The Secret Aerial Technique Ft. Josh Kerr

If it were up to Josh, he’d start every day with a big ol’ healthy air. Photo: Jimmicane

I'm not the best surfer in the world, nor the SURFING Mag office, but I generally don't feel embarrassed about my abilities. Except for when I try airs.

I don't know what it is, but I just can't seem to get the hang of it. My arms go back, my knees bow, and I look like a white-belt trying judo kicks into a foam pit. It seems as though some people inherit the air gene, with those springy legs and gecko grip, but I am not one of those people. This is sad, because I enjoy the feeling of flight.

In an effort to improve my skillset, I took to the Internet. Youtube, Vimeo, and Meatspin have a plethora of videos that will demonstrate the ins and outs of a proper rotation, but these tutorials don’t cover all the bases. In fact, there is one secret step in the standard air reverse that I have heard seen mentioned by the experts.

The best I can describe this subtle maneuver is a leg push/extension that occurs directly before liftoff. As the surfer bottom turns toward the lip, there is a moment where he pushes down on his front foot, thus shifting the board from an on-rail position to a completely flat, slightly submerged position in the water. From there the surfer compresses and launches off the lip, using the inverted water pressure as a slingshot to gain maximum velocity and altitude through the air …or at least that’s what I gathered from my Lazy Boy. Recognizing that there’s no substitution for field research, I hit up a bona fide air master — Josh Kerr — for some insider info on the Comp Stomp™.

Dane Reynolds. Photo: Struntz
Dane does it too! Photo: Struntz

Interview by Michael Ciaramella

Surfing: (After explaining the Comp Stomp™ to Josh) What can you tell me about this?

Josh Kerr: Yeah I know what you're talking about. It's that little push-down you do before the lip to get that extra pop. It's only certain sections — usually when you're forcing an air — that you'd do that. When you don't need to force the air, when you've got enough speed and a good section, you can let your glide do that talking for you. This move is all about compressing so you can lift out of the lip to get as weightless as possible. Kinda like skaters, when you see them launch off a vert-ramp, they go super weightless, basically just tickling their board with their shoes, and then they get the grab and really plant themselves on top of it.

Surfing: Is this something you're conscious of doing or is it your body's natural reaction to a softer, slower section?

Josh: It's more of a natural aggressive reaction, where you want to get as much out of a section as possible, so you just push down as hard as you can to get weightless off the lip.

Surfing: For someone who is learning to do airs, how would you explain this little technique to them?

Josh: It's just extending and compressing your knees and getting centered on your board, so that when you launch of the lip you're not gonna flail and lose everything. What I always tell people about doing airs is that you need to pay attention to your speed when approaching the lip. You see a lot of people race race race race, and by the time they hit the section they're losing speed. The biggest thing is timing, because you actually want to be gaining speed as you're approaching the lip. The acceleration helps you punt and stay over your board.

julian-corey wilson
Julian Wilson, master of the stomp and launch. Photo: Corey Wilson.

Surfing: Does this little compression move help generate that acceleration?

Josh: Yeah, I mean I'm not super conscious about it, but it definitely has to do with getting a little extra energy out of the wave. By coiling up and using the water as a springboard, you're able to get more aggressive through the air.

Surfing: Who are some of the guys that you can picture using this move?

Josh: Most of the good guys. Anyone who can force an air in small waves is probably doing this for that little extra pop.

We made a small compilation of professional surfers performing the Comp Stomp™ so you can see what Josh and I are referring to. It happens quickly, so keep your eyes peeled!