By Cash Lambert
There’s only one way to earn the nickname Bam – in reference to the Flintstones character – and that’s to hit something with power! With aggression! With unbridled force!
Watch Kekoa Bacalso – the Mililani-born 2009 ASP Rookie of the Year – surf, from the lineup or the safe confines of shore, and it’s easy to see why he earned the moniker: he slashes open faces with power gouges. He hacks funky closeout sections. He throws his body weight against peeling lips. And all the while spray flies towards the heavens.
With so much wielded force, what are his weapons of choice during these saltwater massacres?
About an hour before paddling out at Pipeline on a spring afternoon, the 31-year-old arrived at the Billabong team house with 5 boards in tow, ready to talk story.
“Hmmm….I’m going to ride today my 6’0” squash today,” he said, eyeing the 3-4 foot northwest swell that turned the sea into a playground overnight.
“Freddy P is about to bog rail!…oh he didn’t…no one is out today. Here’s Burger at Backdoor!…and Freddy just smashed that lip.”
With a lull in the swell, he turned around and looked at his quiver, itching to paddle out.
We’ll try and be quick Kekoa, we know you want to get out there. So what’s new? We heard you have a new role with Rip Curl.
I’m transitioning into a marketing role, my title is Marketing Representative. I help out with the Sales Accounts and also coach with the Rip Curl Hawaii team. A couple of guys I have on my roster right now are Brisa Hennessy, Robert Grilho III, Diego Ferri, Cole Alves and others.
Let’s talk about your boards: how have you been fine tuning them lately?
I’ve been adding a little more foam, because I’m full figured [laughs]. I haven’t been using my 7’0” and 6’9” because I’m scared to surf 25-foot Pipe and those crazy days at Off the Wall. I pick my battles. I love my surfboards and I want them to last a long time.
Give us a board breakdown.
This first board on the left is my Martin Potter Saint model. It’s 5’9”, 19 3/4 and 2 5/8ths. It’s a twin fin and is extremely thick, made for laziness and 1-2 foot Chuns Reef [laughs]. This second board is a 5’9”, 19 3/4 and 2 and 5/8ths. It’s a little fuller. Joel Centeio and I used to ride wing swallows as kids during Nationals, and I thought it’d be cool to have that in the quiver. It’s one of my best all around boards, from spring to summer. The bat tail swallow, the wing is a pivot point and the swallow makes it looser. It goes really fast; it works really good. My 6’0” CMG is my all around shortboard, and it works insane. It’s my go-to shortboard, and right next to her is another 6’0” that is a thumbtail. It’s the best board for Haleiwa and 6-foot and under. My 6’6”, that’s my biggest board.
When you were on the World Tour, was your quiver any different? Or more the same?
Three to 5 years ago, my quiver would probably be the same. Eight years ago when I was on Tour, this was quadruple. All of these are increments of 3 inches, and back then I had everything per inch.
What’s your relationship with your shaper, Glenn Pang, like?
I call Glenn the master chef. When you have visions and you throw it to him he says something like ‘you don’t want too much pepper, you actually want salt.’ He’ll spice it up. It’s cool to work with a shaper who is shaping something outside of the box, too. I’ve ridden the 6’0” squash all my life, and to work with someone who changes things, like the bottoms, is great. I have a Martin Potter board from the 80s, another shape that I had when I was a kid…he’s creative, and that stokes me out as a surfer.
And is that something you talk to the kids about? Working on a good relationship with their shaper?
I almost wish and hope for the future that the kids can have that communication and relationship towards their shaper where they can open up their mind and tell them straight. For example, look at Darren Handley and Mick Fanning. Those guys are best friends, and that should be, you know, the goal of how you talk with your shaper. The two may joke, but when it comes down to business, they make the Mick magic. That’s what I strive to do with Glenn. He’s a great guy and is easy to work with, and I want to keep it going.
You’ve traveled extensively, so do you have any tips to protecting boards from airline-induced dings?
It is out of your control and the reality is that your boards might get destroyed. The main thing that I tell the kids is to be a step ahead. When you have a good quiver, communicate with your shapers and always go home to fresh equipment. There will always be wear and tear, so just be on top of it.
Is there an art to stickering a board? Is there a reason one sticker goes in one area, and another sticker sideways or upside down?
I like to keep it simple. As you can see, all my boards look exactly the same. I used to go nuts with the colors, but now I’m so eager to get these in the ocean that I don’t think about it as much. I thought the Rip Curl sticker looked cool in the corner. But like I said, I’m as basic as possible. Some guys get superstitious about the logo and sometimes I’ve had that magic board, so I’ve spray painted it and put the stickers on the exact same to try and have a resurrection thing.
You laughed about your “bigger frame” earlier – is foam your friend on Oahu? Or do you stick to thinner boards?
Don’t be afraid of foam. I was always in denial about foam, but foam is your friend, especially around these parts. A lot of my boards are thicker and wider these days and it’s one of the best things ever. I feel like I rode too small of a board previously. It’s always good to talk to your shaper and have a good relationship and ask these kinds of questions.