1 November, 2012 1 November, 2012

Claiming It – Zag’s guide to wave salutes

Claim (verb) a gesture of elation caused by ‘stoke’. Traditionally executed by raising one’s hands in the air, displaying happiness and/or relief after exiting a (good) barrel (see Tube), or at the completion of a difficult manoeuvre. Claiming can also be an ironic gesture, symbolising the opposite of ‘stoke’ – see ‘Poo-Man’ (page. 341). 1. To claim one’s wave. 2. I don’t care, I’m claiming that barrel! 3. I claimed that one hard! – Alt. One may also ‘Claim’ during billiards, coinage and other traditional sports, however, its original use is with reference to surfing.


In its rawest, simplest form, claiming a wave is an innocent thing to do. You get barreled, it feels amazing, so you celebrate. End of story.

But that’s not how it works. The laws of our culture are fickle. A person’s valour is often judged by understated behaviour. If you look at three of surfing’s most respected ambassadors of hard-core-ness: Shane Dorian, Mark Matthews, John Florence. You don’t see them claiming too often. Maybe a little wipe of the nose or a big smile, but nothing more on a regular basis. That’s because claiming is a big deal. You need a bloody good reason to lift your paws in the air after a wave. Surfers look at claiming the same way we look at someone having a laughing fit with cream-soda spraying out their nostrils. It’s only acceptable if the joke was completely hilarious. If it wasn’t that funny, you’ll just look like an imbecile.

It’s a rare phenomenon, our policing of the ‘claim’, but it’s for good reasons that people can’t be allowed to do it freely. Claiming waves unnecessarily is synonymous with lying about how big your wave was, telling people you are sponsored when you’re not and being a general try-hard wannabe. This often leads to a nasty nickname and ‘claim shame’, a near-permanent state of disgrace, which is only cured by years of low-key charging and Facebook abstinence.


1. When someone is learning to surf.
There’s nothing arrogant or pompous about someone who’s just started surfing claiming a straight-hander.

2. When it’s warranted.
If you get a crazy barrel or you stick the turn of your life, you’re entitled to claim (although discretion is advised). There are some waves where it’s impossible to hold back. Twiggy cashes in on his claiming credits below:

At the same time, a ten year old getting barreled at Supers for the first time could also be justified having a quick claim. It’s all relative to ability, age and the wave.

3. When someone is playing the fool, or has screwed up a good wave.
We’ve all done it. Nobody’s perfect. Claiming a bossed wave is known as an anti-claim. You make your friends, yourself and anyone who saw you laugh.



One Hand In The Air:
A traditional claim, often punctuated by a pointed finger, a fist or a flexed bi-cep. Looks good when a surfer can claim and carry on hoofing it down the line simultaneously, like at Supers. Looks bad when done on a small wave after a crappy head-dip.

The Double-Claim:
When one hand isn’t enough. Use with extreme caution.

The Holy Man:
Similar to the double-claim, but done with open hands while looking up at the sky. Usually executed after straightening out, while the rest of the wave explodes around you, creating a dramatic backdrop.

In The Tube ‘Peace Sign’:

Had its heyday in the 80’s and early 90’s. A bit like skinny trousers now – very difficult to make them look cool. Jordy has been known to throw out a few. He has also been known to wear skinnies from time to time.

Grabbing The Face:
Usually done when someone makes a crazy drop, squeaks out of a hairy keg or just misses a rocky ledge that would have otherwise broken their board/toes/face. A humble claim, seeing that it does not imply “I’m the best.” Rather, “Thank God I’m still standing!”

The Rocky Balboa:
A novelty claim, where the surfer air-boxes an imaginary punching bag. Rarely acceptable.

Grabbing The Head:
The anti-claim, translating ones frustration. “Argh! Should have pulled in!” or “What the hell – that turn was KAK!” Fairly common.

The Pistols:
Fairly straight foward – just aim and fire, buckaroo. 2012 has seen a pistols revival in heats, although it still smacks of buffoonery.

The Shot Gun:

Made famous by Andy Irons in Tahiti after he got a lucky wave against Dean Morrison in the dying moments of their heat. Unfortunately A.I. didn’t get the score, but his claim lives on… Acceptable when competing for word titles at heavy Chopes. Downright ridiculous just about anywhere else.

The Soul Claim:
Heath Joske performed the most stylish claim of 2012 at this year’s Billabong Pro in J-Bay. After drawing out a powerful S-Turn, he still had plenty of speed to burn. Rather than wasting it on a check stall, he took a high line, stood up and gave Terry Fitzgerald a metaphorical nod. It’s more style than claim, but it takes skill and timing to pull it off well. Works well when accessorised by a fro, a Bee Gee’s beard and a single-fin.


Gangnam Style Claim – very 2012. Like CD’s and Nintendo, our kids won’t understand it. Neither will offended locals.

Air Guitar Claim – a bodacious throw-back to the 1980’s. Practically extinct now.

Shaka Claim – pretty uncool, unless you’re Hawaiian.



Change happens from the top down. Ten years ago, people weren’t being carried up the beach after winning a surfing contest. They got a bro-hug, a few lammies on the arm and beer (if they were old enough). But since the WCT guys started carrying winners up the beach at every contest, this ritual has bled into the WQS and far beyond. Nowadays, it’s a common thing. Even juniors are carrying the winner up the beach at competitions. I have nothing against the ritual, by the way. The only reason I mention this is to illustrate how the WCT surfers influence future generations.

What we’re seeing on the WCT right now is a melody of despicable, shameless claiming. Julian Wilson needs to be singled out and boo’d for his double-claim during the final of the Rip Curl Pro in Portugal. If someone claimed a head-dip and three waffy turns at your local break, they’d have a carpark full of laughing buddies to answer to. If that happened in 1996, he would have been putty-rubbed.

For decades, the best surfers in the world have remained exempt from the rigid laws of ‘Claim Shame’, purely based on their ability. And fair enough. It has always been accepted that if someone like Mick Fanning claims a barrel, he’s earned it. It was probably better than five of your best barrels, combined and run in slow motion. But the pros are slipping up.

The main culprits behind this move are the contest judges, who are rewarding this bad behaviour. Like Pavlov’s Dog, the judges are teaching pro surfers to associate claiming with high scores and this is perpetuating the problem.



Adriano de Souza

Unfortunately Adriano is a full-blown claiming addict. He’s been at it for years now and is so badly hooked on contest claiming, that he’s started doing it while free surfing. His grip on reality is slipping. While testing out some new boards between heats in France last month, it was reported that Adriano ran up the beach and thanked strangers for helping him ‘win that tough heat against such a good crew of surfers.’

Julian Wilson
Julian’s move towards claim surfing started last year, when he was repeatedly beaten by competitors who punctuated their waves by showing the judges some love. He hit the bricks running in 2012, making sure that he completes at least three combination claims in every heat. His hard work finally paid off last week, when he won the Rip Curl Pro in Portugal, getting the score he needed for a head dip, three flicks and two claims.

CJ Hobgood

CJ has made such a bold statement against claiming that he’s actually ended up on the other side of the spectrum. By repeatedly vloeking off other competitors and the judges, he has been just as disruptive to the stoic, nonchalant behaviour traditionally associated with being hard-core.

Check out Zag’s short tribute to the claim below:


  1. slob
    1 November, 2012 at 11:58 am · Reply

    How about a contest? Instead of the one wave wonder how about one vrot wave with the best combo of creative claiming? Imagine how much air humping, finger pointing you could do on one wave at muizenberg!

  2. Justin Devos
    1 November, 2012 at 2:09 pm · Reply

    a very cool constructed article, loving to de zouza video, he’s such a mullet, can’t fault the CJ and Irons claims, nice work

  3. the captain
    1 November, 2012 at 4:23 pm · Reply

    in 1996 JW would have been putty rubbed in the parking lot! so flippin funny! not sure writing gets any better!

  4. 110kg kook, tune me i dare you
    2 November, 2012 at 8:57 am · Reply

    hahahahah!!!! i claim all the time! and i don’t care! if it feels good i do it! bring on the kook claim!!!!! once i pulled my tshirt over my head, both hands in the air, after a jesus barrel! take that! hahahaha

  5. jyotirmaya
    2 November, 2012 at 11:41 am · Reply

    I think that we should ban all claiming, and any show of emotion by saffa surfers – yes implement a mandatory putty-rubbing or sack-slap policy. This is, after all, what stoic saffa men are all about -being completely ambivalent to their emotions. Of course we have taken this from the wild west, where cowboys never cry (or claim after they shoot an Indian), as have the ozzies.
    Bring in a Brazilian, and the show of emotion by the latinos seems somewhat vulgar to our Victorian sensibilities.
    Perhaps its time we realised that surfing needs to move on from being mono-cultural, and that we should value the colourfulness of “different strokes for different okes.”

  6. Coatesman
    2 November, 2012 at 12:27 pm · Reply

    The hight of arrogance is to kill it and then pull off the wave like nothing ever happened …. that’s pride at its worst. Zag this time you get a nomination for “Blowing It”

    Only chops are to cool not to claim and enjoy the stoke. Real surfers live to get stoked and fist pump the sky. 

    Try it some time you might be pleasantly surprised at how good it feels. Or are you too worried about what other people think.

    Claim away

  7. Fritz
    2 November, 2012 at 7:00 pm · Reply

    Such a good read! Should be mandatory reading for the whole of Brazil.

  8. Ginz361
    3 November, 2012 at 8:25 am · Reply

    Claiming while free-surfing is part of stoke but should be ridiculed in pro surfing an exception may be tolerated at Chopes, Cloudbreak or Pipeline but make bloody sure its a 10 before embarrassing yourself. Zig Zag should start a Wall of Shame Claiming 

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *