Revisionist History: The Air Roll Spin.

The Story behind the story.

by Dan Dobbin.

Sometimes when you look too deeply into something it can spoil it a little for you.

I think I could nearly deliver the entire script of “Forrest Gump” as a soliloquy if I tried hard enough. So many quotable lines and watched so many times.

“Sorry I had a fight in the middle of your Black Panther party”

“He may be the stupidest son-of-a-bitch alive, but he sure is fast!”

Once I realized that metaphorically Forrest represents good ol’ dependable, conservative America who will be there to pick up the pieces after crazy, liberal Jenny finishes wreaking havoc, the magic dimmed a little. The theme not totally meshing with my own personal worldview.

Still it’s a great vehicle for examining the dynamic tension that exists between individual actions and historical circumstances.

Michael “Eppo” Eppelston, we have always told, went out and invented the A.R.S in response to the criticism he received from parts of the bodyboarding world that he didn’t deserve to be crowned world champion. Because of the lackluster conditions on the final day at the Pipe championship in 1993, some felt the moniker of world champion wasn’t entirely earned.

So Eppo took his creativity and gymnastics background and broke through the bi-axial rotational wall.

Suck on that doubters! Place in history assured.

However, while easily digestible, in reality history rarely rings true to the “great man of destiny” narrative we are often told.

See, around the same time that the A.R.S was revealed, there was already a solid ferment building around new rotational moves in the bodyboarding world.

Lanson Ronquilio had accidently launched an air reverse / flip variation in at Off The Wall in Tom Boyle’s “Killer Days” film. Ben Holland had unveiled his “Twisted Air Reverse” ( Eppo has acknowledge this as his initial inspiration for the A.R.S.). Mike Stewart and Haouli Reeves were pulling front flips off the back of waves.

Riptide magazine had a feature in 1992 entitled “Spastic Gymnastics” specifically dedicated to exploring what new moves of the future were possible, unveiling idea’s like reverse rolls, carving forward loops and dropknee air reverses.

To his credit, Eppo has always acknowledged that others were working on similar moves or rotations to the A.R.S. around the same time, saying he was simply lucky enough to be the first have it documented.

In Australia the word on the bush telegraph was that local Coffs Harbour legend Scott Mason was an early innovator of the combination of two of bodyboarding fundamental moves. When contacted about this, Scott was typically humble in his responses.

“Not ever been one to blow my own horn and talk about that stuff and always respected Eppo, he’s a top bloke and a great advocate for the sport”

When press however Scott admits “ Yeah was always a bit of conjecture back then. I’d been doing it for a long time before the footage of Eppo came out and had named it a scrollo but credit to him he got it on film and publicized it. We were both trying new stuff at the time and it was an exciting time to be involved in bodyboarding”.

“Who knows maybe he’d been doing it for a while before he filmed it as well”.

Over in South Africa, a similar rumor often swirled around multiple time national champion, now pipeline charger Alistair Taylor.

A.T. confirms “ Yeah I did one before I knew of anyone else doing them but SA was kind of in obscurity at the time, didn’t have much media presence as in Oz, but it’s all good, Eppo was doing a good job innovating anyway!”

And finally, over in North America star of late 90’s cult films “Boogie Knights” “Monkeys” and “Welfare” Jacob Reeve was also a man purported to have been dabbling on the black arts of combining moves whilst airborne. Unfortunately, despite travelling down a few avenues in an attempt to speak to the man directly, no Bueno on the confirmation. Still given Jacob’s ability on a bodyboard, it’s probably safe to mark this one plausible.

So where does this all leave us?

Was the arrival of multi-rotation air moves something that was going to happen regardless of Eppo’s brilliant mind?

Or do we still owe a debt of gratitude to the man who popularized and perfected the maneuver that would forever alter the shape of bodyboarding forever?

I’ll defer to Forrest’s wisdom on this one:

“I don’t know if mama was right or if it’s Lt Dan. I don’t know if we each have a destiny or if we’re all just floating around accidental like on a breeze, but I think maybe it’s both.

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