Stephanie Gilmore Reveals Her Surf Ranch Tube Secrets
“If I feel like I’m floating up the face I can kind of push it back down, and with my right hand in the wave it’s just a resistance game.”
If you were watching closely at the Surf Ranch Pro, you might have noticed a new frontside tuberiding trend among the world’s best – one where the surfer shifts forward on his or her board and their leading hand the deck, either beyond or beside the front foot.
From my notes, surfers named Italo, Carissa, Filipe, and Kelly all partook in this new-age, or perhaps parochial, trend, but surely there were more.
But in the current world of professional surfing, where the world’s best are doing flips and 1420 rotations, one is forced to wonder how a new tuberiding trend comes to be. How is it that Kelly Slater, the 11x World Champion who is now 46, has in recent months added a new element to his barrel riding repertoire.
It takes a really, really convincing effort from a surfer of similar prestige.
Enter Stephanie Gilmore.
The 30-year-old Aussie was groomed on Coolangatta’s right sand points – waves which, on their days, can offer Lemoore-esque tubes with the added bonus of 400 human buoys and a torrential current.
Steph’s first venture to the pool was a masterclass in aquatic burrowing. On one of her first waves, the soon-to-be 7x World Champ sat in the tube for a full 30-seconds, using her almost-cheater-five, tripod stance to add both style and efficiency.
It was this incredible wave, plus all of the others Steph has ridden there in the years following, that has forced surfers like Filipe and even Slater to alter their tube stance to mimic that of Steph’s.
In a press conference this May, Slater admitted that Steph rides the pool’s tube better than anyone, and after going for a full cheater-five tube in the Surf Ranch Pro, Filipe revealed live on the webcast it was, “Steph, for sure,” who’d inspired his stylish approach.
And if we may backtrack to just a few months ago, when 20 elite surfers put on an exhibition wavepool event called the Founders’ Cup, Stab performed a brief and drunken (on our end) interview with the Queen of the Cylinder herself, focusing primarily on her unique tube stance.
The interview was forgotten by morning and has since collected dust on my phone’s voice memo app, but seeing the likes of Carissa, Italo, Filipe, and Slater utilize Steph’s unmistakable technique this week reminded me of our inebriated chat, and of how badly I had to pee throughout our entire conversation on account of the drinks, but couldn’t because you don’t get a second chance with Steph. So there I stood firmly crossing one leg over the other like a fucking cartoon character as Steph gave some surprising and helpful insight about the tube.
Just make sure to read this in its proper context, being the Founders’ Cup VIP dinner this past May.
Stab: Steph, I sat on this very bench and watched 20 of the world’s best surfers ride the pool for eight hours today, and still I think you navigate the tube better than everyone. What is it you have that others don’t?
Hmmm… maybe flexible ankles? [laughs]
But it’s more than that. It seems like others don’t realize the importance of shuffling forward when tuberiding, because it allows you to control your speed significantly better. Would you agree with that?
Oooh I’m telling you my secrets now… but yes, 100%. I’ve noticed especially in the wavepool that there’s so much shifting going on in my surfing, and I think a lot of surfers are scared to do that, because they don’t want to come out of the barrel and maybe blow a section because their feet aren’t in the right spot.
But I think it’s part of the adventure to shuffle your feet around and, with a bit of smoke and mirrors, make it look seamless.
What are other people doing wrong?
In the barrel you see a lot of people try to stall on their back foot, and in doing so their boards tend to get pulled up the face. The most stable stance you can have is where your arm closest to the wave is jammed in the wall and your front foot is right around your shaper’s logo. I just I feel so stable there, I can accelerate or wash speed at any time. I think the wavepool is so good because you can actually pay attention and notice the little subtleties, whereas in the ocean it’s such a fleeting moment.
You aren’t able to consciously tuberide in the ocean?
I mean at Snapper and Greenmount I’ve had long barrels, but never one where I’ve been actively thinking about what I was doing right in the moment. Out here you can be totally aware of what your arms are doing, how far up your foot is, what you’re looking at. And those things make a big difference.
Unfortunately none of this applies to my backhand in the pool. My backhand sucks [laughs]. I’ve got a lot of learning to do.
Not to be sacrilegious or anything, but I think Kelly could actually learn a thing from you in regards to the foot shuffling. He tends to stand back on his board in the barrel here.
Yeah, I think because of his foot injury he’s babying it a little, and I’ve watched him a lot out here and he does shuffle around too, but I also think whoever’s using Fu Wax – I mean, nothing against Fu Wax, I think it’s awesome for aerials and it’s maybe a great wax – but I don’t use it because I can’t move my feet. When I’m stuck in a position it really stresses me out because I can’t naturally move my feet where I want them to go, and I find myself in awkward body positions because of it.
So what do you use?
I use Sex Wax. I mean I basically use whatever’s lying around, I don’t really care [laughs]. But that was just something when I tried Fu, in the barrel, in certain moments I was too stuck and I was like, Ah, this is weird.
And you were talking earlier about how you use your hand in the barrel, which I believe was in reference to your back (right) hand sticking into the wall to control your speed, but I noticed you do something unique with your left hand as well – placing it on your rail or deck to, I assume, further stabilize your ride. Is that right, and is this a conscious effort or something that happens naturally?
Ummm, it just kinda happened. When I first came to the pool it was a barrel the entire wave, like a full 45 seconds… in the barrel. So there’s a lot of time to play around in there and try new techniques. And I didn’t really realize it until I saw the footage after, but then I was like, Oh yeah, I do use that hand on the deck.
I think the hand being there is just a check for if I’m going up the face a little bit. If I feel like I’m floating up I can kind of push it back down, and with my right hand in the wave it’s just a resistance game. I don’t really know, it kinda just goes off feeling, but I presume that’s what I’m doing. It’s like a third leg.
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