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James R. Forsyth, Ryan de la Harpe, Diane L. Riddiford-Harland, John W. Whitting and Julie R. Steele


To investigate the influence of turns, tube rides, and aerial maneuvers on the scores awarded in elite men’s professional surfing competitions. The successful completion rate and scores associated with different aerial variations were also investigated.


Video recordings from all 11 events of the 2015 World Surf League men’s world championship tour were viewed to classify maneuvers performed by the competitors on each wave as turns, tube rides, and aerials. A 2-way ANOVA was used to determine any main effect or interaction of maneuver type or event location on the wave scores. A 1-way ANOVA was used to determine any main effect of aerial type on successful completion rate.


Aerial maneuvers were scored significantly higher than tube rides and turns. A significant main effect existed for maneuver and completion rate. Aerial maneuvers had the lowest completion rate, 45.4%. During the finals series (quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals heats) aerial-maneuver completion rate was higher, 55.4%. The frontside air reverse was the most commonly performed maneuver and received an average score of 6.77 out of 10.


Professional surfers can optimize their potential single-wave scores during competition by successfully completing aerial maneuvers. However, aerial maneuvers continue to be a high-risk maneuver with a significantly lower completion rate. Our findings suggest that surfers should aim to improve their aerial-maneuver completion rate via surf practice or land-based training drills.