THE THEORY

posted by / Magazine / October 9, 2003

RELAXED
Early 1960s — Phil Edwards, Midget Farrelly, Nat Young, Mike Doyle: surfers who were physically tall, relaxed shoulders, loose arms and power focused through the board. Trim was straight-lined, on the face, on the nose. Classic moves: cross-step, drop-knee cutback.THE LEARNING CURVE
1970 — The first steps into true shortboards. Terry Fitzgerald’s ‘whole-body’ surfing, Barry Kanaiaupuni, weighting the rail hard in turns, Ian Cairns, upper body set square against the rail. Designs grow more intricate: wings, swallows, vees, concaves, even multi-fins (Fish, Bonzer). Gerry Lopez is one of the few surfers to maintain a relaxed upper body style; it allows him to ride deep at Pipe. Classic move: the Snap.GAINING CONTROL
1974 — Styles grow more accurate, mostly on single-fins, though with tweaks like Ben Aipa’s Stingers. Jeff Hakman, winning consistently with precise hard accurate form. Shaun Tomson remakes the tube crouch, with a tensed upper body aimed down the line. Michael Peterson develops his superhard square-shouldered intensely controlled carving. Larry Bertlemann and Dane Kealoha showcase low, hard-accelerated drive. Relaxed upper-body freak: Buttons Kaluhiokalani. Classic moves: the roundhouse cutback, the tube ride, the off-the-lip.NEAR-FREEDOM
1979 — Mark Richards’s twin-fin speed jumps away from the hard carvers. MR’s influence sets the stage for Martin Potter and Kelly Slater; even Occy owns a twin-fin briefly. The loose back end forces a corresponding looseness in moves, especially off the top. Classic moves: speed pump, roundhouse top turn/snap.TIGHTENING UP
1981 — The Thruster learning curve begins. Tom Carroll develops the ultimate in focused power and control; Tom Curren, precise placement, timing and control. Barton Lynch, ultra sturdy upright controlled stance. Gary Elkerton, muscular clamped-down intensity. Mark Occhilupo, low-slung rock solid power carving. Damien Hardman, coiled unmoving precision. Pottz holds on to some of his twinnie roots. Classic moves: Backside re-entry, floater, power carves in increasingly bigger waves.BREAKING FREE
1991 — The New School turnaround, Thruster power unweighted. Kelly Slater achieves this by relaxing the upper body, sliding through top turns and breaking out of the wave line by taking weight off the tail curve and releasing the fins. Shane Herring experiments with Greg Webber’s supercurved single concaves. Shane Dorian, loosening up in big surf. Rob Machado then Kalani Robb pushing up turning speeds. Christian Fletcher’s airs find a home. Taylor Knox carries through the low-slung power of the ’80s. Classic moves: tailslides, airs.RELAXED AGAIN
2003 — Andy Irons, Joel Parkinson, Mick Fanning: tall, loose arms, super free in the shoulders and upper body, power focused through the rail. All the lessons of Slater’s youth, applied with added cruising speed and flair. Classic moves: 180-to 270-degree top turns, airs, backside tubes, carving slides.[For more on Nick Carroll's Theory, check the Nov. '03 issue of SURFING. On newsstands now.]

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