I know, we all hate watching air reverses. But we all still dream of the day we actually stick one. Dusty Payne was kind enough break down the intricacies of the air that’s come to define modern progressive surfing:
Find the Right Wave:
This sounds like it should be pretty obvious, but I'm gonna say it anyway: so much of airs comes down to picking the right wave. Forget barreling waves. For the most part, you'll want to start trying airs in soft beachbreaks or wedgey waves. Something that's going to produce a lip that's not really throwing too hard, but will still allow you to project above the wave. If you have too much of a lip, you're really going to regret it when you land. The more barreling the lip is when you launch off of it, the harder your landing is going to be.
Get Low and Widen Your Stance:
Once I've eyed the section I want to project off, I like to lower my body a little and bend my knees, which allows me to spring out above the wave. As you begin your air, you'll see a lot of guys widen their stance as they project above the wave. I like to have my back foot at the top of my grip in the beginning. As I move through the air, both feet will come forward on the board and my stance will widen. This will give you a little more control over your board as you rotate. If you look at how a lot of guys land, you'll see that sometimes they'll have their front foot almost at the nose of their board.
Draw the Right Line:
Speed is crucial to any air. If you’re not going fast enough, nothing else matters. When you’re eyeing your section, you’ll want to draw a line that’s in tune with what the lip is doing. If the lip looks like it’s a little soft, you can draw a little bit deeper of a bottom turn. If it’s throwing at you, you’ll want to do a mid-face turn.
Being able to comfortably rotate is something that you have to feel to really understand. The best advice I can give is to let your head do most of the work. When I say that, I mean that once you find yourself projecting above the lip, you can actually start your rotation by pivoting your head over your shoulder. I'm a regularfoot, so I would turn my head to the left. This will start your rotation and open up your shoulders. From there, you’ll want to keep your weight centered over your hips. As you project out above the lip and start your rotation, you can kick out your back foot to really bring your board around. Remember to keep your knees bent throughout the rotation as well.
You'll see that some surfers, like Kolohe Andino for example, tend to land in the flats on their rotations a lot. I personally try and avoid that, if possible I try and land on a soft bit of whitewash. You're much less likely to injure yourself if you're landing in the whitewater instead of the actual face of the wave. There's a little more cushion in there.
When you're first learning these airs, I think it's good to actually try them without a grab. It'll help you get comfortable with what it feels like to spin. Once you feel comfortable with the rotation, you can begin working on grabs. I personally think a grab should be done quickly, at the peak of the air. You don't want to be going for the grab before you start your air and you don't want to be grabbing when you land. Just a quick, solid grab. For these type of airs, I'd recommend going for a frontside grab. That seems to be the easiest for most people.
One More Note from Dusty:
Don’t stress if you find yourself struggling. I sure did when I first started to learn them. I think the best way to get over the hurdle is to take a step back and work on your regular frontside reverses until you feel like you've really got them nailed down. Feeling the rotation out is crucial. You'll find that the when you get back to trying them as an air, it should come a little easier.