Stab Magazine | The highest alley oop ever landed

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The highest alley oop ever landed

Alley-oops matured more quickly than air-reverses have. While it’s still semi-acceptable to spin frontside, land backwards and revert, doing a 180 alley-oop carries absolutely no cool. It’s dead. Jordy Smith showed us our first full-rotation oops in Modern Collective. Then in 2011 before the Rio Pro, Kelly Slater gave us the highest one we’d seen. […]

news // Mar 8, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Alley-oops matured more quickly than air-reverses have. While it’s still semi-acceptable to spin frontside, land backwards and revert, doing a 180 alley-oop carries absolutely no cool. It’s dead. Jordy Smith showed us our first full-rotation oops in Modern Collective. Then in 2011 before the Rio Pro, Kelly Slater gave us the highest one we’d seen. Fast-forward to late 2012, and John John Florence pastes the new highest at the start of his film, Done. And then yesterday at the Oakley Pro, Bali, John served us another entry. “It was super rad,” Kelly told Stab when asked about John’s Keramas spin. “Mine was a little more wind assisted and I missed the transition and flapjacked so I wouldn’t break an ankle. John greased that thing pretty much as clean as you can.” Tim Curran, the man who invented alley-oops in surfing, said this of John’s latest: “You know it was awesome because he doesn’t claim ever, and he claimed it even before it was done. It was incredible.”

Informed decisions require details! So, let’s examine! Stab believes that the highest alley oop ever landed is one of these three…



Alley oop number one: Kelly Slater, Rio De Janeiro, 2011

During a pre-game session at the Billabong Pro in Rio, Kelly rotated what was, until Done was released, undeniably the biggest alley oop ever done. In the fading afternoon embers, and captured through the shaky handicam of Brazilian Tiago Garcia, Kelly hammered down a foamy wall into a loose-limbed full-rotation, and landed into a layback so as to save his ankles. “That wave was a perfect combination of wind and steepness and a relatively easy landing,” said Kelly at the time. “But I’m still critical of doing laybacks, unless maybe it’s for a Teahupo’o barrel, not a recovery. There have been way too many recoveries in video sections lately that seem to count as clips, but I guess if it’s one of the highest you’ve done then maybe it’s a keeper. It’s just so nice to grease a landing, but I’m glad I stayed upright.”


Done, 2013

Done, 2013

Alley oop number two: John John Florence, Done, 2013

Before the credits roll, before we’re given any establishing shots and before we even know what’s happening, the first thing we see in John John Florence’s 2012 biopic, Done, are two aerials. The first is a backside full rotation, and the second is a full-rotation alley oop. Obviously, since we’re talking oops, air number two is the important one here. When Kelly landed his Rio spin two years earlier, he said this of super-high oops: “If you really launched a high one of these and landed at the perfect angle down the curve of the face, there would be no hiccup and you’d have so much speed to combo something after.” The alley oop that John John does at the start of Done would suggest he read what Kelly said and took it personally. This one’s served tall, straight-into the wind, with no garnish. Perfection.




Alley oop number three: John John Florence, Keramas, 2013

Yesterday in round one of the Oakley Pro, John John landed the biggest air ever done in competitive surfing. With a 9.87 and no backup in his scoreline, and opponent Sea Bass sitting comfortably on 19.37 points, John John needed a moment of excellence with five minutes remaining. A mid-sized wave appeared and John swooped. On takeoff, he stalled around in the top of the lip, knowing exactly what he was looking for. What happened next is indelibly marked on the mind of those who saw it. A full-rotation alley oop, seven feet above the lip. The judges adored and gifted a 10, despite no other moves on the wave. “I was in the air, and then I saw the bottom, everything happened so fast and I just landed perfect,” said John John afterwards. “I think I claimed it super hard (he did) but I was super stoked. The ankle brace gives me confidence to do things and it’s actually feeling really good now. I’m so stoked to be back in the water, and surfing out here. The waves are amazing. I was sitting up there earlier watching the air wind, and I was super psyched on trying to do an air. But I had to calm myself down not to go out there and try airs the whole time. Then that one came and had that section on it, and I just went for it…”


And the winner? When we asked Taj Burrow if John’s Keramas effort was the, uh, high point, he said: “Yep, hands-down the biggest ever done.”

But, perhaps it ain’t over. All the ingredients are right. First, the wave is there: “Keramas is ideal for alley oops because the wind’s blowing into it,” says Tim. “It’s like a Rocky Point, it keeps the board on your feet. It’s got that bit of crumble and I know there’s a lot of power, so it’s the best of everything. It’s a perfect setup for humongous airs.”

Second, the situation is right: “Airs like that are only really possible in freesurfs or dire situations,” says Kelly. “When you don’t need it, it’s not on the radar for that kind of wave at all. Your perspective changes, I think. You’re looking for a different thing and not giving yourself as many chances, or trying Hail Marys.

And third, the field is ready: “You know all the guys on tour are watching that, over and over and over, thinking ‘tomorrow, I’ve gotta go huge,'” says Timmy. “It’s incredible to see is how big they’re going, and it’s great to see them rewarded for it. Kelly is landing some of his airs in the flats and I’m blown away that he hasn’t broken an ankle.”

So, does Kelly believe that Keramas will gift us more of the same? “I think we’ll see a few big ones before next week is done but a few are surely gonna be John John again. He’ll just beat his own record. Or Filipe (Toledo).” – Elliot Struck, with additional reporting by Rupert Partridge


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