Stab Magazine | Josh Kerr Talks Gentlemen's Rules, Creative Flights, And Ironic Judges For Red Bull Airborne

Josh Kerr Talks Gentlemen’s Rules, Creative Flights, And Ironic Judges For Red Bull Airborne

The WSL has handed Kerrzy the keys to their castle. What will he do with them?

news // Oct 4, 2018
Words by stab
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Today marks the start of the Quiksilver Pro France, stop number nine on the WSL Championship Tour.

Like the many years before it, this Quik Pro will feature 36 male and 18 female competitors, a few of whom are hungry for a World Title and others who simply want to requalify for 2019.  However what’s new about this year is a specialty event running in alongside the CT competition – it’s called Red Bull Airborne and is the brainchild of WSL veteran and ex-Air Show World Champion Josh Kerr. 

Following Stab High, this is the second major “air” event of the last two months. We would say that this points to a modern revolution in the sport, but the truth is that air events were first concocted in the late-90s, and that after a brief spark (lit by none other than Mr. Kerr) they were more or less extinguished for the following decade.

But this time, Kerrzy wants to change it up a bit. Subtract the bullshit and add some structure, legitimacy, and money.

We got on the phone with Josh while he was trekking through LAX. Between the dropped calls (LAX has unreasonably awful service), Josh explained just what he’s trying to do with Red Bull Airborne.

Did you go to WSL, or did they come to you?
Probably about two years ago I got antsy about wanting to bring this to the WSL, so we built a deck and pitched it to WSL a year and a half ago. At the time the WSL was going through a lot of changes so they couldn’t do anything just then, but we pitched it again when Sophie came in and they got all psyched on it, so now we’re right here, about to do the first event. 

What are you trying to achieve with these air events?
Personally I just want to see the platform of surfing for the new generation that I had growing up. You know, just a creative outlet.

Like you said, you got to experience the Air Tour of the early 2000s, and you were actually a multiple World Champion, correct?
Yeah, it was like boxing back then though. It wasn’t tied to the ASP or anything, it was its own little side gig. There was one tour in Australia that was separate to one in America, so there was no real global structure like we have here. 


Yes, he walks the walk. Photo: WSL

And are you planning on having a full tour with a World Champion and all that, or are these just fun one-off events?
Well this one is a one-off event, but the goal is to bring this platform to fruition and eventually have our own series and a champion at the end.

The roster for this event is interesting because it has some guys from the CT and others who I assume you just hand-selected. So how did you choose the competitors for this event?
Well it wasn’t just off surfing “ability” per se. I kinda brought a lotta elements in, like their mentality towards surfing in general, their creativity, the rawness of their approach, which is what I’m looking for over someone who is say, more clinical in the way they approach airs.

Filipe Toledo is in the draw, but his goal first and foremost is to win the World Title. Do you think that will make him hold back when going for airs, on account of not wanting to get injured?
Yeah, you know those guys that are on Tour have some bigger goals that they’re working towards, whether it’s requalification or a World Title, so I was stoked that they committed to doing the air event but I also understand they could pull out at the last minute, and I wouldn’t be bummed or anything if they had to do that. That said, they all go out and practice airs and make video clips, so they’re accustomed to putting their bodies at risk even outside of a jersey. So I hope they all do it. 

And what about the judges? Will you just be using CT guys or are you bringing in a special panel?
Yeah, we’re gonna have Shane Beschen as our head judge. Which is pretty rad, because he was one of the pioneers of the aerial movement on Tour, despite not getting scored for doing it [laughs]. It’s kind of an ironic situation for him because I’m sure he’s had plenty of huge blowups with judges in his past. 

What are the judges gonna be looking for?
You know we’re dealing with the ocean though, so every section’s different, all those elements come in like was it a walk-in-the-park section where you do a nice stock air, or was it a big dumpy leg-breaker section. And the air itself of course, we want to reward creativity and the technical side, and then style is gonna be a big part as well. 


Mason checks all the boxes. Photo: Corey Wilson

And then will you take kind of KP role, just overseeing everything?
Yeah just managing when it’s gonna run, giving it a unique voice and its own look and identity, so that it can be separated from the Tour itself. 

And do you see these comps being brought to wavepools in the future, or do you think you’ll stick to the ocean?
I’m excited to see it in the ocean element and six-man heats, and just that kind of… action overload. You just never know what you’re gonna get with the ocean, and I think that’s the most exciting part. Some guy might do three airs on one wave and put together a combo that’s insane.

So surfers can get a score for a whole wave of airs rather than just one singular air, is that right?
Well no, if you do three airs on one wave you get three scores, but those scores would take into account that they were done back-to-back and in fluidity with the wave.

And you said there would be six-man heats… is it just gonna be a free-for-all or will there be some sort of priority system?
No priority system, but if I see any of the boys hassling they won’t be invited back next year [laughs]. It’s gentlemen’s rules.

Do you guys have a prize purse for this, or is it just a fun exhibition event?
Yeah, there’s a 70 grand prize purse, $20,000 goes to first place and then it slowly trickles down for the finalists, but places 7-18 all get $2,000, so it’s pretty much go big and make the final or come last!

colapinto dx28220 keramas18 sloane

Griff’s in. Photo: WSL

Airborne Invitees:

  • Albee Layer (HAW)
  • Chippa Wilson (AUS)
  • Mikey Wright (AUS)
  • Noa Deane (AUS)
  • Matt Meola (HAW)
  • Mason Ho (HAW)
  • Kolohe Andino (USA)
  • Griffin Colapinto (USA)
  • Yago Dora (BRA)
  • Italo Ferreira (BRA)
  • Filipe Toledo (BRA)
  • Jordy Smith (ZAF)
  • Eric Geiselman (USA)
  • Hector Santa Maria (PRI)
  • Kalani David (HAW)
  • Jack Freestone (AUS)
  • Kael Walsh
  • Wildcard 


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