Imagine Surfing for Fun and Landing Full Rotation Alley Oops! - Stab Mag

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Imagine Surfing for Fun and Landing Full Rotation Alley Oops!

Watch Jai Walsh in ‘Labyrinth’ aka the ‘retirement’ clip.

elsewhere // Aug 10, 2021
Words by Alistair Klinkenberg
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Jai Walsh is my favourite surfer.

Why? Well, a few reasons actually. Firstly, because whenever we surf together, which is pretty often, whenever the best wave of the session comes through he lets me go. Stop and consider that for a moment. A far, far, far better surfer, letting his mate go on the best waves. Why? I’m not really sure. I’ve never asked. I think it’s because he knows that he’s seen the inside of more tubes already than I will in my whole surfing life and takes pleasure in seeing the nervous grin on my face when it’s hollow and he looks at me and says, “You going?” I always do, and it’s led to some of the better (albeit still very modest) barrels of my life.

Absolutely 100% not telling you where this is, not that you’d get a wave out there anyway.

The second is the man’s style. Jai’s one of those people blessed with the ability to make whatever he’s doing look good. He’s always immaculately dressed, the sprays on his crafts — which are all Native Habitat, shaped in the shed out the back of his folks’ place in Cunjurong by his old man Neil, aka ‘The Moose’ — are always stencilled, black, and immaculate. I’ve never seen Wal on the job site, shifter in hand, but I imagine he’s one of the few plumbers who manages not to end up covered in shit at the end of the day. He’s just started dabbling in a bit of graphic design too — after receiving flawless advice from his folks to “get a trade first”, “dick around with the creative stuff” second — and even that’s got a different edge from the endless imitators popping out of ludicrously expensive design schools around the globe. And then there’s the surfing.

The ongoing joke is that Labyrinth is Jai’s ‘retirement clip’. When you work for cash and surf for fun, trying to do your best surfing in front of a camera on the odd occasion you get time to chase waves (and swells, tides, winds, crowds and light collide) is a great way to kill the joy. Not to mention the fact that your mate on the sand with the camera, in this case the ever-elusive Dane Singleton, is doing so free of charge. In short, this short (Labyrinth) is a labour of love that at the time of writing, Jai just wants to get out in the open and out of his life, to an extent. But that really sells the surfing short.

People who can put themselves and their surfboards in this situation often overlook the sheer time and determination they put into learning how.

I’ve witnessed Jai do heaps of airs. Just the other week, surfing a backbeach near a famous Country Soul pointbreak, Jai paddled back from the hungry pack of older locals to where I was hovering on the fringe. Wal’s normally mellow as in the water, but he was pissed off. “These elders are uncoppable!” He said, referring to waiting 20 minutes for the wave of the day, only for an older local to paddle his arse off on Jai’s inside then go right without communication on a left that drained and then blew its guts out. Jai then took out his frustration by taking off on scraps and landing a kerrupt and then a full, tail-high air reverse on back-to-back waves. But that’s not what captures me about the man’s surfing. I prefer watching him do far less.

Tricks often obscure the fundamentals, and that’s what I really love about Jai’s surfing — his aesthetic perfection of the little things. Growing up surfing an array of tricky slabs, a few of which feature in the above film, has given Jai a deft touch in the tube, especially lefts. Similarly, watching him take apart a peeling right, not wasting a joule of the wave’s energy is equally pleasing on the eye. The moments when all these elements come together — like the tube to roundhouse to blowtail reverse at 3:30 — is good modern surfing personified to my biased eye.

Now if this all sounds like a document of unrequited love a la Bill Shakespeare’s Sonnets 1-126, then you wouldn’t be the first in our little group to suggest this. However Jai and I are both straight(ish) and in happy, hetero relationships. I’m just not ashamed about having a harmless crush on one of my best friends.


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