Stab Magazine | Can We Stop Pretending That There Are "Right" And "Wrong" Names For Airs In Surfing

'Vacation Presented By Monster Energy' Is Live Now


Can We Stop Pretending That There Are “Right” And “Wrong” Names For Airs In Surfing

Stab High is a petri-dish for misnomers. 

cinema // Feb 19, 2020
Words by stab
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Ask ten highly knowledgeable surfers to identify every air in the video above, and you will receive ten wildly different lists of tricks.

There are two main issues when it comes to naming surf maneuvers (and particularly those in the air). First is the frontside/backside paradox.  

According to skating and snowboard (surfing’s two nearest relatives), the direction of an air is determined by which way a person spins in relation to their stance. So if a skater/snowboarder turns “inward” (turning their back to the target landing), it’s considered a backside spin. If they turn “outward” (with their body opening to the target landing), it’s considered frontside. 

In surfing, our forms of “backside” and “frontside” are determined by the direction of the wave in relation to our stance. If we’re standing with our chest facing the wall, that’s frontside. Back to the wall, backside. So for as long as most of us can remember, if you do an air on a backside wave, it’s a backside air, and vice versa. 

The problem is that this “surf rule” can directly contradict those of snow/skate. If, for instance, a surfer is going frontside on a wave and does an “alleyoop” (rotating toward the horizon rather than the beach), this would be called a “backside alleyoop” in snow/skate, because the direction of the spin is inward. In surfing, however, it’s considered a frontside alleyoop because the direction of the wave takes precedence over the direction of the spin (though skaters and snowboarders continue to thumb their noses at this fact). 

The second issue is the great spin discrepancy. 

When a snowboarder or skater a rider hits a ramp, their degree of rotation is based off an assumption that they launch at a 12-o’clock position in relation to the kicker. So if you hit a quarterpipe, spin once, and come down the same way you went up, that’s a 360. If you do an extra spin and land facing forward (in relation to your momentum), that’s a 540. 

But surfers do not hit their ramps at 12 o’clock. It’s more like 1:30 or 10:30, depending on the direction they’re going. So for a full-rotation air-reverse, when a surfer lands with their nose facing the beach, some call it a 360, others a 540. 

While one side is clearly more right than the other, both look like assholes for arguing it in the first place. So let’s just agree to drop this, alright? It’s a chop hop or a full-ro, and that’s final. 

And one last point to drive home how ridiculous all of this is. 

If we were to use the skate/snow method of measuring spin, wouldn’t a 90s-style surf alleyoop (where you land with fins facing the beach) technically be a “straight air”? And would that make it frontside or backside?

The world will never know!


Buy tickets for Stab High, Melbourne here.


Comments are a Stab Premium feature. Gotta join to talk shop.

Already a member? Sign In

Want to join? Sign Up


Most Recent


Watch: ‘Vacation’ Presented By Monster Energy

Stab Highway winners visit Kandui Resort.

Mar 30, 2023

The Stab Interview: Shaun Manners

On signing with Former, landing the cover of Surfing World and TSJ, his Cult of…

Mar 30, 2023


Why You Should Never Not Paddle Out

How an impromptu 30 minute session made a Jamaican surfer $1,000 richer.

Mar 30, 2023


“I’ve Had Two Concussions Surfing Here”

Chronicles of a Newport shore-hound.

Mar 29, 2023

Rio Waida Has Been Surfing Onshore, Oversized Bells Alone

...and he might not go home all year.

Mar 29, 2023


John Florence Releases Long-Form Piece On The 243km Great Ocean Squiggle

Tourism Victoria going, ‘he just did our job for us’.

Mar 29, 2023


Japanese Rice Farmer Enjoys Frightening Sumatran West Bowls

Kaito Ohashi is on his best behavior.

Mar 28, 2023

Watch: When People Like This Speak, We Listen

Raw, extended conversations with Clyde Aikau and Eddie Aikau winner Luke Shepardson.

Mar 28, 2023


Diamond Tail = Diamond Hands?

We'll explain everything in the Rusty D-Min Joyride.

Mar 27, 2023

Behold Australia’s Nine & NZ’s Two Challenger Series Qualifiers*

May the Southern Cross smile upon you at Snapper.

Mar 27, 2023

An Unordinary Life Structured Around A Tidal Bore

Long Read: The life and times of Pete Beachy.

Mar 26, 2023


Watch: ‘Haiku’

Scenes From a Remote Reality, by Vans & Karina Rozunko

Mar 25, 2023

Sun Room: The Overnight Success Of A Young Surf Band

What's it like touring the world and living off of McDonald's?

Mar 25, 2023

How Surfers Get Paid, Episode 6

An instructional manual for the modern professional surfer

Mar 23, 2023


Caity Simmers — Extreme Competitive Surf Vlogger

Cool is chemical.

Mar 23, 2023

Globe Pulls Out Of The Apparel Game

…and, Taj Burrow and Dion Agius are now looking for new main sponsors.

Mar 22, 2023

Owen Wright Announces Retirement From Competitive And Heavy-Water Surfing

But will surf final CT event at Bells.

Mar 22, 2023


Fancy An Ale, Some Good Music, And A Bunch Of Tubes?

Ballet's minimalist full-length will satiate your needs.

Mar 22, 2023