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Albee Layer: “Other sports laugh at us!”

Derek Rielly

by Derek Rielly

Why Jordy's "miracle" nine-pointer at Lowers should never have happened.

Albee Layer is a surfer who will dance a rigadoon in waves four feet or forty. Little surfboards and monstrous guns.
Nathan Myers, from Surfer magazine, wrote a profile on Albee a few years ago that spells out his arsenal. Read here. 
It’s the suckling artistry of twenty-six-year-old Albee’s mouth that we come for today.
After Jordy’s miracle nine-pointer at Trestles three days ago, Albee posted an Instagram story that showed the wave on his television screen and the line, Nine points, ha ha ha.
Albee ain’t afraid to call it as he sees it. Let’s talk.
BeachGrit: I laughed my ass off when Jordy got the nine in the final. Tell me your reaction. Did you think, wow, perfection!
Albee: My first thought wasn’t, ‘Wow perfection’. (Laughs). But it’s not like that wave was shocking or anything. They’ve been handing out nines for “good” surfing every heat.

BeachGrit: Were you watching the magic unfurl with pals? What was their reaction?
Albee: I was watching solo. Just a sad little lonely man making fun of surfing in his living room alone probably while eating something other than a sala
BeachGrit: What was the reaction on IG when you posted the clip?
Albee: I got more replies to that than maybe any other video I posted. Everyone seem to be very much on the same page as me, wondering kind of why it seems like every heat now judges back them selves into a corner in the first set of scores
BeachGrit: Do you think it’s remarkable that it was, in the judges’ eyes, almost the pinnacle of surfing, the “perfect ride”?
Albee: I believe they give high scores for a couple reasons. A. Because its what they are used to doing and a hard habit to break. I also don’t think they really familiarise themselves with modern-day surfing as much as they should. And B. This is a big one. High heat totals get views. No one’s scrolling through the videos from the day and clicking on a heat with 10-point totals. No, they will click on the 18-point total heats. In terms of clickbait, the surfing is almost irrelevant because it doesn’t matter if you like what you see once you watch the video. Getting you to start that video gets views and views equal value to sponsors and overall make the company more valuable. Also I’m not picking on WSL in any way on this. Clickbait is used by every company with a website. I use it as much as possible, it’s basically my career. What bums me out is the way they use it. I believe it halts the progression of surfing.
BeachGrit: All that said, the judges do, and they’re transparent about it, operate according to a heat-by-heat scale. And if a couple of floats on an insider is granted a seven, even one turn on a wave double the size has gotta be the nine. Do you like the concept of “the scale”?
Albee: Hell no. Other action sports laugh at us for awarding perfect scores. You can go through the history of all other sports at X-Games and stuff and people not even in that sport can probably list you every 100 point score that has happen because they were all historic at the time. That’s what we should be reserving tens for. Something no-one has ever seen before. If one of the lowest-rated surfers on tour can catch not the best wave of the  day and do not his very best surfing and still get an excellent score, no one has any incentive to learn anything new. And when no-one learns anything new people lose interest in watching and when that happens surfing as a business suffers and I’ll lose my job! Ha! So it’s all connected and that’s why I make such a fuss about these things. Surfing is a spectator sport and without surf fans none of any of this is possible. So it isn’t fair to deny surf fans the absolute best surfing and I feel like the way the scale is set now we are doing just that.
BeachGrit: The scale system renders all statistics, all scores, irrelevant, meaningless. Because if they’re gifting nines in one heat, but not another, how can there ever be any statistical comparison? What do you think?
Albee: It needs to be consistent for everyone in every heat. So what if one heat the waves suck. Give them small scores, it won’t affect the outcome. If one heat is firing score them accordingly but don’t give anyone a nine or ten unless it’s a wave we can all remember easily in five or ten years. That way heats would stay wide open till the end. If we kept those nines like Jordy’s and several others around sixes like they should be in the scale of what is capable in surfing right now then barely anyone would end up comboed. So come to the end of the heat and someone needs a score maybe they learned a new trick in the off-season and with a minute left they need a nine and it’s time to bust it out and create a moment we will all remember.
BeachGrit: Kelly likes to jump on your social (ok, he jumps on everyone’s social) to debate these sorts of things. Does that thrill you?
Albee: I love kelly. Even though he still won’t take me to his pool. I’ve talked to him a bit about all this and he doesn’t agree with everything I say but he agrees with quite a bit and it’s rad ’cause otherwise I’d feel like I was that crazy drunk surfer at the bar rambling about back in the day or something. But the fact that the GOAT cares enough to at least engage in these discussions with me and others means there is something too it.
(Watch Albee’s marshmallow moves in his film here.)

And how’s Albee swing in contests? A little irony, given his online debating with Kelly, is his biggest contest win was at the Surf Snowdonia wavepool.