Looking Back: Kelly Slater Wins Body Glove Surf Bout III 1990


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Two decades ago in early September, Kelly Slater made his debut on the world’s stage winning the Body Glove Surf Bout III which was part of the Bud Pro Surfing Tour in 1990. At lower Trestles, in southern California, Kelly put on a display which stands today as some of the most high performance surfing ever in a contest.

The board Kelly rode in the contest hangs today in our flagship store in Santa Barbara. The dimensions are 6’0 x 11 3/8 x 17 3/4 x 14 3/8 x ? (Al didn’t write the thickness on the board, but it is about 2 1/4 with a full rail). Even Al wasn’t used to shaping boards with widths of 17 3/4″ and actually wrote 18 3/4″ on the board, but then wrote 17 3/4″ over it.

Over the last 20 years, the nose and tail dimensions of Kelly’s boards got much narrower, but are actually back to about the same numbers shown on this board. The board was buckled and repaired so it could still be ridden, which is a sign of a magic board. The engraved plate from the trophy Kelly won at the event was removed from its case and stuck directly onto the deck of the board ridden in the contest.

This board is considered to have changed the face of modern high performance surfboards as we know them. At the time, boards were much wider, thicker and flatter with mainly convex, vee bottom contours. Al Merrick designed this board to enable Kelly to get to places on a wave that only his imagination would allow at that point. The combination of added rocker, concave and narrower outline in this board marked the beginning of a new era in surfing.

Footage of Kelly at the Body Glove Surf Bout III was used to create Kelly Slater in Black and White which was a preview of things to come.

20 years later, Kelly Slater continues his campaign for his 10th world surfing title at the same Trestles location, in the 2010 Hurley Pro.