On Tuesday, April 28, at a secret wave on Maui, Matt Meola did a Spindle 540. There were only three witnesses, one with a camera. Rumors of the air spread around the surf community. An iPhone clip filmed off the back of the camera appeared in a few lucky inboxes. The ocean started sucking out to sea, forewarning Internet villagers of an impending content tsunami. Today, as the ender to the above edit, that tsunami has risen and crashed. Here, to walk us through one the best airs ever done, is Mr. Matt Meola. —Taylor Paul
SURFING: Let's start with the beginning. What happened on this day?
MATT MELOA: Well, it was kind of two days. Kai Barger and I drove out to that wave and we were the only ones out. We surfed all day and I didn't get a single clip, while Kai had one of the best sessions of his life. I was so frustrated. We went back the next day and the same thing started happening — I couldn't pull anything. Kai went in, but I decided to stay out until I at least got one clip. I was just trying, trying, trying and getting so angry; I felt like I was going to burst a blood vessel in my brain [laughs]. Finally that wave came in and I hit the section and did that and I just freaked out.
How long have you been trying this?
I did this move a few years back and I called it a spindle flip, which is the first part of that move without the extra 180 degrees. I noticed that with that move, if you go high enough, you can spin 540. I've only done it out the back of the wave and never really thought that you could do it into the wave. Albee started trying it after seeing me do the spindle. We talked about it and he thought you could spin it 540 and I was like, "I don't know, it's pretty much impossible to land back in the wave."
When you did the spindle 540 on this wave, was it preconceived or more instinctual?
It was preconceived in sense that I've thought about it and knew the 540 rotation was possible, but that particular one was totally instinctual. I had no plans of trying that move on that section. I was just going to try a normal backflip, but when I hit the section I did more of a corkscrew rotation and had to mentally adjust to try and make it happen. I wasn't trying to do the 540 rotation that time, it was just such a good wave and the wind was perfect it just boosted me high enough to do it.
All the elements just came together.
Yeah. It's a pretty gnarly wave. Super powerful. Not your typical California air-wave. You go mach speed into these huge sections, but it's hard to land anything because the wave just moves so fast along the reef. Anyway, I hit it and got the grab and it kinda whipped me into that rotation and next thing I knew I was coming down and landed backwards and was going straight and I was like, "Ohhhhhh!" I immediately went full helium arms, I had no control, I just had to claim it.
Albee told me he'd been trying that one for a while. Does it feel good to beat him to the punch?
It felt good to do the move. I guess it's cool that I landed it first, but if he woulda pulled it I woulda been super stoked for him. I don't know. I'm not that competitive. I like to see my friends rip and do new stuff.
Do you think it'd be possible without the double grab?
No, I don't think so. Spinning that fast, there's this weird torque that happens that if you're not double grabbing, the board will just fly away and you wont get that same whip.
You need everything to be tight in order to spin that fast, right?
Yeah, it's all about keeping your board close to you and the double grab helps you stay close. I think you could do a normal 540 with a single grab, no grab, whatever. But the double grab helps you when you're upside down. It keeps your momentum going in the rotation.
Do you think that this is the best air that's ever been done?
[pause] I'd like to think so…I mean Kelly's air was really sick but…when Kelly did his 540 I was like, "Oh, man," 'cause I was trying that air for so long. But then it was like, well, the only way to better it is to do something like that with a flip, or get upside down or something. I don't know, I'd like to think it was one of the best airs done. That's what Albee and John John told me.
Has Kelly called you?
No. But I sent him a text when I pulled it and he was like, "Oh, you shoulda pulled it." And John John was on the text and Kelly was teasing him, too, like, "No matter what there's an odd man out here." But I was like screw you guys, that was a pull.
So you're sticking with it: full pull?
Yeah. I'm sticking with it.
Can you talk a little about the mind fuck of sitting on this clip and trying to figure out how to release it?
Right. Well, I did the move and I was so amped and it was just this big celebration, but then it got stressful. I had so many people calling me, like, "How are you releasing it? What are you going to do with it?" And it never even crossed my mind before, I was just stoked I did the move. Then I had to start thinking about, "Oh shit, what's the smartest way to do this?" It was a trip. All of a sudden I was stressed out over it and it's like, that's the last thing you want to feel after accomplishing something like that. John John wanted me to put it in his movie and then you guys called me and then Stab called me and Surfline wanted it and then I was like, "Whoa, wait a minute…I kinda want it."