Reef Heazlewood, from the Sunshine Coast of Australia, jumped onto the scene via our Instagram feeds after stomping two big lofty punts in Hawaii last year. Like the rest of the world, Airborne Competition Director Josh Kerr took notice and invited Heazlewood to compete in the Red Bull Airborne Gold Coast, where he'd end up finishing runner-up to Italo Ferreira in the Final, on the strength of a big frontside straight air.
After that performance (not to mention his solid showings as a Wildcard at the Gold Coast and a Replacement for Seabass at Bells), Heazlewood was invited to the Red Bull Airborne Bali -- and he's already plotting a way to one up himself.
The World Surf League: You got the call up from Josh Kerr to surf in the first Airborne stop of the season at Duranbah, and ended up finishing runner-up to Italo Ferreira. What was that like?
Reef Heazlewood: Man, it was super fun. Josh seriously did an amazing job. There was no pressure at all, everyone was just laughing and having fun and looking to push each other into going as big as possible, which was really awesome,and inspiring to be in an environment like that. I've never been a part of anything quite like it.
I actually had a terrible first heat -- I didn't make anything. But thinking back, that was probably a good thing because I got my bad surf for the Airborne and the CT event out of the way right off the bat.
For my second heat, I knew guys had dropped good scores on the first day and I was in the last heat, so I was doing catch up. But that was actually kind of nice - it felt better than having people try to catch up and overtake you. In that heat I did a couple of nice straight airs and ended up fifth, so I was pretty stoked about that. Just to make the Final was awesome.
It was a sick Final. The guys were going big. Italo did his big air towards the start so I was playing catch up again, but I was stoked to get one pretty good air and come away with a second.
What was the biggest challenge in combining aerial freesurfing with a live competition format?
Josh laid it out pretty simply -- he basically just said to go attack the biggest sections possible and that if we had a difficult grab we'd get scored for it. But mostly he was looking for big airs.
I feel like that's what I do pretty well, just hit big sections, so I figured I would just stick to my plan and not try anything too crazy in the first event. But I'm definitely hoping to get some new tricks in the bag for this next one. I was definitely blown away just to be in the mix with Italo, Yago and Filipe, so it was a really cool experience.
You've gotten some invaluable experience against the biggest names in surfing recently: A runner up to Italo in the Airborne Gold Coast, as well as beating Julian Wilson in the Quik Pro Gold Coast.
Yeah, that's pretty awesome, especially when you put it like that [laughs]. I've surfed against Italo, Julian, Filipe and Gabe too now, all in the last month.
I know you're focusing on qualifying this year, but now that the WSL has adopted a three stop Airborne tour, what would it mean to take that title?
It's massive in its own way, just because it's so focused on innovation,and that's where the sport is going. To be able to win that title would be insane. It's a stepping stone to being the best surfer in the world. And it's really cool because you have all the best freesurfers involved too, so it's the only place where you get the best of both worlds surfing it out and having a good time together. It's such a cool series, and it'll be really exciting to see where it all goes.
Who has been your biggest influence in the air?
I've definitely watched a lot of Gabriel's airs recently. And then John John and Italo. I really love their airs.
Do you have much experience at Keramas?
A little bit. I used to go on trips with Billabong to Bali, and we'd stay in Canggu and do day trips to Keramas. Yeah, it's a tricky wave backside, but I'm excited to go there and draw inspiration from what Italo did out there last year. He made it look like child's play [laughs].
What do you think about Keramas as a wave for aerial surfing?
There's been some insane video parts that have come from Keramas. One clip that really comes to mind is Julian Wilson's alley-oops out there, which were pretty insane. I definitely think we could see some of the best airs in the world performed out there, so it ought to be pretty exciting, for sure.
Will you go into the event with certain airs in mind? Or will you take off and react to the sections as they come?
I'll mostly just react. I always have a couple airs in mind, but reacting is the key to not over thinking it too much and to just going as big as possible. My signature thing has been to go for loftiness, but I've definitely still got to work on that backside, so I guess we'll see what happens when that big section comes [laughs].