As in any sport, progression is a common theme in surf. It’s difficult to predict until it happens. Like Kelly Slater landing a 540 (720?) out of nowhere in Portugal. Who would’ve guessed? Or the wave pool phenomenon that seems to have exploded over the last few years – probably because unlike wave pools that date back as early as the 1930s, the newest iterations are built around producing quality waves.
But for every good idea or incredible new maneuver every gremmie and their mother sees and then has to learn, there are things that don’t take off. Remember Zoltan Torkos’ famous $20k kickflip? Turns out Zoltan’s the only guy still consistently doing them while the surf world collectively seems to have moved on.
Another idea that would have effectively pushed surfing in a different direction, but never took off? Obstacles. Rails, kickers, and otherwise manmade obstacles enjoyed a brief bout of attention some time ago. Case in point, the video above. For Wade Goodall’s series, Creative Destruction, he and friends test what they call the ‘rail whale’ – a huge board painted like a whale with a short little rail along the nose for grinding (or maybe jibbing, to borrow a snowboard term). Skip ahead to the 3:40 mark to see it in action.
The craziest part is this video was uploaded six years ago. And still, obstacles have eluded surfing. Maybe it’s the lack of durability of surfboards – though TufLite might hold up – or the unpredictable playing field of the ocean that has inhibited obstacles from really taking off. If the latter’s to blame, maybe the wave pool will offer some form of remedy. Consistent, mechanic conditions might allow surfers to revisit the possibility of pumping down the line to get speed for a frontside boardslide before ripping a full roter on the end section. Only time will tell.
For good measure, see also the time Jeff King and the Built to Shred crew built a surf rail of death: