This is your captain speaking. We'd like to take a moment to introduce the cabin crew. The Kustom Airstrike is back in 2012, with another 50 large ready to be gifted. Flynn Novak won the last instalment with a, uh, backflip. The Airstrike brings out the best in aerial surfers. Sheesh, $50k brings out the best in anyone. But a contest that celebrates futurism and awards just one trick? That's quite something. It's an integral part of surfing's incessant and delightful progression.

Right now, in the Mentawai Islands, there's five men on a boat. John Florence, Ryan Callinan, Chippa Wilson, Matt Meola and Albee Layer. They're out there, each trying to nail the trip's best air. In the weeks following the trip, four webisodes will filter out. At the end, you, the viewer, will vote for the best air. The winner will take $50k. The power is with the people! Below is a little about each surfer currently playing the game.


Chris 'Chippa' Wilson

[caption id="attachment_21521" align="aligncenter" width="632" caption="Chip likes tech. Here he demonstrates the unfortunately-titled "Dog Piss". Sequence: Matt O'Brien"][/caption]

Chris 'Chippa' Wilson is from Cabarita and knows much about being above the lip. His mind works in the most analytical way imaginable. Sit him down and ask him to talk you through any aerial move and he'll break it down to the most finite detail. In fact, we've been doing just that for some time now – Chip, y'see, is in-house consultant for Stab's Guide to Trick Surfing, which you may've seen in the last few print editions. Kid nearly won the Airstrike with a backside big spin last time around. Yes, you read that right. What'll he throw down this time?


Albee Layer

Victory in the most recent Innersection. The 540 attempts. The wildly-rotated backside air-revs. There's no doubt that Albee Layer has gained some serious aerial swagger from repeatedly hucking into that Maui trade-wind. Even when he lands laid-back he's in control, and kinda looks infallible. Almost. Albee and Matt seem to operate in their own world, which oddly enough affords them the talent to think way, way outside the box. If Albee plants a 540 out in the Ments, the $50k is as good as his.


Matt Meola

Matt won Innersection the first time it ran, two years ago. The highlight of his part were his wheelie straight-airs, which had a hesh skate charm about them that Kelly's are probably missing, especially since Matt finishes his with knee-break landings in the flats. Nearly everything's fully-rotated and he's constantly in danger of vertigo. Matt first grabbed Stab's attention with a Madonna attempt (a slob, but with the front foot removed and kicked out). So much so, that it ended up on the cover of issue 44. More recently, his corked frontside spins have everyone talking, including aerial wizard Josh Kerr: "I'm gonna start trying whatever those flips that Matt Meola's been doing are," he told Stab. "I froth on those."


Ryan Callinan

Ryan Callinan goes for broke, always. And he's got two reconstructed ankles (both within the last year) to prove it. "The thing I most love is to see is someone going as big as they can and falling," he says. "It gets me so amped. That's what gets me most psyched." With that in mind, what do you think being on a boat with four of the world's best aerial surfers will do to Ryno's froth levels? Also bear in mind that, last year in the Mentawais, he did one of the year's best tricks, an upside down air-revs on his backside (pictured) that made it into Lost Atlas and Blow Up. Will he pull another gem outta the (bank)vault? He sure has the grit. Let him at it!


John Florence

What really needs to be said about this kid? Conductor of Pipeline symphonies and a teen who's earned the praise of seasoned vets (Mick Fanning told Stab two days ago that John is "so relaxed, he finds the craziest waves and he just doesn’t seem to freak out. He’s really calm. It’s pretty crazy to watch.") But it ain't just the braves and serenity John has. It's also his small wave game, which he proved by winning the Billabong Pro, Rio in waist-high waves. He even opened the final with a full-rote backside air-revs. Capacity to break norms is key to progressive surfing, and John has it in spades.


There they are. Be sure to check out the Airstrike site for frequent updates. And, check back here tomorrow for a mindblowing gallery of the action so far. Teaser: John Florence will, with one photograph, bend your mind. Again. – Elliot Struck