Seth Moniz Talks Us Through That Dirty Pipe Air Section
Seth’s backside full rote got him past Owen Wright in last year’s Pipe Masters. Are the scoring standards changing?
With supporting quotes from John Florence, Kelly Slater, and Noa Deane, we used our Vans Pick-Up platform to declare Pipe and Backdoor as nouveau “air waves”.
“There’s just unlimited power,” said Noa Deane. “The best airs are the ones on the biggest sections.”
“It’s got amplitude and occasionally the perfect wind to hold your board and create the perfect section,” Slater added.
“It will put you so high,” Florence concluded. “It will put you in places you never wanted to be.”
Then the 2018/19 North Shore season came around, and we got to see what they were talking about first-hand.
Barron Mamiya nearly stomped a massive full-roter after a classic Pipe tube (you’ll see that below). Julian Wilson and Gabriel Medina both attempted (and stuck) punts in the 2018 Pipe Masters final (also below). And Seth Moniz used a barrel-air combo to get past Owen Wright in his first-ever CT appearance.
We decided to catch up with Seth, and hear how that one punchy section might change the future of Pipeline surfing.
Stab: In thinking about Pipe as an air section, we can’t get your Pipe Masters wave out of our minds. Would you tell us a little bit about that?
Seth Moniz: That morning at the Pipe Masters, the waves weren’t that good, but there were a few tubes around. I had that heat with Owen Wright, and it was actually pretty slow. That was the first wave I got and there was only like 12 minutes left. So I got the barrel – it was an alright barrel, I just wanted to make sure I made it out – and then I thought, “Oh, should I kick out?” Everybody kicks out after a Pipe barrel to get back out to the lineup. So it was pretty much kick-out or try an air, and I decided to try an air.
I think that’s the future of Pipe surfing – just finishing off with a big air. Some people think it’s unnatural to do an air at Pipe, especially since you’re on a bigger board, but to me it’s exciting. Pipe will always be about the barrel, but there’s no reason you can’t add some progression to the mix… especially when it’s only like six feet.
And how big was the board you did that on?
I was riding a 6’2.
Do you feel pretty comfortable trying airs on bigger boards?
No, actually. A lot of people came up to me after and were like, “You must try those all the time, you looked so natural,” but I rarely try airs on bigger boards. I feel like in contests, stuff like that just comes out of you. Look at what Griffin did at Haleiwa a few years back. If that was a freesurf, no way he was going for that. Or I don’t know, maybe he would have [laughs].
But I was riding a pretty small board for that day too. I think normally guys are on 6’4s and 6’6s when Pipe’s that size. I’m a lot smaller than most of the other guys too. Especially Owen. I like to ride shorter boards, though, I think that’s the new school way of riding Pipe. I think Barron’s been on 6’2s when it’s maxed-out Pipe (see below). I don’t know how he does it. When it’s maxed-out I’ll be riding my 6’6. But it’s all about that paddling power. If you have good paddling power, I guess you can ride a 6’2 out there.
Yeah, and then when you get a good end section, you must feel way more comfortable on a smaller board.
Yeah exactly. John’s riding tiny boards too, it seems like. And you’ve seen what he can do out there (see video above). But yeah, if you’re on a smaller board, the wind on the North Shore is perfect for airs on the lefts. That’s why John and Barron are both so good at backside punts.
And what about the ramp itself at Pipe? It seems like once it goes into that sandbar section it gets really steep and sick.
Yeah, you just come flying out of the barrel with so much speed, and you just get hooked into a crazy wedge. Sometimes it’s too gnarly, like just a sucking-up barrel coming at you from Ehukai, but my wave it was kinda just a perfect launch pad with a nice landing. And you’ll get those cushion landings sometimes. I think Balaram a few years back did a pretty sick combo – he got a roll-in tube then straight into an air reverse. Pretty sick.
And then on Kona wind days, Backdoor looks pretty mental for airs too.
Oh yeah. Backdoor, when the wind is good – that’s one of the best air waves in the world. I think John’s done of his big airs in his movies out there. It’s basically a wave that wants to barrel, but when it gets the Kona winds it offers this perfect, steep ramp. It’s really good for flips and alleyoops.
Do you ever paddle out at Pipe on smaller days just to do airs?
When the swell is super north, a lot of guys will go out to surf Backdoor and do some turns, but the left actually has a really sick ramp. I don’t go out there too much when it’s like that, but the ramps are definitely there if you want them.
We saw Gabriel and Julian both doing airs in the Pipe Masters final this year. Julian landed a full-rotation, but it wasn’t enough to get past Medina’s Backdoor tubes. Do you think airs should be taken more seriously in “barrel” competitions, or are they fairly judged at the moment?
It just depends on the day. If it’s bombing Pipe, I don’t really think airs should be scored super high. It’s a hard decision, because you get those guys that are getting blown out of 10-foot barrels, and then how do you compare that to a sick air on the end bowl? The barrel will always be the precedent at Pipe, but I think airs can add to that. Excellent surfing is excellent surfing, and I think that definitely includes airs.
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