At this point you’ve seen the clip at least 10 times in your social feeds and on every surf website in the known universe. Like so many game-changing clips that have come before, this one starts with some blustery crosswinds, a steep Maui ramp and Albee Layer heading down the line at warp speed. Layer is calling this double-oop the best air of his life, which is quite the claim for a guy who has done no shortage of above-the-lip innovation over the past few years. Below, Layer discusses the move, the unusual board he used and where aerial progression should go next.
So we should probably have a name for this by now…
[Laughs.] I usually just call it a “double oop” because people can’t figure out how many spins it is. But honestly, I spin 450 degrees, so it’s between a 360 or a 540, but I call it an alley-oop 5. In halfpipe snowboarding, it would be called alley-oop 360.
Surfers kind of f–ked themselves calling air reverses “360 airs” early on, didn’t they?
Yeah, I’m completely over that. I’m calling full rotations 5s, but they have to be legit full rotors. If you go straight up at the lip, and then land facing the beach, that’s a 540. So I’m calling full rotations 540s, but its weird because when snowboarders do an alley-oop in a halfpipe, they round the spin down because they’re going up at an angle and landing at an angle. If they’re spinning away from the wall, they round up--their 540s are more like 450s, but then their alley-oop 540 is actually like 630s.
The way they judge the spins in snowboarding is as if they were coming straight up and straight down, but obviously that’s not the case. If you’re going up at an angle, you have to spin 45 degrees just to get to that straight up part, which is where they start calculating the spin. But when you’re spinning away from it, you already did that first 45.
Ummmm, I might actually need a protractor for this…
I know, right? I’m just starting to figure this out. I’ve been asking my snowboarder friends every time I do an air. I’m like, “What the hell is this?” Because I’m sick of being wrong [laughs.]
So when did this happen?
Just a few days ago. I’m excited to release it because everyone is pumped on airs after Brazil. I just want people to know that we’re still doing airs over here too. It’s not just Filipe! Watching that, I felt like, “It’s just one spin…everyone relax! We’ve actually been doing that for a few years, he just does it better [laughs.]”
You’ve actually pulled this before, right?
I think I’ve done it three times…wait…no, yeah, I’ve landed three on video. I think there was one more that I almost had but didn’t quite make.
But this one is definitely the best yet, right?
Yeah, by far. I think this is the best air that I’ve ever done. The only other thing I’ve done that compares would be the backside double, because it was a world’s first, but I think this was higher and the spin was more corked out, which made it look way better.
Your board looks super trippy. I know that you’ve been getting a lot of trick inspiration from skaters and snowboarders--has that spilled into your board designs too?
It totally has. I tried to make a surfboard more like a snowboard. We just made the thing symmetrical from nose to tail. Like, they’re indistinguishable except for there’s more rocker in the nose. And we put grab rails, these little indentations, around all the sides. But it’s trippy because you can almost put the fins on either side of the board after it’s shaped, which was our goal to have that kind of symmetry. We call it the “Interstate 69,” because it’s the same on both sides…[laughs.]
But me and my shaper Dan Boehne from Infinity Surfboards worked on this design for a while on the machine, and that’s what we came up with. The indentations around the board seem like they help with grabs, too. I actually did a nosebrab in the wave pool on that board. It feels a little different on turns because we had to widen it near the nose. At 5’7″, it’s a lot shorter than my normal boards, and we had to put the foam somewhere because I’m frickin’ 200 pounds. So we had to widen the nose, but in doing that I felt that I had so much more control in the air than I do with my normal boards. It spins so much faster. I could tell when I first rode it in the wave pool. I was just like, “Oh my god, this thing works.” It’s funny, because I feel like we put so much effort into shaping boards, but it’s never aimed at making good air boards. Guys will focus on making weird, stoney fish for some hipster to ride, but no one is really pushing progression in performance boards.
WATCH LAYER’S BACKSIDE DOUBLE SPIN FROM 2016:
Do you think maybe that is just a product of the fact that there aren’t as many surfers who are able to do airs at that level and are committed to that type of surfing?
I think there are plenty of people who are dedicated to aerial surfing who would want to see changes in those types of boards. But it seems like a lot of people think we’ve just nailed it with shortboard designs already, which is just the dumbest thing ever. Like, why would we ever think that we’ve perfected that? There’s always a way to make it better. But for whatever reason it doesn’t seem like making better air boards is something people are focused on.
Maybe those types of boards would be too difficult for everyday surfers to ride well, and that’s a disincentive for shapers to go down that rabbit hole.
I actually think that the opposite might be true, though. The board I’m riding now would probably be a lot easier for an average surfer to try to learn airs on than a traditional shortboard.
So I know with your backside double spin, that was something you obsessed over for a long time. Was this as important for you, or not as much because you’d pulled it before?
Obviously, doing a world’s first is just way more impactful and meaningful. But what pisses me off about air surfing right now is that I haven’t even seen anyone really trying the double oop. In skating and snowboarding, as soon as someone does a new trick, everyone else rushes to learn it and that becomes the new standard. Like, it might take years for someone to stick the first one, but after it’s done, someone else will stick it in a matter of days. Obviously it’s harder for us because we’re in the ocean and we don’t get the same ramp every time, but the same principle should still apply.
I’ve seen a couple other people try the double oop, but not recently. John John tried it a few times, right?
Yeah. John [Florence], Jordy [Smith] and Julian [Wilson] were all trying it for a while. Julian was really close. I remember he did some Red Bull web series where he went to Reunion Island to stick the thing, but never actually pulled one. It’s funny though, because when I did it, there was no hype around it at all. It’s just like, “Alright, that f–king idiot from Maui did it. It’s not cool anymore. We’re done here.” [Laughs.] I just want to be able to land these things with some kind of consistency. When you look at someone like Matt [Meola], with his flat spin 7, that’s something he’s almost able to land consistently. That’s where the progression happens--when people are able to repeat a trick, rather than just having it be a one off.
So is that your goal, to normalize maneuvers that seem like freak occurrences now?
Yeah, but you can’t do it by yourself. If John John or Filipe [Toledo] pulled one of these in an event, I think everyone would be trying them. But that just hasn’t happened. I wish those guys would try this stuff and make it more of a focus.
What do you see as the next conquest? What trick do you have your eye on?
My number one goal is a backside double cork. Which would be considered a 1080, and I think that’d be f–king huge for surfing. I have it all worked out in my head. I actually had a good try once, which is in my wipeout edit [right here, at the 10-second mark], and it doesn’t look like much, but I could feel it when I was rotating that it was totally possible.