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Surf’s most beloved man is an old phrase that’s been around, but in this case, it’s true!
A kind of melancholy descends on the last episode of Lost Tapes, the 11-part series that documents Kelly Slater’s 2019.
It’s fall and we’re in Hossegor, France, as Slater struggles with a series of ninth places, abysmal by his standards.
The weather is nice in Aquitaine at this time of the year, the tourists have mostly left, the small summer swells give way to the Atlantic muscle, but the sky is grayer, the days shorter.
It’s a time when even the most optimistic soul feels a little unease.
The episode focuses on his thirty-three relationships with Stephen “Belly” Bell, an ex-pat Australian glazier who has lived in France since 1989, and who became Leo Fioravanti’s stepfather after he found love with the mum Serena, spectacularly assembled from the Italian. .
“It feels like the end of an era to me,” Slater says, as he stays at Belly’s gorgeous Cubist beach house. “Belly only has one event left in his career as a tour manager…he’s been there for all the world titles I’ve won. I love Belly. He’s my best friend. He’s a consistent person and a great guy. I can trust him with anything and everything. Everyone should have a Belly in their life. I’m lucky to have had him in my life all these years!”
I know that feeling.
Belly also owns a part of my heart.
During the two years that I lived in Hossegor, through the gray coat of the long winters and the saturated golds of the too short summers, he was kinder than necessary.
Maybe it was our mutual love of boobs, short trips to Spain, and sand-bottom whistling tubes that slammed like thunder on the city sandbars, but it felt real.
Belly moved from Victoria to France in the mid-1980s and set up a glassware shop called Euroglass. He had the contract to build all the Quiksilver boards for Europe, which in the days of the honey surf industry at the turn of the century meant everyone came to Belly for the boards, Kelly Slater and sixties icon Miki Dora included.
Because he was Australian, and more Australian than anyone I had ever met (although he was fluent in French), Belly was the hub around which surfers from that country revolved during the European leg of the tour. .
Once, Belly asked me to put a tail pad on a board that was destined for the Quicksilver flagship store in Paris. It was apparently a former Slater board, but that was not the case.
I put the K-Grip pad on at a twisted angle and even though it would have been justified for it to be restless and cruel, it gave me a fatherly smile and said, “You idiot.
“Loved by all” is an old phrase to throw away, but it’s really true.
Stephen Bell, a short man with a bald head and baggy pants, is all-hearted, egoless.
Did you know he rocks too?