Stab Magazine | Here's The 20-Minute Surf Thriller You Need To See Today
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Here’s The 20-Minute Surf Thriller You Need To See Today

In a supplemental interview with Questionable Decisions’ co-star, Albee Layer explains whether he prefers tubes or airs, what it takes to scare him, and why he thinks the judges screwed up at the 2018 Pe’ahi Challenge. 

cinema // Mar 30, 2018
Words by stab
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Yesterday a hot piece of surf film landed in our laps.

Questionable Decisions, a 20-minute thriller featuring Albee Layer and Torrey Meister, surprised us not only with its surfing theatrics but also by dabbling in real-life drama. Included in the film are existential quandaries, potentially life or death choices, and the best non-Jaws barrel of Albee’s life. But before we give too much away, we recommend you watch the film (above) then read our exclusive Albee interview (below).  

Stab: This film is more than just 20-minutes of surf porn. It’s an actual story with plot twists and edge-of-your-seat moments. Was that intentional or just a product of the situation?
Albee Layer: Even going into that trip, we were thinking “Let’s not make it just another surf edit.” There’s just too many of those, I think. So the plan was to just film a bunch of funny B-roll moments, but this story ended up playing out in front of us, so we went with it.  

And the story was, essentially, that Portugal was meant to be firing at the same time the Jaws event was set to run. And when I say Portugal, I really mean The Cave—a wave you seem to thoroughly enjoy. 
Man, I love that wave more than almost anywhere. It’s just amazing, it’s like… people charge so fucking hard now, you have to get pretty crazy to get away from the crowds these days. That’s one of the few spots that’s just messed up enough so you don’t have to deal with a bunch of people in the lineup. 

Cave 0000559F

Fact: Albee would rather deal with exposed rocks than a few bobbing heads.

So that’s the allure of it? It’s not that the Cave is perfect wave (obviously), it’s that it’s fucked up enough that most people don’t want to go out there?
Well I mean, you can get barreled. Barreling waves are the hardest to find uncrowded on planet Earth. Even Jaws now. There are a hundred freaking people out. That was the original allure of Jaws, like, I can get the best barrel of my life and there’s not people. Then that got blown to shit [laughs]. That’s why me and Torrey went to find a wave where we can get barreled and scare ourselves a little, but scare ourselves in regards to the wave itself, not the crowd or the boards flying over the falls. The Cave is the dream wave to push myself, because if I mess up it’s my fault–not some outside force.  

Does it take a lot to scare you at this point?
Uhh, I don’t want to sound like I’m super macho or like nothing scares me, because I still definitely get scared when I’m surfing, but yeah, I’ve noticed that it’s a lot harder to replicate that feeling of my first big day at Ho’okipa or the first time I went out at Jaws. Those feelings might never even be recreated for me, I’m starting to realize. Which is kind of a bummer in a way, but yeah, I have to push it pretty far to get a similar sensation nowadays.  

I grew up on the east coast where it’s all beach breaks, so for me, surfing over reef is terrifying. Having grown up on Maui, where the rock/reef dance is a daily occurrence, are you at all deterred by the Cave’s emerged rocks?
It’s definitely something you think about. Dusty’s injury happened just after we got back from Portugal, and it’s like damn, that could have happened to me or Torrey easily. You know, or worse. So it’s there. It’s definitely in your mind. You can always fuck up, hit your head, and die. I don’t forget that. 

ALBEE TORREY EUROPE DSC06446

A moment of contemplation.

And when that is a realistic threat, how do you avoid hesitating on the drop? It’s clear you need to be 100 perecent committed out there. 
I’m not like… crazy when I surf these waves. I pull back a LOT. I don’t think you can surf those waves for a long time if you are crazy. I see it at Jaws all the time. Guys come there and rip for like two years, and then they’re just done because they got too fucked up. Then you look at someone like Shane, who is really selective in his approach, and he’ll probably be out there forever. You end up getting more waves in your lifetime like that. 

We obviously see you doing tons of airs, but it’s not as common that we see you go barrel-hunting. In your mind, is getting barreled the most fun thing in surfing, or are airs more fulfilling?
I always used to say that barrels are better, but they’re totally different things to me now. Barrels are almost more fun… but landing a new trick might be more rewarding. It’s weird because with barrels, especially at a place like Cave or Jaws, you can get really hurt, or even die in a worst case scenario. No one’s ever died doing an air, but I beat up my body more repetitively when I’m trying airs. So that makes it really fulfilling when I stick one. 

In Questionable Decisions you get a really messed up barrel at the Cave, which you described as “the best non-Jaws wave” of your life. How does that compare to, say, landing a new air?
Ummm… it’s not as good [laughs]. Honestly, landing a new trick takes a lot more effort, whereas a big barrel is a lot of being in the right place at the right time. With the two or three new airs I’ve landed, I just had to try that much harder to do it, plus there’s the novelty factor of being the first person ever to do something, which is obviously never going to be the case with a barrel. 

ALBEE Portgual SURF 3

A ‘standard’ alleyoop hardly tickles Albee’s teats these days.

Makes sense! Now, the core dilemma in this film was whether or not you could score the Cave AND make it to your Jaws heat on time, which, luckily, you did. You then advanced through that first heat in an unspectacular fashion, which gave you the opportunity to surf in the best Jaws heat of all time. Tell me about that epic semifinal. 
Oh man, Kai, Hippo, Ian and I were sitting in the channel during the first semifinal just watching these perfect tubes fire through west bowl, and we just knew it was on. But because the waves were so good, I think the judges kind of messed up the scale in our heat. They gave Kai a 9 really early on, then Hippo got a 10 that was probably 5 points better than that, then Ian got a 10 that was six points better than that. Coming in, I knew I had a couple good ones but I figured if it was close, I would probably be the guy who got knocked out because I’m such a dick all the time [laughs]. But when they said I got fourth, I was like, ‘Holy shit, were these guys really ripping that hard?’ I’ve gotta say though, having watched the replays a couple hundred times, I definitely still think I beat Kai Lenny [laughs]. I tell him that all the time though, so it’s all good.  

Albee and Torrey’s movie, Questionable Decisions, is premiering tonight at Single Fin in Mission Beach, CA. The two stars will be bartending throughout the evening, so feel free to stop by and say what’s up. 

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