Perfect surf is all a matter of perspective. In 1964, it was defined when Bruce Brown revealed the reeling right at Saint Francis in "The Endless Summer." By the late ‘60s the advent of the down-railer transformed Pipeline into the epitome of perfection-the proving ground. Years down the tracks, sub-sea level slabs like Teahupo'o became all the rage. And today, for those that do their best surfing above the lip, nothing beats an air section.
Building on the success of last year's event in France, in 2019 the Red Bull Airborne Series is expanding to three compelling destinations: the Gold Coast of Australia, Keramas in Bali, and Hossegor in France. This will launch in conjunction with a global partnership between WSL and Red Bull. Here's what you need to know:
Gold Coast, Australia: April 3-9, 2019
In the ‘70s, when Michael Peterson, Wayne Bartholomew and Co. were breaking surfing's performance barriers on the Gold Coast all of the attention in the area was rightly focused on Kirra and Snapper Rocks. The single-fin blades of the day were ideal for shooting through the spinning, cyclone-fueled barrels, and guys like MP and Rabbit would establish the gold standard for Gold Coast surfing that would eventually inspire the likes of World Champs Mick Fanning and Joel Parkinson.
The Superbank at Snapper Rocks is the preeminent stage, supplying waves that allow surfers to showcase the highest caliber of progressive surfing. And with a nearly empty lineup -- it's everything an aerialist could hope for.
The Red Bull Airborne Series will feature an 18-surfer field across two rounds. The first round will host six qualifying heats with six surfers in each heat. The second round will be the six-person Final. Josh Kerr is one of the co-developers of the Red Bull Airborne Series and will serve as Competition Director. He also happened to grow up in Tweed Heads, which is located adjacent to Coolangatta and a quick 5 minute drive to Snapper Rocks. . Before moving to California, the airshow champion was a staple in the lineup.
So if there is anyone that has mastered airs at Snapper -- it's him.
One of the cool places to meet up is Rainbow Bay Surf Lifesaving Club. The club has become an active part in the Coolangatta community. But the town typically gets quiet by 10pm. If you're looking for a later night head north to Surfer's Paradise.
Keramas, Bali: May 13-19, 2019
There's a reason Italo Ferreira, Griffin Colapinto, John John Florence and the rest of the CT crew loved landing in Bali last year. A dream setup, Keramas is that perfect combination of a right-hand barrel on the takeoff that turns into a big wall and steep air section on the inside.
"Keramas is a wave that is tailor-made for where the sport is right now," explained WSL Commentator Ronnie Blakey. "It is the perfect CT wave with punch, power, innovation and tubes. It will work for everyone on Tour."
Besides the quality of the wave itself, part of the allure of Keramas is that it's a refreshingly new location. Up until surf mags started running shots of the place in the early 2000s, Keramas remained a closely guarded secret. Once the cat was out of the bag it was game on. In 2012, the Komune Resort opened and things really started to swing on the east side of Bali.
But sometimes paradise needs protection, and that's how the Corona Bali Protected became more than just another surf contest. Tackling the daunting issue of ocean pollution and hoping to spark greater environmental action and awareness amongst surf fans. Due to the efforts of WSL PURE, there were numerous beach cleanups running in conjunction with the comp. And the event itself was 100-percent free of single-use plastics, implementing various recycling initiatives.
Hossegor, France: October 3-9, 2019
Site of the inaugural Airborne event last year, Hossegor is a punter's delight. An expansive stretch of sand, opportunity abounds around La Graviere. Thanks to big tide swings and shifting sandbars, the surf conditions are in a constant state of flux-meaning a mushy shoulder can transform into a launch ramp literally in a matter of minutes. And thanks to a consistent barrage of Atlantic power, during the fall and winter months it's rarely flat.
Ground zero for the European surf scene, over the years it's helped spawn some of the continent's brightest stars. As a kid, when former Pipe Master Jeremy Flores wasn't cutting his teeth on the reefs of Renunion Island, he was paddling Hossegor. When Michel Bourez was highly unknown from Tahiti he landed in Hossegor and beat World Champ Kelly Slater. And Joan Duru is a threat in any and all conditions because that's what he grew up surfing.
"You know the first three or four times I came to France, I really struggled," said Fanning in 2017. "I first came here 20 years ago. I was young and the language barrier was a struggle. Then it clicked and I fell in love with this part of the world."
There's a lot to love about this slice of France. The vibes are mellow. The scenery is spectacular. As Fanning notes, it can take a little getting used to. Because of the constantly varying conditions high-performance surfing in this part of the world takes patience, insight and attention to detail. But once one gets things wired, Hossegor lives up to its reputation as one of the best beachbreaks in the world.
Watch the Red Bull Airborne Gold Coast during the opening stop on the 2019 Championship Tour, the Quiksilver Pro and Boost Mobile Pro Gold Coast, from April 3 - 13, 2019 on WorldSurfLeague.com.