Jamie O'Brien and the point of switchfoot surfing

Stu Nettle
Surfpolitik

In 1994, then two-time world champion, Kelly Slater, was asked about the future of surfing. "The next great surfer will be able to do all the moves that are happening now, except switchfoot," was his reply. While Slater has been spot on with many of his predictions this one appears off the mark. After all, 17 years have passed and switchfoot surfing is still a rare thing to see. But by the same token, the next great surfer hasn't come along yet.

Yesterday, in the semi final of the Volcom Pipeline Pro Jamie O'Brien went left on a six foot wave switchfooting from takeoff. He pulled into the barrel, came out clean and then did a stiff turn and tube stall down the line. The judges gave him 8 points for the effort. Last night O'Brien said on his Twitter account, "Give me a 8 for a switch stance wave at pipe today ?????" and then followed it up with a few more exasperated Tweets about the perceived underscore.

Pritamo Ahrendt is the ASP's Head Judge. When I asked him about switchfoot surfing he said the ASP had been discussing how it fits into the criteria for a few years. "It would be irresponsible for us not to have [discussed it] as there is always a chance that someone will pull it out on us," was his reply.

While Ahrendt wasn't in Hawaii for yesterdays competition he watched the heat and thinks the judges got the scoring right. According to Ahrendt O'Brien's barrel wasn't critical in relation to other barrels ridden on the day. "The take off is reasonably easy and it's a simple point and shoot style barrel. He doesn't have to drive through any big sections or pump to make the barrel," said Ahrendt.

But what about the difficulty of actually doing it switchstance? The first question that needs to be asked, Ahrendt says, is what the wave would have received if it was a goofyfooter surfing it exactly as Jamie did. According to Ahrendt a goofy "would not have scored more than a low 6." So therefore the difficulty of taking off and riding switchfoot gave O'Brien an extra 2 points.

O'Brien's wave was one of the few waves ridden in competition where the surfer has gotten to their feet switchfoot (the only other one that this writer can remember is Kelly Slater at Supertubos during last years Rip Curl – an unsuccessful ride).

Slater has made numerous attempts at jumping switchfoot mid-ride, most memorably at Padang Padang during the 2008 Rip Curl Search event for which he scored a 10. Ahrendt reiterates the point about switchfoot surfing earning points, "That wave [Slater's at Padang Padang] would have been a mid-excellent score without the switch, but the degree of difficulty of surfing the barrel section switch increased it to a perfect wave for that day of surfing."

Yesterday at Pipeline there were many high scoring waves – 10's and 9.93's. Ahrendt concedes that once someone starts taking off on those waves, committing themselves to big, steep and deep takeoffs while riding switchfoot then the judges will have to reassess the criteria leaving room for extra points. The implication being that once someone does commit to switch - O'Brien or whoever it may be - then the rest of the surfers won't be getting high scores as readily.

And that may be the advantage that the next great surfer has. It'd be a long time coming but Kelly Slater's 1994 prediction may yet come true.

Watch Jamie O'Brien's switchfoot ride from the Volcom Pipeline Pro (1:05 min. mark)

Comments

rat-race's picture
rat-race's picture
rat-race commented Friday, 3 Feb 2012 at 2:44pm

One thing is for certain: The dude rips. Maybe Dave Warner should get a 12 for hitting the ball over the fence switch stance?

derra83's picture
derra83's picture
derra83 commented Friday, 3 Feb 2012 at 3:11pm

Surfing switchfoot is a product of boredom. Why don't kids do it? Because they're learning and figuring it all out and having fun. It's not till surfers are at the top of their game that they'll consider it as a new novelty. Because of that they'll always look awakward.

If a surfer was to start doing it young, however, that will be a different story, but they don't.

Swicthfoot Fletch's picture
Swicthfoot Fletch's picture
Swicthfoot Fletch commented Friday, 1 Jan 2016 at 6:20pm

I have been surfing Switch since I was around 12 years old and can surf both ways equally as well.
It is a mind thing. Your body can do it but your mind is where the work needs to be done.
I am trying to find out how many people in the world can actually switchfoot on a short board and surf equally as well both ways.
If you are a switchfooter please send me an email on [email protected] or reply to this post.

Switchfoot Fletch

whaaaat's picture
whaaaat's picture
whaaaat commented Friday, 3 Feb 2012 at 3:28pm

Only if and when switching feet increases the criticality of a surfer's moves on a wave should it be marked up by the judges.

Until then, it serves the same function as standing on your head or tandem riding with your dog: fun to watch, interesting novelty value,but nothing else.

theblowin's picture
theblowin's picture
theblowin commented Friday, 3 Feb 2012 at 3:32pm

Switchfoot surfing can be entirely functional-backhand tube riding, for instance, is a lot more difficult than forehand tuberiding and a less competent, though more determined surfer could always see this as an option.

Personally i believe every surfer is more than capable of switch surfing,with no inherent compromise in style or ability. In the future all surfers will surf both ways as a consequence of the trickle down effect from all pros surfing switch as a necessity to be able to compete with those early adopters like JOB.

Don't soccer players kick with both feet these days ? It is just social conditioning that leads people to believe that one side is more dominant or co-ordinated than the other. This is then reinforced by constant practicing and favouring of one side over the other.

The ability to swith is not based on talent, merely perserverence.
An average surfer will still be an average surfer, just both ways.

finnwhitla's picture
finnwhitla's picture
finnwhitla commented Friday, 3 Feb 2012 at 3:36pm

Riding switch in skateboarding is pretty much a must now. If your not riding switch your not going to make it in contests.
It will be a long time before that comes around in surfing, if ever but i think in the mean time it should be scored higher than it is because there is only a hand full of guys that can actually do it.
Weather or not it looks good. It would be one of the hardest things to do a surf board let alone at pipeline. It should be awarded.

inzider's picture
inzider's picture
inzider commented Monday, 23 Mar 2015 at 10:39pm

Your spot on. Same deal in snowboarding, if you cant switch a 1080 corked over a 100 ft gap you will never be pro. Only issue is most old tard surfers are traditionally slow to accept skateboarding has been leading the way for several decades.

theblowin's picture
theblowin's picture
theblowin commented Friday, 3 Feb 2012 at 3:42pm

Anyone else experiencing difficulties with swellnet ? wont download properly,keeps freezing, only site on my computer doing it.

mibs-oner's picture
mibs-oner's picture
mibs-oner commented Friday, 3 Feb 2012 at 4:12pm

I don't think it should be judged too much higher unless they're doing something amazing. Taking off and standing up to pull in isn't exactly the toughest challenge on normal stance, so to expect to get a 10 for doing it switch is kidding himself. Sure its good, but not insane.

yorkessurfer's picture
yorkessurfer's picture
yorkessurfer commented Friday, 3 Feb 2012 at 6:52pm

Im having the same problem blowin. I thought it was just my computer. Hopefully the Swellnet tech-heads can sort it out....

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Friday, 3 Feb 2012 at 6:58pm

Quick question: are you fellas using Internet Explorer?

yorkessurfer's picture
yorkessurfer's picture
yorkessurfer commented Friday, 3 Feb 2012 at 7:03pm

yes

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Friday, 3 Feb 2012 at 7:07pm

OK, cheers. Trying to pin the problem down and it appears to be confined to Internet Explorer. As far as browsers go Safari and Chrome appear to be working fine.

We'll try to find a solution to fix the IE problem.

theblowin's picture
theblowin's picture
theblowin commented Friday, 3 Feb 2012 at 7:18pm

Just out of curiosity does anyone have any anecdotel tales of switch surfers in oz ? maybe try to pin an figure on just how many proponents they have seen, how many are out there ?

yorkessurfer's picture
yorkessurfer's picture
yorkessurfer commented Friday, 3 Feb 2012 at 7:31pm

Seen China getting some sick switchfoot tubes at Kirra back in the 90's. He was a guru at it.
Ive had some nice switchfoot barrels while surfing Inside Castles at Cactus. Just hanging there surfing the same waves for a few weeks you can start trying things you wouldnt usually try.

heals's picture
heals's picture
heals commented Friday, 3 Feb 2012 at 7:39pm

Col Smith (Narrabeen not Newcastle) often used to finish waves with a little switch hit foam rebound thing. He had the ideal style for surfing switchfoot - loose and rubbery. Thought it was a lost art myself.

non-local's picture
non-local's picture
non-local commented Friday, 3 Feb 2012 at 8:47pm

Buttons was the first and probably the only one to truly master switch foot surfing and that was back in '75 or so and he is Hawiian. But apart from that no-one really has made it look functional, Buttons was doing switch foot cutbacks, 360's and all sorts of switch rebounds offf the lip, crazy stuff for the day and still to this day

one good turn deserves another

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Friday, 3 Feb 2012 at 9:01pm

A good mate of mine back on the Goldie was a brillaint switchfooter, sometimes it was hard to tell what was his natural stance. Seen him tube ride competently both rights and lefts on his forehand and then do the same backhand. He would always take off switch stance, never mid wave.

And this is no lie, he was severely dylexic and virtually illiterate because of it. Maybe that had something to do with it?

1173

tmh's picture
tmh's picture
tmh commented Friday, 3 Feb 2012 at 9:27pm

"O'Brien's wave was one of the few waves ridden in competition where the surfer has gotten to their feet switchfoot (the only other one that this writer can remember is Kelly Slater at Supertubos during last years Rip Curl – an unsuccessful ride)."

what about simon laws epic switchfoot closeout at the pipe masters in the nineties? did he take off switch or change at the bottom? awesome effort either way.

the-roller's picture
the-roller's picture
the-roller commented Saturday, 4 Feb 2012 at 3:55am

J.O.B.,

In that final heat you could have jumped off of a soft top and onto a short board and still been handed an eight, with the stink bug stance you thru on that switchie.

Don't go putting a stank on JJF's win, be glad you grabbed the runner up check, bru.

brutus's picture
brutus's picture
brutus commented Saturday, 4 Feb 2012 at 7:29am

Booby Jones from hawaii,blew me away when first went to Hawaii early 70's ,he surfed Sunset natural and pipe goofy.......
Wayne lynch was pretty good at riding right hand barrels natural...and did anyone see the heat Kell had in Super Tubes portugul where he took off pigdog on a right,and when he backdoored the next section ,he switced back to natural......next wave he paddles out takes off on a left...goofy...gets barrelled and comes out.......seems like there would be a huge advantage being able to be switchfoot in competition,as being creative and innovative should be scored.....more better!

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Saturday, 4 Feb 2012 at 7:54am

Seems there's a strong tradition of switchstance in Hawaii. Buttons is often cited as an original switchfoot surfer but in this short vid he cites Jock Sutherland and Larry Bertleman as his inspirations for switching stance.

http://vimeo.com/32355701

And yeah Brutus, those waves by KS at Supertubes were great. Photo #3 at the top of this article is one of those waves.

TMH. You got me. I clean forgot about Simon Law's wave at Pipe. He took off switch and rode it all the way like that. Might try and dig up a photo. Better yet, might try and find out what he got scored.

tmh's picture
tmh's picture
tmh commented Saturday, 4 Feb 2012 at 10:39am

according to my memory stunet (which aint that good) he got about a 3. love to see some pics if you can find them

sidthefish's picture
sidthefish's picture
sidthefish commented Saturday, 4 Feb 2012 at 2:42pm

the only valid switch foot - ever - ...

Chrissy Appo.

theblowin's picture
theblowin's picture
theblowin commented Saturday, 4 Feb 2012 at 3:45pm

Does any one know how to post photos or a link to photos on this post/site ?- i'm the full computer kook.

By the way, the site is still ratshit with freezing, how do i get around it as i am using internet explorer?

whaaaat's picture
whaaaat's picture
whaaaat commented Saturday, 4 Feb 2012 at 5:26pm
crustt's picture
crustt's picture
crustt commented Sunday, 5 Feb 2012 at 7:37am

Apparently Ry Craike was a natural footer, but his dad got him to change as he thought it was best, growing up at jakes.

southey's picture
southey's picture
southey commented Monday, 6 Feb 2012 at 12:14am

Crustt ,

I can Vouch that Rye was Natural as an extreme Grommet .His extended family are close friends .

John ( his dad, ex PI local ) was quick to change this .Although if you asked Rye Today , he probably couldn't recall the last time he went right let alone master it switch .

I think tmh , is onto something . I beleive " the law ' was the First to take off at Pipe during WCT heat Switch . Apparently he wasn't that successful , but just making the drop is enough in my book ........

the best Switch from takeoff , ( apologies for not remembering names ) was a Novocastrian that had been living in Denmark WA , that due to a crook ankle couldn't ride natural stance ( pig dog ) in medium size Bluff . His Answer to this , Totally ownning it Switch from take off , (as most are aware the bluff is a pretty fast wave from deep , plus a tight Tube ) , so his switch foot pumping and tube adjustments were exceptional to watch . All whilst being almost too sore to walk out there ............

" SA's Reserve Capacity "

suckin-sand's picture
suckin-sand's picture
suckin-sand commented Monday, 6 Feb 2012 at 1:16am

You've got to switch mid-ride to get the points in my opinion. To ride a whole wave switch has to be scored as if it was normal. The switch IS the manoeuvre. Switching was popular round Lorne in the mid-seventies, Wayne Lynch, Rod Brooks, Steve Hammond and a few others would switch mid re-entry and stuff. I remember seeing Fish (Lynch) enter tubes backside and come out forehand. That's when switching scores. Like reverse airs (or whatever they are called) then switching back and ripping the wave apart. Slater was probably looking at skateboarders and imagining the possibilities. They've been doing it forever.

the-roller's picture
the-roller's picture
the-roller commented Monday, 6 Feb 2012 at 6:07am

If going switchie was all that, wouldn't you think Westerly Windina would be the queen of the kings?

Or visa versa.

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Monday, 6 Feb 2012 at 9:05pm

@ crustt - really? Wow, I can't imagine being pushed against my natural inclination. It was hard enough learning to stand up as a grommet let alone doing it switch.

sidthefish's picture
sidthefish's picture
sidthefish commented Monday, 6 Feb 2012 at 9:32pm

I only go right,

no need to switch.

even on lefts, I go right.

All you guys have missed the 2 ultimate switches...

1. Joe Engel finished his surfing as a goofy, he surfed Kirra for days as a goofy.

2. Peter Drouyn.

both were permanent switches.

crustt's picture
crustt's picture
crustt commented Tuesday, 7 Feb 2012 at 7:11am

Well it does not seem to have affected his surfing, or maybe he could have been even better.
Would be interesting if he tried natural and spent a bit of time on it.

gannet's picture
gannet's picture
gannet commented Tuesday, 7 Feb 2012 at 10:03am

Combine the ability to surf in either stance with the development of finless surfing and the possibilities are endless. Would bring surfing right into line with snowboarding and skating.

Gotta be impressed by guys like Wade Goodall and Chippa Wilson with their varials or shuv-its or whatever, then riding switch, before changing back to their normal stance.

whaaaat's picture
whaaaat's picture
whaaaat commented Tuesday, 7 Feb 2012 at 12:35pm

Apropos of which: didn't Parko air his views last year at Trestles when commenting on one of Wilson's (J'Dub not Chippa) switchfoot aerials??

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Tuesday, 7 Feb 2012 at 1:05pm

I think that was the point when Parko officially became a 'senior competitor' on the World Tour, which, in pro surfing is a euphemism for an old prick no longer in touch with the yoof. Think he said something along the lines of J'Dub's move being clunky cos he rode out switchfoot.

Of course he was hounded down by the kids, who are alright, apparently.

whaaaat's picture
whaaaat's picture
whaaaat commented Tuesday, 7 Feb 2012 at 1:13pm

I'm wiv Parko on this one.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Tuesday, 7 Feb 2012 at 1:19pm

You mean you're an old prick no longer in touch with the yoof?

Well, that makes it me, you and Parko.

whaaaat's picture
whaaaat's picture
whaaaat commented Tuesday, 7 Feb 2012 at 1:28pm

Yair. The only time I switch feet is when I ride sidesaddle on me gopher.

theblowin's picture
theblowin's picture
theblowin commented Tuesday, 7 Feb 2012 at 4:48pm

hey southy- when did you see this fella at the bluff ?

southey's picture
southey's picture
southey commented Monday, 23 Mar 2015 at 9:04pm

theblowin wrote: hey southy- when did you see this fella at the bluff ?

Sorry blowin , I left you hanging ( 2years ) and the story almost 14 years old . .....
Well that's a confirmed story .... Thanks udes .

" SA's Reserve Capacity "

Swicthfoot Fletch's picture
Swicthfoot Fletch's picture
Swicthfoot Fletch commented Friday, 1 Jan 2016 at 6:25pm

I have been surfing Switch since I was around 12 years old and can surf both ways equally as well.
It is a mind thing. Your body can do it but your mind is where the work needs to be done.
I am trying to find out how many people in the world can actually switchfoot on a short board and surf equally as well both ways.
If you are a switchfooter please send me an email on [email protected] or reply to this post.

Switchfoot Fletch

Island Bay's picture
Island Bay's picture
Island Bay commented Monday, 30 Jul 2018 at 4:06pm

I love long Indo lefts, and for a while we went to Raglan a lot, so I made a decent effort to improve my switch skills about 10 years ago. Never got comfortable taking off switch, but I did get quite proficient doing the top turn jump around thing.
Wouldn't have won any style contests, but did get barrelled at solid Nungas.
Maybe I should take advantage of the added stability of my Desert Storm and try to nail the take off.
Hats off to those of you who are ambidextrous!

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Friday, 1 Jan 2016 at 8:59pm

There is a Few around into it Fletch, including myself.

toneranger's picture
toneranger's picture
toneranger commented Saturday, 2 Jan 2016 at 8:26am

hey,spot on Suckin-sand.i remember Alan Atkins had that switchfoot mid reo down and he was from down that way

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Monday, 30 Jul 2018 at 2:20pm

Today is ten years to the day since Slater rode Padang Padang switchfoot.

Interesting to note that for all the claims about the increasing popularity of switchfooting - see article above, includes quotes from Pritamo Ahrendt about leaving room in the scores for switchfoot - that no-one else has attempted it. Not in competition, and not even freesurfing as far as  can recall.

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot commented Monday, 30 Jul 2018 at 3:38pm

The little layback he did at the end was rather sweet

The MIDdleman.'s picture
The MIDdleman.'s picture
The MIDdleman. commented Monday, 30 Jul 2018 at 3:40pm

@thermalben

Check out Rafael Nadals back story.
His father made him change to his non preferred hand when he was a lad.
Turned his action into something that creates relatively speaking crazy amounts of spin.

Signature.

3dfins's picture
3dfins's picture
3dfins commented Monday, 30 Jul 2018 at 6:01pm

He's ridiculously talented and a top bloke. We are super proud to have him on our team and make his signature fin. He had no problem with testing my different ideas on fins didn't ask for money rode my Channel tip concept rode them in the Pipe shoot out got second to Slater and said can that be my signature fin. Very Humble guy and a true surfing legend.

3DFINS

Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean commented Tuesday, 31 Jul 2018 at 12:34pm

JOB?

wally's picture
wally's picture
wally commented Monday, 30 Jul 2018 at 7:44pm

In the final in France 2016, Tyler Wright did ride switch for a wave wearing Owen Wright's jersey number as a tribute to her goofyfoot brother during his year out with injury.
It wasn't as an applied skill to get extra heat points though.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Monday, 28 Sep 2020 at 4:49pm

Matahi switch at big Teahupoo:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Matahi Drollet (@matahidrollet) on

 

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Monday, 28 Sep 2020 at 5:01pm

That’s the best switch I’ve ever seen. I’m sure he’s very familiar and comfortable with the wave but still.....critical situation + technical ability + style = Next level.

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot commented Monday, 28 Sep 2020 at 5:59pm

So was that you that Southey saw at the bluff Blowin?

stan1972's picture
stan1972's picture
stan1972 commented Monday, 28 Sep 2020 at 6:05pm

I'm old enough to remember Teahupoo at that size being a very serious proposition, and now it's ridden switch??

Who'll be first at Jaws?

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Monday, 28 Sep 2020 at 6:35pm

Goofy...Yep. But he was wrong about the Novocastrian part , I was just hanging out with a pack of them,

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot commented Monday, 28 Sep 2020 at 6:53pm

Nice one! I’d love to see it in the flesh one day!
If we get permission to leave the state again..

Jamyardy's picture
Jamyardy's picture
Jamyardy commented Monday, 28 Sep 2020 at 9:57pm
chook's picture
chook's picture
chook commented Tuesday, 29 Sep 2020 at 2:41pm

i just hope switchfoot doesn't catch on. i like having empty lefts all to myself while a pack is srabbling over the right.