Albee Layer’s Quest for the Backside 540!
“The hardest thing about it is, when you’re landing, you just have so much momentum. I couldn’t figure out how to slow it down enough.”
Above, you’ll watch the newest clip from Albee Layer and his film producer, Dan Norkunas, aka Take Shelter Productions. It was filmed over the Hawaiian winter, with the oldest clip being from November. It’s everything good that happened during Albee’s season outside of the wild Jaws sessions you’ve seen him feature in. But what’s perhaps most gripping, along with the first alley oop, the boned-out straight airs and the huge backside swing at 3:15, is the backside 540 attempts – which Albee comes painfully close to completing.
Stab adores the chase of a new air, and anyone who dedicates time to such an endeavour. Albee is a man that knows this game well, and below we discuss just how hard he tried to stomp – and how close he came to succeeding with – a backside 540.
This oop is another serious highlight.
Stab: Tell me about the quest for the backside five.
Albee: I’m devastated that I didn’t make it. We put a couple of attempts into this edit – those are just the best ones that I almost pulled – but I seriously got so close to doing average ones so many fucking times. By the end of the winter I was like, wow, I should’ve just made one by now.
Was it similar to when you were trying the double oop? That was a little different because the conditions to do that are a lot more rare on Maui, with air wind into the right, as opposed to air wind into the left. But the couple of rights we have with wind into them are better waves. So… I had a lot more attempts with the backside five, but not as many good sections to attempt on as I had for the oop.
What made you start trying it? In the last year or two, I got a lot less scared of landing airs. I’ve gotten hurt a lot of times trying to land airs, like my knee when I was young, which I kinda never got over. But I got a little bigger so now, more often than not the board will break before I do. That gave me more confidence to try different stuff like those fives. It feels 100 percent attainable. I did so many where I was coming down, thinking that I had it. I’m not really built for airs though, I don’t think.
This attempt is the closest Albee gets. It’s a hard trick to grasp through stills because this doesn’t look so impressive – until you realise he’s almost already done a full rotation.
I believe history would suggest otherwise. No, I think I’m just stubborn and keep trying when I shouldn’t be. It’s pure stubbornness, I’ve never felt like I’ve had a natural talent for it, just always had good waves and wind for it.
I’m surprised you’re not keeping it under wraps. We were debating about whether or not to save it until I make a backside five so I can call it mine, or should we just put it out…
I’m a big fan of that. It’s very selfless. It gets people thinking. Exactly, those were my thoughts about it, and like with the whole double oop thing, people were hyping up Julian to do it on that Reunion trip, and that fired me up to do it. So hopefully a similar thing will happen, a few people will start trying it and it’ll help me pull it sooner, whether or not it’s the first.
Another wildly impressive attempt at the buck-fifty spin.
Conditions-wise you obviously need the perfect storm, but is there anything you’ve learnt from trying it that mightn’t seem obvious? Yeah, when you’re learning any air, the most important thing is to have a consistent section. Every time I tried it, it was on a different section, and I would re-watch it and all the rotations were totally different. So it was hard to figure out exactly what was going wrong. But I had one session at this consistent left where I made more progress than 10 sessions everywhere else. And the hardest thing about it is, when you’re landing, you just have so much momentum. Most full-rotations, you whip it around and you stop. But I couldn’t figure out how to slow it down enough. And I kept falling into layback, and I can’t fucking do a layback.
So, it’s the same landing as a small backside rotation, except you’ve got all that push behind you from the rest of the spin? Yeah, I even tried a few slow-rotation backside airs to practice landing backwards and get comfortable with that. But… it didn’t work, obviously.
“I try to either go straight air or full rotation, cause I’m pretty bad at landing backwards – that’s probably why I haven’t landed the fricken five.”
The shifties in the clip were also very enjoyable. I’ve been trying those a lot this year. I was doing the slob ones like Noa Deane and got them a bit more dialled. I try to either go straight air or full rotation, cause I’m pretty bad at landing backwards – that’s probably why I haven’t landed the fricken five. I think it’s so much more functional if it’s a straight air or a full rote because you can eventually learn to flow. So I was like, what can I do that’s a straight air but a little different?
I love that you guys hang out on this windy island inventing, or trying new airs. What else would we do? (Laughs). It’s one of those places where those waves we surf are so bad for everything else, and you get your couple of airs down and start thinking bigger.
Despite the cropping of this frame, this air is absolutely nuts. It’ll fly past without you even noticing, so… make sure you notice.
Like that one backside air around the 3:15 mark? That thing is monstrous. It flies past and it’d be easy to miss how gnarly it is. Is it intentional to have a banger like that so understated? That was one of the better backside airs I did all year. But it was filmed in 4k at regular speed, so there wasn’t a slow-mo version of that. If we had it in slow-mo we probably would’ve played it like that, just so you could grasp how big it is.
So, Maui is windy AF. It’s offshore and clean on one side, and howling cross-shore air wind on the other side. How do you choose? A perfect example is Honolua Bay and this really good air wave which is right next to it. When Honolua is offshore, the air wave has air wind. It’s always a choice we make when we go over there, but it mostly depends on how crowded Honolua is, and how much footage we’ve got of the same backside airs.
Oh, BTW: This clip isn’t just all airs into the wind.
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