Under an Atlantic moon, and in a theme park that looks like the picturesque ruins of some ancient Asian empire, we see five surfers of blissful exclusiveness. They shuffle and laugh and wonder at how they were sold up the river on a wavepool shoot that involved thirty hours of flying across the world via the Spanish mainland capital of Madrid to the water kingdom of Siam Park in Playa de las America, Tenerife.
They look around and they see banks of HMI lights, the sort used for movies, hanging off cranes and on stands that require two men to operate. On the southern bank of the pool, they check a 12-metre high white scrim that balances in the most precarious nature from a cherry picker. The laws of physics mean one tap of the scrim, from surfer or surfboard, will topple the cherry picker into the pool. It may not be a game of death, but it has the air of potential disaster.
The surfers see a man who may or may not be the owner of this magazine with a fistful of cash, for the proprietor of the lighting company is paying a jive game and refuses credit cards. He will only take the ten gees of Euros in a wad of notes.
The surfers are as follows. Held in the protective bosom of his pops, Dino, is Kolohe “Brother” Andino, 16. His one-year older pal, Evan Geiselman, in colourful trunks and with not a lick of fat on his body, waxes a Merrick Rookie. The teens represent the best of mainland America. Both will spend the rest of the trip making erotic drawings together in their shared hotel room.
Alongside his heartbreakingly pretty, Latin-featured Californian girlfriend, is Julian Wilson, whom you know. Nearby is Adam Melling, who is holding hands with a tertiary-educated blonde of equal rating to the Californian. Adam, you also know. Julian is progression; Adam weaves a picturesque style.
Bruce Irons, 30, from Kauai, meanwhile, is solo, but is protected by the knife he affixes to his long, elastic-waisted shorts. Bruce represents super awesomeness, in general, and is the bookend, generation-wise, to Evan and Kolohe.
“How’d you get sold up the river on this?” I say to Bruce, who, let it be recorded, is looking like he’s been doing push-ups since he quit the tour a couple of years back. His triceps pop like jack-in-the-boxes and he rewards them with regular loving strokes from the palms of his hands.
“What the fuck did you say? How did I get sawed up the river?”
My damn accent. I explain.
Bruce replies: “Fuuuuck, fuck, an email came floating by that said, explosions, wavepools, lions, naked chicks… I don’t know about naked chicks,” the father and husband adds diplomatically, then continues: “Fuck, you guys, knowing Stab, I couldn’t think anything less. I knew it was going to be fun.”
Stab is in Tenerife, 300km off the coast of Africa, with drive-in-sized scrim, with cranes, with lights, with our pack of favourite surfers, because we are driven by an urgent educational imperative.
The topic is grabs. Every kid of a certain level is into skateboard grabs in the air, mostly slobs, stalefishes and liens with the occasional mute and indy thrown in on their backside. But, y’think the magazines or even the governing body of the sport can get it right? Stab reached its nadir when we ran a frontside grab and called it an indy. Competitive surfing’s slavemasters, the ASP, rolled in the mud of their ignorance during a world tour event in Portugal when they called a slob of Owen Wright’s a mute. American photographer Jimmy Wilson aka Jimmicane has been the most vocal critic of wrongly named grabs.
“I blame the magazines,” he says. “They have been constantly misnaming grabs and have fucked readers around the world. The hole may be too big to dig out of at this point.”
Stab disagrees. Which is why we created a shoot that would display, in perfect silhouette, which hand is grabbing and where. Jimmy, with his blunt prose, explains what is displayed in front of you.
Stab hopes that after you’ve read this book, the philosophy and the physical nature of grabs will start to be understood. If we seize the time now, if we educate our brothers and sisters, we can put a foot in the butt of ignorance. – Derek Rielly.
Story by Jimmy Wilson
All aerial grabs featured are PWC-assisted. Shot on location at Siam Park, Tenerife, Canary Islands featuring Oakley riders Kolohe Andino, Evan Geiselman, Bruce Irons, Adam Melling and Julian Wilson.
We aren’t going to re-invent the wheel here, but it sure seems like we are. In the age of online media and lazy and or unqualified people at the helm of surf literature, different grab names have been regularly butchered. You, the reader, have been mis-informed too many times.
Educational articles similar to this have been written before, but they might have been too premature for their own audience. The truth is, people sucked at airs back then and there was no reason to explain the grabs folks were performing because the bag of tricks was heinously limited and the general surf fan just didn’t care.
Here in the year 2010, things have changed and it’s time you etched this into your brain just like your ABC’s and “stop, drop and roll”.
But, first, some quick notes:
* All of these were named in skateboarding and we have adopted those names. Had surfers been the first to perform these airs, it would be the skate community who would learn our names. It’s not like that, though, so never bring it up again, please.
* You do not have to be able to physically perform these airs to understand what they look like and appreciate their difficulty. That includes you judges and commentators.
What it is: Trailing hand grabs toeside rail in-between the feet. Done while rotating frontside.
The most common grab in surfing. Involves slightly less skill than using both hands (yet much more stylish) and can been seen performed worldwide by ages 10-to-50. When landed backwards and spun around, it’s a frontside grab air reverse
What it is: Trailing hand grabs the heelside rail behind your legs.
This is the air of 2010. Geiselman, Kolohe, and many others have started to nail these on command and the trend is spreading quickly. It’s one of the most technical grabs because of the awkwardness of reaching back to grab that part of the board. Still, this is nothing new, even to surfing. Call it a comeback. Cheyne Magnusson’s father Tony invented this grab which he then called a “Chiptrick”, although Tony Hawk is credited with naming this the Stalefish, which is what stuck.
What it is: While rotating backside, your leading hand grabs the toeside rail in-between your legs or outside your leading leg.
People ask me, “Jimmy, if you’re grabbing the same place on the board with the same hand, why can’t you call it a slob?” The concept is similar to the frontside grab vs indy grab example. While it may be the same hand on the same part of the board, the direction in which you spin makes this a different manoeuvre. Someone who can do slobs, may not be able to dream of sticking a mute, thus they should be separated as different airs with different difficulty levels.
What it is: While rotating frontside, your leading hand grabs the toeside rail in-between your legs or outside your leading leg.
It used to be CJ Hobgood’s staple photo air until the rest of the world followed suit. Now, you’ll see everyone from Jadson Andre to Evan Geiselman consistently spinning them in competition.
What it is: The same damn thing as a frontside grab, only picture yourself spinning backside.
It boggles my mind how long this has taken to catch on. The indy is nowhere close to being a new air, but it has recently caught a buzz with Josh Kerr sticking a few on the Landscape Altered trip. I remember an Astro Deck poster in a 1990’s issue of Surfing Magazine that featured Matt Archbold doing one at Lowers lefts. Watch for this one to take surfing by storm over the next year or so. It’s simply beautiful when done well and has the ceiling for surfers to land inverted versions.
What it is: Leading hand grabs the heelside rail while going or rotating frontside.
A lovely transitional air. You can often launch these on sections the average surfer would do a floater over. The biggest problem with these is the tendency to let the tail hang low. Kelly Slater is a victim of the wheelie liens. He almost makes them look cool sometimes, but the keyword there would be “almost”. Few people can spin while holding this grab. In Chippa Wilson’s upcoming video NOW, you will see a proper example of the lien air reverse. Study that.
What it is: Pulling board from underneath your feet with both hands and putting it back under before landing.
I wish I could change the name of this atrocious manoeuvre. Superman himself would never attempt something so lame. CJ Hobgood was the first to ever try one. That’s unfortunate. I would put money on a bet that he will never do another in his life and it certainly isn’t because of skill. This thing should go the way of the chop hop. It’s equally as heinous.
What it is: Going backside, grab board on heelside rail in between legs and pull the board upward towards your ass (all the way).
Not sure if this is a functional air for surfing, but it’s ridiculous. Do this and you’re a god.
I’m not even going to explain this grab because it’s garbage. Josh Kerr invented it and named it. He is allowed to name it because no one in any other board sport has ever attempted this, or if they did, they probably got laughed into extinction. Even Kerr avoids these nowadays.
What it is: Grabbing with the leading hand on the heelside rail.
Technically, you’re supposed to grab between the heels but on a surfboard you’ll see people grab above the front foot, too. The typical misconception is for people to call these Methods. That is wrong unless you do this grab and pull the board noticeably upward, tweaking it to a point that is virtually impossible to do while riding a surfboard. People will also misname these as melons which is a boned out version of the backside grab where you straighten your front leg and pull up your back knee.
What it is: Do I really need to explain?
These are just standard airs, but they can still be awesome. Huge punts that are not grabbed can be some of the coolest things ever. Cory Lopez tends to do some of the best. The difficulty level is high. Controlling your board beneath your feet is not easy at all. I love these.
What it is: A backside air where the heelside rail is grabbed up towards the nose and you kick your front foot out forward before landing with it back on.
It was invented by Tony Hawk and these aren’t really being done much on surfboards but it’s possible and I believe we will see them soon.
What it is: Similar to a Superman but holding both hands out perpendicular to your body with the board in one hand.
Landing a legit Christ Air on a surfboard would be seemingly impossible. Imagine the positioning of Jesus when nailed to the cross but with a board in one hand. That’s what you’d be going for. Although Superman airs are terrible, if someone could pull this off, it would be impressive.
Roast Beef Grab
What it is: Trailing hand grabs the heelside rail through your legs.
I mentioned to Christian Fletcher that it’s rare to see someone do a roast beef and he replied with “because they are hideous” and, really, they are. Aron Gieger once referred to them as “the penis grab, because it looks as though your dick is flapping down and grabbing your board.” I wouldn’t recommend these but if you can throw one down, you’re probably good enough to do most grabs and are just mixing it up for fun. Cheyne Magnusson did the first one ever in an airshow in Newport around 2002. He also despises them.
KILL EARLY GRABS! KILL LATE GRABS!
Before you reach the end here, I feel like it’s time to put something to bed for eternity. That would be the early grab/late grab. It goes both ways, it’s equally as bad. The earlier you grab and the longer you hold it, the worse you just made your air. If you take to the air and realise you are already grabbing your rail, it’s time to give up. Don’t even try to land it. Just penalise yourself and hit quit.
Say you do everything perfectly and land, then realise you are still hanging onto your board, same scene. Abandon ship. It’s not worth pulling if you’re going to butcher things with a late grab aka the step cousin of whitewater rafting (google: white water rafting jimmicane).
Now you know what the deal is when it comes to airs. And, remember: If anyone calls a frontside grab an indy, please verbally or if necessary, physically abuse them.