How to do a sushi roll in surfing

September 8, 2021 | Surfing
Sushi roll: an aerial trick invented by Julian Wilson in December 2007, in Japan | Photo: Quiksilver

The sushi roll is a highly technical aerial trick. Here's a step-by-step tutorial on how to master this progressive surfing maneuver.

Airs are relatively new to surfing. Interestingly, they were actually added to the sport's bag of tricks by skateboarders.

In the 1960s and 1970s, while skaters were already getting airborne in pools and ramps, surfers were still exploring the potential of a wave face.

The world's first documented surfing aerial appeared on the cover of Surfing Magazine in the December/January 1976 issue.

The shot taken from the back of a wave features Santa Cruz surfer-skater Kevin Reed launching himself off the lip into the air.

Kevin Reed: the world's first documented surfing aerial was featured on the cover of Surfing Magazine in the December/January 1976 issue

Made in Japan

Julian Wilson invented the sushi roll in December 2007 in Japan.

The maneuver impressed the surfing community and was one of the sport's first viral clips of the online video sharing era.

The extreme air trick also moved surfers toward the kind of acrobatic moves bodyboarders were already performing in and outside competition.

As with many innovative life-changing inventions, the sushi roll was created by mistake. It wasn't supposed to be a new surf trick.

"I flew off the back of a wave, the board got away from me, and I just did a kind of a superman," explained Wilson.

"I felt comfortable with it, so I started trying it a few times more. And then a couple of days later in Japan, I got it on the footage."

Julian was on an Asian surf-and-photoshoot trip with Mitch Coleborn and Jay Davies. When they saw his friend's stunt, they came up with the name sushi roll - and it stuck.

The high-flying trick combines elements of the gorkin flip/rodeo flip, the superman, and the alley-oop.

Some have even called it surfing's version of the el rollo, one of bodyboarding's core maneuvers.

The sushi roll requires advanced aerial, backside surfing skills - if you can't get to the air, you won't be able to do it.

But it is also vital that you get enough air time so that you can do the 360-degree rotation and the superman before finding a clean landing spot.

Sushi roll: an aerial surfing maneuver that blends the gorkin/rodeo flip and the superman | Sequence: Quiksilver

Sushi Roll 101

Here's how to perform and land a sushi roll:

1. Take off on a shoulder-high wave with a relatively steep face;

2. Perform a solid bottom-turn;

3. Get as much speed as you can down the line;

4. Eye a punchy section, lip, or liquid ramp;

5. Drive the nose of the surfboard toward the sweet and steep spot where you can project yourself into the air;

6. Spread your feet apart, bend your knees, kick the tail, and pop the surfboard;

7. As the board comes off the top of the wave in a vertical, upward motion, immediately grab the rails with both hands, look over your inside shoulder, and step off the board for a split of a second;

8. As the board starts to rotate, place the board back under your feet and eye the landing spot;

9. Keep your knees bent on the descent to absorb the impact of the landing;

10. Land and surf away;

In a perfect scenario, you'll do a sushi roll on a steep wave ramp that quickly morphs into a mushy face or landing spot.