noseriding


Surfing maneuver in which the rider moves to the front of the board and assumes one of a half-dozen or so positions. As described by California surf journalist Bill Cleary in 1965, noseriding is "a sport within a sport." It can be an act of transcendent elegance and subtlety, and is most often performed in small waves while riding a longboard.

The exact origins of noseriding are unknown. Hawaii's Rabbit Kekai is sometimes identified as the first surfer to consistently ride the nose, doing so in the 1940s at Queens Beach in Waikiki, while on a finless hot curl surfboard. California surfer and pioneering wetsuit manufacturer Bev Morgan, however, claims that boardmaker Dale Velzy not only invented noseriding in 1951 at Manhattan Beach, but that he was also the first to hang five (getting the toes of the lead foot over the tip of the board) and hang ten (both feet on the tip). By the late 1950s, noseriding had become the ultimate small-wave maneuver, and "hang ten" was about to become the first surfing phrase recognized by nonsurfers.

The science of noseriding—the hydrodynamics that allow the board's nose to glide along the wave rather than sink beneath the rider's weight—has baffled surfers for decades. A U.C. Irvine physics professor theorized in 1991 that noseriding is possible because the tail of the board is held down by the falling curl, acting as a counterweight. Expert noseriders, however, can move to the front of the board even on an unbroken wave. An alternative explanation is that the upflowing water on the wave face gathers against the bottom surface of the nose and forms a kind of supporting cushion.

Beginning and intermediate surfers move to and from the nose using a shuffle step. Advanced surfers use the more difficult cross-step. Hanging five and hanging ten are the two most common noseriding positions; experts will occasionally levitate one foot out ahead of the board, or turn and "hang heels" off the tip.

The peak of what is sometimes referred to as the golden age of noseriding came in the mid-'60s. David Nuuhiwa, Lance Carson, Joey Cabell, and Mickey Dora were among those celebrated for their smooth noseriding skills. The 1965 Tom Morey Invitational, held in Ventura, California, was the first contest in which each surfer was judged solely on the amount of time spent on the front one-quarter of the board; later that year, in 10-foot surf at Sunset Beach, 17-year-old Jeff Hakman of Hawaii astounded the surf world by pulling off a flawless "cheater five"—squatting on his rear haunch while extending his front foot to the tip—to win the inaugural Duke Kahanamoku Invitational. Surfboard manufacturers soon began to make specialized noseriding models, including the Wing Nose, the Ego Builder, the Nose Specializer, the Cheater, and the Ugly.

Noseriding hit both an apex and endpoint during the first round of the 1966 World Surfing Championships, when favorite David Nuuhiwa of California spent 10 graceful back-arching seconds perched at the tip of his board. Power-turning Nat Young of Australia, however, came back and won the contest, then declared the noseriding era to be over. "If you just stand on the nose from start to finish," Young noted, "you've defeated creativity and individualism—the very essence of surfing!"

Noseriding nearly vanished in the 10 years following the shortboard revolution of the late '60s; as the longboard began its slow but steady return through the '80s and '90s, noseriding was again recognized as a sublime surfing manouever. By the mid-'90s, pencil-thin teenage goofyfooter Joel Tudor of San Diego, California, was being described as the finest noserider in the history of the sport.