J Bay Shines a Light on the Best (and the Worst) Surfing Styles
J Bay looks simple enough: a perfect point break. To get from Point A to Point B and make it look good, well, only the most polished get the job done correctly. JBay doesn’t just uncover weaknesses; it shines a bright light on them. Those flicky little fin-check top turns make some pro surfers look like WSA district 6 participants (or USA Team members). The most hideous of surfing styles are disrobed and some pro surfers stand naked and shriveled for the entire world to see. Spectators forced to turn away in disgust.
J Bay requires full-rail, turn-to-turn connections, which demands strong legs, which in turn generally results in an outstanding surfing style. Think about the good ones: Terry Fitzgerald, Shaun Tomson, Tom Curren, Occy, Irons, Slater, Fanning, Parko and Taylor Knox. All of them smooth as a baby’s bum and as strong as a middleweight.
Taylor Knox has one of the best styles on tour. It’s no secret or big reveal. I use the kid factor when assessing a surfers style. Would I want my kid to surf like that? When I watch Taylor Knox I say to myself, “hell yes!”
The greatest thing about good style is that you’ll more or less have it forever. When you get old; you are going to lose your ability to do aerials. I never had that ability so I see this as a plus. Sorry to break it to you, but you won’t be punting airs when you are 50 years old. You will however be holding your arms and hands and body posture basically the same way you are now. Style doesn’t leave you. It’s like the IRS, it stays with you for the long haul. Look at Skip Frye or PT or Rabbit or Pottz or Gerlach. They all have the same distinctive style they had in their prime.
Who has the worst style on TOUR? Which pro surfer makes you cringe? Watch the JBay event and it’ll become very clear. I won’t call out any names because that’s not cool. Bad style on the ASP tour used to be easy to call out. The ASP top 32 have risen. Bad style in 2011, in my opinion, not so easy to spot. When the surfers are too technical, and the dance isn’t apparent, when they don’t look like they are having, dare I say it,… fun, their styles suffer.
Curren danced. Slater dances. Fanning dances. Others are trying to score points. Not good. Bad style. Certain names pop into my head: Durbidge, Ross, Davidson: not the greatest style. They don’t have panache. They don’t dance. They can score points though. They are sporting. All opinion of course. Internet is full of it. Shit and opinion.
Taylor Knox surfs like a Sidewinder: smooth, powerful, deadly. Body positioned for a buried rail strike. Aesthetically perfect. When J Bay is six feet, deadly to competitors. A few years back, in perfect J Bay, Knox crafted a symphonic 19.70 out of possible 20 points. It was beautiful. Knox’s wave dance earned him single wave scores of 9.9 and 9.8 out of possible 10. I think he threw away a 9.0!
J Bay really brings out the best and worst in styles. Watch some of these heats on the Billabong Pro website and you’ll see the best and worst of it. This event could be Taylor Knox’s swan song event at J Bay. Hearing rumblings that T Knox will retire and become Padres pitcher Heath Bell’s personal trainer.
Terry Fitzgerald clip with Jay Adams crossover transitions. Great J Bay at the end, and insight from provocateur Derek Hynd.
ED NOTE: I wrote most of this fours years ago when I worked as an Editor for SURFER magazine. I spit out articles on a weekly basis at SURFER for 10 years. In many cases spit was more palatable. Nevertheless, for some reason SURFER magazine doesn’t put my name, or any writers name for that matter, on archived articles. I’ll be posting up some old stuff soon. Hard to SEARCH when they don’t give you credit for your work. Is that too much to ask? Rant over.
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