Stab Magazine | 10 Reasons "Kelly Slater in Black and White" is still the best surf film ever

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10 Reasons “Kelly Slater in Black and White” is still the best surf film ever

In 1991, Richard Woolcott followed a Kelly Slater around California, Hawaii, and Fiji to document the young surfer’s rise to glory and to help announce the head-to-toe signing of said surfer to elite ranks of the Quiksilver surf team. What started as a simple plan to film Slater on his road to probable victory in […]

style // Mar 8, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 6 minutes

In 1991, Richard Woolcott followed a Kelly Slater around California, Hawaii, and Fiji to document the young surfer’s rise to glory and to help announce the head-to-toe signing of said surfer to elite ranks of the Quiksilver surf team. What started as a simple plan to film Slater on his road to probable victory in the 1990 Body Glove Surfbout at Lower Trestles became much more than just a short film about one event. It became a movie that changed the surf world as we know it. Within context, Kelly Slater In Black And White is is still the best surf film ever made. Here are 10 reasons why. – Chick Tosdale

10. The Hair. Kelly had a beautiful head of hair throughout the making of this film, and while this really doesn’t make the movie better or worse in any way, it’s interesting because Kelly is just as much of a sex symbol now as he was back then. This illustrates the fact that it doesn’t matter what a man’s hairline is like; if a man is handsome, he’s handsome. All you bald-haters out there who think it’s funny to pay out Kelly for his lack of hair should be ashamed – hair or not, Kelly is a totally do-able dude, keep the Kojak comments to a minimum (for those youngsters out there who don’t know who Kojak is, he’s a fictional character played by the legendary Telly Savalas – Americans still love him for some strange reason).

9. Mother Love Bone. The entire soundtrack to KSIBAB was fantastic, but the most memorable song in the whole video had to be, Mother Love Bone’s killer riff-rock classic, Capricorn Sister – if the name doesn’t sounds familiar, the song will. It’s the one that has the line, Mother Love Bone/Everybody’s taking to me now baby. Classic. Download it for some serious retro active stoke. I’ll bet you a thousand bucks it will make you wanna surf.

8. Reverses. One thing that really stands out in my memory of KSIBAW is the abundance of the ultimate 90s progressive surf trick, the reverse. No, not the air reverse, I’m talking about the foam bounce slide around variety that was the pinnacle of hi-shredability in 1991 and this trick pretty much came to be the cat’s meow because of Kelly Slater’s multiple slide-around antics in this flick. In one section he busts two frontside reverses and throws in a couple more backside reverses for good measure. Reverses are still awesome, go ahead and try one next session, and while you bank off the whitewash and go in to your spin, make the “bonk” sound in your head, you’re now acting out a key part of KSIBAW.

7. Wooly. The driving force (filmer/director/interviewer) of Kelly Slater In Black And White was none other than the current raddest surf CEO in the game, Mr. Richard ‘Wooly’ Woolcott. Today, Wooly is CEO of Volcom, back then, he was a rising star at the then totally cool brand called Quiksilver. His is the voice you hear asking such quotable questions like, “What are you eating?”, “Do you like it?”, “What do you do when you’re not surfing?”, and “Do you like typing?” All these questions come from Wooly on the other side of the lens with Kelly answering in his typical awkward style. Oh, and you can thank Wooly for one of the most quoted quotes in the history of surf film … (see #2).

6. Trestles. Remember when Trestles was perfect all day every day? Remember when Trestles was a tropical destination? Remember when contests at Trestles were exciting and fun? Yeah, we do too, and we’re reminded of it every time we watch KSIBAW. The cornerstone of this film is the performance of a young Kelly Slater riding perfect surfboard with an awesome airbrush, going left, going right, doing airs, doing reverses, getting tubed, and surfing perfect waves with perfect style, all while wearing one of the most iconic trunk styles Quiksilver ever made: Star Trunks (See #6). The Body Glove Surfbout was a major precursor to the current Dream Tour. The contest featured huge prize money for the day: $30k back then is equal to, like, 34 million dollars today, and Kelly won it, making for an awesome moment captured on film. Oh and if you wanna see an epic high five left hanging, watch the awards ceremony and see one of Kelly’s fellow finalists get dissed on a hoisted high five that goes unreciprocated.

5. Pipeline. The footage of a young Kelly Slater surfing Pipeline was pretty much an epilogue of what was to come. Since the very beginning of their relationship, it was plain to see that Kelly and Pipeline would be happy together for a long time. Watching the Pipeline footage in KSIBAW these days is interesting because the boards look like bananas. The equipment Kelly rode back then was wild in comparison to what he rides today – pointy flipped-up noses, super thin, barely wider than his feet, but somehow seemingly perfect for the waves he was riding at the time.

4. Star Trunks. In my Southern California beach hamlet known as “Surf City”, no piece of surf apparel ever topped the most legendary surf trunks ever made, Kelly Slater’s Star Trunks. Just the mere mention of these trunks brings a sparkle to the eye of any surfer raised in the early 90s on a steady diet of Kelly Slater In Black And White. Kelly’s Star Trunks became mythic and even when you did get your hands on a pair, you never dared actually wear them surfing. It’s like playing basketball in a pair of brand new Jordan’s – you better be pretty fucking good at basketball if you play in brand new Jordan’s – same goes for Kelly Slater Star Trunks. This is in the day when there was no internet to buy your shit on. You had to go from surf shop to surf shop searching for Star Trunks and they were usually sold out or your mom was too poor to step up and buy you a pair. Most of us could only dream about owning these trunks. When I finally got a pair, they were third-hand, faded, stretched out, and out of style… I wore them once at Trestles and surfed like crap with everybody making fun of me for trying to surf in my new/old Star Trunks.

3. Tavarua. Another section in KSIBAW that blew the brains right out the back of our heads when watching, was no doubt the Tavarua section. Wooly and the crew captured Slater and friends (Rainos Hayes, David Giddings, Chava Greenlee, Wooly himself, and a few others) surfing perfect Cloudbreak and Restaurants when the Tavarua resort was in its infancy, nothing more than a few huts and some board sheds. The sessions at Restaurants stand out as particularly amazing with Kelly surfing these crazy draining lefts coming from under sea-level into these incredible top-turns and getting tube after tube. This is the section that pretty much made Tavarua a household name and a dream destination for surfers all over the world.

2. “It’s the morning of the final…” – Wooly. This quote stands as one of the all time surf video quotes ever. If you’ve ever done a surf contest in your life, you’ve probably said this quote to yourself the morning of the event, and when you said it, you got psyched. Go ahead, say it to yourself right now, I guarantee you get a mini stoke-chubby and your inner grommet’s grin grows huge. What’s funny, is if you listen closely, Kelly answers this question with a bit of confusion, “I thought it was the morning of the quarter-final?” Well, in reality it was, but destiny had a different idea and for Kelly, it truly was the morning of the final. Later that day, Kelly had an almost equally, albeit less quoted quote, “No nerves … amped.” Say either one of these quotes to any surfer over 30 and they’ll know exactly what you’re talking about.

1. Never before, never after. It’s fitting that there was never a movie like Kelly Slater In Black And White before this and never again after this. When this thing came out, it not only announced the coming of the king, but also ushered in a totally new era of surf stardom and celebrity. For such a hardcore, self made, low budget, and low frills video, this VHS tape found its way into millions of VCRs around the world and changed the way we all surfed and the way we all viewed the sport itself. A few videos have come close to making a similar impact to what KSIBAB made (Dane Reynolds: First Chapter, for one), but KSIBAB was and still is light years beyond any profile video the world has ever seen. This video also marked the marriage of Kelly and Quiksilver, and now that they’re divorced, watching it is a little bit bittersweet, but do yourself a favor and find a copy – if you’re a grommet, this video will change your whole outlook on surfing, if you’re an old fart (above 30), this video’s gonna bring back some memories of a time when surfing was just a bit cooler than it is today, and a time when Kelly Slater wasn’t a health food-eating, World Title \-winning, Instagram addicted, Yoga doing, issue oriented dude – he was just the raddest surfer in the world.


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