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01 Nov 2012


“The moment”, Clay Marzo begins his lesson in lateness. Pic: 

When they first laid eyes on the 8-foot right slab that closed out on razorblades, the crew wanted nothing to do with it. Except for Marzo. Where the others saw a Mentawai medical disaster waiting to happen, Clay was visualising the exit signs on no-hands, stand-up, backside barrels. Although prone to bouts of over-excitement, where he rubs his hands together and makes strange noises, Clay is not a big talker.In this case he simply paddled out and proceeded to put on one of the most incredible displays of backhand tube riding ever captured on film. I assure you this is not an overstatement, but I guess you will have to get your hands on the film to make up your own mind. Marzo hurls himself into the beyond vertical, emerald wedges, miraculously makes his inside rail bite and then negotiates the gaping holes with a brazen, hands-free barrel attack. It was a truly masterful display of tube riding; not least because Clay looks so relaxed throughout the session, making what some perceived to be impossible, seem easy. Inspired by Clay’s sans hands tube show, Ry Craike and Mitch Parkinson paddled out and bagged a couple of gems of their own, but the moment belonged to Clay.


Matt Meola, is a real Cowboy, that looks at things from a different angle. Pic: Swilly

Clay’s exceptional backside barrel session supplies a classical dimension to a movie which zones in on the space above the lip. Meanwhile, last year’s Innersection winner, Matt Meola, proves why he is considered the pin-up boy of the modern aerial movement. The astute observer will recognise Matt’s fully extended boneless as the kind of technically challenging move that sets the benchmark for the modern aerial surfer. Meanwhile Matt’s inverted flips and cowboy antics make him one of the most entertaining surfers in the world right now.


Handling big straight airs and the weight of big expectations with equal aplomb is Mitch Parkinson. Pic: Swilly

Chippa Wilson chimes in with a section that will have you searching for the aerial manual. Chippa admits to being a massive snowboarding and skating fan. He studies all their aerial variations and reckons there are over 125 tricks. “I don’t even want to call him a surfer, the stuff he’s doing is so different. He’s like a skateboarder on a wave,” suggests Matt Meola. The key to the Chippa section is to tune in, pay attention and keep the rewind button close, so you can fully appreciate the technical aspects involved in his art of flight. Also keep an eye out for a shot that features Chippa and Matt Meoal in frame simultaneously but on two different waves. As both fly, it comes off looking like the ultimate in choreographed aerial surfing.


If you don’t watch the movie you’ll miss what happens next – Chippa Wilson creating space. Pic: Swilly

Several years after Kelly Slater stated Ry Craike “had the best forehand fin-waft in the world,” Craikey still launches with more speed and power than probably any surfer on the planet. Combined with his sublime full-rail carves and refined tube intuition, Ry makes it clear in Cowboys and Aerials that he is still one of the best free surfers in the world.

That other Parkinson, Mitch [Joel’s younger cousin], proves he has finished his apprenticeship as a Gold Coast grommet and graduated as a fully-fledged free surfer. Young Parko lays down a part with a surprising variety of aerial grabs and a backside barrel at Greenbush that has more sections than a supermarket.


How do you know where you’re going, when you don’t know where you been? Pottz. Pic: Swilly

Riding an Al Merrick Black Beauty, aerial innovator and former world champ, Martin Potter, still surfs with an eye-pleasing blend of panache and power. Pottz, widely considered the Godfather of the aerial movement, provides a compelling insight into how aerials became a part of his repertoire and what he thinks of the aerial movement now. “I kind of felt like a proud old dad sitting back and watching all these kids, ” suggests Pottz. Meanwhile, Matt Meola indicates how far ahead of his time Pottzs was, when he observes that Pottz won the world title in 1989, the year Matt was born.

Ok, we’re blowing our own trumpets on this one, but we reckon Cowboys and Aerials is one of the best moviesTracks has ever put out. So, wrangle yourself a copy with December Tracks, saddle up the lounge chair and hold on!

– Luke Kennedy

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