Surf, skate, and snow trick rotations for dummies

Scotty Arnold, frontside 540. Photo: Wellhausen/TransWorldsnowboarding.com

Scotty Arnold, frontside 540. Photo: Wellhausen/TransWorldsnowboarding.com

The air debate in the world of surfing has been raging for years now, with many fans, surfers, commentators, magazine editors, and pundits arguing back and forth as to what to call various air rotation maneuvers. It's completely understandable that surfing rotations are trickier to call than skateboarding or snowboarding rotations, simply because the wave is moving and the ramp or snow wall is not. As action sports go, it all started with surfing, then came skateboarding, then snowboarding; all three sports borrowed from each other's respective trick bags, with skating and snowboarding advancing ahead of surfing as far as spins, flips, and ticks went.

Well, now surfing is on the verge of catching up to skateboarding and snowboarding in terms of what tricks are possible, and that is a good thing. The only problem is that when "new" surfing tricks are done, they're not in fact "new"; they've been done on other boards already and therefore should be called what they are (e.g., 360, 540, 720). Variations on these tricks, like different grabs or adding corked elements, can call for variations on the trick names, but for the most part the spins are the spins, and should be called as such.

World-renowned snowboard cinematographer, skate filmmaker, and overall board-sports super fan Pierre Wikberg recently put together a six-and-a-half-minute explanatory and instructional video on what surfing, skateboarding, and snowboarding rotations are, complete with side-by-side-by-side comparisons of nearly every spin currently being done on boards both backside and frontside. Although the title, “Trick Instructions for Surfers,” is quite snarky, in my opinion, this should be the guide used when talking about airs, unless you're Kelly Slater. (If you're Slater, you can pretty much call whatever you do whatever you want, 'cause you're Kelly Slater, and you're awesome.)

Kelly Slater's questionably called 720 in Portugal; screen grab from video

Kelly Slater’s questionably called 720 in Portugal; screen grab from video

All this trick-naming stuff is actually pretty complicated, especially when talking about the tricks in the heat of the moment, as many commenters do—including myself. I've called tricks incorrectly many times during a live webcast, with a few corrections being made in watching the replay, much to the chagrin of those in the know who absolutely cannot stand to hear airs mislabeled (mostly snowboarders who are also fans of surfing). These days, rotated tricks are becoming more common in surfing events, so we should all be on the same page in what we name them, whether you're a casual fan or complete expert.

 Danny Way blasts a HUGE 540. Photo by Blabac/TransWorld Skateboarding

Danny Way blasts a HUGE 540. Photo by Blabac/TransWorld Skateboarding

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