You know it's funny! Photo: Sam Moody
What Does Albee Think About Winning The Surfer Poll's 'Best Maneuver'?
And more from the greatest awards show on earth!
Last night’s Surfer Poll Awards were a noteworthy spectacle on multiple levels. Since Rory already handled the stew, I think I'll base my musings around the substance of the event itself. Specifically I’d like to talk about the awards and their winners, but mostly just Albee Layer. Shall we commence?
I think yes.
Men's Surfer Poll:
1. John Florence
2. Kelly Slater
3. Jordy Smith
4. Frederico Morais!!
5. Dane Reynolds
6. Gabriel Medina
7. Jack Freestone
8. Julian Wilson
9. Mason Ho
10. Filipe Toledo
Beau Foster did not make the cut.
John won, which is good and right. Kelly got second on the merits of being the best surfer ever, which I can also get behind. But beyond that things got a little weird. Keep in mind that this category is voter-selected, so Surfer has no influence on the results. Also keep in mind that less than 10,000 people voted this year, for whatever that’s worth.
Fourth place this year was Frederico Morais. One might be inclined to think, Who? You know, Freddy! Rookie Freddy. J-Bay Freddy. Handsome Freddy. He’s been a bit of a force on the tour this season and surely a likable bloke but, number four on the Surfer Poll? That’s a quantum leap from his true status in the professional surfing world. So how did this happen? Looking through Freddy’s social media accounts, it doesn’t appear he implored his fans for votes (which would have been a major no-no in Surfer Poll culture). This leaves only one logical conclusion: Freddy must be a massive star in Portugal, and perhaps all of Europe. Like Ronaldo massive.
The next Poll anomaly was a seventh place finish for Mr. Jack Freestone. Considering Jack has never made the Surfer Poll top 10, and considering this was one of the worst competitive/least productive freesurfing years of his career, his seventh place finish is very odd indeed. Basically what I'm saying is, Jack's an incredible surfer but this achievement seems untimely. Unless people are just proud of his recent fertilization successes…
And lastly, no Mick Fanning? You know Mick. He used to win a lot, made a beer, punched a sharked and so forth. I thought he’d have another eight years in the Surfer Poll top-10, easy. Apparently the voters didn’t agree.
Three pretty blondes!
Women's Surfer Poll:
1. Carissa Moore
2. Alana Blanchard
3. Steph Gilmore
4. Sally Fitzgibbons
5. Tyler Wright
6. Sage Erickson
7. Coco Ho
8. Courtney Conlogue
9. Bethany Hamilton
10. Lakey Peterson
This list is always more of a toss-up in my mind, because the voting criteria involves surfing, personality, and much more so than the men, sex appeal. Rightly or wrongly, Alana landed back toward the top of the draw while 2x consecutive world champ, Tyler Wright, fell in the middle of the pack. No offense to the rest of the women but in my eyes Bethany should win every year. Just because.
Creed McTaggart stole "best dressed".
Movie of the Year: Chapter 11, Dane Reynolds -- This was one of the best surf movies ever made. From both a performance and story-telling standpoint, there’s been nothing like it in the last decade. I get Logan Dulien’s (Snapt 3 director) disappointment, but as great as his film was, Snapt 3 can’t compete with a Dane Reynolds tell-all/surf banger. It just can’t.
Best Short: "Premium Violence," Warren Smith, Former -- Dane, Julian, and The Dock. It was pretty much a toss-up in our eyes, but Surfer's vision was more direct. Dane ended up winning and delivered a video acceptance speech, as opposed to taking the stage, which is likely due to his home’s proximity to the SoCal fires. Some bad shit is happening back there and we wish all California residents the best of luck.
Best Series: "Continuance," Alek Parker and Kelly Slater -- This one was a little weird to me because, while the Continuance “series” was expertly cut and produced, it had only two episodes before concluding with Kelly’s foot injury. I’m pretty sure two episodes doesn’t constitute a series nor does the progression of these clips justify a title of Continuance. Also interesting, Todd Glaser was forced to singularly receive this award, as neither Alek nor Kelly were in attendance. We’re thinking that also may be fire-related, as both have homes in the northern LA region.
Even the groms were loving it.
Best Performance: Julian Wilson, "Wayward" -- Can’t argue with this. Jules went above, below, upside-down and beyond.
Best Documentary: "Nervous Laughter," Dan Norkunas and Albee Layer -- Always worth it just to get Albee on stage.
Best Barrel: Ian Walsh, Jaws -- Ok yes but, Evan Geiselman’s Namibian drainer is something else.
Heavy Water: Kai Lenny -- Does anyone else even surf big waves?
AI Breakthrough Performer: Griffin Colapinto -- Obvious choice, interesting delivery. Presenting the award, Bruce seemed cagey and unsettled. Before he could read off the winner, Andy’s mom, Danielle, took the mic and dropped a not-so-subtle hint about Lyndie and her new beau, RVCA founder Pat Tenore. Danielle explained how happy Lyndie is with Pat, that Andy is proud of Lyndie, and basically that their entire family is just really really happy. Then Axel got on his tippy-toes and adorably announced the winner as "Uncle Griffin".
He's coming? Nah, he's here!
Best Maneuver: Albee Layer, Backside Cork -- What a fucking power move this was by Surfer. My god, it's brilliant! By giving Albee the win, Surfer effectively relieved themselves of any potential blame and put the ball back in Albee’s court. It is perfect and genius and let’s see how Albee handled it.
His acceptance speech went as such: I want to thank Surfer Awards, because it’s kind of our only awards for freesurfing. And it’s really cool and we really appreciate what Surfer does. I also want to say I would have totally rather done Matt’s air. Im sorry [laughs]. I still think he has the two best airs done in surfing. I’m just so fortunate to have the group of friends I do on Maui -- we’re just always pushing each other. We wouldn’t be anywhere without one another. So thank you guys, have a good night.
A safe but still very-Albee response.
Sensing there might be more to this story, I caught up with Mr. Layer after the show to get his non-neutered thoughts on the matter. Before we could start, Albee’s friends interrupted.
“Albeeeeee! What’s going on bra?” Torrey Meister inquired.
“Hold onnn I’m doing an interview!” Albee slurred.
“Why are you always speaking Portuguese? You don’t even know Portuguese,” Torrey Meister joked, in reference to Albee’s mumbling speech.
Albee’s filmer/friend Dan Norkunas joined the conversation with some jabs of his own.
“Why don’t they give me more awards? That’s the real question,” said Dan, mocking Albee’s tendency to fluff his own feathers.
“Get outta here guys,” Albee laughed to his friends. “I’m doing a very professional interview right now!”
“Ask him about how badass he is,” Dan encouraged me.
“Ask him about how he’s doing the QS next year,” Torrey followed up.
Over the course of our 10-minute interview, this would be the first of many comedic interruptions. People generally like Albee, but people really like to fuck with Albee. And he’s a great sport about it.
Anyways, here's our chat.
Stab:Considering everything you said leading up to this night, how do you feel about Surfer giving you the award for best maneuver?
Albee Layer: At first I was kinda baffled that they gave me the award, because I still think that Matt totally deserves to win it, but I hung out with those (Surfer) guys a lot, and they all have a good understanding of surfing, so it just comes down to opinion. Really, that’s all surfing is. Whether you’re talking about the best maneuver or who you think should have made that heat, it really just comes down to people’s opinions. And it’s always gonna be split -- whether it’s 90/10 or 50/50.
At this point a blonde, strong-jawed man approached us: “Hey howzit, my name is Coconut Willie, I taught Albee how to surf. Everything he knows, he learned half of it from me and half of it from his dad. The only reason why he surfs good is because his toes are webbed. Albee used to--"
Albee laughed and said, “Bra, lemme finish this real quick!”
“Yeah yeah, whatever,” Willie responded as he drifted away.
“Sorry about them,” Albee said laughingly, looking back to me now. “But yeah, my argument for Matt winning is that so many kids have done big alleyoops, and a bunch have even done backside airs that are inverted or whatever, while only five double-rotations have ever been completed."
When your friends won't stop roasting you.
When you say double-rotations, are you talking air reverses only or alleyoops too?
Alleyoops are tricky, ‘cause it depends on how you hit it. It’s just so hard to call a spin as a surfer. Every single way you hit a section is different-- it’s never the same twice. Like that double spin that John and Julian and Seabass have done, they’re bottom turning more, so they’re kinda straight up when they’re hitting it, then they’re landing straight up, so it’s technically a 360. It’s a 360 but it’s still kind of a double-spin. It’s weird. It’s hard to call it perfectly. But rotating away from the wave, only three people (Matt, Albee, and Kelly) have done them.
What would you call your air? The backside thingamabob...
I guess I would call it… a single-cork? Like an indy single-cork… I don’t know. It’s hard to call how many spins there were.
Just then a handsome, Gucci-clad Italian interrupted our chat. “Congratulations on winning tonight!” Leo Fioravanti told Albee. “You deserve so much more than what you get.”
"No, no, no, but seriously, you deserve so much more than what you get. Like you won a couple of prizes tonight but you deserve so much more. I can’t believe that a freaking main sponsor does not sponsor you.”
“What do you mean?” Albee laughed. “I have a--”
“I know you have your own brand but,” Leo continued, “it is bullshit (that you don’t get more attention/money/praise)."
“Hey, you want a fin sponsor?” Albee inquired, half-jokingly.
“Ha-ha yeah dude, but seriously, you’re incredible. In the air, in big waves, I’m always watching,” Leo said as he floated toward the bar.
The Italian’s kind words were the first non-sarcastic praise I saw Albee receive that night. While he appreciated the sentiment, you could tell Albee felt a little uncomfortable with this direct adulation.
So how is it for you, getting that sort of response from your peers on top of the Surfer Poll awards? Does one feel better than the other or is it all kind of equal?
I don’t know, there’s a little group of us who when we get a good clip we send it around to another -- it’s basically me, Matt, Kai Barger, and John. So you can kinda tell from their reaction how good it is. It’s cool because I sent my air to John, and usually he’ll just be a dick and say something like, “It could have been higher” or, “You should have rotated more,” because it’s like this fun competitive thing. But with this one John told me “That’s my favorite rotation you do.” So I was like, Really? I didn’t really think about it like that. So I figured it must be cool if he’s saying that [laughs].
Back to bidness.
So maybe there is something to Surfer’s pick. When I look at the nominees, I feel that Matt’s air is incredible simply for what it is, Julian’s air is incredible for its magnitude and perfection, and yours is a bit of a wildcard. Like it’s just... different.
Yeah I guess it’s a little different, but I’ve also done that type of air a few times in each of the last five or six years. And I know Matt’s done it, Chippa’s done it, so it’s kinda weird to me that this one got so much attention out of nowhere. Sometimes I feel like you just kinda get lucky about what things capture people's attention.
Do you think there’s anything to the idea that you putting pressure on Surfer influenced their judging?
No, because by the time I started telling them my opinions, it kinda sounded like they had already made up their minds. Cause I told them, “Guys, you gotta give it to Matt. There’s just no way that’s not the best thing being done right now.” And they were like, “Well what about your trick?” I’m like “It was kinda cool… but like, a double-spin’s better.” So no, I don’t think it played into their decision at all. I think they made their minds up beforehand.
How does Matt feel about this? Is he bummed?
Naaah, I mean he’s a little bummed for sure, he would have loved to have won, but at the same time he has similar goals to me in surfing -- we want people to look back when the tricks we’re doing now start becoming common, and be like, “Oh, it came from those guys.” I think Matt’s on the same path as me where like, that’s our goal. A long time from now, when 540s and corks are being done regularly in competition, they’ll be like “Oh yeah that’s a cork, Albee or Matt started doing that in 2000-whatever.”
So you’re building your legacy through new maneuvers?
Yeah, it sounds weird to say, but I guess it’s like Do new tricks, get remembered. And it’s cool to be acknowledged here and win a Surfer Poll award, but you don’t need that to be remembered.
So you think Matt’s airs will be remembered just as long as yours?
Absolutely. Probably even longer than mine.
Naughty Morgan is the only way to bookend a fantastic evening.