There are few things in surfing that get the old arteries pumping faster than seeing that perfect ramp set before you, just begging for a launch. But sadly, for most of us, our airborne attempts seem to crash and burn more often than not. There's the dreaded chop-hop (is that really even an air?) that's become ever so frowned upon by those in the know. Then there's the gruesome, horizontal-punt-with-your-ass-and-body-positioned-40-degrees-south-of-your-board version of the maneuver that we've all seen committed with far too much impunity. So, why are these things so damn hard to do properly? To pin down the aerial, we thought it best to talk to a pro. Recently, we got Blake Jones, one of the East Coast's most promising young jets, to talk us through the physicality of the proper punt.
So what are most people doing wrong when it comes to airs?
Ha! There are a lot of mistakes to be made when you're going for an air. They're not easy, that's for sure. But I'd say double-grabs are the biggest mistake people are making. Those things are for the birds.
You're getting way ahead of us here. Let's keep it simple: Can you walk us through a few points of your standard frontside air?
Yeah, for sure. So the first thing you want is speed. But somehow guys like Dane do these massive airs with, like, no speed. I'm still trying to figure that one out. But that's Dane. Anyway, yeah, you want to be going pretty fast, but no so fast that you're gonna be out of control when you hit the section.
What kind of a section are we supposed to be looking for?
You can punt off a lot of different places on the wave. Ideally, you want something like a closeout section when you first start off. Something with enough off a lip to push you out a bit, but also with a soft landing.
So we need a solid amount of speed, a closeout section with some lip to it, and a soft landing pad?
Yeah, pretty much.
So once we make it to the section, what do we do then?
I like to approach the section by getting pretty low. That way, when you hit the section, you can use your legs for extension and kinda launch yourself.
How similar is punting an air to doing an ollie?
Yeah, they're pretty similar. It's a bit different, but if you think of it like that you'll start making some progress. Like I said before, you'll fall a lot in the beginning and hit the section wrong and land on your back. The only real trick is to just keep doing them.
So let's say that we've managed to do everything right so far. We've got enough speed, found a good section, got low, and then launched off the section. What next?
Well you want to stay over your board. I like to widen my stance right before I try to go for an air. Distribute my weight a little bit. That helps me stay over my board so I don't do a flyaway or anything.
What about landing?
That's a huge part. It doesn't really count unless you pull it. There's a lot that can go wrong here. In the beginning, look for a soft, foamy part of the wave to land…just to feel it out for a while. As you get better, you can try and land in the flats a bit.
Is there anything else we're missing?
Probably. Just remember when you're trying airs, it's a work in progress. Some people get them faster than others. But just keep going for it and work on your mistakes and it'll come. I promise.