Aerial surfing has been gaining momentum in modern waves. Even in contests these days we see guys boosting and getting huge scores. Judges have started to recognize these maneuvers as part of a more porgressive surf style. In Portugal we have already seen some killer airs. So how does a surfer pull an aerial?
Taking a surfboard into the air, well above the lip, requires technique, experimentation and a good wave ramp. Frontside punts are accessible to the average surfer.
Old school surfers were not designed for aerial surfing, so they had to learn with the young surf generation. Today, surf magazines love aerials in their covers.
The first aerial featured in the cover of surf magazine was scored by Kevin Reed, in December 1975. The door to new school surfing had been opened quietly by skateboarders and their ollies.
By the beginning of the 21st century, aerial tricks and moves are part of the surf judging criteria, at least, in small-to-medium height waves. You may not fly up to the skies, but it is important to learn how to take off from the lip of the wave.
To learn how to do an aerial in surfing you need a shortboard, a light onshore breeze over the lip of the selected wave and speed. The aerial winning formula is:
1. Take-off in a steep two-to-three foot wave.
2. Pump for speed and target a closing section or a breaking wave lip.
3. Maintain a straight oblique surf line towards the selected launch pad.
4. Widen your stance, kick the tail with 66% of your feet weight, let the surfboard leave the lip and raise your knees foot to chest level.
5. Control the excessive weight of your back foot with a slight push of the front foot over the board.
6. As your surfboard takes it to the air, smoothly drive it to the landing site.
7. Grab a rail to correct the trajectory, if needed.
8. Turn your eyes, head and body to the flats.
9. Stay low, bend your knees and torso to prepare for land impact.
10. Distribute your weight on both feet and finish the air move.
Flight technique is the most important skill when it comes to aerials in surfing. The decisive moment arrives when your surfboard is about to leave the wave face. When you pop up out of the lip, your front foot should be in the center of the board and your rear foot should be in the traction pad.
As you strike the tail, let your body fly as high as possible in the air. The front foot will control the surfboard flight towards the landing site, be it flats or white water.
Speed is critical in aerial surf maneuvers. The highest speed you get down the line, the highest aerial you will pull.