Josh Kerr called it quits on the Tour last season. However, that hasn’t slowed him down. In the past six months, he’s bounced back and forth from Indonesia, visited his old stomping ground in Oz, and lit up pointbreaks in Mexico. He attributes his reignited passion for surfing by experimenting with a variety of boards – and not riding one thruster. Tracks spoke to Josh on how he’s been making the most of retirement.

Tracks: Firstly, what did you make of Filipe’s win in Brazil? Is he the best surfer in the world right now when you look at how he’s progressing the sport and doing airs differently than anyone else?

Josh: It’s amazing. It’s funny because I’ve been telling people for the past few years the most memorable rides, especially manoeuvre based rides, have been Filipe’s. When he puts it together there’s no one in the world that can touch him right now. He’s created the same performance gap that Kelly had 25 years ago. Maybe not to the same magnitude but still that level ahead kind of stuff. It’s crazy, when he gets a 10 it’s 15 or a 20 compared to the nine’s that have been thrown earlier in the event. Every 10 he’s got has been a 15 in my mind, and that’s how you can see he’s leaps and bounds ahead.

When you’re really feeling it and you have that kind of confidence to pull off crazy airs like that, do you have to go to another level in a 30-minute heat window?

Totally. When you go out in a heat and do an air like that, you preset your mind that you’re going to do something big prior to the heat starting. He must have been feeling good because you don’t drop out of the sky like he did, fully confident throwing it out into the flats, without feeling it. To not do a layback when you land from that high up in the sky to cushion your landing is crazy – he fully committed with his shoulders over his knees and just stomped it so clean into the flats. If that shockwave from the barrel comes up and hits you, that’s when you do knees and ankles in two seconds – career enders. That was definitely one of the more impressive airs I’ve seen. I just can’t see him doing a mute or an Indy grab on those things and tweaking them out [laughs].

After watching The Founder’s Cup, having surfed Kelly’s pool and seeing what the guys can did at Waco, which one would you rather have a session at for progressive surfing? Do you think there are pros for one or the other?

I think that section that they’ve built at the Texas pool looks on another level for hucking a big punt compared to what’s available right now at Kelly’s. I’m sure that’s on their radar with their existing technology there. I’m sure it’s not too hard to do that same kind of thing that’s going on at Waco.

Do you have plans to go down to Texas and check it out?

Oh of course. I love novelty, and I’ll probably try and sample every pool in my life that comes up. [Laughs].

I’m sure you’ve seen Albee’s wave, the one he stuck immediately after surfing that pool. What’s your read on that in terms of him attributing the repetition of the pool’s section factoring in to him nailing it?

Coming off having that section over and over, your confidence of just hitting a section in general is high. I was speaking to Albee right before he went and he was sending me the clips of him when he was at the pool just going, ‘This thing is next level for progressing.’ Then I think it was just a day or two later he flew home to Maui and landed that punt. He sent me that and said, ‘Yep the wave pool works!’ [Laughs]. In his mind I think that confidence of having a section over and over again, you just get comfortable. It’s like being at your local skate park and you have that same ledge and different things to hit, you’re going to do different tricks on it compared to a foreign skate park that you don’t skate. You’re not as comfortable hitting those kind of ledges.

Speaking of skateboarding, there are young kids out there that have been riding perfect parks for years now, and you see them competing against guys in their 30s, or a lot older than them. Do you think the same could happen in surfing because of wave pools?

Oh yeah. I think there could be someone who could grow up at Waco and do better airs than 90 per cent of the tour guys. If you had a heat against that guy at his pool you’d probably have a pretty hard time beating him. Give it time and that is probably what will happen. I’m sure we’re not going to see it in the next few years, but give it 10-15, for sure 100 per cent.

Now on a more personal note, how have you been enjoying retirement? It doesn’t look like you’ve slowed down one bit. Has there been a come down from the Tour, are you purposefully keeping busy, what’s been your game plan?

I’m a busy body in general, I always have been. I’ve been trying to get my hands in everything and I’ve had some amazing opportunities to go on some surf trips and stay in the water. I’m more stoked on surfing and where my board design is at and what I’m riding. I wish I could go back with the mentality I have now with boards. It’s been more of a reincarnation than a retirement to be honest. [Laughs].

 

Just letting the Twinny draw its own lines! �� @nikki.kerr ❤️

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That’s a nice way to put it. Just on that point you made about boards, a lot of guys go experiment after coming off the tour and lament that they didn’t do so during their career. Why do you think that is and what’s holding them back? Is it the fear of looking different with a board design?

I think you get really used to knowing that the judges like seeing a certain kind of thing. I got stuck in that in the past few years, just surfing to make the judges happy. I’m more of a free spirit, and I started feeling that weight on top of me. That’s why I’m super excited to be where I’m at right now with my surfing. I’m able to really go where I want to go and have the freedom to do it without any thoughts in the back of my head.

Do you think something needs to change in that sense to liberate surfers who are on Tour? Does someone need to come in there and break that dogma that exists? It doesn’t have to be a pointy white thruster, it can be a quad, a fish or whatever you’re feeling?

I think it’s kind of tough because there is an aesthetic that people like to see of a board. On tour they’re trying to put us on the best waves in the world, like some of the cleaner more perfect pointbreaks and stuff like that. People just have their aesthetics and they like to see that long pointy board, probably from watching the Curren era. I personally enjoy seeing different lines that a shorter board can draw, and it’s more of a feeling thing for me rather than an aesthetic thing of how it looks on a wave or on footage. It’s more about the feeling it gives you or the freedom it gives you.

Board wise; what have you been experimenting with? I’ve seen you riding some really nice Album boards. You look like you’re working with Lee Stacey, a couple from Biolos, that black Album board looks incredible that you’ve been riding.

I literally haven’t put a thruster in my board since I retired. I’ve only ridden quads, twin fins or twin fins with a trailer or finless [laughs].

So how does it feel to be out of the shackles of a high-performance thruster?

I had no inspiration left for what a thruster could give me. I felt like I had gone everywhere I could go with it and in all different waves and spaces. So now to get on boards where just the board gives me inspiration let alone how it surfs, I’m just all about inspiring my own surfing. It’s so funny now I go down to the beach and see a guy riding a regular thruster board just trying to grind out a couple of backside snaps and I go, ‘What are you doing?’ ‘You don’t have a contest coming up this weekend, why are you doing that to yourself?’ You’re just holding yourself back. It can’t be that enjoyable. I’m sure it was when you were 15 but when you get a little older… I have no idea why a guy over 20 who isn’t training for a contest is riding a regular thruster. I have zero idea! I honestly wig out. [Laughs].

How have the shapers responded in your interest to experiment? They must be pretty happy to have a former CT guy willing to tinker with their designs and push them to the limit.

Yeah totally. I was barely getting in the bay when I was on Tour and now I’ve been getting in the bay and trying to put this performance element into that modern-retro style board, and give true feedback being still at the level of coming off Tour. I feel like I’m surfing better than I ever have on these boards and giving feedback to those shapers, I think they’re really stoked.

Which surfers are inspiring you now? Are you looking to guys that you might not have when you were in that contest zone?

There were always guys like Ryan Burch, Bryce Young, Asher Pacey – especially growing up with him. He’s been taking riding twin fins to another level and that gets me pretty psyched and pumped.

Finally, you have thrown your hat in the ring with the Big Wave World Tour and won an event before. Do you still have an interest in chasing down a spot on the Tour or just chasing big waves in general?

I definitely have a passion for big wave surfing and going to find big waves in general, but not to follow the Tour at all. I did a few more events after the event I won and guys were hassling and back paddling 30-foot waves. I’m not that kind of cowboy. I like to enjoy my big wave surfs. [Laughs]. I don’t want to have to pull into a big closeout to win a heat.