Last week we published an interview with Dave Cove, Chairman of British Surfing, the organisation tasked with creating a development programme that will one day get a British surfer on the Olympic podium.
There’s no doubt it’s a tall order, considering none of our countrymen or women have finished within the top 50 on the QS for over a decade. However, Dave seemed up for the challenge and the conversation got us thinking about impactful but achievable suggestions we could make to help him and BS on their quest.
We were still mulling it over this weekend as we watched Italo and Gabriel casually pirouette their way to the podium at the Merewether CT.
What was really impressive, beyond the speed and altitude of their many aerial manoeuvres, was the variety of sections on which they placed them. From the soft and fluffy to the ridiculously heavy, it was the lads’ ability to juice an excellent score out of anything that saw them easily put pay to every display of meat n potatoes power surfing they came up against.
Of course, this ain’t particularly new. Airs have been a vital component of competitive success since the turn of the millennium and arguably even earlier. However, it feels like over the last few years we’ve been creeping towards a watershed moment for both men and women, where only those with a solid full-rotor in their back pocket can prosper.
And, with the ubiquity of wave pools and the time kids like Sierra Kerr and Jackson Dorian are spending in them, the level is set to rise drastically in the coming years.
Which leads us to a simple, achievable, idea for the folks at the helm of Britain’s surfing development. If we want to have any chance at keeping pace we should do as Australia, Switzerland and South Korea have done and work with wave pool operators to create a proper artificial air section in our pools. Then, we should pack a load of the best British kids off for regular fresh-water training sessions.
Now, we know a good air game is not the be all and end all of good surfing and this should be just one part a wider strategy to help our young surfers tune up their power surfing and tube nouse too. And that airs probably won’t be too much help at the 2024 Paris Games, set to be held at Teahupoo. But for all the ISA qualifiers and Euro QS comps that’ll happen in between, giving our athletes an edge above the lip is a straight-up no-brainer.
The good news is, we’ve already got much of what need. Firstly, plenty of homegrown talent with solid aerial acumen, secondly, an older generation of high-quality aerialists who could take up coaching roles, and thirdly several WaveGarden pools, with more in the works, which, based on the aforementioned examples from elsewhere, can easily have an air section added.
Just in case you remain unconvinced about the power of pool to engender surf skills that can be taken back to the sea, allow me to present Albee Layer’s crazy double-oop by way of a closing argument.
The manoeuvre featured in the clip above was Albee’s third-ever completion, after what he estimates to be 150 attempts, and took place on his first surf back after a weekend at the Waco wave pool.
Pure coincidence? Maybe. But when asked directly by Stab if his time in the pool played a part, the man himself was unequivocal…
“Absolutely I think it played a role – one hundred percent. I wasn’t really trying double-oops in the pool, but that repetition of launching and landing was such good practice for airs in general. When I came back home for this well, I felt incredibly solid on my feet. You can have some sections at the right that are really sketchy and shallow, but I felt unusually comfortable and connected with my board. So I think that was definitely from the, like… 500 sections we hit over the weekend”
Now who’s got a crane and concrete block going spare?