Please Don't Do A Superman At Stab High Japan, Presented By Monster Energy  - Stab Mag

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Mason Ho keeps his legs and arms outside the vehicle at all times. Photo by Corey Wilson

Please Don’t Do A Superman At Stab High Japan, Presented By Monster Energy 

Breaking down the best and worst airs, according to the stats. 

Words by Brendan Buckley
Reading Time: 5 minutes

In the first two editions of Stab High, we shot 493 PerfectSwell air sections in the direction of 35 of the world’s most gifted flyboys. 

You may be wondering what happened next, and the answer varied. 

Heading into this year’s Stab High, we decided to one-up the WSL’s non-existent statistic department by spreadsheeting every wave caught at our pool parties. 

We were able to learn that the average make rate at the event is right around 36%, while the two winners had make rates of 41.18% (Noa Deane) and 70.58% (Chippa fucking Wilson), respectively. ICYMI, hit this story to see exactly what Noa and Chip did to win. 

However, with a dataset of nearly 500 waves in a controlled environment, we decided to parse through it more to see what we could learn — not just about Stab High, but about airs in general. What’s the most common? What’s the best-rewarded? And what should be canceled forever? 

Are tail-low straight airs dead? Photo: Corey Wilson

Before we get into it, there are a few things to note: 
– Ladybirds opted almost entirely for straight airs, so we didn’t include them in this dataset. 
– The average scores only consider completed airs.
– In 2018, the scale had a maximum of 100 points. In 2019, the max was 50. In 2024, the max will once again be 50. But, for this story, we’re using the 100-point scale as it’s closer to surfing’s trad scoring system. Ex: It’s easier to understand that 76 = 7.6 than 38 = 7.6.
– There were a few issues: Not every air was shown on the broadcast. There’s a crossover between some categories. At times, it was hard to establish what someone was attempting. Every air has aspects that are absent on this spreadsheet. And it doesn’t help that I am hardly proficient enough at Excel to bluff about it on a CV.

So it’s not perfect, but it’s not too far off. Take it with only a grain of salt and nothing more, so as to keep your hypertension at bay. 

Now, we trudge onward and direct our attention towards the Texas sky. 

Rodeo

We will commence, obviously, with the only air named after a Jack Johnson song. 

The rodeo flip (formerly known as the rodeo clown, occasionally misnomered as a Gorkin Flip) was responsible for the highest score of the first edition, thanks to Mason Ho. But without the appropriate height or inversion, rodeos will rightfully get slapped with a low score. 

One fascinating detail: It’s got the lowest make rate out of any air on this list — a fact that we can likely attribute to the event’s way of forcing (some) surfers who rarely do backside airs to stand up on a wave and think, for the first time in a long time, that they should try a rodeo flip.

Varial 

First things first, let’s loosely define this maneuver: it’s a shuv-it with a grab where you land with your fins toward the beach. As you’ve probably grasped from that description, varials aren’t easy, which is why they have just a 23.33% make rate. However, they’re tempting enough to account for 13.13% of all attempts in previous chlorinated Stab Highs. 

The varial brings us a fairly unimpressive average score of 59.35, but the judges went as high as 76.17 for a handsome one from Chip. 

Prediction: Julian Wilson will top that this year.

Air reverse (including full-rotations)

It’s time to dive into the most controversial manuver in surfing: the air reverse. It’s hated by some (namely: people who can’t do them). It’s adored by others (me and Jadson). And it is not going anywhere.

Surprise surprise, the air rev is the most attempted air, accounting for over ⅓ of all attempts. 

So, it warrants a closer look. The good news: About 75% of air rev attempts were full-rotes, and only 48% were frontside. The highest-scoring Stab High (pool) air of all time belongs to Chippa Wilson for an 84-point full-rote lien grab in 2019. 

People stomp them roughly 1/3 of the time and are rewarded with a middle-of-the-pack 54.5 points on average.

Grabs, height, and inversion are the name of the game. A standard air reverse at this year’s event should get you immediately removed from the premises, and perhaps deported from Japan. 

Superman 

Though they represent a lowly 3.94% of attempts, they have the lowest average score at 39.9 and a below-average make rate of 38.89%. 

In other words, Supermans (Supermen?) seem to be the dumbest of all airs to try at Stab High, or perhaps to try at any point in time unless you are Gabriel Medina competing at the 2009 Quiksilver King of The Groms or Troy Brooks in the years prior. 

Straight airs 

Woah. Let’s talk make rate. Over 50% is absurd. 

But then again, straight airs have the third-lowest average score at 47.1 points. Like the air rev, amplitude and grabs are the difference-makers. The biggest outlier we found was Curren Caple’s tuck-knee (what happened to those?) backside straight air in 2018, which earned him an 80. 

Nobody is winning with a straight air but, if you find a way to make it exciting, they might help you escape a round. 

Big spin  

Big spins differ from varials in that they require an extra 180 degrees of rotation, with the nose of the board facing the beach upon landing.

This trick is a rarity, having only been properly attempted by Eithan Osbourne, Chippa Wilson, and Noa Deane. At 28.57%, they’ve got a low make rate but when they work, they work. Big spins own the highest average score with a formidable 76.17 points.

They helped Chippa and Noa win their finals in the past, but will they do the same for someone this year? We shall see.

One-footed airs

These almost don’t need their own category, but I flagged them due to their make rate (a clean 50%) and an average score of 59. 

What does that mean? Seemingly, they’re not that hard and we’re not overly impressed by them. 

Goodbye, any one-footed air that isn’t part of a rotation.

Backflip 

Accounting for only 6.56% of all attempts, they’re not all that common.

However, the backflip has a 33% make rate and a 61.8 average score. If this were Money Ball, a backflip might be the smartest trick on this list.

But this is not Money Ball. It is Stab High. And you should try whatever the fuck you want (other than a superman). 

Alley-oop 

Interesting one.

We’ve seen 10-point oops in CT heats (John John at Keramas at 2013, John John in El Salvador last week), but they’re not translating to Stab High.

In our events, the alley-oop shows up only 4.38% of the time. With a make rate of 20.00% and an average score of 50.44, they are arguably cursed.

Other 

In the past, we’ve seen Kerrupts (plz don’t), finger flips, and other peculiarities.

This year, one competitor has vowed to try “some shit nobody has even thought of before.” That will forever be more compelling than what a spreadsheet can tell you.

That said, we hope this breakdown adds a bit of depth to your viewing experience this year.

Bon Appetit.

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