Stab Magazine | Jamie O'Brien and Cheyne Magnusson Discuss How Waco's Air Section Came To Be

Jamie O’Brien and Cheyne Magnusson Discuss How Waco’s Air Section Came To Be

“We were screaming our heads off like, ‘No! Don’t touch it! Send another one! Save it!’”

news // Sep 2, 2018
Words by stab
Reading Time: 5 minutes

On Friday, May 4th 2018, just one day before the start of the inaugural Founders’ Cup event, the Barefoot Ski Ranch filled up its American Wave Machines pool for the very first time.

According to Cheyne the timing was just a coincidence, but BSR’s video reveal on Lemoore’s opening day had a major effect on the surfing world, with people all over Instagram wondering if this Texas-bound pool could potentially be better than Slater’s.

Then a couple days later Seth Moniz’s backflip was released to the world, and with it came the realization that Waco’s pool had something Slater’s didn’t – a clearly defined, perfectly crafted air section.

The implications were clear. This ramp was going to change everything.

The first (and still the best) flip ever landed in wavepool.

Within hours of that clip’s release, Stab booked two tickets to Waco, sending Sam Moody (Stab photographer) and myself (writer) there to investigate. The very next day, Sam and I got a private hour in the pool with Cheyne, allowing us to test all wave iterations including the air section.

Convinced of its efficacy, we called in Barron Mamiya, Ian Crane and Albee Layer to give the ramp a professional thumping, which they did happily in the edit you’ll see below.

Since then, dozens of the world’s best surfers (including just recently World #2 Gabriel Medina) have visited Waco to hit this very section. And in less than a month, we’ll get 20 of these punters together for one incredible day of flight.

As you probably already know, we’re calling it Stab High.

And with all that in mind, we thought it would be fun to chat with Waco’s resident pro Cheyne Magnusson and his mad-scientist pal, Jamie O’Brien, about how the world’s most coveted air section came to be.

QuinnM WacoSelect 18

Albee knows. Photo: Quinn Matthews

Stab: You two were the surfers behind American Wave Machines initial wave ideas, but the air section didn’t exist prior to the opening of Waco. So how exactly did you come to construct the perfect ramp?

Cheyne: Going into it, we had certain sequences that we knew from the scale model, which we then ran in the full-sized pool and they were super fun, but I think Jamie and I both felt that it wasn’t gonna have the same impact as Slater’s 30-second barrel. So we decided to try something new, because we can – that’s the whole nature of this system.

Back then, the control panel wasn’t in the lifeguard tower as it is today, but actually on the roof of the wall. So for us to design a wave we had to have surfers in the water and someone punching in the buttons up top. So James and I were in the water yelling up to a couple of the engineers, trying to tell them what we wanted. We first started with a right going into a left, and we told them that the right needed to be a little bigger and the left a little smaller. They didn’t really understand that at first, so it ended up being a pointbreak right going into a pointbreak left – like head-high on both of them. It was just a straight disaster – like Makaha backwash or something.
Jamie O’Brien: It was worse than Makaha backwash [laughs].

Were you guys just getting smoked?

Jamie: Yeah, like breaking boards and shit.

Cheyne: There’s actually a clip of Jamie in that first montage, doing a big yank, John John style downcarve. But it was just so much power colliding that if you did an air you just went straight up and then down to the flats. There was no whitewater or anything.

See 0:29 for air section v1

So where’d you go from there?

Cheyne: It was tricky because we’re surfers and these guys are just number guys, and we’re telling them like… how to create what we’re looking for. But eventually we were able to describe to them that we wanted one of those peeling waves, and then at the very end we need the left to come at it, but smaller, and we need it to kind of crumble. So we were going back and forth and trying different sequences and we were kinda getting there, and then we remembered that with the scale model, if we sent out impulses before the wave, it takes water off a certain section of the wave, and it makes that section collapse sooner. So we had them do that, and I think James you caught the first one when it was like that… and that was like the biggest air I’ve seen you do in 10 years [laughs].

Jamie: I was so stoked, I kept yelling “I’m back! I’m back!” Because I stopped chasing two-to-three foot onshore waves like 10 years ago.

Cheyne: When Jamie landed that air, he looked back at me and gave me this face, and it was the same face he used to make when we were surfing perfect Chopes or perfect Lance’s. So I knew it was a good air section.

You’d done it!

Cheyne: Yes, but the kicker was that right after that happened, the engineer guys were running back to the machine to change the settings, because they thought the wave wasn’t good. So we were screaming our heads off like, “No! Don’t touch it! Send another one! Save it!” [laughs].

So how long did that whole process take, from the original crazy Makaha wedge to getting the current version?

Jamie: I feel like it only took an hour. It was pretty quick.

And were you just hitting it on repeat after that?

Jamie: Yeah, I couldn’t get enough. It was so fun to just launch as high as you could off that thing and then just land in the most pillowy whitewater.

Cheyne: I felt like I was watching Freakside 2.0 [laughs], it was so sick.

Did you guys know that you had just made something special?

Cheyne: It definitely felt like it, but it’s hard to know until you get someone unbiased to try it. So when Seth Moniz came a few days later and landed that flip, we knew this thing was legit.

And since then you’ve had dozens of pros come to test the ramp out. Who’s been the most impressive?

Cheyne: People keep asking me that, and it’s hard to say! You know I’ve seen like six or seven flips landed already, then Finn McGill did this backside flip but he didn’t double-grab, he grabbed it indy, and he was so close to landing it. That would have been insane. Then Chippa did like a six-foot frontside shove it that he landed in the flats – my brain still can’t comprehend that. Even Ozzie, he doesn’t do many spins or anything but I just love his style and how he goes so high and stays over his board. Then last week Medina was here, and he landed a really clean flip then and was getting so close to a big spin, which apparently he’d never even tried before. So it’s been really insane to watch.

Jamie: Yeah the Medina clips are pretty crazy, and then who was that guy tweaking everything out?

Cheyne: Noah Beschen. He was getting pretty crazy inverted and tweaked out.

And your picks to win Stab High?

Cheyne: Gotta go home team. Albee.

Jamie: Chippa or Noa!

If you want to attend Stab High to see who wins from the pool’s shallows, then head here to purchase tickets – they’re limited!


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