An “air” or “aerial” is a surfing trick, wherein the speed and velocity of a wave is used to propel the surfer over the cusp of the wave and into the air.
Similar to the “Ollie” in skateboarding, where speed and manipulation of footwork is used to leave the floor in an arcing motion, the aerial has become a staple of competitive surfing.
How To Do It?
First and foremost, it is important to say that the air is an advanced move, and shouldn’t be attempted by inexperienced or first time surfers, as this can lead to injury or worse.
But if you are an experienced surfer looking to progress to the next level, then here are a series of step by step tips to help you achieve your goal.
Finding A Ramp
As mentioned above, to achieve the arcing motion of the aerial, it is important to choose the right type of wave.
Short or medium waves with a good ramping shape are perfect for this, as flatter waves aren’t steep enough to get the required velocity.
Getting Up To Speed
Speed is a vital component in performing an aerial, as it is what allows you to counteract gravity and rise from the water.
The art of speed in surfing is in examining the waves and reading the shape and potential that they have. Skilled surfers can spot the perfect wave as they approach it, and can react accordingly.
The key to speed is gravity, and the best spot to take advantage of this is on the top of the wave (the highest point), where the gravity will be strongest.
Use this gravity to push through the wave and gain more speed, letting the force of the wave do all the work as you propel forward.
This involves an act called “pumping” which involves pushing up and down on the board to achieve small moments of air and weightlessness.
This will form momentum, and as the wave pulls you down, you can push the tip of the board up to keep yourself above water.
The trick is to transfer your weight from the back foot to the front, pushing down on the tail of the board enough to keep you up, but not so much as to topple you from the board.
As you reach the bottom of the wave, press down on the inside rail, which is the side closest to the wall of the wave. You can increase pressure by bending your knees and applying weight to your front foot.
Then, when you begin to gain height again, straighten your legs and extend your arms in the direction you want to move in, namely up and away from your body.
This motion will help you achieve those little moments of weightlessness, wherein you can rinse and repeat, gaining more speed on the decline, and transferring that speed on the incline.
One thing to remember though is to try and remain as close as possible to the “barrel”, or the curved wall of the wave.
Once you have the necessary speed, the important thing is to keep an eye on the approaching waves and look out for a point to launch off from. This means looking out for a decent ramp, one steep enough to transfer the speed into flight.
To stay on the board, it is best to widen your stance, moving your weight to the back foot as you reach the lip of the wave, then bring your needs up to your chest to make the board rise.
Compensate for this by putting more weight on the front of the board, bringing the board back down for a landing. Landings can be adjusted by pulling on either of the rails (sides).
The only thing left to do is to aim for the foam, as this is where the wave has broken and there won’t be any unexpected force or currents.
Spice Up Your Aerial
Once you are practiced in the basic aerial, there are several tricks you can employ to flourish when you are in the air. This is particularly important for competitions, where tricks are needed to impress the judges.
This is another trick borrowed from skateboarding, and involves a 360 degree turn in the air. By rotating the board and your torso counterclockwise, and by employing enough speed, you can spin around and land the board in preparation for landing.
One of the flashier tricks, the Superman involves kicking the board up and grabbing both hands, letting it propel you (in a laid down position) as you make contact with the board.
Originally a snowboarding trick, the rodeo flip involves making a full flip whilst on the board, spinning as well as flipping, and then landing the board once more.
This is an incredibly difficult trick, and a lot can go wrong due to all of the different components.
Popularized by surfer Flynn Novak, the Flynnstone Flip is a back flip, and is incredibly difficult due to the fact that you need to move forward whilst in the air whilst flipping in order to land it properly.
A combination of the Superman and the Rodeo Flip, the Sushi Roll was first done in 2007 by Julian Wilson, and involves flipping the board and yourself whilst holding on and not tucking your legs.
Warning: not for the faint hearted.
And there we have it, a quick and handy guide for attempting (and hopefully landing) an aerial while surfing.
Once again, it is worth saying that this is not a beginner’s move, and only surfers with an eye for waves and a strong knowledge of the fundamentals should try this move when out on the open ocean.
Remember, know your limits, and try to have fun!