Bede’s Blog tackles Bells Beach and the Slater factor
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 18 March, 2008 : - - I get asked more about Kelly Slater than any other surfer on the Dream Tour. Man, if I had a dollar for every person who is asking me whether I think Kelly will turn up at the Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach this Easter I wouldn’t need to compete there myself!
Kelly seems to like playing a cat and mouse game with the media over his planning – whether he’s going to retire, whether he might compete in just some selected events, whether he might just go free surfing. Some guys reckon the tactics are also intended to play with the heads of his competitors. I don’t know about that. They certainly don’t worry me. In fact, I much prefer it when Kelly is there because he raises the bar for all of us.
And my view is that Kelly has earned the right to do whatever he likes. Eight world titles and the enormous positive press and imagery Kelly has brought to surfing internationally is something that every pro surfer should be thankful for. Without him, surfing and the Dream Tour wouldn’t be where it is now.
So I’m hoping that after his great win in the Quiksilver Pro on the Gold Coast earlier this month that he will show up at Bells. I’ve found the key to surfing against Kelly is not letting him intimidate you with his performance. You have to take an attitude of out-performing him, rather than out-hassling him – or rather letting him out-hassle you.
Kelly’s secret is not just what he does on a wave – and we all know how mind-blowing that is – but also what he does off the wave. I learnt that when we clashed in the semis of last year’s Quikky at Superbank when it was going off. I held priority but let Kelly sneak an inside runner where he chalked up a huge score.
It was a big slip-up by me and it left me requiring a nine point plus ride (out of 10) to take the heat and make the final against Mick Fanning. I channelled my frustration into positive energy by staying calm and focussing on what I needed from a good set wave in the dying seconds. The fact I got it and nailed the score I needed is still one of the highlights of my career so far and gave me major confidence for the rest of 2007.
I relish those sorts of heats because they are the ones that reveal character and show you what you really have. Kelly brings that out in his rivals and that’s why I hope we see his carving S-turns on those big Rincon walls. Since my semi at the Quiksilver Pro, I’ve been powering into training as I’m eager to build on my equal third ranking on the WCT and leave the Australian leg of the Dream Tour in good shape.
My coaches Gary “Kong” Elkerton, Dadee Taylor and my board shaper Wayne McKewen have had me pumped with a good all-round and interesting schedule involving physical and mental preparation. I always get excited about the Rip Curl Pro at Bells. It’s got such a history as the longest running pro contest in the world.
To win and get to “ring the bell” with the amazing trophy they provide is a highlight for any pro surfer. The Bells honour roll is full of the names of the greats. Taj Burrow, who finished runner-up to Mick on last year’s CT rankings, won here last year and will be pumped for a repeat performance. Taj’s style so suits Bells.
Plus there will be the “usual suspects” of Mick, “Parko” (Joel Parkinson), a rejuvenated Dean Morrison and Andy Irons as well as all the hot new kids coming through like Jordy Smith from South Africa and Dane Reynolds from the States. I hope to be in there amongst it all too! I’ve always loved those big walls at Bells.
I’ve seen pictures of the classic 1981 Easter swell when Simon Anderson, inventor of the three-fin thruster surfboard we all now routinely surf on, won in clean three to four metre surf. Here’s hoping!
I’ll report in from Bells. Until then, see you, Bede Durbidge
* Bede Durbidge is from the Gold Coast and finished the 2007 Dream Tour with a world ranking of 5. He is currently equal third on the ’08 rankings. He is also reigning Pipeline Masters and Hawaiian Triple Crown champion.