Kelly Slater just won his first WCT heat of 2016
Kelly and Jordy look right at home in maxing eight to 10 foot Bells.
Kelly Slater opened his account for 2016 with a hard fought win in eight to 10 foot Bells for Round Two. The Champ ground out a victory against the Rip Curl wildcard from Guadalupe, Tim Bissou, with a pair of sixes, admitting that his first win of the year was a major relief.
“Yeah, alright man!” he laughed. “First one I had all year!”
“It’s a lot of work out there. You can ride a wave for five hundred yards and feel like you barely did a turn on the thing. I had one 10 foot wave land on me and I didn’t wanna bail out ’cause I’d break my leash. The thing pushed me super deep and probably held me down for 10 seconds with my board, which is pretty rare. Probably the longest wipeout I’ve had in a month.”
The day dawned to giant conditions and a two hour traffic jam as Victoria’s surfing faithful flocked for a piece of the Easter Sunday long weekend action.
“Over the years I’ve grown to love this event,” said Kelly.
“I don’t really love the wave,” he continued. “There’s a few years where it’s been good; 2006 it was especially good and I was lucky enough to win that year and if it was like that every year we’d just be claiming this place. But a lot of years it’s just a struggle with high and low tide and the waves aren’t big enough, the lulls are too long with long intervals. It’s just a challenge. But now it’s such an event for so many people here and there’s such a focus on it in the community. To come down here is a lot of fun and I’ve really grown into it in my time down here. It’s the 20th or 21st year I’ve stayed with the same family (at Bells).”
Kelly put on a show for spectators in the giant, warbled conditions, attempting an unsuccessful kamikaze floater on a huge closeout section. The move set the tone for a day of big wave fails and theatrics. “It was basically a four percent chance of making that thing but I thought, I’m gonna go for it,” he said. “I actually nearly stuck it at the bottom. I kinda landed but I was a little down on my back foot. I was thinking, I don’t know if I really want to commit to the landing on this thing because I could hurt myself or break my board.”
When asked whether the attempt was a sign of desperation to rack up a result this year, he replied, “Yeah, I think so.”
“As I was going up to that section I was imagining being in here and being one of the guys watching and going, yeah hit that thing. I know Jordy or one of the guys in here would definitely yelled at me if I didn’t.”
Kelly rode a 5’11” Slater Designs thruster with a “bit more weight” and a carbon fibre strip through it. He revealed after the heat he was also sitting on a freshly shaped Simon Anderson step-up, which might prove a secret weapon in the victory-at-sea conditions.
“That’s what I rode in 2006 out here (and won on) and it’s one of my all-time favourite boards. If one of the boards feels right under my feet I’ll ride it.”
When asked the secret to Simon’s genius, Kelly replied: “I think he’s channelling ’81 energy.”
“Simon’s boards have a certain rocker and feel to them. There’s nothing tricky to the board. Just a classic line. I had a good Simon in ’05, ’06 that I won four events on and it was just amazing. I got on a board (of Simon’s) at J-Bay and did one high line to bottom turn and I knew it was the best board I ever had.”
In other results, Jordy Smith broke through for his first win on tour this year. The big South African reveled in the endless walls and lumpy sections on offer, racking up the round’s second highest single wave score, a 9.2, for a series of drawn out carves, foam glides and floaters.
“I love big open face waves,” he said. “Having the opportunity to really throw all the power you have into a big open face of water is really something special. You don’t get that chance very often. Even just to surf Bells as big as it is that doesn’t happen very often.”
The history of the occasion and the size of the waves on offer was not lost on him either.
“This morning coming down here it was kinda crazy, I was like woah!,” he said. “I spoke to Mike Ho and I spoke to Barton (Lynch), and Barton said when Simon (Anderson) was surfing out here (in ’81) it was double the size. But I’m just psyched man. This year we’ve only had two foot mush so to throw some water and ride some bigger boards has been great.”
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