Julian Wilson has been at the forefront of innovation for the past two decades. From his “sushi roll” move to attempts at a 720 Jules has always been thinking outside the box when it comes to his surfing. Combining his love of skateboarding and surfing Jules recently embarked on a project to document him surfing a rail floating in the ocean. After chatting with his sponsor Red Bull, he and the team took the opportunity to make surf-able skate rail at Melbourne’s URBNSURF and document the project in its entirety. After multiple attempts, countless hours in the brine and many near-misses Jules kept upbeat in his pursuit of serious fun.

Allow Red Bull to provide a bit of background on the project:

Where did the idea to make a surfable skate rail actually come from? When did you have the idea?

Julian: My idea for this surfable skate rail or you could say a floating skate rail made out of foam and fiber glass comes from growing up, probably skating more than I surfed. I would skate to the beach with my surfboard under my arm. If the waves were fun, I’d surf, if the waves were no good, I’d skate. The skate park was on the beach and I guess looking out from the skate park , I would always ponder, especially on the days when the waves were small, if only you could surf at the skate park, it was more appealing but it's hot, you want to be in the ocean. So I’ve had this idea  for a long time of trying to combine the skate park to the ocean and create something fun in some mediocre waves. And that's where the idea came from. And I must say I've had it for a really long time and I've watched quite a few different variations come to life and fail and be caught dangerous or not functional. With that, I lost a bit of faith if it was even possible and achievable. 

I never really pursued it too hard but over the last three years, and after a conversation with the guys at Red Bull and wanting this thing to finally come to life, we decided to go for it. We've had a few goes at it and built it a few different ways and now we have something that is exciting and seems very functional and it's really fun.

At the beginning, I only rail slid with the assistance of a jet ski but the rail is light and two people could walk it down to the beach and put it in the right spot and session it. That is the ultimate being able to get something down to the water with you and your mates. I obviously spend a lot of nights at the skate park or in the surf, so getting a session in the rail and with waves that may be a little more competitive, so it gives you a really cool challenge.

Luke Egan watches his student take flight in the ocean in one of the attempts for the Rail Project. Photo: Red Bull

What is the technical goal that you've got for it? 

Julian: I think that the technical goal for the rail is being able to paddle into a wave, brace down the line, get myself on the rail and continue along the wave. That's the ultimate goal. But every time I would attempt this and get the rail in the water, the conditions would be different, the waves are different. That's the beauty of surfing, but it also makes me think differently about what's achievable and different ways of looking at what I could do with it. That's fun and that's been pretty exciting and probably my favourite part of having these kind of things as they come to life. The best thing about being a professional surfer is the ever changing conditions every day.

What are they ideal conditions for you to make this work?

Julian: The ideal conditions I think for the rail is three foot max wave and a point break would be - a long tapering wave. The better quality wave would be ideal and consistently going through the same spot. 

What's the rail made from?

Julian: The rail itself is shaped from a piece of foam and glass with regular polyurethane glass, like a standard surfboard. So the exact same construction as what we surf. With that being said, my boards had to change. Although the rail can hold up to repetitive goes, my surfboards can't because they are glassed super light and they would warp and break and wouldn't last very long. So I have some boards that are extremely light and really stiff, they're wrapped in carbon and durable enough. Some still only last a few goes but some have lasted 20, 25 attempts on the rail. Getting the equipment to match the idea has also been a process as well, which has been pretty fun.