Isn’t it exciting to be part of a sport where ‘tricks’ are still getting invented?
Every year we see a new level of above the lip surfing grace our screens, both in competitions and free surf edits, as the world’s best aerialists aim to outdo each other on bigger waves, with bigger sections, adding new spins, more vertical and horizontal rotations and more technical grabs.
Yesterday a clip dropped of Mikey Wright performing what many are calling the first ever McTwist on a surfboard, and it got us reminiscing about some of the other ground-breaking aerial manoeuvres we’ve seen laid down over the last decade. Here are five of the best, in order of chronology:
Jordy Smith – Rodeo Flip – June 2009
Jordy Smith stuck this one before ‘inventing airs’ was much of a thing. Sure Josh Kerr and Julian Wilson were kind of doing it, adding new grabs, slightly changing the axis of rotation on existing airs, and experimenting with taking your feet off mid punt, but this was the first air to really light up the internet. Everything about it is crazy; the speed, the spin, the landing and the functionality of it as a manoeuvre. Aerial surfing has come a seriously long way since 2009, but there’s still a pretty strong case to be made for this being one of the best landed airs ever.
Gabriel Medina – Backflip – November 2012
The first and most important thing to note is that we know Flyn Novak had been doing them for years before Medina pulled this one. However, this one is arguably the highest, most inverted and cleanly landed backflip ever caught on film. The reaction too was palpable, and unsurprisingly this clip tops the list in terms of hit count, garnering a massive 1.6 million views on YouTube.
Kelly Slater – 540 double grab – October 2014
Next up is Kelly Slater, aka The GOAT, landing the first ever 540 (or 720 or double spin or whatever you want to call it). Whilst it doesn’t win many points for style, sporting a slightly odd slob-frontside grab combo, the height and technicality of the air, including the rotation and the landing, and the fact Slater’s not Brazilian, are enough to immunise it against the usual attacks from the style police. By doing it, Kelly, showed conclusively that more rotations were doable and whilst others have since matched the rotation, none have yet stomped a frontside whirly bird quite like this.
Matt Meola – 540 Spindle Flip – May 2015
Matt Meola is at the forefront of new school aerial-acrobatics, having stuck a ridiculous number of contenders for best-air-ever over the last few years, a compilation of which you can see here. Meola combines vertical and horizontal rotations like no one else, to create crazy flip-spin combos previously only seen in snowboarding and gymnastics. Undoubtedly his most impressive to date in this genre is his 540 spindle flip, which is kind of like a frontside version of Jordy Smith’s rodeo flip, with a a whole lot more projection. The landing isn’t perfect, and if it was in a CT it might be deemed ‘incomplete’ but that’s not enough to stop this being in a seminal moment in aerial surfing’s progression.
Albee Layer – Backside 540 – November 2016
Like Matt Meola, Albee Layer, is leading the charge of aerial surfing’s technical progression. Albee’s obsessive dedication to sticking this air is something to behold; several seasons, hundreds of attempts, numerous snapped boards and a slew of injuries finally paid off for him one windy afternoon in November 2016, when his relentless pursuit reached its ultimate conclusion. But for Albee, it’s all just the beginning:
“I don’t think we’re close to the limit of what you can do on a surfboard, we’re going to be looking at this in ten or fifteen years and saying ‘Awh that’s cute, you did a double chop hop’. It’s just a matter of trying to dream up what it’s going to be next and figure out the logistics of trying to make it happen”
Indeed, with Kelly Slater announcing recently that he was working to add air sections to his wave pool, it wouldn’t be a surprise if we were about to see a whole new era of aerial surfing emerge, as surfers overcome the logistical challenge of the ocean’s continually shifting playing field, and are finally offered the uniformity to practice new manoeuvres that snowboarders and skateboarders have enjoyed for so long.
So here’s to the future, where dizzying new heights and exponential progression seem inevitable.