Thursday, September 23, 2010

Dane vs. Jordy: Who Does Higher Surfing Aerials?

The biggest 2010 surfing event in the US was recently completed in perfect 6 foot waves at Trestles in Southern California. The surfing was innovative and exciting with technical and high flying performances, elevating surfing to a mesmerizing and progressive spectator sport.

This was the first surf event to use the new competition format, pitting the worlds top 32 surfers and 4 qualifiers against each other. If you want to find out more about the surfing World Championship Tour check out this video or head to the ASP Surfing website. The new format and fantastic waves brought the best out of many surfers on the tour.

Dane Reynolds and Jordy Smith were stand out performers, particularly in the air and that's where we want to go in this blog. Just like basketball slam dunk competitions, the higher the aerial maneuver the more exciting and better it is. Of course if the surfer does not land and ride out then it cannot count (similar to a missed basket in an attempted slam). The surfing judging criteria do not specify height in an aerial move as a criteria, but height above the wave definitely makes the move look more difficult.

In the video we have Dane and Jordy performing aerial moves at the Trestles Hurley Pro. Dane is first up and we will look at his first air. Jordy is third surfer up and we will look at his "Superman" air when his feet come off the board.

To compare these two aerial moves we will measure height above the top of the wave at the peak for the air. We will do this because the camera footage allows us to see both the surfer and top of the wave in the same image for both surfers.

To measure their height above the wave we have to make some assumptions. Firstly we need to estimate the length of their surfboards. We will use this length to scale the video and allow us to measure height.  We will assume that the board Dane was riding was 6 foot 1 inch (73 inches) Al Merrick Proton that he refers to in this video. We will assume that Jordy is riding a 6 foot 2 inch (74 inches)board as he talks about here.

Take a look at the images below. First Dane and then Jordy.

To compare their aerial heights we measured the height of their hips above the wave. Dane and Jordy both get their hips just under 5 foot (60 inches) above the top of the wave. Dane may be a little higher, an inch or so, but as the video of these aerial moves was taken from different positions and with different fields of view, we need to allow for  some error. So we will have to say that both got about the same height above the wave.

So who did better? The judges scored Dane's wave with this aerial in round 3 of the event as a 9.33 out of 10 and Jordy's wave with his "Superman" air, also in round 3, as a 9.60. A wave is not judge only on one move though(unless its the only move) and Jordy did bigger moves on the rest of his wave than Dane. So maybe height of an aerial move does factor into the judges scoring and in this case the judges scored both waves high because of the incredible amplitude that both surfers reach.

Of course surfing is not only about being in the air above the waves but also about the movement, flow, power and combinations on the face of the wave. The 2010 Hurley Pro at Trestles was not won by either Dane or Jordy, but rather by the master of surfing, Kelly Slater.

Kelly is currently leading the World Championship Tour ratings going for his 10th title, but Jordy and Dane (2nd and 4th respectively) are right in it to. We expect the surfing will continue to be as exciting as it was at Trestles with these three athletes pushing each other to greater heights and hope to be seeing and analyzing the first aerial move 6 foot above the wave.

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