I am a surfer that grew up between a few different eras. As a grom, my surfing influences were surfers such as Buttons Kaluhiokalani, Larry Bertleman, Shaun Tomson, Chris “critta” Byrne, Col Smith, and many others. In the mid to late 1980’s, I began to surf contests in Florida. I found myself sandwiched between some older guys like Matt Kechele and John Holeman and a few younger guys like Kelly Slater.
In my younger years, I would like to think I was the original Jadson Andre. My surfing was very raw and I always tried crazy tricks. The problem was that this was in the mid 1980’s and hopping around and doing airs was kind of frowned upon. At one point I rode a Cheyne Horan keel hull. I remember one day doing a weird backside slide on my floater and a top surfer in the area saw me do it. He looked at me and said, “That was pretty crazy! But you really should get a normal board.” What was funny to me is that this guy became a shaper and he was once featured in a magazine as a guy who was being creative with board design.
So for a long time I kept up my path. Launching an air straight to the beach in the close out. Trying to twist my body all the way around in the barrel going backside. Just doing things that I felt like doing. I was having a lot of fun but for the contests it was not going so great. It was four to the shore and do lots of meaningless turns. So I lost and I lost a lot.
Years later, I started to change. I started studying how guys were turning and their arm placement. Instead of trying to do some air to layback which would find me doing some recovery out of the white water, I began to do the right turn for that section. My surfing smoothed out considerably and I was using my rails in a much more effective way.
The problem is that now, the kids are surfing more like I did all those years ago. Thankfully, now you can win a heat with 3 good turns on one wave and one giant air on the other instead of riding until your fins hit the sand.
Watering down your surfing is something common that I have seen happen with many surfers. Watch a movie called All the Way Live. Dean Morrison is seen doing pop-shuvits and other progressive tricks. When was the last time you saw him do that? Even Gary Elkerton started off as a raw power hacker and ended his career as a relaxed guy doing s-turns.
This is why I have to commend Kelly Slater and Taj Burrow. Their surfing has matured but they still know how to do the tricks. Now it seems that Joel Parkinson and Mick Fanning are trying to incorporate the same airs and tricks that they once used to do all day long because they realize that in today’s’ surfing world, one has to think outside the box. The problem is that they have traded perfection for spontaneity.
I can see that Jadson Andre is really working on his surfing too. I hope he doesn’t take the quest for perfection to far as well. Thankfully the new judging criteria should allow him to be himself. Jadson and other younger surfers on the tour should follow Kelly and Taj. Kelly and Taj have become masters at complimenting the waves. They learned enough rail work to carve through big sections at J-Bay and in the beach breaks they have learned to throw in the new school. The happy medium.
I need the happy medium. Yesterday my friend said I surf like Artiz Aranburu. Is this bad? Of course not…the guy ripped the Billabong Pro. But when you think of Aritz, you don’t think of giant punts like Dane Reynolds or Jordy Smith. So on my next surf, I need to go out and instead of looking to smash the lip, I am going to coil up and just launch. I will probably fall but who cares!
This is one of my favorite photos of me as a kid. The wave is just an average wave that is closing out. The surfboard is Cheyne Horan’s boards. Cheyne Horan left his keel at our shop and no one could get it to work but I knew that I could do something with it. I took it and tried to surf the way the board was telling me to surf it, not the way you would ride an 80’s thruster. Soon, the board went from the shop to my house. I adopted it and surfed it like crazy. Later, my shaper made one for me was that more of my size.
What I like about this photo is that I was a grom on a board that was not normal but I did not care. I had a vision of what sick surfing was and I was determined to go beyond just milking a wave to the beach. Somehow though, I strolled down the wrong path. My keel hull went on ice because others did not like it. I made my surfing more acceptable.
Surfing is about having fun. Sometimes, one has to just go for something big…even if it means you end up riding out of the soup as the wave continues to peel down the beach.