Stab Magazine | What Would A WSL Air Tour Look Like?

What Would A WSL Air Tour Look Like?

This could happen in 2018. 

news // Mar 9, 2018
Words by stab
Reading Time: 5 minutes

As mentioned by our Gossiper in Chief this morning, Stab has been informed that a WSL-sanctioned Air Tour, figure-headed by ex-punt series champion and 11-year CT vet, Josh Kerr, may very well be in the works. And how cool would that be?

WSL fans often complain about the lack of progressive surfing in heats and/or the inconsistency of scoring technical maneuvers. An Air Tour would help to offset these issues by pinning air against air — not air against a combination of squeaky snaps. And I can’t think of a better leader for the Tour than the venerable Mr. Kerr, an aerial master and all-around likable gent.

Josh has slyly hinted at the prospect of an Air Tour in the past, both on his Instagram and in a Surfer Mag interview, where he was asked:

You referenced bringing back the airshows on an Instagram post the other day. Do you think there’s actually potential for a revamped airshow tour these days?
Josh: Totally. I’ve tried to put together a deck already. I’m definitely gonna be an advocate for trying to make it happen.

Unfortunately neither Josh nor the WSL cared to comment about the rumored tour (from which you can draw your own conclusions), but let’s assume for the sake of this article that it’s happening. In which case, what would the WSL Air Tour look like? Where would it go? Who would “qualify”? Etc.

Troy will be there.

Air show history

Before we move forward, it’s important to look back at the history of this short-lived branch of surfing competitions. Here’s a snippet of the “Air Show” page from Matt Warshaw’s Encyclopedia of Surf.

Air Show — A specialized surfing event, popular in the 1990s and ’00s, where competitors are judged solely on aerial maneuvers; conceived and developed in 1996 by Surfing magazine senior editor Skip Snead, with help from aerialist Shawn “Barney” Barron of Santa Cruz.

…The first aerial-only contest ran as an adjunct to the 1996 Cold Water Classic event in Santa Cruz, and was won by Shawn Barron. Over the next 16 months, six aerial contests were linked together as the original Surfing Magazine Airshow (SMAS) tour, worth a total of $10,000, with aerial pioneer Christian Fletcher topping the ratings at the end of the season.

Screen Shot 2018 03 08 at 10.22.20 PM

Eric McHenry, 2002 Air Show, Steamer Lane. Photo: EOS

…The crowd-pleasing SMAS series grew quickly, and in 1999 the tour was underwritten by Vans shoes. Copycat airshow events and tours soon followed, including the National Scholastic Surfing Association O’Neill Airshow Series (an amateur version of the SMAS) and Surfing Australia’s Quiksilver Airshow Series (which Josh Kerr won in 2004/2005).

…As a rule, Airshow competitors were judged on the combined scores of their two best aerial movies; all others parts of the ride were not counted.

Read more here.

Screen Shot 2018 03 08 at 9.37.56 PM

Aaron Cormican, 2003 Air Show, Oceanside. Photo: EOS

How would/show Air Tour events run?

Assuming the WSL takes a similar approach to the above-mentioned series, the Air Tour would include a certain number of aerially-inclined guys from around the world, who use their freakish talents to garner scores for punts. We can only speculate about the competitive system they’ll employ, but if it were up to me they’d run 4-man, 30-minute, priority-based sessions with each surfer counting one air per heat (to maximize wave count and watchability). Top two move on to the next round until you have a winner.  

How would qualification work, and who would compete?

Qualification for the WSL Air Tour would likely be similar to that of the BWT. What I mean by that is, I don’t see the WSL holding an Air Tour QS, but rather they’ll choose guys based on their aerial performances in freesurfs/surf videos. It’s an imperfect science, but it’s probably the best option they have.

In terms of who would actually compete — that’s a tricky one. Many of the surfers you might consider “air guys” are also anti-establishment to their core, meaning that surfing WSL-sanctioned events would go against their aesthetic/morals. Some of the surfers in that category include Craig Anderson, Dion Agius, Noa Deane and Dane Reynolds.

But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe a WSL Air Tour as led by Josh Kerr would be enticing enough for these guys to forgo their Fuck The Man mindsets and slide into a singlet. I mean, at the very least they could get Albee Layer. Despite how much shit he talks about the WSL, specifically about their questionable judging and rules, the kid loves to compete in anything other than standard surf events. Big Wave, Wavepool, Air Show — Albee will be there. Probably Meola too.

As far as whether CT surfers would be able to compete, I’m not really sure how the WSL should handle that. Obviously many of the world’s best air guys reside on Top-34, but to have CT guys on the Air Tour would almost defeat its purpose. This is meant to be a totally separate event system — not some little sideshow or expression session. Also, because of their devotion to the true Tour, CT guys would likely not go as big/hard/progressive as non-CTers would in the Air Show events for fear of injury. But it’s a tricky one to decide, because who wouldn’t want to see John, Gabriel, and Filipe going loopy in an all-aerial competition?

Screen Shot 2018 03 08 at 9.48.45 PM

If Gabby did this in normal competition, imagine what he’d bring to an Air Tour. Photo: WSL

Where would/should the events be held?

Another interesting aspect is where the WSL would choose to hold these events. Air-positive conditions rely on many factors, including but not limited to: size (not too big but not too small), wind (anything but hard-offshore or in the same direction of the wave), and steepness of sections (steep enough to launch off, not steep enough to break your ankles). With all of those factors in mind, the Championship Tour stops actually offer a lot of good options, and budget-wise, it’d make sense to combine these events.

Here are some of the CT stops that would make for good air events:

Screen Shot 2018 03 08 at 9.45.02 PM

West Oz, duh…. Photo: Sloane/WSL

  • Snapper (held at Dbah)
  • Margaret River (held almost anywhere, in the afternoon)
  • Brazil (held wherever)
  • Bali (held at Keramas or Canguu)
  • Lemoore (assuming the new version has an air section)
  • France (held wherever)
  • Hawaii (held at Rockies or OTW)

Who would win a 2018 Air Tour?

Assuming CT surfers could NOT compete, I think it’s hard to look past Chippa Wilson. He’s incredibly progressive/talented, and by all accounts the dude doesn’t fall. I’d love to see how many different airs he could pull in a 30-minute session.

ScaleWidthWyIxMjAwIl0 Chippa Wilson Matt Obrien

Yeah, he’s a freak. Photo: Matt O’Brien

I’d also love to see an Air Tour in 2018. Let’s make this happen, Josh & WSL.  


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