What Gets You Out of Bed

Notes from the competitor's area in Portugal, where Kelly Slater fell in Round 2

| posted on October 14, 2013
Photo: Rip Curl

Frederico Morais played the wildcard and stirred things up at the Rip Curl Pro with his win over Slater. Photo: Rip Curl

“Kelly only needs a four,” Damien Hardman offers, almost in hope of him finding it. I remind Dooma that last year in the corresponding heat Kelly only needed a three…a three he never found.

Hardman is the contest director here in Portugal and lives up to his name when push comes to shove and his contests start running out of both days and waves. The same clinical, no bullshit manner that won him two world titles has also served him well in pro surfing’s second-most thankless job (after judging and just before commentating). Last year here at Supertubes he’d sent Kelly’s heat against Raoni Monteiro out in chaotic, goopy conditions, and Kelly dually lost both the heat and momentum in his world title race with Joel Parkinson. Impressed, Kelly was not.

This morning, history repeated with Kelly drawn against local Portuguese wildcard Frederico Morais. Supertubes was neither super nor tubular this morning, but in Dooma’s defense, he had to pull the trigger. While the rest of the waiting period offers swell it’s being accompanied by southerly devil winds, which will turn the place into fish soup by the end of the week. This fact however didn’t make Dooma any less uncomfortable this morning as both Kelly and Mick Fanning—the two guys jousting for the world title—were the first to paddle out into the cheesy sea.

Dooma spent most of Kelly’s heat ghosted away at the far end of the contest site, almost unable to bring himself to watch as Kelly’s chances against the wildcard slowly and inexorably bled out. But Dooma—like everyone else watching on—could see it wasn’t so much the waves that were hobbling Kelly…Kelly just looked lost. Trailing, he started mining the tailings of the break looking for the small wave he needed to take the lead, rather than sitting and waiting for a diamond. Morais, meanwhile, did just that, sitting stoically still looking out to sea like an Easter Island statue waiting for the best wave of the heat.

Morais hadn’t been quite so composed this morning back at the Hotel Atlantico. For the past four days he’s known this heat has been coming, the biggest moment of his young life, but when his coach Dog Marsh informed him the comp was on and today was the day, the revelation had an immediate laxative effect and forced him to drop everything and run back to his room. Walking down the beach carrying a yellowing, three-year-old Channel Islands thruster he looked like a member of the Portuguese crowd here to get Kelly’s autograph. But while Morais—who goes by the nickname “Kikas”—didn’t do exactly that this morning, he surfed smart and when his chance came to him, a rare clean right, he surfed the house down.

As the final minutes ticked down Kelly’s entourage of girlfriend Kalani, manager Terry Hardy, and board wranglers Belly and Trav Lee could scarcely believe that, for the second year running in Portugal, the wheels were coming off the truck. And when Kelly fell on a Hail Mary frontside spinner in the dying seconds there was a gulp of coffee, a scratch of the head, a look down at the floor for answers, and some pacing to nowhere. Somewhere nearby, Mick Fanning stared flintily out to sea and allowed himself a tiny clench of the fist. It’s not the world title yet but it’s a huge step toward it. The loss for Kelly was a crucial one, but in many ways it was not the upset it appeared to be. When Kelly came in there were no sharp words. There was no panel beating of surfboards. There was no looking for Dooma for some freelance venting. There were a few words of congratulations to Frederico and a quiet air of resignation that this moment had probably been brewing for a few weeks now.

Up until Trestles the world title battle had been a false war. There’d been no battle at all and the title was there for whoever wanted it most. The wildcard in all this was always going to be the waves. Through France and now into Portugal the surf has been underwhelming to say the least, and while Kelly hasn’t engaged, Mick, as he did in similar conditions in ’07 and ’09, has stormed the continent.

This pattern for Kelly was set earlier in the year. At Kirra, Cloudbreak, and Teahupoo we saw his best. All had great surf. In the case of Cloudbreak, Kelly’s surfing was just about the greatest damn thing we’ve ever seen, purely breathtaking. But it’s all about what gets you out of bed in the morning and what brings you to the contest, and for Kelly it’s clear at this stage of his career that silverware alone doesn’t cut it. The silverware he’s got at home is full of fruit or residing in friend’s houses, and turning up to these things is clearly no longer simply about trophy collecting. It hasn’t been for a while now. For more than 20 years he’s shown up year after year, surfed a million shitty waves in a thousand shitty events that have all sped past in a blurry montage. He needs something to engage him on several levels, and that’s just not there at the moment. He needs a fresh challenge, and that will most likely come next year with the dawn of the ZoSea era—an era Kelly has helped usher in—where he will have one hand on the tiller and one hand on the trophy.

In the vacuum of interest after Kelly’s heat there was a poignant minute that was largely missed. The last heat that ran before the contest was placed on hold was between Brazilians Adriano de Souza and Raoni Monteiro, the world number 9 versus the world number 33. The significance of the heat only became clear once the dust had settled and Adriano had clearly taken the win over his countryman and friend. Raoni, one of Brazilian surfing’s favorite sons, has had a wild old year. He’s had moments of joy (beating Parko at Bells, the birth of his daughter Valentina), he’s had low moments (surfing without a sponsor and missing events as a result), and he’s had some predictably crazy Raoni moments. But his loss today almost certainly confirmed that he won’t make the Tour next year. Raoni may not have the tag-along filmer or the hipster haircut or the bank balance of some of his more celebrated peers, but Raoni has the heart of a lion and today it’s broken. He’s going to have to find another way to put bread on the table for his family next year. He broke down in tears and was comforted by Gabriel Medina’s mother, Simone, alongside Adriano, who was almost as distraught at having been the one who delivered the friendly fire.

  • Ricardo Calabaça

    Is there anything to comment??? Same mistake, twice! Bad call (again) from contest director…

  • matt obrien

    So with “crappy” waves coming, they chose to run 4 heats in crappy waves?!? 4 HEATS! This is b.s. at its finest. I am sure Domma is bummed that his sponsor’s surfer will win the title. Heartbroken, yeah right! So bummed about sending out 4 heats that he couldn’t stand to send the other 8 in crappy waves – but would instead wait to send em out in a few days in crappy waves! am I the only one that sees the ridiculousness of this? The event was ALSWAYS going to have crappy waves this year – why are heats 5-12 (and the rest of the rounds) any better than the 4 heats they ran today. What a joke. Bummed for Raoni too. “Pro” Surfing lost out big time today. Funny that Kelly wins/surfs better than most in good waves BUT not in crappy surf – telling. Whatever, I really hope it comes down to Pipe OR Jordy takes the crown. Mick is just boring boring boring.

    • jarrif

      Mick is just out surfing his opponents. He’s not wowing anyone with his innovation; he’s just surfing fast and sharp, beating everyone in his path. That’s competitive surfing though. It’s strategy, consitency, and confidence. He’s in it to win it. Kelly lost something in the chopes final against Ace and he’s been carying an injury too.

      • matt obrien

        Still think mick is boring & predictable. And no, he is not totally outsurfing his opponents, just being scored like he is. I can think of few heats that he “won” this year that he did not. Shame judges are in his corner.

        • .,

          You comment on every site, give it a rest. Mick won easily. Kelly should have won but didnt. Get over it

          • matt obrien

            as I have mentioned before – I post on other sights to get dialog going and vent my frustrations! I don’t expect everybody to read all sights, so I spread my OPINION around. AND as for getting over it, I am. Yesterday I was not. NOW stop trying to tell me what to do!!

          • .,

            Its just really sad, thats all. Why do you so badly need your precious voice to be heard?

          • matt obrien

            cuz I got nobody to talk about this crap with other than wonderful people like you.

  • Seabass120

    It really is damn odd that they run 4 crappy heats in which the two world title contenders are in. I smell a rat….

  • surferreader

    The world tour should be in 10 spots with nearly guaranteed surf (Fiji, Tahiti, Hawaii, etc.) and one urban center that changes every year: New York City, LA, Rio, near Paris, etc.

    Also, Matt wrote “So with “crappy” waves coming, they chose to run 4 heats in crappy
    waves?!? 4 HEATS! This is b.s. at its finest. I am sure Domma is bummed
    that his sponsor’s surfer will win the title. Heartbroken, yeah right!” Excellent point.

  • big
  • big
  • HT

    Lack of motivation? lack of focus? lack of quality waves? something was clearly lacking in that heat! I love Kelly, I have followed his career since ‘Surfers The Movie’ came out. I wanted him to win that heat just as much as any of his crew watching from the beach, but I didn’t feel the drive coming from him.

    He made mistakes, fundamental mistakes in poor conditions. He failed to maximize the scoring potential on his early waves. He could have whipped up scores in the 5-6 range simply by adding a couple of turns in. instead he track down the line looking for pits or ramps. I guess you don’t win 11x titles with 5s and 6s though, so must have felt he would get a 7 or 8 with his rotators.

    Kelly fell out of sync, and as per Round 1 was out of position and priority when the best waves came through. I was in shock, while I watched the heat disintegrate in front of me again. I think Mick could barely believe his eyes either.

    So is this the end of the line of Kelly? I think he is on the ropes, and baring a 3rd or 4th round shock exit from Mick his time on the top is over.

    Truthfully I am a bit nervous about the future of Men’s Surfing. It will only be a couple of years before the Micks, the Joels, the Tajs will be gone too. There will be a flood of Brazilians into the top 30, none of which I have yet been connected to yet. In Quality waves the cream always rises to the top, and this event has been a crap shoot. 2014 my future hopes rest with Julian and John John, they will be the ones to progress the sport over the next decade.

    The King is Dead, long live the King!

  • Dirt

    @matt_obrien:disqus . I just knew you would be the first one bitching about an Aussie rip curl conspiracy.

    • matt obrien

      FU Dirt! Good to know, you know me so well. I call em like I see them.

  • Eric

    The whole notion that Raoni does not have a sponsor…one of the best surfers in the World, is almost as baffling as the Surf Industries balance sheets. This guy RIPS, and is liked, and respected. Granted, he did not re qualify, but I have trouble seeing has beens, that are granted wildcards into events, only to embarrass themselves, getting paid, while this guy struggles. What, Surf Industry? Yeoman, solid surfers do nothing for your tattered bottom lines, but unproven groms, and washed up former Tour guys do? Says a lot about why pro surfing has so many question marks.

  • Pissed


    2013 is the year marked where if you catch a bigger wave, then you get the score….lovely!!! I thought that was was 1976…

  • Christo

    This really reads as if kikas wasn’t surfing at exactly the same time in exactly the same waves. Why not put it this way: Kelly lost to someone who was better at this point in time. Could have happened to mick, parko, taj …. Basically everybody – even Kikas. If Kelly had bet him, no one would care. Now kikas bet the king, and instead of getting the respect he deserves, the contest director is blamed for improper heat arrangements. This is f***!

    I think even Kelly himself would look at it this way.

    • Rolf

      Well, it happened to Parko in France and the judges pushed him through anyway.

  • Christo

    Also – and even with being a fan of slater and his great achievements over the years – I do not see the point in providing conditions which allow him to play his trumps every time in a competition that is deemed to cater an all around fair environment for ALL competititors signing in… What kind of bs is this? Would be just the same as waiting for small chop to grant Mediterranean or Great Lakes surfers the best advantage. If you wanna see surfers kill it in d overhead barrels watch a video from WA.

  • HBCASurfer

    Bad AND biased calls from people!!! Are they out for Kelly? Give me a break! We all know that there are many great surfers…..BUT….One tops them all no matter what!!! Kelly!!!

  • Ben

    The elephant in the room is that when Kelly leaves the tour the vacuum left cannot be understated. Kelly is ultimately the reason the vast majority of people follow the ASP. Mick, Joel, Taj, John John, Julian etc are all outstanding talents, but lack the depth of character, introspection and intelligence that Kelly brings (indeed, he would stand apart from the rest in pretty much any sport). Reading in between the lines everyone is hoping and praying that Kelly competes next year because it’ll be a hell of a lot more boring if he doesn’t.

    Also, doesn’t it speak volumes that everyone else gets bored with watching champions in other sports dominate (e.g. Woods, Federer, Nadal, Vettel – he’s been booed lately), however we have an insatiable appetite for Kelly.