Dueling Keyboards: Three To The Beach Or One To The Air

posted by / Blogs / October 11, 2013

Quiksilver Pro France 2013 Gabe
Gabriel Medina. Photo: ASP/Cestari

Dueling KeyboardsMick Fanning and Gabriel Medina recently met in windy bowls for the final of the 2013 Quiksilver Pro France. Gabriel, just 19 years old and from Brazil, attempted to win the judges over with a hasty mix of airs. He executed perfectly and landed some of the most exciting hucks of the event. Mick, 32 and from Australia, focused on stringing together big turns. He was essentially doing the same maneuvers we’ve seen since the days of Cheyne Horan, but he was doing them so powerfully and so 2013. You already know to whom the trophy went.

After Mick’s win, debates sprouted up all over the place. Did Gabe, with his airs, get robbed? Did Mick, with his rail, put the kid to shame? Furthermore, could it be time for a paradigm shift in the ASP? And if we continue to reward the same old type of surfing, are we hindering progression? Chas Smith and Brendan Buckley duel on what good surfing is, what it isn’t and where surfing should be headed.

Chas Smith: Do you know what I love?

Brendan Buckley: Scarves and pumpkin flavored coffee?

CS: Yes! And also rail surfing smashing air surfing.

BB: Do you know what today’s date is?

CS: I can’t be exactly sure. But after watching this year’s contests I’d guess 1985. And I love it!

BB: Well if it were ’85, I’d be quite happy with the judging and thank the head judge with tickets to a Bon Jovi concert. But it is not. It is ’13. And in ’13, airs should be what get a judge hot.

CS: Let’s be honest here. Any kid can fling himself into the air. They can try the same air and try it again and again until consistent landing becomes inevitable, but it is on the wave where surfing happens. On the wave. Not in the air. This whole “air” thing is going to disappear like Flojos. Remember them? They hung on for, like, ten years or something but now they are gone. Rail surfing, though, is forever.

BB: But why stay on the wave? Did you know that you weren’t allowed to dribble in the original version of basketball? Everything needs to evolve; just ask Flojos. And airs are a necessary step forward for us. We’ve got to wholeheartedly embrace them and keep on pressing forward. But when judges vacuously support the same surfing we’ve seen for years, evolution will be hindered. The best surfers want to win and the current system encourages them to not take risks.

CS: I agree that the sport must and should evolve but is mimicking skateboarding and snowboarding evolution? There is, of course, a place for the air but real REAL surfing is betwixt lip and trough. Where surfing needs to evolve is in style and in linking turns with style. Dane was on his way until he decided to focus on making movies. The future of surfing was Dane Reynolds two years ago. And it’s John John Florence today. Sure, he boosts like a genie but look at those turns!

BB: I’ll be tarred and feathered for marring anything JJF, but you have to look at turns as his weak point. And now I bet he works to improve them just to please the judging criteria when he could be out there shattering ground. He could be introducing us to the new, but instead he’ll be perfecting the old. Look at someone like Kolohe Andino. Before he qualified, he’d always put out these mind-blowing edits. He was stomping stalefish revos while the rest of the world was just figuring out the slob. But once he got on tour, his focus shifted back to the rail. And I’d say he’s regressed.

CS: As far as John John goes, if his turns live up to the potential they exhibit in his clips he’ll be able to spray me whilst I am drinking whiskey cocktails in Hollywood all the way from his home on the North Shore. And how fun will that be?

BB: I don’t think it really matters if JJF gets better at turns. Excitement is in the air and there are too many new grabs, too many tweaked rotations, too many new flips to care about the rail. I think the ASP ought to realize that before somebody starts a revolution.

CS: It has already begun! It is called the Rail Revolution and it is being lead by the ASP itself. Web commenters can cry all they want. They can cry until Mick Fanning smashes them in the face with a giant roundhouse carve. Surfing is prettier on the wave.

BB: It was in 1985, but so were MC Hammer’s pants. Times change and now we must change the criteria and focus on the air. We must apologize to Gabriel Medina and tout the ariel, then we will watch the progression rate soar. And if we don’t, we’re all going to end up like Flojos.

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  • Merk

    What did one dickhead say to the other

  • dick swinggin

    ^^^u smell like pussy^^^…in the 70′s all they talked about was getting radical on wave to reject 50′s straight lines…now airs are done by any non pro and people are crying about it. pros should stop doing the same front 360 and just go high as fuck in da errr

  • Ztrois

    Gabriel Medina is one of those innovative surfers that arise from time to time to split water and opinions. This kid is passionate and he’s doing what Dane Reynolds failed to accomplish that is to put into question the limits of judging criteria between the turns and airs. This is only possible because Medina was able to win championships and lost only to judges in Portugal in 2012 and Quik Pro 2013. The glow of youth with spirits of champions over the horizon begins to illuminate a new way to surf. Gabriel Medina , John John Florence and Filipe Toledo are those who have been writing a new chapter in the surf. I hope the ASP know understand what they represent , because they did not understand what the Dane Reynolds and Bobby Martinez accounted for the World Tour . There’s no way to get ASP sunglasses, and to solve the problem of the judging criteria , the ASP needs young judges and head judges , because the current ASP judges bring in their memories only the difficulty of the old tricks they did or do in their longboarders …

  • Steezy

    I have a hard time getting past the hideous styles of some of the new guard. I don’t care how “progressive” or “innovative” their airs are. If they look horrible doing it, it isn’t worth doing. Please ditch the stink-bug stances & ostrich necks.

  • Dirk

    Air vs rail can be debated all day long. Personally, I like what JJ and sometimes Kelly are doing, combining both whenever possible. Medina is too focused on airs sometimes, just using the wave as a runway. That looks ugly, no matter how great the air is afterwards. On the other hand, Fanning and others are almost not doing airs at all, negating this progressive aspect of surfing.

    One thing is for sure though: Fanning did not deserve that 8+ in the Quik Pro finals in France…

  • ChopHop

    I think this painful hipster debate misses a key aspect to the final and the France comp in general. Mick’s rail game wasn’t really on point. It’s not like the final was an epic battle of insane carves verses crazy airs. It was, due to the conditions, mediocre carves verses crazy airs. And the judges still scored the rail work higher. The judging should reward the best surfing whether face or air based but instead we have some kind of purist agenda infecting their perception.

  • jeff

    Gabby can do super radical turns whenever he wants, but it seems like he picks waves that offer good air sections because he can do massive airs that can potentionally generate big scores. Having said that, telegraphing an air from way behind a section isn’t that exciting when done repeatedly. I’d say that mick was just more “fierce” in that heat and that’s why he won.

  • Pedro

    Go to the beach and listen.
    can you hear somebody clapping or screaming for a turn?

  • dgcova

    The really progressive surf isnt on ASP contests… we all already know that……
    The really progressive surf is on the videos that we used to see…. like JJF,Chippa,Meola, Dane’s movies etc….
    Personally, i like to see a surfer who makes the entire wave, since a late take off then big turns (rail work) and finishing with a big air…..Like Miggy was doing recently (Stylish surf)
    For me, progressive surf is it, because i think if the pro srufer progressed in his skills, he can do all that perfectly….

  • JSON

    Medina won that heat. Fanning is a great surfer and surfed a decent heat. But Medina out surfed him. We’ve seen it for years with Slater and now we’re seeing it with Fanning.

  • SurfingKook

    First off who is Chas Smith and Brendan Buckley? Do they surf? Can either of them land an air? Any air? The issue isn’t air versus rail turns…it’s more about each maneuvers level of difficulty. I think we can all agree an air is 100-times harder than a rail turn. The proof is in the pudding. It’s why you only see half the tour pulling aerials because the other half can’t. When was the last time you saw Mick or Parko stick an air? Bueller? Bueller? Nothing against Mick or Parko. I think both are excellent surfers but World Champions…not by my judging scale! The ASP Tour should bring back Taylor Knox, Sunny Garcia and Pancho Sullivan at this point if they are going to over-score rail turns. Maybe Bobby Martinez was right all along…”F the ASP!”

  • michael

    Medina won that final.

  • Dave

    Oh come on! 1985? Fanning wasn’t even surfing as fast, dynamically and critically back in 2007 when he won the first title. Let alone what the pros were doing back in the 80s. Even Curren, as great as he was in his time, would never have been able to light up that horrendous wave excuse for a wave in the final the way Fanning did. This history is video documented , go back and check it out.
    Rail surfing has progressed with board design. The fact that fanning was able to transition so quickly and critically from rail to on a wave that offered so little is testament to that. Air surfing has progressed with boards designed to go into the air.

  • Dave

    Oh and it is much easier to do an air reverse, than transition perfectly from rail to rail. I can do one, but not the other.

  • 805Local

    Pro surfing as we know it needs to die. Watch a kid from HB surf the pier, than watch a kid from VTA surf Rincon… If you don’t see/tell the difference, you need to change your focus on how you surf yourself. It’s not about tricks, it’s about riding a wave in the most critical spot for as long as you can. The ASP does NOT get it and the clothing companies will throw millions at the next kid they think can do a 360, while also sponsoring a contest than drop them. Fuck that. The surf industry should not speak for surfers, we should speak for ourselves. I would rather read an article of these guys doing trips to places I didn’t even know existed and surfing for the hell of it, not to do three to the beach or run down the line for a bullshit air, for a score. I mean these dudes have trainers and coaches… COACHES! This ain’t football!

    I think Bobby, Bruce, Dane, Greg Long, Nathan Fletcher, and Shane are the guys taking surfing the right direction, but they are doing it for the love of it, and that aren’t on a bullshit tour. Get them together in Mexico and do an article. I am even sick of Slater talking sportscenter and wave pools. No thanks.

  • Center Line

    You ethier want to watch someone surf or don’t want to watch them.

  • phillip mccrotch

    @SurfingKook I can’t speak for Chas Smith, but Brendan was a professional surfer from NJ before writing for SURFING and surfs as innovative as the high-waisted shorts your mother wore in college.

  • ginz

    Ok Guys lets get on point here. I have said it once and i will say it again 95% right result ,3 % debatable 2 % totally wrong result.

    If anybody really believes that the WCT panel conspires or manipulates the scoring nefariously to rig a result they are stupid and full of shit.
    If you keep on harping about the 2% as frustrating as it is just give up watching pro surfing. The nature of the beast will never negate this anomaly
    For those of you who harp on about how aerial surfing should dominate the scoring criteria please have a look at how little this type of performance has prevailed during the contests this year 90% of the time its been power rail surfing in the most critical part of the wave with commitment speed and power.
    In waves of consequence not an aerial to be seen so should we reverse back to taking off on powder puff waves hop hop hop hop boost and perform only airs . Give this just a couple of contests and see how pathetically boring it will become. The future of pro surfing will be a combination of both ,surfers like John John, Julian and Jordy will direct our surfing into the right future. As for the judges find the necessary budgets to attract smart experienced surfers to want to become judges and we will have less controversial decisions in the future

  • Flandango

    Ginz, you hit the nail on the head ol son !!!!

  • Mike

    I believe SurfingKook nailed it! Basically half the tour can’t do airs. I understand why airs are not relevant at Pipe but, at a blown out beach break in France. Come on Judges make the transition when its necessary which you’ve failed to do with Mendina on several occasions. But I guess it’s like when Slater and the “New School” ousted Elkerton and those guys. Now its just Slater, Fanning, and Parko that are being ousted but the judges are just hanging on.

  • marcus

    Fanning smoked gabriel…

    when you do an air rev then pump down the line for 30 sec to do a wayyy smaller air rev, you are shooting yourself in the goddamn foot.

    pumping loses points and repetitiveness loses points, fast.

    Julian, Dane, Jordy, John John know how to combo their airs with real turns not half turns cause there feet are too far up the nose to pump down the line to do a baby air.

    Finally, an air reverse is not hard, its alot easier than doing a massive carve going 100 mph.. I can say that with 1000% confidence, Im not saying fanning was doing massive carves but he wasnt pumping he was comboing his waves with beautiful deep bottom turns and finished em with explosiveness.

    your never going to win an event doing an air reverse in every heat, and you can thank Jadson Andre for that.

    SO to everyone that thinks Gabriel got “robbed” i say your an idiot, you dont know what your talking about and it pains me to read your bullshit comments.

    Later wankers

  • Roost

    Well said Ginz and Marcus.

  • Jake

    Marcus, you are correct. Additionally, it is not as if judges aren’t rewarding progressive surfing. A surfer can sill get a 10 or close to it for one big air (John John in Bali, Felipe in France) it just has to be a huge air. So in that sense, the current judging criteria is not hindering progression, but encouraging surfers to go huge to receive big scores.

  • justinsane

    Silly Rabbit, TRICKS ARE FOR KIDS

  • Aloha Alex

    Watching a surfer rev up down the line to launch an air is one of the lamest things I’ve ever seen. It’s not the maneuver it’s how you do it. If an air is done with style and artistic expression, not just athleticism, then it’s pretty cool when combined with other hot moves.

  • Bushy

    Why is it that an air, any air, is always labelled as progressive? These are airs that guys were doing 3 or 4 years ago, but most seem to agree that the carving turns that are going down these days by the likes of Dane, Jordy, Mick are being done with increasingly more speed and power than a few years back, so surely they need to be regarded as progressive in their own right?
    In all sports, teams and individuals use different styles and strategies to achieve similar results. Even the boxer regarded as the best in the world at the moment is essentially a defensive fighter. Guess my point is that surely is doesn’t have to be one or the other?

  • Steve

    Don’t matter what you do it’s all good. The main points are the difficulty, timing, execution and whether you have already shown that move in the heat already (so variety). If you are missing sections or going soft on them to get to a better section then the section your aiming for has to be twice as good.

  • ivan

    Both should be rewarded. Both are difficult to execute just right. The new kids can get it down pretty easy: match one old school hack on the outside and finish off with a nasty air. You then match the old school and kill them with the new school move. This will force the old school to learn new tricks and the new school to learn better power and flow – more exciting for everyone maybe… I dunno. Or forget about it all and lets watch big pipe or chopes. Surfing is just too difficult to judge. Make it more fun – extend waiting periods or go chase the swells so we can look forward to watching better waves.

  • Center Line

    Surfing contests oly benefit those who make money from them.

  • David

    Reward both. Just have a max limit of points for each kind of move on a wave. Have 3 categories, tail/rail moves, lip/air moves, and barrels. If you do 10 turns you can only get up to a certain score, and if you do a huge air only, same thing. Only allow barrels to trump it all where a single barrel can get a 10. Variety is key! I don’t really care what anyone thinks, this is how ‘I’ want the judging to be. This forces everyone to mix it up and doesn’t give all to one side of the camp.

  • zbah

    The debate is legitimate but the chosen example is not great. Problem being that regardless of old school vs air style Medina is no match for mick. Medina is technically very adept at airs but lacks style and power and that little something extra that all the greats have. Had Dane or Julian or Jordy done the same airs in the final there would be no story here because mick would have been crushed. Medina lost not for what he did but for how he did it.