Surf Tips- How to do an Aerial

We’re proud to introduce the third of our Surf Tips Series, which we’re releasing in conjunction with pro coaches from around the world.

Complete with photos and videos of pro’s in action as well as top tips and common mistakes, the series promises to get you in the water and improving your surfing in no time.

In the last of our 3 multimedia instalments, Chris Bond from Ticket to Ride Surf Adventures talks us through how to do an aerial.

The Aerial

As you can see from the heading this is quite a broad topic and one that could be broken down into each different type of aerial manoeuvre. But it is for that precise reason that we have started with a broader approach and some general tips towards aerial surfing to help you regardless of the type of aerial you want to do.

The worst thing about the aerial is just how common they are becoming, not just down at your local beach but of course on the endless flow of online clips too, and it is bad because it desensitises us to them. The best thing about the aerial is how it feels to actually do one, and that is the reason for sharing this with you. There is something about that feeling of weightlessness when you do an air, defying gravity for a split second, and harnessing the energy of the wave to get in the air that just feels really really cool. For those who are trying airs for the first time the type of wave you choose is crucial in your success. The easiest sections to learn airs on are closeout sections, and in what you are looking for is a wave that is either wedging or bowling in towards you, as opposed to a straight wave. It also makes it significantly easier if the section coming towards you is smaller than the section you are on, as you can imagine this makes it much easier to get in the air. For those of you looking to improve your airs, you want waves with sections, in light of this either onshore waves or glassy conditions after onshore winds usually produce the best air sections. Cross-shore winds also really help keep the board on your feet.

1. The approach: You need speed to do airs, but contrary to popular belief this doesn’t have to mean racing down a whole wave until you get to the end section, you can generate a lot of speed in a short space of time if you stay right near the pocket of the wave and then let your board loose just before you reach the section. It all depends on the wave but I really don’t recommend racing an entire wave when trying to do an air. So, once you’ve got the speed you do a shallow bottom turn and get low to your board, touching the face of the wave with your hand is a great little reference point. Widen your stance as well to help keep you centred over the board.

2. The entry: The angle you hit the lip for an air is very important, too lateral and you end up doing a floater and too vert you will either not get in the air or just go off the back, see the video, but about a 30 degree angle off the top will make your chances of success better. At the moment you hit the lip your legs should be extended so that the lip can then push the board up in towards your body as you bend your legs.

3. The aerial: Whilst some may say “just do an ollie or a jump” and this is partly true, we want this air to be a power move and not to look stupid of course. When you do a real air (however small) it is the timing of hitting the lip, or the crest of the wave if you do it out of the bowl, that should send you into the air. Then you can bend your legs similar to a jump to help keep the board under your feet. Even if you are doing an air reverse the theory is very similar, of course you have to rotate your body, but the landing is where things change. Whilst in the air you should try and stay as centred over your board as possible and have an idea where you want to land. Keeping your arms lifted near will keep you unweighted and centred over your board.

4. The completion: To land the air you need to now extend your legs and push the board onto your landing spot, this is why it is crucial to have an idea already where you want to land it. This of course all happens very fast! So you push down towards your landing spot which hopefully is a nice little bit of white water enabling an easier landing. Don’t project out into the flats and of course try not to land on the back of the wave. Whilst you are in the air the wave of course keeps moving towards the beach while you are in the air so you do need to emphasise throwing the air ‘forwards’. This is especially important for the air reverse or alley-oop.

5. Recovery: The recovery for most manoeuvres is the same, compress your legs and get low over the board to help you get out of the move and into the next one with maximum speed. With the air you may fall into layback or have a bit of a wobble on landing, so really try and stay as low as possible to ensure a good success rate.

Common Mistakes:
1. The most common mistake when trying aerials is getting the timing wrong when hitting the lip. Most people when they are learning to get in the air hit the lip too early, the result is that you may get in the air but it will be impossible to land, you need that lip pushing the board up onto your feet and forwards towards the beach.

2. Landing on the back of the wave is something that is bound to happen, sometimes it is just a lack of commitment to the landing and other times it is not projecting forwards towards the
beach. Try and pick your landing spot before you do the air so you know where you are
heading, by looking there you are more likely to end up there.

3. Straightening your legs too early will get the board away from your body and essentially
makes you lose control over the board, so try and keep the legs bent and board tucked under
you for as long as possible.

1. Regardless of your usual stance when surfing, you will want to widen your stance and get your back foot right back when going for an aerial. The later you do this the more stylish your surfing will look going into it, but it does help you get down the line speed too.
2. If you already have a good closeout turn in your toolkit, you can literally just do the same motion but imagine the lip is a foot higher than where it really is, so you go through the motions of the top turn but do it above the lip. It will only be a small air, but air under your feet is what we are after.

3. Air Reverse: There are a few really handy tips for the air reverse, you don’t have to do them but they make it a little easier to land. Firstly try not to point your front arm down as whilst rotating, this puts all the weight on your front foot and will result in you ‘almost landing’ a lot of airs; ideally bend that front arm and keep it raised. Another good one is to really try and throw the air reverse towards the beach and not down the line, it helps keep the board under your feet and with the momentum of the wave which increases the likelihood of landing.

4. This is actually a general tip for all manouevres and not just aerials, but trying to keep your upper body relaxed will vastly improve your success ratio, if you are holding the tension in your back your response time will be slower and you will be less likely to land the manouevre, so keep calm.

5. If you really want to get into airs you need to surf waves that allow you to practice them a lot, so find that spot and put in the effort.

If you have any questions or want to tell us what is or isn’t working or any suggestions then please share them below.

Check out:
Surf tips #1: How to do a forehand cutback
Surf Tips #2: How to do the perfect pop up

Words and Photos Chris Bond @seabond

Ticket to Ride run Surf Courses, and Surf Breaks in South Africa, Mozambique, Indonesia, Costa Rica and Morocco. All their trips include surf coaching to the highest, with most being run by ex-WCT and WQS surfers. They cater for all abilities, and are widely regarded as the best organisation to improve your surfing dramatically in a short period of time.

  • Timmy McHugh

    Hey. Been having heaps of trouble landing these. Every now and then I could launch pretty nice above the lip frontside and backside, but always have trouble landing them. But the hardest part is launching above the lip. Seriously 1 in 20 waves I could get the air. I just can’t figure out how to consistently fly up above the lip it always seems that I get stuck at the top or dig a rail right where I should be flying off???!!! Very annoying someone please help with some advice