In July 2015, Craig Anderson famously rolled into a solid 10-foot wave at Kandui Left in Western Sumatra on nothing more than a 5’4″ Hypto Krypto.The still, captured by photog Iker San Martin, shows Ando knock-kneed if not perfectly committed on the electric blue face as the wave fiercely collapses in on itself behind him.

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By then, consumers were already singing the praises of the Hypto Krypto as one of the most versatile surfboards on the market. But the image of Craig, his board, almost skateboard like in its proportions, was surely the upper limits of surfing’s new trend toward shorter, fatter, flatter equipment. It’s no coincidence the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association went on to select the Hypto Krypto as surfboard of the year for 2015.
Now, in a recent video, Kelly Slater elects to paddle out at ten-to-twelve-foot Cloudbreak on a 5’3″ Omni by Slater Designs/Firewire. So, when a lesser man of his stature would be reaching for a board well above 6 feet, why is Kelly able to get away with something just over five? And drawing on the example of Ando, is there something the pros know that we don’t about shorter equipment in bigger waves?
I reached out to Shred Show personality and Firewire employee Chris Grow for some more insight on this, and what he said was particularly interesting.
“I think that some pros do this for the same reason we all do it: It’s fun,” said Chris. “For example, you can compare Kelly’s surfing in this clip to the surfing Kelly did in the O.K. Fiji Pro this year, and visually it’s very different. You can witness how your surfing changes immediately depending on the shape you ride.”
But beyond being fun and a way to mix things up, is it functional?
In terms of the Omni specifically, mastermind Daniel Thomson explains that the design, “needs a bit of a wave.” Something with curve and shape to it, not necessarily small mushy surf, he says. Ten-to-twelve-foot Cloudbreak may be taking that idea to the extreme, but it’s not as crazy as it sounds. Especially when you consider Tomo suggests getting one around five inches shorter than your standard shortboard. Kelly’s 5’3″ in that sense is really comparable to a standard 5’8″.
And the trend of shorter wider in bigger surf isn’t unique to pros. “In the sort of surf that most of us see every day, it’s the shorter, wider boards that are easiest to have the most fun on,” said Chris Grow. “Like the EVO for example, or the Chumlee or Baked Potato. What a lot of surfers find is that it’s hard to go from short and wide grovel equipment to a common step-up shortboard. And this is why the Omni in this video has worked so well for so many – the Omni is a compressed step-up board – really it’s the step-up version of the EVO, and it lets you get into bigger surf without getting on a board that’s totally different than what you ride in everyday waves.”
If anything, this short video of Kelly on a 5’3″ is just the most recent example of how the guy continues to be on the forefront of trends in board design. “It’s interesting… because when you think back – it was Kelly who helped lead the trend to longer and more narrow equipment [in the 90s],” said Chris. “And it was also Kelly who helped usher in the change to shorter and wider boards a few years back. It illustrates both Kelly’s interest in influencing the design of his boards himself as opposed to relying totally on another shapers directions and opinions, and also just how influential Kelly is regarding what the rest of us surf, and the rest of other pros as well.”