Head Trip

"Headzone". Yeah I know, it sounds like a not-too-famous 70s acid rock band.

But it isn't! Rather, it's a wacky new training device that might just live up to its marketing hype.

According to the PR that alerted Surfing to its existence, Headzone is a "real-time" coaching system specially suited to water sports. Waterskiers, wakeboarders, and kitesurfers are raving about it. Said their website, "To date we have had nothing less than a 30 per cent faster learning reported, with up to 400 per cent in some sports!"

Cripes! SURFING thought, we have to see this. And in due course a Headzone, all ${{{600}}} worth of it, arrived through the mail for testing.

It consists of a slick-looking lightweight waterproof helmet that comes complete with a radio receiver and connected earpieces, which can be – you guessed it! – tuned to a walkie-talkie with hundreds of yards' range. The idea being that Coach can communicate directly from the beach with his surfing Student, without any of that annoying hand-waving, yelling and suchlike. Nothing like it has been seen around pro surfing since 2000 at the Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay, when Ken Bradshaw hid in the bushes on the point and, using a mic and radio setup, called Layne Beachley into set waves during a heat – much to the rage of her opponents.

SURFING enlisted rising young Aussie world juniors competitor Chris "Critta" Salisbury – one of the few hot surfers on earth not in Hawaii at the time – for a test drive.

So, while Bede Durbidge bolted home to the Pipe Masters and Triple Crown titles at three foot sandbar Pipe 4,000 miles away, "Critta" paddled out all alone into five-foot sandbar wedges, helmeted and ready to rip: on command!

Your correspondent is frankly a bit skeptical of surf training devices – after all, electronic coaching tips haven't played a part in the careers of Curren, Slater or Irons. But only minutes into the session, it became clear that not only is the Headzone coaching gold – it's also the most lethal grommet torture instrument yet invented.

SURFING could tell Critta what to do, and he COULDN'T ANSWER BACK.

"Catch a left," we ordered, and Critta did so. "Now a right." He waved his arm to signal reception.

We made him do some basic heat drills: catch two waves in five minutes, then three waves in 10 minutes, and cruelly scored him every time. Then we demanded he ride a wave to the sand. "Do a cutback! Now go down the line….there's a section coming!" By this time some of Critta's mates had gathered and were trying to grab the Headzone walkie-talkie to issue some commands of their own.

Finally he caught a last wave and rode it exactly as he was told. "Switchfoot!" we yelled as he got to the shoredump – and sure enough, he did one.

Critta's been coached by experts, including Surfing Australia's legendary Sasha Stocker (who, by the way, had told us the Headzone "definitely has applications"). So we'll give Chris the last word. "Yeah, it works!" he said. "For a young kid who's not sure which wave to catch … or for heat drills … it's perfect."

And it's 400% funnier than just watching someone surf.