Hawaiian Albee Layer has made surfing history by landing the first ever Backside 540. For the uninitiated, that’s one-and-a-half full rotations above the lip of the wave, with your back leading the rotation, as opposed to your chest, effectively making the landing blind.
It also required Layer to ride away down the face of the wave backwards which is not only counterintuitive, but also means fighting against how the board was designed to work. Imagine trying to write with your wrong hand, and the pencil turned upside down so you’re scrawling with the eraser, not the lead.
Of course, surfing being surfing, the first 180 degrees of the rotation don’t count, so what Layer did, in just about any other board sport, would be considered a backside 720. Hell, in snowboarding, it would probably be called it a backside 1080, including bottom turn as the first part of the rotation.
All of which makes Layer’s history-making NBD even more incredible. But if you’re still not sure, to put it into perspective, Brazilian enfant terrible Gabriel Medina landed a backside 360 – a full half turn less than Layers, and one in which he could spot the landing easier and ride away facing forwards – in a World Surf League competition in May this year. The back three was the only trick in the run, and it scored a perfect 10 from the watching WSL judges. Fluke? No. Medina also landed a backside 360 in October 2015, and also notched up a perfect 10 for it then as well.
Kelly Slater – a pro surfer you may have heard of – stuck a clean frontside 540 in free surfing after a competition back in October 2014 (see below), so spinning one-and-a-half times is not unprecedented. However, as has already been mentioned, Layer’s back five was effectively landed blind, upping the difficulty tenfold.