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Slater's summer vacation

The latitude is deep south, two of the best lefts in the world are exclusively yours for the duration of your stay — and everything else? Everything else is like a fantasy camp for surf monkeys — and it's all only an eight-hour flight from Los Angeles. Tavarua. Good old Tavarua.

Tom Servais is an old hand when it comes to time spent on the Fijian island. He's been on trips there with just about anybody who is anybody, plus a lot of people who are nobodies but just love to surf perfect waves. He probably couldn't tell you how many times he's been there with Kelly Slater. Actually, knowing Tom, he probably could, but that's not the point. The point is that he and Kelly have been going there together for years.

This summer, the two were back on the island again. Kelly's better half, Kalani, was in tow, as were Pat O'Connell, Sal Masekela, Saxon Boucher, Bob Hurley, and a motley crew of friends with names like Dozer, Lego and Vava.

"Is there anything special you want me to ask him?" Tom asked me before leaving on the trip. He had agreed to gather a few photos for us and said that, if he had the time, he'd do an interview with Kelly.

It's fun to make Tom sweat a little, so I gave him a Flip HD camera I had just gotten and told him to corner the Champ and find out everything he could about the "Kelly Tour."

I knew the answer well before I asked. There was no way he would do it, but it was fun to listen to him backpedal.

"Oh, well, I don't know about that. You know, I'd pretty much ask him anything, but I don't know about that right now. He's on vacation on this trip; I think he's trying to get away from all that right now, you know. I don't want to invade his space. Why don't I take the camera and see what we get?"

I don't reckon Tom could have got anything out of Kelly anyway. I always envision interviews with him like the "battle of wits" scene in "The Princess Bride." Here he's this cool pirate guy who has come to get the girl and has built up a tolerance to iocane powder, and the interviewer is a blabbering idiot foaming at the mouth and yelling things like "Never go in against a surf journalist when death is on the line!"

That said, we didn't feel it an appropriate time to push the tour issue. So, this little collection of photos and video from Kelly's week on Tavarua hopefully represent the compromise, the fine line walked between intrusive surf paparazzi and respectful admirers. It is nothing more than a brief look at somebody's summer vacation, complete with snapshots and dorky home movie. Kelly and his surrogate family had some laughs, shed a few tears when they got the news their dear friend Jeff Johnson had departed this world and rode some waves together (even though everybody insists the waves weren't that good … I guess everything is relative).

Hopefully, they all got to have their time away from the spotlight and got to relax a little, too. Pat admits to checking his BlackBerry every day, but not replying to messages, so I guess that's a start.