Matt Meola has been blowing our collective minds for a long time now. His aerial expertise has made him one of the most innovative surfers on the planet — a once-in-a-generation talent. His 2015 edit, Home, for example, featured a spindle flip 540 (or what some called a 720) that broke the internet (it’s just after the 5:50 mark in the above video).
With six more years of innovation in the rearview mirror, we talked to Matt about that single highlight in Matt Meola’s Guide to Aerial Surfing. He’s still calling it, “the most exciting air I’ve ever landed” to this day.
“I’m still trying to up it,” he admits. “I don’t think anyone besides me, Kelly Slater and Albee Layer have spun past five. To that specific rotation, we’re the only three people on the planet who have spun that far.”
The specific moment featured in Home was the first time Matt had ever landed it — a “flip variation of your typical 720 or 540. You dip your front shoulder and you go upside down. But I remember the excitement when I landed. It was the best feeling I had ever, maybe had in my entire life. I got to the beach and I flipped out, I claimed it, dropped my board on the rocks, and smashed my tail.”
Meola says he’s still chasing that feeling six years later and trying to top that single maneuver.
“It’s just so crazy that in six years I’ve struggled to land something crazier than that. I’ve had tons of really close attempts, I’ve landed another rotation, but the first one’s always the most special,” he tells The Inertia. “It was such an insane feeling and I feel like I’ll be chasing that the rest of my life.
Matt says that pursuit — accomplishing something that’s never been done before — is what keeps him going today. The unpredictability of the ocean ensures opportunities like that air in 2015 remain rare and special.
But the world is different now. Wave pools have made those formerly-rare moments accessible at the literal push of a button. And the most talented in today’s generation of groms are going to reap the greatest rewards. That’s a reality that excites Meola.
“I feel like once the Texas wave pool opened the progression of aerial surfing and the progression of younger kids doing airs has just skyrocketed,” he says. “It’s the first time ever in surfing where you get the same ramp wave after wave after wave. You actually are in a controlled environment and you can practice tricks over and over again, whereas before that had never been possible.”
Meola’s dream is to see more wave pools like the one in Waco, Texas, “but on a bigger scale.” He says this would give surfers the opportunity to execute the same maneuvers on waves twice as big and in sections twice as big. He suggests at that point we’ll all be watching a new crop of “never-done-before” airs that won’t even be possible in the ocean.
“I just hope it happens when my body is still able to try these things and push the levels. But it’s really impressive seeing the younger kids and how far they’ve come just because of that wave pool.”
Learn to land your first air or take your air game to new heights. Sign up for Matt Meola’s Guide to Aerial Surfing to access a lifetime of innovation above the lip.