The “new school” of surfing was put on display in Pismo Beach Saturday at the National Scholastic Surfing Association's Airshow. As opposed to regular surf events, points were given for flying above the wave, not riding on the wave.
The aerial competition got underway at 2:30 p.m. in blown-out, two to four foot, mushy waves. The contest consisted of two 15 minute heats with five competitors in each. The person with the highest overall score out of the two heats would win $130, a trophy, and take the most points from this competition towards the overall ranking.
"We're looking for the biggest, sickest, highest, craziest, completed air," said Gaylene Clifford, one of the three judges of the event.
Unlike standard surf competitions where surfers are judged only on their three best waves, competitors at the Airshow get points for any trick they land. However, no matter how great the trick, it doesn't get any points if it's not landed.
After the horn blew, signaling the start of the first heat Kyle Buthman landed the first trick of the event with a simple reverse. Closer to the pier Noah Erickson popped hard off the lip doing a reverse to a one footer.
Competitors had to bully for position right next to the pier to find the best waves, sometimes taking off between pilings. With such fickle waves, competitors were fighting for the best, but the first heat did not produce the needed power for many big airs. In the end few tricks had been landed.
Aerial surfing has slowly crept into mainstream surfing over the last twenty years. In the past few years professionals such as Kelly Slater, Bruce Irons and Taj Burrow have made going above the lip more common on the World Championship Tour. The lower ranks of surfing have begun to take notice.
The NSSA, which is the world’s largest amateur surf league, has been putting on events for over 25 years, but has only held aerial surfing contests for the past five. The events are open to any NSSA member of any age or gender.
The NSSA is split into eight conferences. The Central Coast is in the Gold Coast Conference, which covers Ventura to Santa Cruz. Competitors build up points with each win, which can qualify them for the West Coast Championship and then the national championship.
"You cannot make it on tour without doing airs," Clifford said. "You have to have them in your repertoire."
In the second heat, Cory Arrambie came out firing. One minute after the horn, he landed his first move, a 180 grab. As the sets began to grow in size, more powerful and higher airs were being pulled but few were actually landed.
Arrambie, who found perfect waves all day, dominated the entire set and by the end of the 15 minutes had landed two front side air reverses back-to-back.
When the final horn blew, Brian Warren took fifth with 610 points, Culder Deyerle took fourth with 670, Robert Curtis was third with 730, Kyle Buthman managed 2nd with 860 and Cory Arrambie placed first place with 1,000 points. Arrambie moved from second to first place overall in the conference rankings.
The third NSSA Airshow will take place Saturday at C Street in Ventura.
The Airshow was only one of the contests held during the NSSA's all day event, which also included traditional surf events for men and women from any age group.