Is Power Surfing Dead? My Top 5 Power Surfer Rundown.
Are we over exposed to above the lip surfing?
A lot of my social media feed is surf related. All I ever seem to see is clips of someone popping an air reverse. I’m not sure what proportion of the surf content I see is aerial surfing, but it’s a lot. Don’t get me wrong, landing a technical above the lip manoeuvre is impressive and something that I am definitely not capable of. But have we been so over exposed to airs, that they start to lose their impact? Events like ‘Stab High’ really push the boundaries and are great to see, but most of the tripe on social media is just white noise to me.
Wade Carmichael released an edit a few months back. He had recently started riding for Rusty surfboards and the video was promoting The Rusty ‘Keg’, Wade’s signature surfboard. This was so refreshing to see. A real celebration of balls to the wall power surfing. I really enjoyed it and wondered why we don’t see more of this kind of content.
In competition It seems like power surfing has been rewarded in recent years. Consider a wave that has potential for both aerial manoeuvres and open face surfing: If a surfer executes a couple of powerful / critical turns on the wave they get the points, often achieving a score in the excellent range. Of course, progressive aerobatic surfing is also praised, which it should be. But its good to see power surfing becoming recognised in competition again.
For me, watching skilled surfer on the open face is an art form. So, after an engaging Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach contest, this is a celebration of the power surfer. Often overlooked but beautiful to behold. Here is a rundown in no specific order, of my top 5 ‘power surfers’ of all time.
I grew up watching surf videos of Occy. I wore out my VHS of ‘Green Iguana’ by Jack McCoy - one of my favourite surf flicks. If you haven’t seen it, you should definitely check it out. I have a permanent image of Occy’s back hand attack seared into my mind. I was surfing with my Dad one day when I was a kid and he said that my style was similar to Occy. I guess that all those hours of watching Occhilupo surf had influenced my style. Occy and I also have a similar body type, short legs and a big torso. This is one of the keys to Occy’s ability on the open face. Short powerful legs give him a low centre of gravity, combined with the mass of a powerful upper body allowing him to really push into turns and engage the rail. Occy also has an ‘unconventional’ technique. Never properly coached on his surfing, one key feature of his style is a slightly stiffer upper body in turns. Many would see this as a failure in technique, but for Occy it translates to a unique style and more powerful turns. And with a world title under his belt, no one can argue with Mark Occhilupos technique. Perhaps there should be less focus on technique and more on style and flair when coaching surfers for the CT? And if Occy’s 1997 skins event at Bells is anything to go by, I think I have a point.
With a similar build to Occy, Wade Carmichael is another Aussie powerhouse. With slightly more bulk then Occy, a real stand out for me is how much water is displaced when Wade puts everything into a turn. In competition when he is on form, Wade’s one or two turn combos are unmatched for power. He seems to perform better in beach break, which suit his explosive style. This makes him an outlier, as you would usually associate larger surfers and power surfing with open faced point break type waves. His free surfing clips are great to watch and always inspire me to push harder.
Parko is often associated with his beautiful style. With one of the most visually appealing approaches to surfing, he has influenced a number of the current tour surfers - most notably Jordy Smith. I could watch Parko’s roundhouse cutbacks all day. A lot of power goes into Parkinson’s turns to achieve this style, which can often be overlooked. Parko’s visual appeal comes from his excellent technique. This enables him to control the power that he puts into his turns. A difficult skill. Parko is a one off and makes it all look so easy.
Jordy is one of the most all round, accomplished surfers on tour. Plagued by injuries, in my opinion he is well overdue a world title. Hyped as a champ early on in his career with an already consistent air game. He also has a competitive edge on right hand point breaks with J-Bay as his local spot. In recent years Jordy has also put time into perfecting his approach to waves of consequence. At 6’3 and well built he was one of the heaviest surfers on tour. He has slimmed down in recent years after putting more focus on fitness and training, but at nearly 90kg he is still a lump. Like Wade Carmichael, this weight transfers into powerful surfing. Taking inspiration from Parko, Jordy has the ability to harness all of this power into his own unique style. Taller surfers often have an awkward technique, but Jordy’s turns look graceful and deceptively easy. It is a pleasure to watch Jordy surf an open-faced right-hand point. Look at his approach at J-Bay, which is a difficult wave to negotiate. All the time that he has put in surfing there has paid off. He knows that wave inside out and can execute turns with confident, powerful style that is unmatched. This open face - deceptively easy brand of power surfing is also applied by Jordy to the rest of the waves on Championship Tour. Point breaks, beach breaks, slabbing reef – Jordy has it all. Along with Kelly (who narrowly missed my top 5 power surfers), I am always cheering for Jordy in competition.
Dane Reynolds is my favourite surfer. His ‘full on attack’ approach blows me away. He appears to throw everything at all of his turns. Yes, like Jordy he is also an ‘air guy’, but even his above the lip surfing has an aggressive style. In contrast to Jordy Smith, Parko or Slater he has a much rawer aesthetic. His unique brand of power surfing is not masked with a graceful, effortless style, but still displays control and still looks great. For me he is so exciting to watch. As an observer he appears to be putting it all on the line with every wave that he catches. I equate Reynolds style to Ayrton Senna, the legendary Formula 1 driver. If you get a chance to see the cockpit footage of Senna wrestling his car around the Monaco circuit, you will know what I mean. Dane looks like he could fall at any moment, on every wave because he is pushing so hard.
John John Florence vs João Chianca
Forget everything that you have just read and watch these two compete head-to-head at the Rip Curl Pro - Bells Beach 2022. This is power surfing at its best. Unreal.