Exploring the Underbelly of Belly Slater
"With great power comes great responsibility," these cannot be truer words for the great man Belly Slater. The most powerful wit in Australian Bodysurfing and quite possibly the world. His influence on the Australian Bodysurfing industry has been second to none and has taken the world by storm with his charisma and stoke. This Christmas we sat down for an exclusive tell all interview with the legend himself and this is what he had to say.
Q. Who are you? What is your real name and where did you come from?
A. I'm the stoke-broking, foam slangin', fin sprinting, baz bombin' bad man of Australian bodysurfing. Inventor of the Flying V, wearer of surfskins, coiner of GIRT, composer of Whomp Camp (Barrel O' Fun) and pioneer of the handplane cutback. Some people call me B-Slay. Others call me Duke Haole Whitewash. But everybody knows me as Belly Slater!
Q. When did you get into bodysurfing and how?
A. My dad taught me how to bodysurf when I was little. A former South African gold medalist trampolinist - dad was a total hellman and my hero. We'd be on holidays at Nelson or Byron - he'd strip down to his fluoro yellow budgies, butterfly his way straight out the back and piledrive himself down massive waves - head first, chest out, hands behind his back - while yodelling an ecstatic "Woohoohoohoo!" that you could hear from the shore. I spent most of my grom life just trying to bodysurf like him.
Around 5 years ago a workmate told me about a handplane shaper from Cronulla called Pedro. Pedro, the story went, was in hiding after making a killing during the early 90s handplane boom. He had gone deep underground and his mythical double concave fibreglass wave slayers were rare as hen's teeth. There was an application/initiation process for them which involved nipple crippling a Bra Boy while kite surfing Cape Solander. Anyway, I managed to track Pedro down through the patent office and took one of his flying carpets up to Broadbeach. The first time I used it, I got so motherlessly stoked I didn't sleep that night! From that point on I was hooked.
Q. What do you love about bodysurfing and why?
A. The best part about bodysurfing is the people. Through BELLY I have met heaps of like-minded, creative, weird, hilarious, good hearted and talented whomp dweebs from all over the world. They inspire, entertain and amaze me every day. I feel enormously proud to be part of the crew.
Q. Explain the concept of GIRT to me? What is it? Is it a lifestyle?
A. Girt is the Australian word for getting barrelled, pitted, tubed and/or shacked.
There's a line in the Australian national anthem: "We've golden soil and wealth for toil; Our home is girt by sea". In that context, the word girt signifies that Australia is totally surrounded by the sea. It's such an odd word. No one would never use it in everyday speech and it sounds ridiculous when spoken in a broad Aussie accent. And yet there it is, in our anthem, sticking out like a banana in budgies! A bodysurfer in a barrel is also completely surrounded by sea. And most bodysurfers are pretty odd too. So I think it's the perfect word for us.
Q. Favourite wave to bodysurf and bucket list wave to bodysurf?
A. The best waves I ever caught were in Mazunte, a small beach town in Oaxaca Mexico. We hit it by chance on a hot summer evening. No cam checks, no planning, we just rocked up in an old military colletivo. Mazunte gifted us a four hour conveyer belt of perky nuggety moistures that slapped the soles of our feet like a high five as they guided us gently but quickly down their steep peaky faces. We hitched a ride back to our hostel with the local lifeguard - an actual caveman - sitting in the boot of his car, mozzie bitten sunburnt feet hovering just above the dirt track - laughing our asses off.
My bucket list wave is the Straight Outta Whompton Whomp Comp at the San Diego Wavehouse. The comp is put on by Thomas Van Melum and Team Blacksheep and those dudes know how to party!
Q. Where and how did you get the idea for belly slater and the belly boards concept?
A. BELLY is about inclusivity and giving a big F Yew! to the things that ruin surf culture. Exclusivity, localism, macho bravado, pressure to conform, the massive emphasis on earning respect. That stuff's all garbage brah. BELLY is all about having fun - in your own way, with your own style and at your own pace.
My handplanes are an extension of that philosophy. They're soft - because being hard is overrated. They're strapless - so you're free to change hands on the fly. And they're lightning fast because GIRT.
Q. Your instagram content is hilarious, I'm subscribed to post notifications, it's just that good every post. how big is the team that develops all the great content?
A. Hahaha! I'm about 5"11.
Q. What inspires you? In and out of the water?
A. @stoke_farmer, @benwei5050, @heavie_wonder, @nickbrbot v @barrel_pig, @womminwompers, @lonewolfco_, @toddsupertramp, @captain_kookman, @garagehandplanes, @bornwithgills, @ectohandplanes, @wawhandplanes, @whompcamp, @finsprinting, @trayboarding, @mabohandplanes, @mahalokealii, @jesusofnarrabeen, @superbiscuitsc, @kookslams and @bee_flax.
Q. When you're not bodysurfing, you are......?
A. Making bodysurfing memes.
Q. What future do you envisage for your belly brand?
A. In January 2018 I'm launching a fundraising initiative that I'm really excited about. BELLY has teamed up with Stickerapp and a bunch of awesome surf artists to create some gnarly stickers, which will be sold on my website. All profits will go to Surfrider Foundation Australia to support their ocean conservation efforts. I'm stoked to work with the incredibly talented artists and, hopefully, raise some money for a very worthy cause.
Long term I want BELLY to be the next Mambo.
Q. What's your advice to young groms wanting to get into bodysurfing?
Slip, slop slap - skin cancer is no joke!
Q. Where do you see bodysurfing in the future? What would you like to see happen?
I love a good spin move. Forward rolls are rad too, sure. But the next frontier is the aerial dimension. DARE TO AIR! LET'S GET LIFTED!