Albee Layer Sounds Off On The Kelly Slater Wavepool Specialty Event
"I just hope people don’t approach it like a wave," says the reigning wavepool champ.
The unveiling of Kelly's Left on Thursday, and the certainty of a WSL speciality event being held in the next month in Lemoore (Sept 17-19th), leaves many questions to be answered. Format, judging criteria, heat structure/duration/length—it's a brave new world. We reached out to reigning wave pool champ, Albee Layer, who gamed an international field in Wales two years ago at the Surf Snowdonia Red Bull Unleashed event, for his opinion on the upcoming Championship Tour specialty event.
Stab: Did you get an invite to Lemoore? You are the reigning champ, as far as wavepools go, no?
Albee: Ha. Yeah, no. Which isn’t a surprise. It’s the WSL, and I haven’t had the nicest things to say about them.
That’s why we’re talking! Will this event be the most hyped snoozefest ever, a bunch of mechanical surfers surfing a mechanical wave? Or will this hand-picked crew show just how radical surfing can get with a consistent playing field?
You know, Kelly and I have talked a lot about this stuff, which has been really rad, because he actually, like, engages with all my crazy ideas. We were on the Proximity tour, with Taylor Steele, and he actually agreed with me about a lot, which was pretty baffling.
He agreed, as far as how contests need to evolve to encourage high performance surfing?
Yeah, and he’s, like, the best ever within that format. But that's kind of my favorite part about Kelly: he's always wanted to change, and evolve. And he gets a hard time for it, but something that stays the same would be boring. He wants it to change and get better. He wants people to feel pushed.
So how would you like to see people approach the event? What helped you make sense of what’s basically a totally different set of variables?
Basically, don’t approach it like it’s wave. Everyone can surf that wave really well, but they need to be thinking creatively. People should approach it like snowboarders or skateboarders.
Like, plan out runs in advance?
Yeah, where they have a run in their head, and each person’s run is different in a totally different way. Sometimes you do a safe run, sometimes you go for broke on something you can barely do or have never done. You can do ten backside snaps, and that’s great, but that’s not fun.
Or getting barreled. I mean, is that even going to be taken into account, you think? Certainly it can’t be judged with as much emphasis?
People are going to have to learn tricks. And not, like, where you learn some trick and film it and then you don’t have to do it again. You’re going to have to nail those things. Every. Time. It’ll probably start pretty small. Like, doing a full rotation. I mean, no one’s ever done a proper full-rotation at Kelly’s Wave, yet.
But honestly, one of the biggest complaints I have and that I hope they change: Giving people ten-point rides. That should almost never happen. Unless it’s a wave that you can remember 15 years from now, it ain’t a 10. There’s been one 100 point ride in snowboarding—it was Shawn White and it was historic. I mean, when Travis Pastrana did that double backflip, one judge didn’t even give him a 100.
And that was something that had literally never been done, in or out of an event, at that point, right?
Yeah. I’ve seen guys get 10s for waves that wouldn’t be A-clips in a web edit. And it just puts such a low ceiling on everything. Why, if you’re on the CT, and you can get a 10 point ride without doing your absolute best surfing, why would you learn something new? If you can get a 10 with safe surfing. If you’re not the best surfer, and you’re not doing your absolute best surfing, and it still gets a ten. Why would you learn anything?
If you stop calling those waves perfect, people will learn tricks that are absolutely crazy, to pull out of their bag in a pinch. It would leave heats wide open.
But 10-point rides get clicks.
Yeah, of course they do. Because you go back to watch the Heat Analyzer, and you aren’t going to click on a heat that has a low score. High scores get more views. But no one has an incentive to go nuts.
So, we know Kelly's out. Jordy is in, John John, Wilko, Filipe. Which of the ‘CT thoroughbreds are you putting your money on? I mean, can anyone touch Filipe in those, um, conditions?
Yeah, Filipe could go mental. But I don’t know. It’s going to be the guy that thinks out of the box. Filipe could do that, but it’s hard to say. If everyone sticks to the way they surf, Filipe will punk everyone. But if they look at it and put it all together and really play the game, it’s anybody’s. Any of those guys could put together something crazy if they put their minds to it.
Who do you think will surprise people?
I think John John watches enough other sports—he loves skateboarding and snowboarding—so he’d be the first to adjust to that. You have to look at other sports when it comes to putting together a run. Waves change too much. Watch half-pipe snowboarding, or skateboarding. And then look at what the other surfers are doing, and think, What can I do to be different or make it look better? And do something different when it's your turn. A lot of the guys in Wales [at Surf Snowdonia] were better than me at doing turns, or more consistent. So, I thought, What do I have? I can do shuv-its and I can do an air-reverse. So, I’m going to do an air-reverse, two snaps and a shuv-it. It went one wave, one wave, each guy having his go. If I saw a guy do turns the whole way, I'd think, OK, I can just do snaps and then a reverse at the end. You can adjust based on what you need. Have some filler tricks, have some hammers.
I just hope people don’t approach it like a wave.