There’s never been a more interesting time in surfing than right now and you’re on the sideline for it. Do you feel removed from it? Do you feel you’ve still got a role to play on the big stage?
I feel like I’m in the best position possible because I’m totally neutral. I just think it’s all really, really cool. The wavepool race right now is incredible. That people can actually go and ride these things in the middle of nowhere, and the biggest conformation for me that it will improve surfing is Albee Layer going to Waco then getting home and doing a 540 alley oop.
From a pure surfing viewpoint, how was Kelly’s wave compared to something similar in the ocean?
For me it was just like Greenmount – turn, turn, tube – so it was really familiar for me, and for them to replicate it so closely is incredible. It’d be awesome if they could pop up sections and surprise you, but that’s the beauty of the ocean I suppose.
A lot of surfers have had their belief systems challenged by the wavepool. Have you got any ideological issues with it? Are we playing God by creating our own surf?
Not at all. One thing I find that surfers as a group are scared of change. Extremely scared. They don’t like to change the way people surf a wave, but as soon as someone does it’s like, that’s so cool. You have that little group of people saying that sucks and it’s been that way since day dot. My experience going to the river wave in Munich, the Eisbach, you get in there and you look at these kids and think there’s no way they can surf, then they jump in the river and rip. And it’s a completely different surf culture that’s sprung up, miles from the coast. The pool’s going to take surfing, especially guys doing all the tricks, to a whole new level. And if you don’t like the way surfing is getting bigger, go disappear into the jungle. There are waves everywhere. Go surf one.
Kelly had some nice words for you when you retired. How would you characterise that relationship over that time?
It was up and down to be totally honest. Competitively, he totally brought the best out of everyone. He still does. And then I think on a personal level the time we sit down away from competition he’s really genuine and he does care. I think it’s hard for people to… he’s been a superstar for so long, he’s had so many “yes” people around him and I think he figured it out early on that with us we just didn’t care about that. We were like when you compete, compete, but come and have a beer and talk shit with us afterwards. It’s been fun getting him on the beers and talking rubbish with him over the years.