Associate Editor

Back in May, when Albee Layer landed the trick above after a Waco bender, the internet went into a frenzy. Alley-oop 540 or alley-oop 360? Backside or frontside? Layer posted footage of the trick shortly after a similar debate about Seth Moniz’s backflip (that may actually have been a 540) at Barefoot Ski Ranch’s newly-minted wave pool.


It was after footage of Moniz’s maneuver that we reached out to professional snowboarder and Olympic commentator, Todd Richards, who happens to be one of the most vocal advocates for proper trick naming on Instagram. Richards was adamant then that Moniz’s flip wasn’t a true backflip but a frontside Crippler or frontside 540.

The debate around Albee Layer’s maneuver was even more heated. And of course, Richards weighed in flexing years of experience counting degrees of rotation for the folks at home and with a wealth of contacts across board sports. His official call? Backside alley-oop 360 (he doesn’t count the revert on the face of the wave as part of the rotation). Many surfers, Kelly Slater included, disagree.

Yesterday, the failing New York Times picked up on the debate that remains unresolved.


Writer Matt Ruby traces Todd Richards’ logic – which is further legitimized by corroboration from the likes of Tony Hawk and Mike McGill – as well as the logic of dissenters like Slater. Allow me to summarize.

The gripes are two dimensional. First being whether the trick was frontside or backside. The second is degrees of rotation.

Let’s start with the frontside or backside debate. Since the early days of the sport, skateboarders have named spins based on the direction the body opens up in reference to forward momentum. In other words, for a regular-footed skater, a frontside spin would always be counter-clockwise (unless they were going switch-stance), where the front side of the body opens up first, and a backside spin would always be clockwise, where the back side of the body turns forward first.

The problem that Kelly Slater points out is that surf terminology has evolved so that if a regular-footed surfer goes right on a wave, we say they’re on their frontside or forehand. Left – backside or backhand. So, aerial maneuvers in surf have evolved to incorporate which direction a surfer is headed down the line.

Both sides, in effect, are talking past each other. Richards says surfers, much like he and early snowboarders did, must respect tricks pioneered in a fellow boardsport and keep the names consistent. Slater and many surfers disagree.

All arguments to date, though, have failed to recognize a watersport/boardsport that managed to thread the nomenclature needle – albeit (in this author’s humble opinion) sort of clunkily. Wakeboarding.


When doing a spin in the air behind a boat, wakeboard lingo has evolved to include whether a rider is approaching the wake forehand (toeside) or backhand (heelside) and also accounts for a frontside or backside spin. It’s not uncommon to see a heelside backside 720 – often abbreviated HS BS 720. Albee Layer’s maneuver using this naming technique would be a toe-side backside 540 alley-oop. Yeah, it’s a mouthful, but if surfers like Slater and others think it’s important to denote which direction a surfer’s heading before spinning in the air, this would be the way to go, however awkward it may be coming off the tongue.

Still, notice that even in wakeboarding the frontside/backside confusion doesn’t happen. If your front opens to the boat first, it’s a frontside spin. If you spin back first, it’s backside. Point being that even if surfing doesn’t incorporate toeside/heelside into trick naming, it’s the only sport where frontside/backside nomenclature is still an issue.

In the run-up to surfing’s Olympic debut, Richards explained to us last May, it’s important to be on the same page. “Commentators can’t just be like ‘There’s another flippity flip,’” he said. “We need to get it right so surfers don’t look dumb.”

Onto degrees of rotation. According to Tony Hawk, it’s a backside alley-oop 540 because the final revert counts. Hawk points to a similar maneuver he did in a 1992 VHS video for Birdhouse that looked similar. He concedes, though, that compared to his trick on a mini ramp, Albee’s was, “monumental.”

Richards, who also surfs, doesn’t count the last revert – saying it’s a backside alley-oop 360.

Kelly Slater, evidently, is frustrated that skateboarders and snowboard legends are chiming in in the first place.


“We’ve got snowboarders trying to tell us how to name surf maneuvers,” he told the Times. “I don’t know a single surfer trying to do the opposite and name snowboard maneuvers. We should all know enough to know we should stay in our lane.”

Read the story from the New York Times here.


Only the best. We promise.


Join our community of contributors.