Listen: “A pack of already boozed surf journalists, accountants, firem…

The modern shortboard has become more user-friendly in the last decade. The FRK, at least ridden as recommended by Kelly, is a return to a much more elite state of affairs.

I ain’t one for conspiracy theory, as a general rule. So when 11,000 scientists say we are in a climate emergency (today!) I tend to listen.

When I look around the normally verdant, sub-tropical paradise of Lennox Head and see something that looks more like Dustbowl Oklahoma than remnant Gondwanan rainforest I get twitchy. When the joint has been ringed by bushfires for two months before summer even starts, ash covering lineups, smoke-filled skies, air as dry as the Sahara I think, whoa, maybe we’ve cooked the goose here.

Hence the question: what the fuck can I do, what should I do?

Keep it local, according to American Author Jonathan Franzen. In an article for The New Yorker titled “What if we stopped pretending” Franzen said we’re probably fucked and we should do what little we can in our own spheres of influence.

A conundrum then, when I received the Slater Designs FRK, shipped from Thailand.

What if I kept that testing local? Reduced the carbon footprint per wave.

“The climate crisis is closely linked to excessive consumption of the wealthy lifestyle,” said the scientists and seeing as Kelly has one of the biggest lifestyles and a massive per wave carbon footprint at the tub, maybe I could offset some of his eco-footprint for the sake of future generations.

Kidding, but totally serious.

To do that meant some simple rules. No car travel. Obvs no flights, new keikis, or imported exotic foods. No new clothes etc etc. Walk or bike ride to the surf. Eat local foods. Easy crew.

The board itself. Is narrow, thin, foiled. Quite a departure from modern shortboard theory and a very big departure from the Cabianca DFK I was riding. That departure further exacerbated by the LFT construction, being EPS core and epoxy glass and following Kelly’s recommendation to go one size smaller than you would normally ride.

Yeah, right.

Been sucked into following Kelly’s board advice before, and I did it again. Mixed results, generally poor, as you might have guessed.

The 5’10” came in at twenty-seven litres, but felt far less under the arm. Very foiled rails. I walked past twin-fin doyen Torryn Martyn on the way to the opening session after a short bike ride to the Point and said, “Reckon you could ride this?”’

“Holy fuck,”he said, “that’s a pencil!”

Surprisingly, it didn’t paddle too bad.

The water was blue and I was in boardies, which always makes a board feel better to paddle. The easiness stopped there. “What do I get?” asked Pete Shelley from The Buzzcocks in the song of the same name.

In the case of the FRK: Nothing that’s nice. I kooked the first half-dozen or so waves I caught. Juicy, head-high runners, lots of bottom tension. With the thinness, narrowness, low volume and LFT construction I had very little of the things I like in a HPSB: drive and control. Stuck behind sections, mostly.

Late in the session I managed a little backside finner. Very loose in the lip.

Couple more surfs followed: local points, a longish ride and paddle across a shark-infested river to a wedgey left were conducted with low carbon footprints per wave but confirmed initial impressions.

I’d been sucker-punched by Kelly, again.

Taking advice off anyone on surfboards is fraught with danger but please, do not take Kelly’s advice and buy this board under-sized. It’s wizard level trolling if he’s done it on purpose.

Look, I made this board work. But the hit rate was low.

The Cabianca got me bangers nine times out of ten. With the FRK, I was back to four or five. The sweet spot is minute and requires precision to be millimetre perfect.

It needs a steep, bowling wave. Most of my local points have side-wave energy running through them as incoming swells rebound and run back through the line-up. That makes wedges and “knuckles” – but flatter areas where you need to run “up hill” to get into the next wedge.

The LFT/FRK hated any kind of lateral surfing like that. Stopped dead.

It’s a board for teenaged kicks or Peter Pans who can’t let go of their youth. Hardest shortboard I’ve had to ride. Sizing it up a little and a change in construction and this thing would probably work fine, for me. Changing up fins didn’t effect my ride much, because the problem was an undersized hull.

I wonder if Firewire might not start to embrace different constructions. Hayden Shapes, a fellow traveller on the EPS/Epoxy road has intro’ed PE technology, PU blanks with epoxy resin. Rusty has embraced the same. Polystyrene has come under environmental scrutiny and these headwinds as well as the ride might force a change back to PU cores. Or at least something a bit more solid, like their earlier builds.

Dan Mann has a pedigree of super user-friendly surfboards in the Firewire line. Notably, the Potato range.

He credited intuition with creating this board for Kelly, which he did on spec. It sat unridden for two years before Kelly shredded Trestles on it and it entered the Slater Designs range. And he does shred on it, just like he did the nineties potato chips that Matt Biolos claims “stole the buzz from surfing”.

By turns, the modern shortboard has become more user-friendly in the last decade. Rec surfers can easily ride pro-level boards, if sized correctly. The FRK, at least ridden as recommended by Kelly, is a return to a much more elite state of affairs.

Outlier or new beginning? I say outlier. Kelly’s equipment choices have never really suited anyone but himself, with few exceptions.

Although this board didn’t work for me, I do credit it with inspiring perhaps the lowest carbon footprint session since Pat Curren in 1959.

Pre-dawn at the base of the Point. Bagged a ten-pound Giant Trevally on a stick bait. Stashed it in a rock pool and went surfing. Rode up to the Melaleuca swamp and peeled off some paperbark. Came home and cooked it wrapped in paperbark with warrigal greens.

With carbon intensive industries and lifestyles in the cross-hairs if we all lived more simply we would, in effect, be allowing Kelly to live his resource hungry life for as long as he lives. Entertaining us in the process.

That’s a fair trade, isn’t it?


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