He stood behind me in line with his one bottle of teriyaki sauce. I was buying lots more than that but I can’t remember what and can’t remember why I didn’t let Rob cut in front of me. I didn’t bring a bag so I had to buy one for five cents. Rob didn’t need a bag because he was buying one bottle of teriyaki sauce. We talked about the famous snowboarder Nicolas Muller and about BBQing. It was nice.
Do you think Rob Machado is one of the greatest surfers ever? He is getting kind of old now even though his hair is still impossibly full. But it has grey in it.
Cutbacks and swishing back and forth on a wave is, generally, the funnest thing in the world. At least it is until you discover the relative simplicity and ultra-satisfaction of regularly landing aerials.
Have you ever tried?
I mean, have you ever consciously forced yourself to not just throw your board away above the lip, but stay over the deck, land and ride out? Probably not.
It continues to amaze me how few surfers even try to lance the boil of monotony by taking their surfing to a different dimension.
I know you want to.
And, so to further the cause, I’ve asked Josh Kerr, a 30-year-old Australian surfer living in Carlsbad, California, the WSL surfer and one-time aerial world champ, to talk you the through the mechanics of stomping aerials. This how-to is the for the average and slightly-above average surfer.
“Stay in the top half of the wave and stall until you see the section. You only need one good pump before you hit the section. And you want to be accelerating, you want thrust, when you hit the section. So many people race, race, race, then slow down, and lose their pop when they hit the lip.”
The pop! Listen to air guys and it’s a common theme.
“It’s crucial. If you use the right part of the wave, one pump and you can go from 10 clicks to 15 in a blink.”
A common mistake Josh sees is “People kicking their board out in front of them. They’re not staying over the top of their board and they’re putting their board flat to the beach. You’ve got to be committed to stay over your board. Don’t fall back when you’re in the air.”
And air reverses? If you’re a snowboarding kinda guy or gal, you already know what Josh is going to say. If not, add the word huck to your lexicon. “It’s all about the huck. The main technique is swinging your arms and shoulders. It’s like a golf swing. You need to have full commitment to the swing and the follow through. Twist your shoulders, twist your head and your lower body will catch up.”
As for the semi-mythical full rotator, it requires an extra, conscious, and quite a physical huck. “The foreign part is coiling your body to get that extra part of the rotation.”
Feeling it? Go! Try!
Blow a thousand waves. But that first big air you stomp? Tell me you won’t be smiling.
Even if you’re old, y’ain’t outta the game. Watch this from the nearly 50-year-old Brad Gerlach.
The faceless Australian finally gets his 15 minutes!
Red Bull has just launched a new series titled This and Nothing Else. It chronicles the men and women who have to work normal jobs in order to get their kicks. The first episode features Justen Allport, a gutsy man who works as a firefighter to put bread on the table. But what he loves is surfing nasty looking slabs. Ugly things and why? Who knows! It’s what makes for compelling viewing!
In any case, Justen totally represents the faceless Australian charger, a term famous Mt. Dew actor Taylor Paul came up with a few years ago.
Here is my story on the faceless Aussie. But, really, just watch Justen. A moving picture is worth 55,000 words!
He is big, taller than the average surfer and cut differently. Thicker. He drinks beer, has a hell time, knows swell forecasts weeks out, drives an old ute (what Americans call an SUV), and charges heaving slabs. Gut wrenching, cold water, thick-lipped slabs. He is the faceless Australian.
The faceless Australian is a legend in his hometown of Gnarabup or Boranup or Prevelly or Cowarump or Bogangar. He is a legend because he stares great white sharks right in their beady little eyes. He has never pulled back from a wave even if that wave is closing out onto a dry rock shelf. He has given himself and his best mate stiches. He buys the beer for everyone at the pub. He fights and fucks and sings of the good times. He is on every epic day even if that epic day starts at four in the morning and he was up until three in the morning fighting and fucking and singing.
The faceless Australian, whose name is either Ryan Hipwood, Dylan Longbottom, Mickey Brennan, Tyler Holmer-Cross or Laurie Towner, regularly appears on the cover of Australia’s Surfing Life magazine, air dropping into a monster, but rarely on the cover of Surfing, Surfer or Transworld. Sometimes, when he finds himself buried in the photo spreads of one of the American magazines, he is either misnamed or listed as “unidentified.” “Unidentified surfer charges the day at Shipsterns.”
And why? Why is the Australian charger faceless here? What has he done to be cast into the shadows of anonymity? He exhibits quintessentially American traits of masculinity, toughness, spirit and bravery. He is Hemingwayian, or at the very least, Plimptonian. So why?
I will posit that the American surf space is currently in an extreme pendulum swing of femininity. The surfers we know are the ones who float, daintily, in the air. We know Craig Anderson and Craig Anderson surfs amazingly but is also a ballerina. We know Rob Machado who is so lithe and flowey. We know Josh Kerr, an absolute twisty turny acrobat. We are getting to Matt Meola, very pretty. We know and care about all of the dainty flowers. The men who amaze us with their grace. They can, and often do, have power. Dane Reynolds, for instance, drops jaws and causes hoots of pleasure when he buries a rail and throws a bucket of water with one of his full bore arcing turns. But Dane Reynolds also dances in the air with the best of them.
And this era of beautiful ain’t a bad thing by any means. Surfing has never been more exciting or more fun to watch. It is just a fact. Sexy is what sells, today. It’s what turns the people on. A very particular feminine sexy. And so the macho Australian charger is left in the cold. The warm love of a camera lens or correct caption just out of his firm handshake giving grasp.
I will also posit that the American surfer does not understand slabs. Most grow up surfing the comfortable beachbreaks around their homes with the odd point break thrown in for good measure. When they travel it is to Hawaii or Indonesia and not to hunt unruly beasts. American surfers love to get barreled underneath head high lips groomed by warm breezes. They love to pretend to punt like the graceful set. They love to wear 3/2s or, rather, they don’t love that but will abide it during the winter months. 4/3s or straight 5s represent burrrrrr. And, of course, those who live in Santa Cruz or New Hampshire do what they must, donning their thick winter months neoprene, but if they had the choice wouldn’t they move to Southern California? Yes. They would.
And so, the idea of actively seeking bone crunching thrills in freezing cold water with sharks circling and the nearest patisserie 800 miles away is difficult for the American surfer to actively understand. It is not what he normally does. It is not what he even wants to do.
I will finally posit that the faceless Australian is unable to care about his lack of notoriety precisely because he is masculine and because he is Australian. It not masculine to toot your own horn. It is not masculine to have a blog and regularly update it. It is not masculine to seek praise for your hard work. Above and beyond, it is certainly not Australian to do any of those things. In Australia there exists a condition called “tall poppy syndrome.” Due to an excessive egalitarianism, those who have achieved success based upon their talents, and insist on trumpeting those successes, are cut down. The sociological explanation is long and dull but that is what happens. And so the faceless Australian cannot go and praise the giant, boil-filled barrel that he rode earlier in the day because that would make him a tall poppy. And he would be made fun of. He is stuck. Faceless. And maybe he is happy there. Maybe he enjoys his work-a-day, blue collar approach. Maybe he feels comfortable in the warm confines of Australia’s Surfing Life and Australia’s Surfing Life alone. Maybe he needs nothing but his mates and his near drowning experiences and his beer.
In any case, we applaud the faceless Australian. We at times, in fact, wish we were him (minus the faceless part and the 0 dollars).
Who doesn’t dream of being the next Joe G or Kai Neville? Fame, fortune, models waiting anxiously in every port, children emulating your every move. “My life is an earthly paradise…” Joe G says. “I want for nothing…” Kai Neville says.
Well guess what? You can join their ranks! The Canary Islands Surf Film Award, to be given out at the 2016 Canary Islands Surf Film Festival, showers the richest purse ever (50,000 euro or 55,000 American dollars) on one lucky boy or girl. You? Why not! All that needs be done is to make a film in the Canary Islands and have surfing, bodyboarding, windsurfing or kiteboarding as the main theme!
“The Canary Islands are an international reference location for the practice of wind and waves sports. For this reason, we believe that the commitment to the water sports tourism has to go through promoting activities that represent the passion and culture that surround these nautical disciplines,” Maria Mendez, managing director of Canary Islands Tourism Board, says.
Your film must be submitted by August 1st 2016 (a whole year away!) and “capture the passion for the ocean, water sports and the islands’ lifestyle.”
And then you can be the next Joe G. Or Kai Neville.
Impossible to progress, you don't get no respect and you'll never be a pro surfer…
Australia is a coastal nation. Just look at our population centres on Google Earth, if you really want to see it. We cling like limpets to the coastline, tenacious little gastropods. Superficially, it looks like we all live within a short stroll of the beach.
But nothing could be more untrue. Most kids, most surfers, in Australia are car or bus or train rides from the closest rideable waves. And when you’re a kid or carless, it paints your surf experience a different hue to the guy who opens a window blind in the mornings to check the surf.
I did it. I grew up in the burbs of WA. I could ride my bike, but it would take me and hour-and-a-half, or I could wait around for parents that had no concept of Western Australia’s deadly summer onshores.
It’s a struggle living in the suburbs when all you want to do is throw yourself in the ocean. Here’s what the suburban surf rat is up against.
1. I can’t get no respect
On Saturday morning, the bus or the train disgorges you at the beach. You’re there! You smell the combination of salt air and rotting seaweed and you feel… good. Better than you’ve felt all week. So why are those people jeering at you? Why do you get paddled around in the water? Because, according to the surfers who’ve been fortunate enough to live there, you don’t belong. And because you’re surfing once a week, your clumsy jams don’t help. Which leads to…
2. It’s impossible to progress
All the Kai Neville movies, all the web clips in the world, all the visualisation and “surf-specific training” means nothing if you’re getting time in the water.
3. You don’t fit in anywhere
At school, there’s the sport’s guys, the skaters, the DJs, the guys who play guitars, the chess gang. But no surfers. And so you wander around the yard without a soul to share your dreams of nailing a front spin. If you’re lucky, you might find a like-minded pal, but mostly they don’t exist.
4. You’ll never be a pro surfer
Oh, this is the cruellest. But without some kind of interested parent who’ll spend their life shuttling you to and from the beach, and at least some native ability, your dream of being the next Jordy Smith ain’t gonna happen. Maybe you’ll become a writer, or a photographer, instead.
5. Surf mags forget about you
Pick up a surfing magazine (or snow or skate) for that matter, and how much of it’s content is revealing the great secrets of performance as applied to the beginner-intermediate surfer? None. It’s not until you’re landing airs the mags start to throw a few tips your way. But how do you get there?
6. It’s a waiting game
Waiting for trains, buses, parents, waiting for a pick up, waiting in line for a wave, waiting, waiting. It gets very old.
7. You become obsessed by accessories
When you can’t get a fix of surf every day, you become obsessed by all the trinkets, all the gimcrackery that surrounds the game. Deep down, you know a board and a pair of trunks is all you need, but there’s something about buying…something… that makes you feel connected to the sport you love.
8. You might never bust out
So many of us become weighted with inertia, with family ties, with jobs and everything else, we never break out of our suburban chains. It’s a horror! Don’t let it be you!