Kelly Slater, Shipsterns Mainline, Tasmania

Words by Sam McIntosh

Kelly Slater arrived at Hobart airport on Thursday evening, having flown from the Gold Coast via Melbourne. It was late. After midnight. Mark Mathews had booked adjoining rooms with Kelly and Ryan Hipwood, but had only communicated with Kelly via text message the previous day. No one was sure if Kelly was coming. But at 5am on Friday morning, half a clean head poked through the door, revealing quizzical eyes. He'd made it.

From there was much deliberation about the waves, transport, our room and how the day might unfold. Above the clutter every now and again (and a few times following that day), Kelly would clear the floor with something like: "Let me just say this (it's such a good way to get attention): if it's small, we'll be back before check out time anyway." The reason he was here was to surf Shipsterns. He'd been here once before and had been tracking this particular swell, closely, with Mark Mathews. Thanks to light winds, today was looking electric.

Mark and Hippo bolted to one boat ramp with a ski and 4WD, Kelly and myself drove to another boat ramp to hit the line-up with a team of locals. En route to the ramp Kelly provided organic, sugar-free muffins he'd baked the previous day on the Gold Coast (coconut, banana and maple syrup - delicious!) and navigated through Google Maps to get us to there (he sure was distracted by other potential surf setups he found using his phone).

Forty minutes later and we were in the line-up. The waves were classic. And, to be honest, the day was a blur in parts. Our boat driver, Polly, who is one best drivers you're ever likely to see, says that for a two-hour window in the middle of the day, it was as good as he's seen it in 15 years. The water was warm, perhaps around 19 or 20 degrees. "It's different for me," teased Kelly. "My bald noggin gets cold! You wouldn't believe how much more heat I lose through my head." But, cooler heads will prevail! Temperature aside, the water was electric blue, and the sun shone. When a set hit the reef in the middle of the day, with the sun shining through the lip, it looked like an inflated version of P-Pass.

There are many stories about who ruled yesterday. Wade Goodall was brilliant. Laurie Towner surfed the wave like a man who has spent many years surfing it, squatting at the top of the wave and pulling in before the step. Obviously, Marti Paradisis rode the biggest wave of the day (see Stab's Instagram for Kelly's iPhone mastery) and the locals dealt with the step like it didn't exist. Later, Ryan Hipwood was perplexed with how they do it. "I watched them so much today and they have it too wired," he said. "They ride deeper than everyone else."

And, how big was it? "Six-to-15 feet," says Kelly who, whenever he was in the water, was wild for as many waves as he could scoop. "Seriously, it wasn't any smaller than 15 feet on some of those waves. How is the wave? It's what you compare other waves to. There are no other waves like it in the world. You compare waves with Shipsterns. You compare waves with Pipeline."