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The Return to Thrash Have aerials and “clips” reached their ceiling?

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I love airs. It’s why I’m here. It’s why I met Kai. It’s been my life’s work to highlight and get people amped on the latest in surfing. And airs have been the thing. Modern Collective was my project when I worked at another magazine and led me on the editorial path I’ve been on since. Documenting that movement. Being a part of the new push. Hell, trying airs myself. “Fuck the past, we’re only looking up!” we’d shout with vodka tonics and techno and ice sculptures.

But over last few weeks, that’s all started to change. Actually it’s been changing for a while, but I think we’ve found the key to the whole thing finally. And I know this because I’m fucking excited again.

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Dillon Perillo. PHOTO: Hamish

You’ll remember my desensitization to “clips” last week and how Volcom’s new film Psychic Migrations saved my life. Well, last week Stab put out a piece that featured Kolohe, Dane and Noa riding Andy Irons old boards and they focused strictly on hitting the lip as hard as they could. It was just one session, but the approach was so radically different. And radical is a key word here. What they were doing looked a lot more thrash than them flying around trying airs. There was a sense of aggression in their surfing that airs don’t allow for.

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Jay Davies. PHOTO: Lawrence

This all follows a WSL final shootout in which Felipe Toledo and Italo Ferreira did some of the best airs we’ve seen in competition — back to back and in a jersey. Just mind blowing stuff. It all went down in the quiet country of Portugal and seemed to slip under the radar while most of us were sleeping. I don’t know why. But there is something going on. Maybe American and Australian surfing can’t keep up with the Brazilian storm? Or maybe it’s something more beautiful than that.

Lately there has been a lot of talk about surfing and skateboarding and whether or not they are “sports.” It’s kind of crazy, but it’s leading to Olympic committees and wave pools and a bunch of ridiculous conversations with people who don’t know shit about what sort of crazy mess we make with our lives to surf. The topic hasn’t been more well put than when William Finnegan did it in this recent New York Times article: Surf for Love, Not Gold. And I think it’s pretty well documented where we stand on the issue.

But before we get all corporate and chlorinated, let’s get back to the lecture at hand: the return of thrash to surfing.

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Dane Reynolds. PHOTO: Lawrence

Dane Reynolds has always had it in him — probably more than anyone else since Andy. Kolohe comes with it in his Dino N. A. And there are a lot of modern surfers who when asked to focus on thrash can and will do it with the best of them. Noa Deane, Jay Davies, Conner Coffin, Mitch Coleborn. They have aggression built in. And I think we just need to ask to see it more.

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Kolohe Andino. PHOTO: Lawrence

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Ryan Burch. PHOTO: Bielman

Last week Ryan Burch became an overnight sensation. Which is definitely one of the positive aspects of social media: someone who we’ve all been keeping an eye on for a long time can become an overnight game changer for the masses, and gain recognition that’s long overdue. And in Ryan’s case, I really like how he achieved it: after his twin fin dance on a Chilean point break in a Psychic Migrations part. His two fins didn’t leave the water once. It was the most fascinating surfing I’d watched in a very long time. It was all creative and it was fun to watch. It was not Mick getting a score (which can be beautiful, but it is not creative).

It was not calculated. Or for anyone else but himself. It was done with feeling. It was the difference between a newspaper story and beat poetry. And it was the first time I’d been that jazzed watching surfing in a long time.

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Noa Deane. PHOTO: Hamish

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Dane Reynolds. PHOTO: Lawrence

Call it another repercussion of the clip desensitization we’re all facing. But this week I refuse to watch anything but Psychic Migrations and Ryan Burch and I”m definitely replaying that session of Kolohe, Dane and Noa bringing thrash back to surfing on the king of thrash’s boards. And I must say it’s something I’ve spent most of my drives home thinking about. Where are we going? Is surfing’s future in a pool, or in a jersey, or in the air? Or is it right where it’s always been? Which is of course however you like it.

When I started writing this I wasn’t sure how it would end. And I wasn’t sure how to connect all these dots or just what the hell I was trying to say. And I guess what I’ve come to realize is that we dearly miss Andy Irons. And that we’d be silly not to spend some time every week remembering just how much we need the level of power and spontaneity in surfing that he represented. We need it to balance it all out. We need it to keep us excited. And we need it to get us out there. Because most of the “clips” coming out just aren’t doing it for me. The competitions just aren’t firing me up like it used to. And the few things that have excited me this year didn’t even require a fin to leave the water. And saying that is making me the most excited I’ve been in a long time. —Travis 

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Kolohe Andino. PHOTO: Lawrence

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Ryan Burch. PHOTO: Bielman

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Dane Reynolds. PHOTO: Lawrence

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