards that dominance?

Yeah, I do.  Sometimes I do.  I mean, sometimes I really do and sometimes I really don’t.  I feel like people want him around because he’s a big attraction for our sport, but he’s good enough, he’s gonna stay around.  He always does this thing, like, “Oh, I may not do it…”  We all know he’s gonna do it.  He ain’t got nothing else to do.  But he’s just saying that because I feel like he wants people to lure him in. I don’t know if that’s true, I just feel that way.  And I think he knows that there are so many good guys like Mick and Joel, that if he doesn’t win, he wants an excuse to say “Oh, I don’t know, I wasn’t all there anyway.”  Because I honestly think he can’t commit and then lose like he did against Mick…
Or like he lost to Andy in 2003…
Exactly.  It breaks him.  It breaks him.  That’s what I think.  But shit, there’s so many good surfers, his time has to end eventually.  He’s gonna be exiting from this sport sooner or later.  So I think it’s kinda weird.  We’ll see what happens next year because everyone knows he wants to go for 10 and now he’s admitting it.  So now there’s this pressure.  I think it will be a whole different ball game.

Bobby in Chile. Photo: Pierre Tostee

Bobby in Chile. Photo: Pierre Tostee

I might put the rest of this interview up later.  Meanwhile check Surfline for a new interview with Bobby concerning 2009.

SLATER on STYLE

Every now and then I'll try to post something vaguely journalistic from the cutting room floor.

In 2008 I interviewed Kelly Slater for Water Magazine. Suffice to say, the year proved to be more successful for Slater than Water.

The following conversation didn't make the final edit.

Lewis Samuels: Style is one of the few things where one can look at your career and say “What Slater brought to the table with style, compared to past champions, wasn’t as noteworthy.”

Kelly Slater: Style, like… what do you mean in terms of style? Surfing style, personal style, clothes? (laughs)

Kelly Slater. Photo: Karen/CoveredImages

Kelly Slater. Photo: Karen/CoveredImages

Surfing style...  I think when you can look at the way you approach waves, it’s a distillation of correct body positioning, to achieve a high level of performance.  Are you concerned with how that looks to the viewer, or are you primarily concerned with what you’re achieving on the wave?

I don’t know… I guess for me, I’m more Dane Reynolds than Tom Curren. Or I should say more Martin Potter.  I think style is kind of… I could take a lot of heat for saying something… but someone who has a very deliberate style, it’s almost pretentious.  If you look a certain way just for the sake of looking that way, I think that’s false.  I think that style for me has always been a sort of secondary thing to function.  Is it functional? But they’re equally important really, because if you have the right form the function will happen naturally, and vice versa…  If you put the weight in the right place, the style is going to look good.  It can almost be a moot point… Get the whole story »

The Ballad of AI

AI Interview

AI Interview

For the last week I've been working with Andy Irons and Blair Marlin (AI's manager) on the AI interview that Surfline put up today.

After a tumultuous couple years on tour, Andy has decided to take 2009 off. One of the many interesting facets to this story is that Andy is perhaps the first surfing superhero to watch his personal challenges be mulled over by a vast jury of internet surfers.

Andy admitted to me that he isn't too "computer-sauvey" and therefore he didn't read many of the things that media and fans have written about him.  (Although he did read the Power Ranking in which I compared an Andy Irons heat to an Amy Winehouse concert.  Kaiborg and Andy discussed the analogy and decided it was close enough to the truth to be funny.)

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