The 5 Most Influential Airs of the Decade

The twenty-tens. Can you believe they’re over?

From the tragic death of Andy Irons, the birth of the WSL, the Brazilian storm, the wavepool revolution, and so much more, the past 10 years were packed with unforgettable moments and historical significance. But, at this point—only days out from the next decade—it still feels too early to define it. Was there any clear theme or direction? Or did the surf world move in a hundred directions all at once? That’s hard to say today. Maybe later.

That said, there were many individual standout moments that we won’t soon forget. So, in the interest of defining them, we asked four experts for their opinion on what the most important moments of the decade were, in four different areas: big-wave surfing, aerial surfing, women’s surfing and longboarding.

Next up is Maui’s Albee Layer. Since the turn of the last decade, no surfer has focused more blood, sweat and (literal) tears on progressing surfing above the lip, than Layer. In the process, he personally owns a couple of the most memorable moments from these last 10 years. (“I don’t feel too bad about listing myself,” Layer laughs. “I’ve dedicated my life to trying to new tricks.”)

JOHN JOHN FLORENCE STOMPS A DECADE-DEFINING ALLEY-OOP AT HALWEIWA IN 2011 [00:35 ABOVE]

"Done", the first full-length collaboration between John Florence and Blake Kueny, was first released on iTunes in 2012, before John switched sponsors and just after he qualified for the ‘CT. Since the surfing featured all happened in a pre-Instagram era, the film included never-before-seen clips, like this massive, 6-foot alley-oop on a large wave and section at Haleiwa. According to Layer, that air set the tone for big airs in big waves this decade. “That air is important,” says Layer. “Because it was the first air in that height range, on that size of wave. If John didn’t do that air, I don’t know if we would've seen Jordy [Smith] or Noa [Deane] land the big ones they did at North Point later on. John’s was the bar-setter.”

LAYER STICKS THE FIRST FRONTSIDE DOUBLE ALLEY-OOP ON MAUI IN 2012

“I guess I have to list myself,” Layer laughs. “Just because it was the first double spin, and nobody else hads done one yet. Which is kinda cool…but maybe kinda lame at the same time?” Of course, Layer is speaking about the double-oop he stuck on a windy day at a random ramp on Maui, after years of failed attempts. While he landed the first one in 2012, he’s stuck three others since, and to this day is still the only surfer in the world to land this exact trick. I ask Layer if he thinks that’s because other people don’t care to replicate what they see as “his” move, or if it’s just that hard. “I think it’s a little bit of both,” Layer continues. “A lot of the best guys have no reason to try new airs, because why would they? They’re not gonna use it in a contest, and they’re frickin’ hard on your body, and on your will power after trying 100 times. I think if someone else did it first, it might have caught on better [laughs]. I think people would rather copy Julian [Wilson] than me.”
  KELLY SLATER LANDS A HAIL MARY FRONT-SEVEN IN PORTUGAL IN 2015

“That air was such a Kelly moment,” says Layer. “A lot of us had been trying that trick: I know Chippa [Wilson] was trying really hard, I was trying, Matt [Meola] was trying…so yeah, for Kelly to just huck that up randomly at 40-something, do it with a grab that nobody ever does, spin it around and then stick it? That was crazy. Anyone else you’d say it was a fluke. But it’s Kelly. It’s 30 years of being the best surfer in the world.” Interestingly, the day Slater stuck that front-seven during a free surf session in Portugal, Kolohe Andino had landed a couple of massive airs earlier in the day, and Layer figures Slater’s air was one of those moments for Slater where frustration turns into brilliance. “I bet Kelly saw Kolohe ripping, got frustrated, hucked that trick, and ended up sticking it. I wasn’t there, but that’s what I drew from the session [laughs]. Most guys, when they get that close on something they never try, they fall. Not Kelly. He landed and then just stomped it.”
  MATT MEOLA HOME SPINDLE FLIP 540

“I don’t think people will realize how good that air actually was for another 15 years,” Layer tells us. “Nobody has come close to that air. It’s so far beyond everything else—it’s the best air that’s been done on a surfboard by a mile.” Meola’s massive inverted rotation on a meaty section in Maui is even more impressive when you consider it was far from a fluke. “That wasn’t a Hail Mary like Slater’s,” Layer continues. “I watched Matt work on that for so long. He’d done that trick already but not all the way around to a five [extra rotation]. We were both trying it, but landing out the back. It was too much for me [laughs]. You have to hit such a gnarly section to stomp that trick. I think that air is still a decade, maybe two, before its time.”
  ALBEE LAYER STICKS FIRST BACKSIDE DOUBLE SPIN ON MAUI IN 2016

“There are so many other airs that are so gnarly from the last 10 years, and I feel weird listing myself twice,” Layer tells us about his final choice, the backside double spin he landed a couple of years back on Maui. “But, doing it first is what makes it memorable, and makes it last, I guess.” Makes sense to us. There have been hundreds of impressive lofty alley-oops and big air reverses put on tape since 2010, but how many can you remember? Exactly. Layer just so happens to be the only surfer to land two entirely new tricks in that period of time, both of which deserve a place on this list. “That one was extra special for me, because it was two years of focusing on one thing. It really fucked up my headspace. It was such a gnarly battle.” And that’s what people don’t see: The hundreds of falls, failed attempts and wasted sessions that went into landing the double spins for Layer. Of the two, which was harder? “The backside ones hurt. The slams are way worse. I was also getting older and so it hurt more [laughs]. Also, the first one I did, my buddy Dan [Norkunas] who was filming missed it. Luckily it was worse than the one that ended up getting filmed, but it still took another month and a half before I landed it again."

The 5 Most Influential Airs of the Decade
ACCORDING TO AERIAL WIZARD ALBEE LAYER

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