NewsFinn McGill

Finn McGill Goes Airborne

Last September, during the Quiksilver Pro France, the world saw the first-ever WSL sanctioned aerial expression session, aptly named Red Bull Airborne, won by Yago Dora. It was a new and improved iteration of the late 90s and early 2000s air shows, but this time mixing the best CT and non-CT surfers together for a day of punts.

Next week, we'll see the Airborne take back off at Snapper Rocks during the Quik Pro Gold Coast. And this year, it's part of a three-event series, along with stops in Bali and France.

Finn McGill was handpicked by Kerr to participate.

Finn McGill of Hawaii gets ready for his heat on day 2 of the Volcom Pipe Pro at Pipe, Oahu, Hawaii, USA.. Finn McGill WSL / Tony Heff

What are you most looking forward to about getting the wildcard to the Airborne stop at Snapper?
I'm just excited to try something new, to be honest. I've been on the contest grind lately, and I've never been in an airshow before, so I'm psyched to be a part of it. I was so stoked when I heard I got in.

How exactly did you get the call up?
I have to give that credit to Jacob Szekely. I didn't really know how I could get in, but I was talking to Josh Kerr one day while I was with Jacob, and Jacob just grabs my phone and shows Kerr a couple clips that I've been holding to put in an edit, and right there Kerr just goes, "I want to get you in this comp." I was so frothed on that.

Talk about Snapper. Is it a tough wave for airs?
Yeah, it kind of seems like it is. The trade winds blow the wrong way, but when it's light or switches it looks amazing for airs. Hopefully that happens during the event. Ideally we'll get a little wind blowing into it. But I'm not the best person to ask, I've actually only been out there one time in my life [laughs].

Finn McGill (HAW) is eliminated from the 2018 VANS US Open of Surfing after placing third in Heat 12 of Round 2 at Huntington Beach, California, USA. McGill at the Vans US Open. WSL / Kenneth Morris

What's the biggest challenge in combining aerial freesurfing with a live competition format?
A lot of times when we do airs, there's no stress, and we're not nervous at all. In a freesurf it's just all on your own time. Going into a contest, you're timed, and you want to do the best air you can possibly do, but then you also think about being strategic, and just trying to complete an air to get a score. It's definitely hard, especially with every section being different, and not knowing if you'll get one again. You can over think the crap out of it. But, for me, I'll try to avoid getting too much in my head and just go out and have fun and try big airs. I think that's the point of this tour anyway.

Kerr was saying he thinks the combo of a competitive format and the pressure to perform is gonna result in some of the biggest airs we've ever seen once this tour really gets going and everyone gets used to the format. Would you agree?
For sure. Totally agree. It's definitely gonna come to that. Right now it's just a new thing, and no one is used to it yet. But wait until there's been a few more of them [Airborne stops].

Do you think CT guys have any advantage considering their competitive experience? Or do you think the leaderboard format sort of evens the playing field?
I don't know if competitive experience really matters, because it's a different environment. I think if you're clutch and consistent with landing big airs you're at an advantage, but there are guys on and off the CT that are like that. But the format is great. I like how everyone gets a chance against everyone else in the beginning, rather than being in a heat with a guy doing backflips [laughs].

Finn McGill of Hawaii is chaired up the beach after winning the 2018 World Junior Championship when he defeated Joh Azuchi of Japan  in the final at Kiama, NSW, Australia. McGill after winning the 2018 World Junior Championship. WSL / Matt Dunbar

Wouldn't want Chippa in your first heat.
[laughs] Seriously. Did you see Chippa's 3-shove in the pool at Waco? So gnarly.

I know you skateboard really well. Is that still something you push yourself at, or does getting hurt play into your mind at this point in your career?
I try to skate as much as possible, but everyone that sees me at the skatepark trips out, like "Why the f-k are you skating" [laughs]. I started off as a skater, it's one of my favorite things to do but I have to go a little lighter now. Which sucks, but it's my job to surf.

How much has your skate background helped with airs?
It's pretty crazy, just getting comfortable in the air, skateboarding helped a lot. I'm trying to bring some skate tricks over to surfing now. I feel like if I wasn't a skater I wouldn't have the same mindset when it comes to surfing, especially trying airs. Sometimes I'll try an air surfing and my friends will trip on what it was. It'll be a basic skate trick but it's not something too many people are trying in the ocean. I think surfing kind of needs to mold into skateboarding a little more, and get more technical. For a long time we've kinda just been doing the same things. But I think the combo of wave pools, and now having a tour dedicated to just airs, is going to be huge for the future of air surfing the next 10 years.

Finn McGill placed third in Heat 4 of Round One of the Billabong Pipe Masters at Pipeine, Oahu, Hawaii. Finn McGill WSL / Damien Poullenot

Lastly, will you go into this Airborne stop at Snapper with certain airs in mind? Or will you take off and react to the wave as it comes?
I definitely have airs in the back of my mind that I want to try, if I get the right section. But it's also just reacting to whatever I get. I really just want to have certain airs that I'm thinking about, so that when a section comes, I don't just revert back to the standard air reverse or alley-oop. I definitely want to try some new stuff

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