Archy was the original aerial phenomenon, and a pioneer in the early California air scene. I remember being a grom seeing all of his old MCD ads in magazines where he would just be throwing huge no-grab, straight airs, and thinking they were so sick. He and Martin Potter were both on that level; they approached waves with that really raw, attacking style. I think Pottz got sucked into surfing the Tour and couldn’t focus as much on his airs, but Archy just kept going for it all the time and pushed the limits with his freesurfing.
Christian and Archy were part of the same early California air scene, but I think Christian really took it further by bringing variety to his airs. I remember seeing him do a Judo Air for the first time and thinking it was the sickest thing I had ever seen in my life. He also created that whole punk style in surfing that just screamed, “Fuck everything else, I’m just gonna do airs.” Back home in Australia, when I was like 11 or 12 years old, he really changed the way I looked at surfing.
I think Ratboy was the next guy to really push aerial surfing, especially when the whole air contest circuit got started, because he fully dominated those events. He was probably the first guy I can think of who was just incredibly consistent with his airs. He would do really lofty straight airs as well as big rotations, and he had every grab on lock.
Dane has always had a lot of versatility in his airs with grabs and rotations, but he brought a lot of power to the air game as well. He’s always had a really strong style that was based on lots of speed and big bottom turns that made his airs look explosive. When he was an up-and-comer, he brought about this transition in surfing where just being good at airs wasn’t enough—you had to be good at everything else as well. There are a lot of guys who can do full rotations now, but no one brings as much power to progressive surfing as Dane.
Right now Chippa is definitely the most technical aerial surfer in the world, without a doubt. And he probably lands his airs more consistently than anyone in the world as well. I remember when he was about 19 or so, he was definitely doing some solid airs, but something happened when he was about 20 or 21 where his air game just got ridiculous. It’s no accident; over the last few years he’s gone on a lot of trips to good waves and worked really hard at getting certain tricks dialed in. It’s phenomenal to go surfing with him and see what he does firsthand, because no one else can do what he does on a wave. He’s leading the pack.