Stab Magazine | Poll: Is This A Make?

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Poll: Is This A Make?

Italo’s acrobatic recovery raises questions about the WSL’s ambiguous “landing” criteria. 

style // May 1, 2018
Words by Stab
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Back in 2015, which, if memory serves, was the beginning of the Western World’s downward spiral, Kelly Slater surfed the most highly publicized wave we’ve ever seen at Lower Trestles. 

The wave featured a full-rotation backside air reverse that was undeniably botched, in the sense that Kelly’s feet became disconnected from his board, forcing him into a prone position before popping back up to his feet and finishing the ride. This wave, which earned Kelly his now-infamous 4.17 at the Hurley Lowers Pro, set off a widespread debate amongst international surf fans. 

Please watch below.

Much to the older, less informed viewers’ chagrin, Kelly’s clumsy spin was discounted by the WSL judges on account of the fact that he fell.

“Now if you do the most amazing aerial the world’s ever seen — which I’m not saying this one is — and you land on your belly, it’s an incomplete maneuver,” ex-WSL Head Judge, Richie Porta, said on the matter. “Everyone’s got to realize it was an incomplete maneuver. It’s worth nothing. And the surfers all know that. There’s no dissension amongst the surfers about that score — I guarantee it.”

And Kelly agreed. He had no problem with the score and found the internet outrage slightly confusing.

Part of me has to think that this was only a big deal because it was Slater. If the same situation had applied to Gabby, Filipe, or John, these same older surf fans, some of them highly distinguished in the field, would have written off the maneuver as a fluke or a flail. But because it’s Kelly, their lifetime hero, and living proof that aging does not limit performance, these folks were up in arms. 

But other instances may not be as black-and-white as the one referenced above. There are some moments in surfing where it’s truly debatable whether a surfer made a barrel, completed their turn, or stomped an air. Because the ocean is such a dynamic playing field, it’s hard to make blanket rules that can cover every possible scenario.

For instance:

How far must a surfer ride out of a barrel before it’s considered complete? Like, if they’re fully visible but immediately guillotined by the oncoming section, does that count? 

How much of the surfer’s board must extend out of whitewater after landing an air for it to be deemed a make? Three-quarters? Just the tip?

And if a surfer performs a Clayback — the half-air, half-layback maneuver made famous by Mr. Marzo — wherein their back lag folds outward, leaving them half-sitting on their board before regaining an upright position with the help of their hand, does that count?

Let’s watch a recent example and decide.

A very fine line to tread, no?

Part of me thinks that because Italo both fell on his thigh and needed the help of his back arm to regain composure, this should be deemed an “incomplete maneuver”, but at the same time it all happened in such a fast and controlled manner that these affectations seemed like planned components of the turn. All of which is to say I’m passionately ambivalent on the matter. 

With any luck, the current World #1 will pull a similar maneuver at the upcoming Oi Rio Pro, forcing the WSL judges to take an official stance on this existential quandary.

But until then we’ll leave it up to you:


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