Kelly Slater daytrips with Firewire fam
Words by Jake Howard (The video above obviously isn’t Lennox, and obviously doesn’t feature Kelly on a Firewire, but it’s a good idea of what else he’s been doing on the lay days…) Kelly Slater on a square-nosed, 5’4”, wildly foiled, drastically concaved planing hull? Think about it. After a 10-minute encounter in the Lennox […]
Words by Jake Howard
(The video above obviously isn’t Lennox, and obviously doesn’t feature Kelly on a Firewire, but it’s a good idea of what else he’s been doing on the lay days…)
Kelly Slater on a square-nosed, 5’4”, wildly foiled, drastically concaved planing hull? Think about it. After a 10-minute encounter in the Lennox Head parking lot recently, it could be the future.
While the Gold Coast was small and the Roxy Pro girls were struggling their way to the quarterfinals, an hour and a half down the coast at Lennox something more curious was occurring. Kelly Slater, Daniel ‘Tomo’ Thomson, Stu Kennedy, Firewire mastermind Chuey Rena, and strangely, John Pyzel were, shall we say, field testing.
“I want to surf, but this wind…” said Kelly.
Bumpy and not very user friendly, Kelly had apparently gotten a couple on a Firewire shape before conditions went from bad to worse.
The size at Lennox was there, well overhead, but so was the breeze. The intention of the afternoon had been for Kelly to sample some of Tomo’s forward-thinking planing hull designs for the first time. Before inking a deal with Firewire a couple years ago, Tomo was an underground shaper (like his father). He was an early innovator of Tom Blake’s theories on planing hull science. Tomo’s moved it into the 21st Century. And if Kelly’s contributing insight, prepare for a revolution.
Tomo occasionally sculpts boards for Tom Curren. And Tom’s one of Kelly’s personal heroes: Another nice connection.
It was by happenstance that I stumbled onto the crew. I was trying to find somewhere to surf. I’d checked Byron and Broken Head, eventually ending up Lennox. I’d never surfed there before, but wonky conditions or not, I had to tick the box. It’s one of those bucket list waves. And besides, there were only five guys out.
A funny thing happened to me on the way down the trail: Tomo just randomly appeared from the bush. It was only a couple weeks ago I saw him walking up the trail at Lowers. We’ve been friends a good piece of time. I’ve long been a fan of his unique boards (and solid ability in the water). I’d helped facilitate his profile in the Surfer’s Journal, and about a decade ago carried him down a deserted Sumatran island after he’d gone ass first in the reef (and ultimately broken his back). Then all of a sudden there we were on the rocks, at his spot, about to jump in the water. Small world.
In the parking lot chatter after the session, which consensus dictated was more work than reward, the whole Kelly/Firewire thing came together. Between Kelly, Tomo and Pyzel, there was energy in the air. The feeling is that this relationship is so new it’s hard to put a finger on what you’ll see Mr. 11 and fam doing in the near future. He’s not the full on owner of the company, but Kelly’s now a man with a heavy stake in the Firewire game. As Tomo indicated, it really can go in any direction.
Kelly’s relationship with Al Merrick and the Channel Islands family is long standing. He’s a man that puts a huge value on bonds like that. But he’s also a 43-year-old with an obvious itch for business. And can’t be too far off stepping away from the most successful pro surfing career in history.
Kelly spent most of his time in the carpark playing cowboys and Indians with Tomo’s nieces and nephews. It was a real family affair. Being a kid at heart is no doubt one of the ways he’s remained so stoked all these years. And in his ever-analytical brain, Tomo’s shaping skills could be his new favorite toy.
Tomo reckons his planing hull science could be the next step in surfboard evolution. He’s been preaching it for some time now. Kelly’s a numbers guy. If anything, it’s an interesting marriage. In the feature Richard Kenvin wrote for The Surfer’s Journal he asserted there’s nobody even remotely as well schooled, skilled and creative as Tomo is. He primarily does his design work in an industrial space near Oceanside, California, not far from Firewire’s offices. Kelly’s always been leaps and bounds ahead in terms of what’s under his feet. Whether it was his 17-inch wide, uber-rockered glass slippers of the early ‘90s to the weirdness that was the Wizard’s Sleeve a couple years ago, alternative design concepts have always inspired him. And today at Lennox a new chapter may have begun. Stay tuned.
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