Big-wave riding bucks; Slater does it again

Gary Kewley
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Friday - April 04, 2008
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Kelly Slater rang the infamous
Kelly Slater rang the infamous “Bell” for the third time March 27 at the Rip Curl Pro Down Under

Howzit, surfers!

We keep riding high this week ... with tons of fun in the sun and surf! There were a couple small to moderate swells for both town and country ... plus, trade swells have proved consistently 3 feet. Now a near advisory NW swell is coming this first weekend of April. Advisory size becomes highly prized later in the spring. We all know they’re too rare and will all too soon disappear into summer. So stay waxed and ready.

Indeed, the signs of fewer, smaller NW swells also signal the postponement of our big wave riding competitions. The Bank of Hawaii/Atlas Sales North Shore Tow-In Championships never found its one day. Neither did the Quiksilver/Eddie Aikau Big Wave invite at Waimea Bay. The “Eddie” holding period runs December through the end of February, while the “BankOH” waits through March 31. It’s not that easy to get that one huge and perfect day. Big wave legend and forecaster George Downing is not really watching for 12-18 occasional 20-footers at Waimea ... he’s waiting for a full day of 15- to 25-foot (40-foot faces). Same for the N.S. Tow In, though they will take smaller if need be; they took 8-12 feet at Puena Point in 2007.

Valentine’s Day had the best potential for the NS Tow-In with a few 20-foot sets, but the field of big wave riders and judges were spread too thin with the first annual Quiksilver Edition-Ku Ikaika (stand strong) challenge. The Stand Up paddle boarders went off in 8- to 12-foot Makaha. So, now we wait for next season ... but only here in Hawaii; the rest of the planet is a different story.

Big-wave riding has come into its own the past decade or so with more hell men dropping in world wide than ever before. There’s also more money in it. In fact, the eighth Annual Global Big Wave Awards are coming up Friday, April 11, in Anaheim, Calif. It’s an international field and it’s big marketing bucks for Billabong ... but they know why and how. Who isn’t impressed with those who challenge Mother Nature in all her massive glory? This surf company invests much cash into the athletes and I believe it’s paying off. Companies must have core credibility to gain loyalty and access to surfers’ pocketbooks. The thing that’s so smart is the knowledge of how big-wave riding deeply affects all people ... from the full spectrum of the extreme action sports niche to the couch potatoes. In fact, you don’t even have to know how to swim to get your heart pounding watching men who ride mountains.

As for the “relatively"small wave competitions, let’s finish with the Fosters World Tour. If you read my column last week, I was writing about Kelly Slater vs. the new breed and the deepest talent pool in ASP history. How he wasn’t sure if he’d even show up at Bells Beach for the Rip Curl Pro. Well, guess what? He won the thing (3/27) and rang the infamous bell for the third time. He barely beat out the latest title threat from Australia, Bede Durbidge. Slater now won the first two out of 11 events which puts him in good position to win his ninth title. I’ve heard rumors that Quiksilver is offering him $10 million if he ever gets 10 titles. Well, how about $9 million for nine? The dude’s worth 10 times that, in my opinion. He’s by far the biggest draw at every event he enters. It’s been this way for well over a decade.

Now they’re taking a break before heading off to Tahiti May 8, then Fiji May 24 .The South Pacific leg of the WCT is where Slater shines even more brightly. He’s won every contest (and more than once) down there. Instead of going right, like they do in Australia, they go left in the warm perfect barrels of the South Pacific. But whether it’s front side or back side, left or right, up or down ... I can’t wait.You have the 2008 schedule at SURFNEWSNETWORK.COM ... just hit the calendar link. There also are all the local events and box jellyfish dates.

See you in the lineup and back here next week!

GQ, Dropping In 4 U!


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