Surfing on rails is sketchy business.
I know this first hand, because back in 2008 I became the second human (as far as I know) to successfully ride on to and off of a surf rail.
Looking back, I consider this one of my greatest surfing achievements. Both in riding the rail and also in helping create the "Surf Rail Of Death" from concept to completion.
I think it was in the warmth of September when myself and the editorial staff at TransWorld SURF teamed up with the brilliant builder, Jeff King and his now defunct FUEL TV show 'Built To Shred', to bring this death rail to life.
It took a few tries to even get the rail in the water and our first session was a disaster. Someone should have been maimed. But by some aquatic miracle, no one was.
After the rail was partially destroyed by the waves, Jeff and his team added additional supports, we moved locations, and after an hour or so of a dozen surfers chucking our carcasses at the rail, Ricky Whitlock successfully slid the rail.
Skaters would call it a ride-on-grind, as there was no Ollie needed to get on the rail.
The wave provided the push, and the rail was designed to allow for surfers to lift the nose of their board and glide up on to the slick surface of the rail, ride over a slight hump, then off the end of the rail.
Easy right? Wrong!
The "Surf Rail Of Death" chewed up our boards, blew fins out of our boards, and provided all comers with plenty of bumps, bruises, and flesh wounds. All said and done, we battled the rail and won. The second attempt was not so glorious, but that's a story for a different time...
The history of rail surfing goes back to the late '90s and early 2000s, no doubt aided by surf mags who loved skate mags.
TransWorld SURF and Waves Magazine were basically surf mags who wanted to be skate mags. This was also a time where airs were really starting to come in to focus.
Air reverses, skate style grabs, varials, shuvits, and all those tricks we see going down every day now, were still pretty rare back then, but celebrated whenever they happened.
Early rail enthusiasts California's, Josh Sleigh and Australia's, James Catto, were scratching the surface, but it's safe to say that Built To Shred and TransWorld SURF came up with the first viable surf rail.
The rail caused a sensation when the footage and photos were released -- some loved, some hated, but nobody could deny that it was a pretty incredible accomplishment to surf and survive the "Surf Rail Of Death".
After the FUEL TV episode aired and multiple magazines ran their surf rail stories, the hype died down, and surf rails went back in to obscurity.
Until yesterday, because in secret, Julian Wilson and team of surf scientists conceptualized and built a modernized surf rail!
After a few weeks of secret oceanic testing with jet-ski assistance Julian Wilson, Red Bull Australia, Hype Republic and photographer Andy Green set up their rail in the URBNSURF wave pool in Melbourne, Australia.
While a wave pool is going to provide a much more predictable and manageable environment for this kind of stunt, the dangers are still going to be there as well.
The rail Julian and his crew came up with is floating on top of the water, not anchored to the bottom of the pool. This means the rail is going to be rocking wildly with the movement of the wave. The erratic spasms lifting and launching the rail with each and every wave had to have been on Julian's mind every time he approached.
I would venture to say the majority of surfers without a skateboarding background would have no chance of even setting up to slide this rail.
That being said, Julian has been skating since he was kid. While on tour, Julian has been quietly sneaking off to skate parks on lay days everywhere he goes -- I've skated with him, he rips.
The "Surf Rail Of Death" and the Julian Wilson rail are different animals but the sentiment is the same -- let's have some fun, and do something rad.
Detractors say the rail isn't surfing, haters say it's pointless, but the majority of surfers and surf fans collectively agree that rail surfing is cool, both types of rail surfing.
Rails will most likely never make their way to a CT near you any time soon, but with wave pools and surf systems popping up all over the world, it's safe to say we will be seeing more of this unsafe skateboard-style surfing, and that's a good thing.
Surfing and skateboarding go together like peanut butter and jelly, or vegemite buttered bread. Let's surf some rails!