INTERVIEW: Josh Kerr – Aerialist Supremo

We were flying along the shoreline in Cabo on a WaveRunner doing in
excess of 40 miles per hour when Josh Kerr veered our ski hard to the
right and launched over a feathering closeout. Without slowing down we
bank off the whitewater on the next wave, sending buckets of spray off
the top. Now we were riding the wave; leaning into the bottom-turns and
banking off the top repeatedly before blasting over the back, mere
seconds before the heaving shorebreak wave closed itself out. As we
float in those few seconds of speedy silence before the ski crashes back
to the water I realize that Josh is not only driving the ski the same
way that he surfs, but that the bastard is deliberately trying to throw
me off the back. This he manages to do more than once before we head
back to the pool and order a Boogie Board full of Pina Coladas. Feeling
safe again and with aching limbs it was time I had a serious chat with
the 22-year-old Australian aerial maestro.

SURFERMAG.COM: Nice driving on the ski, Kersy.

JOSH KERR: Ah yeah, it’s so much fun isn’t it? I love getting that thing
in the air.

SURFERMAG.COM:Speaking of which, would you primarily consider yourself an aerialist,or are you more rounded than that?

JOSH KERR: As a surfer I’d like to think that I am more rounded than that, but I
would definitely say that my strong point is airs. As for the ski,
well…

SURFERMAG.COM:A lot of guys, particularly those who can’t do airs, argue that theaerial movement is breaking away from traditional surfing. How do youfeel about that? Is aerial surfing a legitimate form of surfing or is itan ugly stepchild?

JOSH KERR: I think it is definitely an ugly stepchild when it’s done on it’s own,
like when you see guys who completely ignore traditional surfing and do
only airs, then it can be pretty ugly to watch guys surf a wave down the
line and just pump their way past a hundred good turn sections just
waiting for a punt. But I think that aerials have so much to do with
today’s surfing, that you need to be able to do them. You are not going
to be a good surfer these days if you can’t do a turn, then an air and
finish off with another turn or air. It’s definitely the future of
surfing, you know? Connecting turns and airs altogether in one fluent
motion.

SURFERMAG.COM:You have just recently started competing on the WQS; can you tell us
about that?

JOSH KERR: Yeah, I’ve just started and I’m pretty mellow on it at the moment. Just
gonna give it a go and hopefully have a good end to the year on the
European leg, on all the little beachies and just try to punt my way
through some heats.

SURFERMAG.COM:With regard to contest surfing, does being an aerialist hinder or help
you?

JOSH KERR: I think it actually helps you in a way because yeah, I’m so confident in
my airs, I know I can do an air whenever I want, but it’s good to go on
the ’QS and show other people that I’m not just all about airs. I think
it helps me especially when I do a good turn or something and people are
like, “Oh, I didn’t know he could do a turn like that!” But there is
such a movement with young guys today towards aerial surfing, you know.
I mean I only did it because I didn’t want to do the Junior series in
Australia and hassle out with all the other guys. I knew I could have
done it, but the air shows were giving such good money when I was like
16 or 17. I was making like tens of thousands of dollars in air shows,
so why would I want to do little Junior series contests?

SURFERMAG.COM:Absolutely, but in that regard, do you see yourself becoming a seasoned
WCT campaigner at any stage in your career, or would you rather just
take a Rastovich-style approach and simply be a paid free-surfer?

JOSH KERR: Uh, I want both [laughs]. I don’t wanna be just like a Peterson Rosa on
the ’CT just breeding off it, because I don’t breed off competition. But
yeah, I’d love to be on the ’CT just to be at the great locations and I
know I could do well once I’m on there, but as for the ’QS, I know in my
heart that I want to be on the ’CT badly enough to just deal with the
’QS for now and hopefully till I get to the ’CT. But yeah, it’s
definitely my life dream to always be a free-surfer. I mean I’ll always
do trips and will keep trying to push my free-surfing for sure.

SURFERMAG.COM:Despite there being a slight change of heart lately, the WCT is
primarily surfed on the wave rather than above it. Is that because of
the judging criteria or is it because of the wave locations with events
being held at places like Teahupoo?

JOSH KERR: Ah, it’s wave location for sure. I mean you see that when they get to
Japan and you watch the heats, the guys who are getting through are
Parko, Taj and Andy, all the guys who are doing explosive moves with
their fins out and airs and that sort of thing. Chopes [Teahupoo]? I
can’t see you doing an air out there [laughs]. Yeah, but the guys on the
’CT are so well-rounded they get can get barreled on the big stuff and
do the turns. I mean not every wave you can do airs on, because even if
it’s small and the wind is wrong you can’t do an air then. But you
definitely have to be well-rounded to get through heats on the WCT, that
is for sure.

SURFERMAG.COM: Why are the Aussies so good?

JOSH KERR: I think it has a lot to do with when you are a kid in Australia, the
waves you get to surf are so much better than a lot of places in the
world. And you have a different upbringing for your surfing because it’s
a total lifestyle in Australia. You live and breathe surfing in
Australia and when you are a kid you look up to surfers so much because
they are like superstars, and even people that don’t surf know who the
top guys are, they are like household names. So when you are a kid, you
are way more pumped to get good and be there yourself. Also in Australia
we have the boardriders clubs, which America doesn’t have; those are
like surfing families and it just pushes you so much.

SURFERMAG.COM:Can you tell us a bit about your boardriders clubs?

JOSH KERR: Well basically it’s just every beach has its own boardriders club that
has competitions once a month and when you are a grom it’s just like you
look forward to it so much. I mean, I still enjoy going down there and
just watching these kids improving and improving, just feeding off each
other. And then from there, it’s the Junior series and the guys on the
Junior series are doing pretty much the same thing.

But I guess, getting back to question about why the Aussies are
so good, in Australia a lot of people are going to be surfing no matter
what, whereas I guess in the States you can’t get money off the dole
like we do at home and maybe people in the States are worrying about
things like, “Well maybe I should be doing school just in case my
surfing doesn’t work out. So I can actually still make some money.” But
in Australia you are not thinking about school because you can always
just live off the government and surf every day! [Laughs.]

SURFERMAG.COM:Are there more
hot young Aussies coming up through the ranks who are going to make it?

JOSH KERR: Well when it comes to making it, there are so many guys who are gonna
surf good, but when it comes to making it, it comes down to mental
strength, which doesn’t show until another couple of years. In a couple
years it will only show who will be making it. It will show who is
getting on the piss every night and getting blind and who is getting on
the piss once a week and actually still surfing every day. [Laughs.]

SURFERMAG.COM:How serious are you with your surfing in that respect? Are you tucked in
bed early every night to make sure you are up for every dawnie?

JOSH KERR: Yeah, I actually am that person now, thanks to a lucky lady of mine that
actually turned me that way. I was definitely on the wrong track for a
while. But when I was drinking I was happy to get wasted and surf every
day. I was still surfing every day because I get weird if I don’t surf
for a couple days. Even my chick now, she hates me if I haven’t surfed
for a while because I get all fridgy and just wanna start fights or
something. But yeah, I’m serious as hell right now. I’m pretty focused,
but having said that, I love a beer and I will never will let that go;
it’s just a part of me.

SURFERMAG.COM:Well the Aussies are notorious for enjoying a couple cold ones with some
mates aren’t they?

JOSH KERR: Oh for sure, I mean I can’t understand guys who won’t touch a drop of
alcohol because they think it will affect their performance. The way I
see it, surfing is a lifestyle and that is hanging with mates and having
a beer, you know, and just enjoying life and that’s why I think surfers
are such happy people. As for the guys who won’t have a beer; I don’t
know what they are thinking. You’ll have to ask them.