Josh Kerr

How about it, Kerr? El Rollo? Photo: ASP/Kristin

The Inertia

Performance surfing has taken to the air big time. Ten point rides are scored in high quality surf with one big, twisting air maneuver. The repertoire of what surfers can do on, in, and now above, waves has definitely increased.

But there is one maneuver that was born in psyche of the surfing community in the 1970’s that has not yet been achieved and seemingly forgotten. If it could be done it would blow minds, to use a seventies term, and it would win heats for sure.

It was featured in a Surfer Magazine ‘Tips on how to Surf’ article sometime in the seventies, if my memory serves me right. The writer described not how to do it, but how it might be done in the future. Rick Griffin would also feature it in his fantasy surfing cartoons.

I think a variation of it is being done today, and the variation takes people’s breath away, but the classic maneuver, so fantasized about, is still out there, uncompleted.

The variation / mongrel version, I’m referring to is really not the same at all. The first time it was seen in competition was in the quarterfinals of the 2007 Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast when Josh Kerr pulled it out of his bag of tricks in a controversial losing effort to Mick Fanning. Since then It has become more or less common in the repertoires of guys like Dane Reynolds and John John Florence. It’s a lesser variation of the forgotten maneuver: Dane will drive up the face into the breaking lip, and instead of a straight rollercoaster he somehow turns a vertical 360 inside the pitching lip and emerges out of the white water as if he’d simply done a re-entry. Some call it a nose pick.

As for the real thing, the forgotten thing, it’s called the El Rollo. It was never performed, only imagined. So here’s a challenge to the up and coming new breed of young surfers: Do one.

Here it is: A long, pitching, walling tubing wave. Imagine P Pass. You drop in and power-turn up and fast across the vertical long wall, moving at high power and high speed, stylishly crouching at an almost horizontal level as if you were riding a motorcycle wall of death. Your speed across the pitching wall along with centrifugal force keeps you stuck sideways to the face – and you smoothly don’t stop there. As you flash up the curving wall you go beyond the horizontal, into the upside-down vertical, riding inside the tube, along and inside the roof of the tube, ignoring gravity because of the speed and power with which you drove up, and into, and along the inside of the tube.

Of course you don’t stop there, but complete the loop, riding across the inner wall of the tube beyond vertical and still screaming down inside of and across the descending lip now, having left the wall of the wave completely behind.

You land back onto the wave face, as with a re-entry or rollercoaster, but this time inside of the white water impact zone, still inside the tube and just ahead of the foamball. Your momentum across the wave keeps you going and you ride out of the tube and along the waveface having completed the first ‘El Rollo’ inside the tube.

Of course it’s the impact point once you’ve gone over inside the tube that’s the problem – there’s the rub. How do you land with such speed and ride up again inside of the tube rather than slide and bounce sideways into the very impact zone where the lip hits the flats? If you can suss out that crux, you will be golden.

Any takers? Or was it just another generation’s fantasy? Could it be done at Teahupoo? Or Sunset? Or Pipe? Would a tube section of Trestles be better for it? Or Snapper? Or would it be possible if towed in sideways at speed?

Does any big surf company want to offer a major financial award for the first to do one on film on a wave head high or taller? [PS. I’d like some commission on that – you heard it here first].

The El Rollo: Dreamed about forty years ago. Another untouched frontier. Riding the inside wall of the pitched lip, instead of the wave, and coming out sideways with the spit! Cowabunga!

  • Great idea, but too late.  I’ve already nailed a couple of them…

    • Paul

      I’ll look out for them on ‘Innersections’ then…

  • Maureenmac59

    pretty routine on a bodyboard

    • Paul

       Hands free?

      • Paul

        .. and standing?

        • Matt O’Brien

          UM Paul even a Stand Up surfer doesn’t/couldn’t pull it off hands free. Nice try at a jab though. Nice to know that a couple of @$$holes like yourself still have a dysfunctional view concerning wave riding craft(s). Must be fun living in your cave caveman! and IF you weren’t trying/succeeding at being @$$ then I apologize. cheers Paul.

          • Paul

            Apology accepted

          • Morqman

            cool beans 

  • Matt O’Brien

    actually Pat G. did one in SF 2011 AND as for the Body Boarding comment: true. Also true is that Bodyboarders were/maybe still doing them in early 90’s DropKnee Style. I know – I got beat in a few heats by a competitor who HAD em DOWN! Great Article – but no mention of Pat Cadwell who by all accounts not only “invented” maneuver – but named it as well. He called it an “el Rollo” when asked by other bodyboarders. He choose “el Rollo” for name because ALL THINGS MEXICO was all the rage. cheers and great article…

  • Paul

    I’m not aware of any one standing on a surfboard pulling an El Rollo in any substantial waves. 

    Surfer Mag ran photos of Mark Martinson making a carving 360 on the face in large Sunset. Since then carving 360’s are known and seen, and still very impressive. I’ve seen Slater sideslipping inside a large tube in France and emerging – a 10 point ride. Pottz was known for carving 360’s and airs.

    A full on El Rollo in large tubing surf would have made a big impact – and will if performed in future. 

    This time it wouldn’t be a skateboarding move crossing into surfing [although skateboarders have attempted a full pipe roll, and I THINK someone has pulled that off]. It’s true bodyboarders can flip over with the tube, even at Pipe. The El Rollo was in the surfing psyche tho before the modern Bodyboards had evolved – it was kneeboards and mattresses then, and wooden ply 3 foot fun things. Bodyboarding has definitely got there first but an full, carving El Rollo on a modern shortboard in large tubing surf is yet to be seen as far as I’m concerned. Happy to be proved wrong but I’m sure the genuine article in sizeable surf has never been seen or marked in a contest.

    And forgetting contests – just imagine seeing it done with style in sizeable surf.

    I think that with impeccable timing it could be done, landing with the leading edge of the curl and projecting forward and down just in front of the impact zone..

    • Yomar

      i was actually thinking of a very specific pottz move, that landed a cover or center spread on his legendardy green and yellow board at the hoek in cape town in the 80ies. he goes right, goes straight up up like for a reo (NOT a carving 3), but more vertical under the lip, then graps his board by both rails, suspended upside down perfectly under the lip. from there the way back is simply to put half a rotation in and land it. just like a BB doing an el rollo. or like any competent surfer riding in afer a heat can do, lying down. so if that’s what paul anderson is writing about i’m pretty sure pottz was doing it in the 80ies. when you talk about surfing you’ve got to look at the history pretty far back, not all things air or rotation related got invented after 2000 i reckon. if inertia has a decent reader base maybe someone could put the pic up pls. it was probably in the zigzag but might have been surfer or – ing as well …

  • Paul

    I don’t think so – The Gorkin Flip is an air and a vertical 360 move.  The El Rollo is primarily a horizontal speed move along the inside of the tube, with the vertical full roll over inside the tube as a secondary aspect to the horizontal speed. 

    The end result emerges sideways out of the tube.

  • MustachePete

    uh, isn’t this called the barney roll after shawn barron?

    • Paul

      Are we talking about a waist high wave, or an overhead tube?

      Flipping over / barrel role in small waves = sliding, fins free 360 equivalent impact

      Carving speed barrel roll in large tubing waves = carving power turning 360 equivalent impact.

      Actually the carving speed barrel roll > carving 360 [i.e it’s much greater than a carving 360 in impact].

      I don’t think it’s ever been done, or documented. Hence all the confusion.

      I’d do one myself to illustrate but I don’t live near P Pass.. [and at 58 have left the 5′ 10” of my youth behind and graduated to a longboard].

      Are there any professional / well known / internationally respected surfers out there to offer a viewpoint?

      • MustachePete

        I heard that Barney did one on Kauai. could be wrong, am most of the time. Whether it was documented, I don’t know. I am sure that a youtube search might bring something up. By the way, why has the move faded away?

        • Paul

          I checked Youtube – nothing I cold find there.

          I guess one of the main points of my article is to ask why the move has been forgotten?

  • Paul

    The Difference between a skateboard full pipe roll, and the ‘El Rollo’ on a surfboard?

    With a skateboard pipe roll you travel vertically up the wall and then up, up and over.

    With a surfboard ‘El Rollo’ you primarily travel fast ACROSS the wall while rising up the face – and don’t stop rising – then up, up and over.

  • Kcaussie58

    great article!

  • Huge

    Mid 80’s and kneeboarder Michael Novakov pulled them off at North Narrabeen and over reef at Black Rock – aussie pipe. See Tim Bonythons movie “Water Slaughter ” for footage. 

  • Paul

    So we have bodyboarders and kneeboarders having done them. 

    Is any stand up surfer going to step up to the plate?

    Kelly, Josh, Kolohe, Dane, Jamie, John John, Gabriel…. 

    Any response – in writing, or in the water?

    This article is called a CHALLENGE to the new aerialsits

    ie. shortboards


  • Bodhizafferton

    Barney barron made it is life goal to stick these barrel rolls and hasnt defiantely landed them.It’s not a functional move where it can be added into a variety of tricks while surfing down the line. It’s a one and i’m done with the wave maneuver.

    • Paul

      I appreciate the comment. My article seems to have caused as much confusion as clarity. I’ve searched online for Rick Griffin’s cartoon depictions of the El Rollo barrel roll but can’t find them… Yes – the landing is the ‘I’m done’ bit.. how to move on from there..?

      Thanks again for your insight..

      I’d like to see Mick Fanning or Parko trying to incorporate an El Rollo at speed into big Kirra or Snapper – and move on down the line as well..

      It obviously caught Barney’s imagination..

  • Paul

     I’m not wanting to discredit – but much is so vague. I’d like to see this move mainstream – or at least the attempts at doing it.

    It is definitely not mainstream if it has been completed.

    A pity that people like Josh Kerr [recently interviewed on STAB magazine: doesn’t mention it among the new moves he’s attempting.

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