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Matt Meola, faux-judo, quasi-Madonna, pseudo Benihana air, Mexico

You want passion in your surfing? In your photographers and in your surfers? Californian photographer Tom Carey has a relatively secret lefthander in mainland Mexico that heíll take you to if he thinks you have the ability to appreciate, and milk, its high-performance capabilities for his camera.

On this July afternoon when the cover was snatched from the heavens, Tom was shooting with 21-year-old Matt Meola from the Hawaiian island of Maui. He said to Matt “How about trying a little judo air, like kick your leg out?”

First wave, Matt flies down the line and out goes the back leg. Is it a Benihana Air (invented by skater Lester Kasai and named after the Benihana Japanese restaurant chain)? No tail-grab, maybe not. Judo?

Whatevs, they swim/paddle back to the boat to check it out on the camera. Mike Morrisey, a skate/surf crossover expert also on the trip, explains that it can only be a judo only if the rider is going backside and only if the back leg is kicked out, which is an irony in itself because kicks aren’t allowed in judo.

Back in the water, and on his second air, Matt kicks out the front leg, a sort of Madonna air (except out it goes in front, not behind). It doesn’t stick, but almost. The last time anyone had seen a decent leg-kickin’ air was Chris Ward at Pretty Melvin’s in Tahiti, and he didn’t stick that, either.

“Fucken radical. Matt blew my mind with that air. Matt has this crazy, punky skate style even if he doesn’t mean it to be,” says Tom, again in Mexico, and on his fourth Don Julio, when Stab calls. “He’s crazy, he flies out into the flats, all jello knees and does what he wants. I’m completely over soul surfing, everyone being nomads, all the seriousness. I want to see some crazy shit, guys belting fast down-the-line and smashing the weirdest punts.”

Matt says that he, “likes to put on a good show. I get a lot more pleasure launching myself as high and far as I can than doing three turns to the beach.”

As for Tom’s hatred for the surfing industrial soul complex, Matt says, “I’m actually a pretty soulful person but I have a super wild side as well. I try to make the best of every situation. I love shooting and getting sick new surf footage. Asides from that, I do a lot of hunting, spear fishing, basketball. I like to listen to and play all kinds of music, do art on my boards. But, after all that, I make sure to leave enough time to go out and party. I love to party and I love girls. The two go hand in hand.”

Only the day I called, photographer Tom had convinced Kolohe Andino to attempt alley-oop judos. I tell him a cover awaits the surfer (Andrew Doheny is there, too) who attempts a credible Christ Air (board held out at arm’s length to create the impression of our ol pal Jay-zuz Christ nailed onto his famous cross). “I’ve never nailed a Christ Air, but thanks for the idea,” says Matt, adding: “I canít wait to try it.”

Didn’t matter in the end, the faux judo made it. But, word is out. Christ Air? Page one, all the way. – Derek Rielly

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