Flicks and Tricks, or Pure Down the Line? ....The Pros Debate

Wave riding has developed beyond belief since the inception of our sport. Progression with equipment and sailors pushing it harder and harder has lead to some incredible displays of waveriding.

But has the inclusion of more tricks on the wave taken wavesailing to a whole new level? Or has it taken away from pure down the line riding?

Thomas Traversa shares his view on why pure down the line is the way forward for him, before Victor Fernandez, Josh Stone and Kauli Seadi discuss their styles, who they admire and how wavesailing has evolved.

Thomas Traversa

For me the best is down the line waveriding, 100%, because that's what I prefer to do: the feeling you get by doing a good carve or a late hit under the lip, is (for me) so much better than doing a taka or a goiter.

I like to do tricks when the conditions are too bad to make good carves and vertical waveriding: then the tricks become interesting, because that's pretty much all you can do. Like in Pozo, where the wave is so soft and closing out that it's not even surfable.

Tricks really helped to improve wavesailing in shitty conditions, and nowadays the waveriders have a lot of knowledge about all the freestyle tricks too, they are more complete as windsurfers, which helps also in solid conditions to be able to recover from tricky situations.

I think those tricks in the wave are very nice to watch, it's super impressive to see a guy flying over the lip rotating air takas, goiters and stuff like that.

The only problem I have with those tricks is: Gollito after two try can make a backside 360° in Pozo without any knowledge of the waves. Is this just a shaka then? Where is then the limit between freestyle and waveriding?

One example:

A guy in Ho’okipa goes fully down the line, freestyle position, barely goes down the wave, keeps all his speed by going in a straight line, no rail surfing is involved at all, his board is flat. Then he uses the side of the breaking lip to literally jump down the line over the section, land full speed in the wave: I call this a "gayrial", for gay and aerial, it’s fake and not nice.... simple.

Then let Polakow do the same, but going down the wave, putting his board fully on the rail, coming vertical under the lip, under his board, hitting the lip and flying, landing in the wave. This is sick, this is wavesailing. Anybody would realise that Polakow's real move can't be compared with the fake aerial.

Now take the same two situations, but instead of doing an aerial, they both do an air taka. Most of people will just see two air takas, maybe they will even prefer the fake version because the guy (by going straight and faking the hit on the lip) will keep more horizontal speed and travel more in the air, and land full speed.. Levi is one of the only modern riders who stays true to waveriding when he includes those new tricks in his rides, and i like it a lot!! No fake waveriding!

For the rest, sometimes those moves are a bit of a shame, in my opinion...

Victor Fernandez: For me the best wave riding is still the pure down the line, top to bottom turns but it always depends on the conditions of the day.

We don’t have perfect waves everyday, so including the freestyle moves on the waves has been an amazing step forward to improve wavesailing these days. When I say freestyle moves, I mean the freestyle move but always still hitting the critical part of the waves. This is still pure wave riding, including radical moves into it and not on the flat part of the wave, it’s two different things.

Josh Stone: Obviously, as a Ho’okipa windsurfer, and a Hawaiian born surf guy, I’ve ALWAYS been partial to hardcore down the line wave sailing. To me it is the most beautiful and stylish wave riding to watch as it is a marriage of smooth turns and pure power. I think partially the reason down the line is so dynamic is because you need the best conditions for wave sailing in order to have true down the line riding. Real waves, side off shore, which makes for glassy conditions in comparison to on-shore, and steady winds, not necessarily “cranking” winds. The setting itself in these conditions is generally more beautiful and appealing.

However, there is no doubt that the freestyle and on-shore wave riding tricks, which have been to a large part worked into down the line wave riding, are an AWESOME display of technical prowess, and incredible to see.

It has been a long, long time since I’ve been to Pozo, but just watching the video clips is mind blowing. The stuff the guys are doing in that on-shore wave riding is just unbelievable.

BUT, when you see those tricks infused in mast high Ho’okipa bashes, there is absolutely no comparison. A 15 foot high, down the line, tweaked air wave taka by Levi or Brawzinho is something out of a fairytale. I have yet to see any comparison, so in summary, it’s down the line for me! I’m just hoping one day to get my down the line moves as tweaked and radical as Levi and Brawzinho are pushing it.

I’m not sure if it is pure carving/hard hit aerials over wave tricks for me. There is such beauty and purity in the Francisco Goya autobahn bottom turn, or the Polakow mega carve off the top, not to mention the insanely vertical surf style of Keith Taboul, BUT again, when I see the younger generation marry that style with the new tricks, it is really mind blowing. It’s too hard of a question really because I love both, and strive to perfect both in every session.

Kauli Seadi: I think freestyle has helped a lot wave sailing, especially in conditions where the waves are not perfect and onshore. But in the other hand I believe the pure wave sailing is very important, if there are waves to ride down the line like in Indonesia, Cabo Verde, places like these I really don’t think the tricks are as beautiful as some sick bottom turn to top turn using the rail of the board. If I have to pick one now I would probably choose pure surfing.

The inclusion of tricks in wave riding has made it so much better in conditions with onshore winds and small waves....there is action where normally there would be nothing been done by pure wave riders!

Personal Style

Victor Fernandez: I think both styles of riding (down the line/new moves) are both great to watch and the best for me is to combine both in the same wave.

Staying in Maui/Chile/Cabo Verde has helped me a lot to understand better the pure wave riding, but that doesn’t mean that I have more fun in perfect cross off down the line 3m waves. Cross onshore is very fun too and it’s very hard to pull moves in any conditions.

I really love a spot like Ho’okipa, where you can have small to big waves and try a big top turn, big airs or any of the air moves like air takas,360°s,goyters,etc...

Josh Stone: I am a Hawaiian guy all the way, so I have always been a down the line wave sailor, but of course I was a world champion freestyler, so I’m pretty much right down the middle when it comes to down the line and tricks.

It’s next to impossible to say what style you have yourself. I don’t watch myself, so I don’t really know. In the early days at Diamond Head when I was a kid, ironically they said I had “explosive power”, but when I moved to Maui to learn Ho’okipa I had to change my style up because I’m a goofy foot (perfect for Diamond Head, but wrong stance for Ho’okipa) and my timing on the wrong stance was really hard to find, so I had to finesse my turns and looked to hit more aerials, which is easier to do when you are uncomfortable or off timing, and that lead to people saying I had “a cat like, finesse and skate park style”. Now, I basically sail Ho’okipa every day and have AFTER 20 YEARS have become pretty darn comfortable on this tack, so I’ve heard around the beach lately that my style is now “powerful and vertical”. That is really what you want to hear because it denotes comfort and good timing. Hey…it only took me 20 years! Hahahaha.

Kauli Seadi: This depends on the spot I'm sailing, I try to adapt my style but at home especially I do a lot of side off shore riding, so you can really surf the wave.

Whose style do you admire?

Victor Fernandez: For me, Levi Siver has the best waveriding style on starboard tack and Kauli on portack when it is down the line conditions. They both have great styles to watch and they can make on one wave the sickest turn and the sickest trick.

Josh Stone: No doubt the two sailors I see every day that ROCK it are Levi and Brawzinho. Levi more for his power, flow, turns and insane down the line with the flawless tricks incorporated, and Brawzinho more for his consistency in nailing every wave trick in the book without fail.

There are also young guys at Ho’okipa that are mind blowing and will most likely over take the older guys in a few years. Bandt and Morgan are two of the stand out right now whom I really enjoy watching. Again, it’s the marriage of pure riding and tricks that most impress me.

Kauli Seadi: Philip (Koester) has shown an amazing performance, wave riding onshore with the tricks, it looks awesome.

Brawzinho is also amazing because he is really able to make both pure riding but also tricks. And then there are some guys that have unique styles like Angulo, Levi, Jason, Keith and Goya. We try to make a mix in between all these different styles.

Victor Fernandez: I don’t think it’s just because the tour spots are less down line places, like Pozo, that we do more wave tricks. I think it’s more because all the riders are pushing the new moves into the waves and this makes windsurfing more exciting to watch. Looking back 10 years, we could not imagine some of the moves that are being pulled off now.

I love to go wave sailing and try different spin rotation on the waves. When you look at surfing now its happening the same as in windsurfing, more tricks, airs, etc...in spots where you don’t have big and perfect barreling waves.

Josh Stone: For sure, but that is an AWESOME thing because these guys are taking it to the next, next, next level. It always blows me away to see the tour guys come to Ho’okipa. They always start out a little off, but by the end of their stay, they are absolutely killing it and showing us new moves we’ve never seen before. Phillip, Ricardo, Kauli, Swiffty, Victor, etc are out every year and they always have something new to give us. That wouldn’t happen if they weren’t forced to make places like Pozo look better and rip it harder. Every location, and every style is excellent…the real top pros can make it look good anywhere in anything. That’s the real difference between world champions and the local ripper.

Kauli Seadi: Totally, riders will always find the way to make a difference in a contest. I remember in 2005, I won Pozo in the final because I made the air back 360 on the wave.