Sure, surfing might have started before skating and snowboarding, but they’re light years ahead of us in terms of rotations, flips and pretty much everything else besides getting barreled. Perks of a practicing on a constant canvas, I suppose. Anyway, when the clip of Matt Meola’s self-proclaimed and heavily-claimed “spindle 540” crossed our desks (see above edit at 5:51), we wondered, What would our skate and snow cousins — guys that also surf — think about it? What would they call it? Did he actually pull it? Was it more impressive than Kelly’s? Then, since we like our water melted and don’t have wheels, we talked with a couple surfers, too. Here’s what they had to say. —Taylor Paul
Todd Richards, snowboarder, Olympic athlete, Olympic announcer
Holy shit! That was so crazy. You had to watch it a couple times just to figure out where he was even going. He hits it like straight up and it seems like he figured out a completely different axis to rotate on. I’ve never seen anyone else really rotate on that axis.
My first instinct is that it’s like a traditional rodeo flip on the snowboard. Off the toes, lunging over the front shoulder, kinda. I’m sure that rotation was more a product of the wave and the wind and not so much, like, “I’m gonna do…this.” It seems like a lot of the airs that are just so sick it’s like, “Whoa, whoa, I landed back on my feet!” It’s not like you’re going to try 50 times and get the rotation down.
If I were to put it in the context of a snowboarding trick in a halfpipe, Kelly’s air [in Portugal] was like a cork 720 or 540, depending on what school of thought you’re going with for rotations. It’s the traditional, drop the front shoulder toward the front knee. Whereas Matt’s spinning rotation was almost like you’re going straight up and you’re dipping your head toward your back leg.
Did he pull it? No but yes. Kelly’s was definitely ridden out a lot further, but Matt was on his feet as much as he could be and was probably just a victim of the whitewash coming sideways at him. I would say that he definitely landed it, he was on his feet, but it wasn’t like he got momentum from the whitewash the way that Kelly did his. But still I consider it a make. He had enough time to do the double fist pump.
Mark McMorris, snowboarder, two-time X-Games gold medalists, Olympian, first to land the backside triple cork 1440, Coco Ho’s dude
That was really cool. If you’re looking at the wave like a pipe wall, you would technically call it a frontside 540 with a truck driver grab. It’s so sick because that was on a big wave. For sure, he pulled it. He landed so clean and came up so fast, it didn’t even look real.
Kelly did his 540 off the back shoulder but this guy like went up the wall and, we would call it like a jigga flip, or a rodeo. I don’t know. It’s crazy what he did, on the craziest axis. That’s hands down the best air I’ve seen in surfing. I know that Jordy and Mason do some crazy flips, but I’ve never seen someone really launch that big.
Bob Burnquist, skateboarder, X-games medal hoarder, big-air aficianado
It’s definitely a 540 — In skateboarding some people spin flat and others go upside down — but you call the air by the rotations above the coping, or lip in this case. So that was a corked out five with a revert at the end. But that was insane.
I think it’s the best air I’ve seen done in surfing. The way he landed, low and solid, and the way he didn’t drag his body through the foam. It’s right there with the Slater five, but I think this one is a little better. It’s cleaner and more upside down. I like Slater’s because it was a flat, fast spin, but this one is higher and more corked out. It reminds me of the way we do it on a skateboard.
Curren Caples, skateboarder X-games gold medalist, talented surfer
That’s insane. What do you even call that? Would that just be like, a frontside rodeo? I don’t even get how that’s possible, and he did that so good. I’d definitely say that it’s one of the more surprising airs I’ve seen. I don’t know if it’s possible to rotate more, somebody will probably land straight someday. You never think someone’s going to do something until they do it.
Yeah, he made it. He knew he made it because he claimed it. It wasn’t his fault, it’s not like he dug a rail or something. If you look at skate videos, sometimes when people land a trick they’ll roll right onto grass and have to jump off. Like, they clearly made it but then the grass or something stops them. This is a similar situation.
Dane Reynolds, surfer
I was thinking about it, just comparing Matt’s air versus Kelly’s air in my head and…It’s interesting, they both end up at a 540 degree rotation, but Matt Meola’s was more innovative, I think. Because he sorta wormholes the first rotation by the way he hits the lip so it’s not just a big air-reverse. Kelly’s was more of a normal air-reverse where he had a weird pop off the lip and ended up in the white wash. Kelly definitely fully makes his but he crawls out of the white wash. Matt Meola’s was kinda questionable, like, “Would they count that in a contest?” But I like how sick his celebration is. It’s pretty good.
Albee Layer, surfer
I think it is at this point in time the best air done in surfing, not by a lot, but for sure ahead of its time. A couple of things put this air in its own league. One, your spinning away from the wave in this weird cork, so it naturally pushes you out the back of the wave. Seems like you have to really aim toward the beach or something. Two, I think it’s the first air where you aren’t just spinning one way, maintaining constant rotation. This one, you do the “spindle cork” — the kind of roll-flippy-thing — then you transition into a flat spin. In snowboarding they’d call this a front rodeo to revert, I think. But it’s almost impossible to judge our spins and airs to any other sports because on a wave we are almost in between going off a jump and going off a half pipe. He 100 percent finished the maneuver and fell immediately after.
Filipe will probably be the next guy to pull this. He’s probably going to study it for a day, watch it 50 times or something, then go find a suitable wave and stomp it. I think a lot of people will be intimidated by it and not even try to go there, but there will be a handful of surfers, the Filipes, the Gabbys, the John Johns and maybe even Noa Deane or something, that will be fired up by it and try shit this type of air and it will make surfing more fun to watch.
(Read an interview with Matt Meola about his spindle 540, here.)