There was a wake last night for Surfing magazine (RIP) that was very well attended. A veritable who’s who of surf industry stalwarts, lower tier professional surfers, surf media personalities and hangers-on said goodbye to Surfer magazine’s better half by drinking booze, fighting, cursing, fighting, getting drunk, kicking, cursing, drinking booze, puking, throwing bottles, fighting, drinking, kissing, kicking, cursing.
I didn’t feel sad, personally. Surfing magazine was most useful at bringing people together, I think. Some of the greatest I know from Travis Ferre to Evan Slater to Taylor Paul to Jimmicane to Peter Taras to Chato Aganza walked those halls and none of them are dead so… whatever. Right? So long, Surfer. I mean Surfing.
As fate would have it, I got a chance to speak with Taylor Paul and Chris Binns yesterday during the Volcom Pipe Pro about the state of surf media. Taylor once edited Surfing and Chris once edited Australia’s Surfing Life (RIP) (RIP). I used my time to shit on The Inertia and will also crash its wake when nature finally murders it.
My memory of specific events from last evening is, anyhow, very fuzzy but I did manage to catch some video.
Considering how much you all loved the first one, I decided to do a technique critique of Gabriel Medina.
The first step would be to find a clip that visually demonstrates the points I’m trying to cover. This proved to be harder than anticipated.
Isn’t it surprising that Gab hasn’t produced a single video of himself in years? Sponsor flicks aside, Medina doesn’t have a single rip-clip of his own making since 2011. Pundits are quick to highlight John’s modesty and aversion to attention, which in most cases is used to juxtapose Medina’s snarky attitude. Yet, who is the one with two films, countless individual edits, and an entire web series dedicated to his life? John!
Eventually I stumbled upon this single-session edit from Hawaii.
Gabriel’s surfing is incredibly different from that of Jordy. Let me explain.
Medina’s positioning on the surfboard could be described as ultra-neutral, meaning that if you were to take a photo of Gabby and remove the surfboard, it’d be hard to tell whether he’s regular or goofy. His legs appear very boxy, with knees hovering over ankles and his torso always centered. In my opinion this stance is good for general balance and backside surfing, but detrimental to style and forehand surfing.
Backhand competitive surfing can be summarized in one maneuver — a hard, snappy, vertical tag of the lip, perhaps with a fin drift if they’re feeling frisky. As seen in the video above (1:05), Gabs has mastered that maneuver. This is majorly thanks to the mechanics of backside surfing, wherein the rider can utilize his hand to administer weight to the front part of the board during the latter stages of a turn. This is mostly impossible frontside, though some old-school guys used to do it on occasion.
The hand-on-board maneuver is advantageous because it provides extra stability, plus it removes the need to shift the front foot forward (something I explained in detail in Jordy post) during snapping maneuvers. This then facilitates speed and flow between maneuvers, as there’s no need to reposition your feet after every turn. When combined with impeccable timing and explosive hip rotation, Gab’s boxy stance and manual weight distribution allow for technically perfect backside turns. Though frontside is a different story.
Gab’s apparent lack of flexibility and natural hip displacement force square, clunky turns on his forehand. Where Jordy and John go full-Gumby through their maneuvers, often knocking knees and contorting their bodies, Gab remains stuck in the poo-poo position. This is not only aesthetically unappealing, but it actually detracts from angular mobility and leads to less impressive and a smaller variety of turns. Unfortunately this is a flaw in his body mechanics, so he hasn’t much room to improve in this field.
Gab is a wizard in the wind. He consistently lands some of the biggest, highest-scoring airs our sport has seen, and all of them without soft feet.
You know how in football or golf, someone with a surplus of “feel” is considered to have soft hands? The phrase refers to a person’s ability to smoothly absorb the pressure of impact through impeccable timing and dexterity. The same principle applies to the feet (really more like knees and ankles) of surfers.
Soft feet enable a smooth compression of the knees and ankles, so that landings are less abruptly impactful. A couple guys who retain this flexible quality are Yago Dora and John Florence. Meanwhile, Gabby’s rigidity would be considered disadvantageous in landing colossal punts, yet he manages to make them time and time again.
So then how does he do it? Commitment and recovery.
Gab’s courage when approaching large sections is genuinely disconcerting. Remember his massive backside rotation in France a few years ago? That’s a section most CT surfers would float warily, if not avoid it altogether. But then there’s Gab, who decided to throw knees, ankles, and caution to the doldrums, only to magically ride out on his feet. Great timing combined with one-hundred percent commitment is what keeps Medina over his board and allows him to stick these hellbent rotations. But not all airs are stuck so cleanly.
That’s where recovery comes into play. Next to Slater and John, Gabs is the best at pulling it back under him. This seems contradictory to the Jordy piece, where I sated that non-knocked-knees provide insufficient leverage for resurrection; what that idea fails to recognize is that Gab is a freak of nature. His ability to recover can be partially attributed to impeccable physical conditioning, but believe it or not, much of the recovery process is mental, and Gabby’s drive to win has him doing Superman shit. You know those stories of people who lift cars off of loved ones? Medina’s doing that with his abs.
Long story short, Gab lands huge airs because of his natural ability and mental fortitude — not superior technique.
Gabriel is one of the best forehand tube-riders in the world, mostly because of strength and positioning. When in the tube, Gab rides forward on his board — a technique that allows the rider to gain or lose speed with ease, hold a line with great efficiency, and remain evenly balanced throughout the ride. He accompanies this positioning with a flat-footed approach, which is a structurally superior technique to the drop-kneed, cocked-foot stance of most RVCA riders. When you combine a solid base with efficient positioning and sprinkle in a couple thunder thighs, foamballs no longer seem so treacherous.
But backside tube-riding is a completely different animal, and for me, Gab has some work to do in this area. Medina’s pigdog consists of a firmly planted front foot and a completely flattened back leg. There’s no space whatsoever between his back knee and front foot, making him unable to effectively pump or stall. A small stance also limits your balance, by the simple principle that the closer your feet are, the easier you are to knock over. If I was Gabby, I’d start watching videos of John at Pipe to learn how to properly utilize the legs and body in a backside pit. Then again, they don’t surf many right barrels on Tour, so he probably doesn’t care.
Lakey Peterson, coached by Filipe Toledo, wants a game change…
Women’s surfing fascinates me.When it’s good it draws blood. Carissa Moore’s slices, Lakey Peterson’s grab-rail tail throws, the impeccable style of Stephanie Gilmore. It’s damn rich.
But does it strike you as odd, as it does me, that there ain’t a gal on tour who has an air-reverse on tap? Silvana Lima showed promise and disappeared (back this year on tour). Even half-way good twelve-year-old boys can throw ‘em as an afterthought on a weak end section.
So why not the girls?
It isn’t a strength or flexibility thing. Yeah, there’s the numbers. Ain’t as many players, ain’t as much progression. But that doesn’t account for nearly every single kid girl surfer I see is usually one of the best in their age group.
I blame a contest culture that shovels girls into their own divisions by the time they exit the micros. All these promising girls who used to haunt the boys’ finals suddenly plateau. If three turns is going to win a contest, no one’s going to toss the fins. By the time they’re competing at the highest level, they’re missing a fundamental element of the game.
How can a surfer be so good and yet so inept at the same time? My posit is that going into orbit is the last great barrier for women’s surfing. Big waves are getting done. Jaws (sorta) and Mavs and Teahupoo showed that.
And when I’m talking about airs, I don’t mean straight airs. And not one-eighty lippers into reverse. I want real, tail-high, vigorously hucked full-roter airs.
Can you imagine the response to a full spin, hucked a few feet above the lip? Meltdown, right?
A few weeks ago, BeachGrit kicked a proposal at the Hurley Surf Club and GoPro to take Carissa Moore to some wedge for a week and coach her into a full-spin.
Carissa tapped out. Didn’t want to break a leg. Wants another world title.
I asked Lakey Peterson. She was thrilled at the challenge.
Who nails the best full-roters in the world? Filipe Toledo.
“How about you coach Lakey?”
“Of course! “
Two days ago, Filipe and Lakey, along with another coach, HB’s Brett Simpson, landed in mainland Mexico for four days of intensive tutelage. Down there, behind electric fences and barbed wire (gorgeous part of the coastline is mired in a war between the Jalisco and Sinaloa cartels) and in the middle of the Virgin Guadalupe festival where firecrackers pop like guns and bombs from before dawn and into the night, chasing something that’ll send a girl into orbit.
We hired three skis so she could step-off into a hundred waves a day in the rampy, if slightly too powerful and big, beachbreaks.
The pack’s got the Hurley Surf Club program that runs split-screen footage, Lakey’s throwaway hucks alongside Filipe’s oily landings, and a dashboard of tools for drawing arrows, highlighting sections and drawing lines she should take into the lip. GoPro records an intimate account of proceedings.
I believe that women are only good technique away from the same airs as men. And that Lakey Peterson is going to be the first woman in history to ride out of a full-roter air?
But Mike "Snips" Parsons is ready to steal the crown for Laguna!
I have always enjoyed civic rivalries very much. People should be proud of their cities. They should think other cities are not as good and use vulgar language when describing. “Fucking San Clemente.” “Shitty San Clemente.” Like that. And so it was with much pleasure that I read about surf clubs springing up along California’s southern coast. Let’s read briefly in the Orange County Register (Orange County sucks).
There’s no prize money at stake, on Saturday, or points to advance a pro career in surfing. This new surf series is all about bragging rights.
Some of the area’s best surfers from four Orange County cities will be battling it out in big surf on the south side of the Huntington Beach Pier as part of the West Coast Board Riders Cup Series, an event aimed at proving which city can stake claim to having the best surfers.
The event is the brainchild of three Orange County surfers – Casey Wheat, Ziggy Williams and Chris Moreno – who took inspiration from Australian surf culture, where world-class pros such as Mick Fanning and Joel Parkinson regularly compete for their board clubs to prove which region is best.
The three local surfers created Huntington’s Board Rider club in 2016, then started asking other surfers from nearby cities if they wanted to create something similar.
“Basically, what we did was spark the movement and started calling out other cities. Anytime you call someone out, it’s going to tap into their ego,” Wheat said. “It was easy to start, it was all about us getting the Board Rider clubs together and going from there.”
Saturday’s competition will be stacked, with World Tour surfer Kanoa Igarashi, and his brother Keanu surfing in a younger division.
But don’t count out Laguna’s team, which will have guys such as big-wave rider Mike Parsons and former pro James Pribram.
“This is heavy, heavy bragging rights,” Wheat said. “There’s going to be a lot of heckling. We all grew up surfing together. It’s cool we get to come back together and have some fun.”
And this all seems very fun and wonderful. I would like to start Cardiff by the Sea’s club alongside the great Rob Machado and together we could dominate and win etc. But wait. Are surf clubs, or boardriders clubs or whatever they are called in Australia considered lame? I did not live in the Lucky Country long enough to get a sense.
Is it silly to be part of one?
Is it like being part of a wine of the month club wherein four different varietals get sent to your house every month and you can sample and learn and improve your palate all while having lots of fun with your best friends?
If it is like being part of a wine of the month club then I want nothing to do with it and Rob Machado will have to dominate all by himself.
It pains me to think how many perfect setups exist around the world, only to be plagued by incessantly poor winds or extremely rare swell windows. Surfing‘s Jimmy Wilson sought one out this summer during Hurricane Matthew, and I recall Taj Burrow found anotherin West Oz a few years back.
Well, this thing that Albee Layer and Billy Kemper just tried to surf is the same… but different.
Maui is known for it’s wild wind and massive swells, but this slab is in another stratosphere. With just the right swell, wind, and tide conditions, it became “surfable”.
“Scariest paddle of my life,” says Albee. “Jaws included.”
The wave looks more Australian than Hawaiian. Akin to something Mark Matthews or Russell Bierke or Kerby Brown would tow into. That Albee, Billy, and friend somewhat successfully paddled into this mutant is beyond logic. Like nominating a climate change denier to lead the EPA. Choosing Filipe for your Teahupo’o Fantasy team.
In short, I have no problem knowing that waves like this are breaking, or not, without me. For the sake of Albee and Billy’s health, I hope it never breaks it again. Albee’s wave was fucked up though.