Jump! Let your feet fly back in an act of faith. Tug on the handle to ride it out. It’s commonly known as an Air Raley, but the generic term for this gravity-defying trick is the Layout. Versions of it have been performed for decades on just about everything. Here’s an inside look at the innovative men who developed a new way to fly.
Distance jumping was already an established discipline, and every so often a high-flyer pulled back from the edge of disaster after slipping out on the ramp. The move of self-preservation evolved at Cypress Gardens with Mike and Joker Osborn. Joker pushed furthest, purposely using centrifugal force and a one handed flight to let his skis drift behind him as part of the show. The recovery from what looked like a sure crash was always a crowd favorite.
photo Courtesy USA Water Ski via Lynn Novakofski
“Flying Indian” (Ski Rixen), 1985
Steve Fontaine was not the first to lay out around the corner of a cable skiway, but as an established show skier he was the one to popularize it. After he saw the Ski Rixen manager perform the move at an exhibition, Fontaine set out to take the trick to new heights, adding massive air and even multiple overhead spins. The move consisted of Fontaine cutting hard to the outside as the rope hooked to the cable above turned the corner. He hung on tight, and the centrifugal force whipped him up and around on a giant arc, often 15-20′ high. Fontaine says that Darin Shapiro got his first taste of the layout here too, as a kid riding on Steve’s back.
Photo: Tom King. WaterSki. April, 1986.
Kneeboard “Layout”, 1986
Skiers and kneeboarders were performing “Flying Indians” at the Pompano Beach Ski Rixen, so the next step was to take it behind the boat. The boarder to make the jump was Lance “Sky” Walker, who grabbed attention with a high-flying move he called the “Layout.” It was the glory days of kneeboarding, and his groundbreaking trick spread like wildfire.
Photo: Tom King. WaterSki. June, 1986.
Video: 1986 – “Hydroslide Hotdogging”
Lance Walker’s Layout is the opening shot. This classic video also includes Mario Fossa, Ted Bevelacqua, Sammy Duvall and more.
Barefoot “Inverted” Style Jumping, 1989
In the late 1980s Mike Seipel became a barefoot jump specialist. He discovered that he jumped further when he got his weight forward on the takeoff. Seipel pushed his luck till he went out the front at over 43 mph, but the crash was a revelation. He realized that he might have been able to recover and ride it out; if he was ready for it. Over the next few months, when he accidentally lost it out the front, he would fight to regain control and pull his feet beneath him. Each attempt brought new confidence and he made his first inverted jump after five face first falls.
Seipel’s new jumping style catapulted him to a new world record of 72, By 1993 had extended it to 87′. Today all the top competitors emulate Seipel’s inverted style.
Photo: Doug Dukane
This video is probably from “Hot Rockin’ Feet” 1989-90. Jumping @ 2.42
Wakeboard “Air Raley”, 1991
Darin Shapiro was an accomplished trick skier in the early 1990s, and he mastered the Flying Indian on the cable. His coach Chet Raley suggested he try it on a wakeboard behind the boat. The transition was easy, and Darin called it the Air Raley to honor his coach.
Darin Shapiro exploded on the scene with this, his first Air Raley in print. Also in this picture, right side inset shot is Paul Frasier. He is commonly given credit for attaching the term “wakeboarding” to the world’s first compression molded board by Hyperlite introduced in 1991.
Photo: Tom King. WaterSki. April, 1992.
Air Raley excerpt from Hyperlite Boarding School. Volume 2 (which I wrote and directed in 1997). Includes a brief history of the Raley with Chet Raley and Darin Shapiro. Also includes Shaun Murray, Jeff Heer & Andy Lazarus.
Hydrofoil “Glide”, 2004
The longstanding quest for an Air Raley on a hydrofoil was achieved by accident. Kevin Thayer was working on an overhead mobius when fellow foiler Bryan Steele discovered the move had morphed into something like a Raley. The insight led Thayer to tweak the move into a full-fledged layout.
First Glides of Kevin Thayer posted by Bryan Steele
My longtime friend and recently “retired” superdealer Tommy Phillips is taking on a new role. He is spearheading the push to create a Wakeboarding Hall of Fame…and he has big plans. This post is at his request.
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More than a dozen interviews and numerous cross references via magazines and videos went into this story. If you have anything to add, or have a different version of the events, please contact me: ironmanskier at gmail dot com
“Thriller” and “Long Dive” Interviews with Cypress Gardens Skiers: Pete Bonifay, Joker Osborne, Don Morris, Judy Dersh, Lynn Novakovski
“Flying Indian” Interviews with Steve Fontaine, Chet Raley, Mike Ferraro, Mike Reinman
Kneeboard “Layout” Interviews with Lance Walker, Mario Fossa, Ted Bevelacqua
Barefoot “Inverted Style” Jumping Interview with Mike Seiple
Wakeboard “Air Raley” Interviews with Darin Shapiro, Chet Raley.
Hydrofoil “Glide” Interviews with Kevin Thayer, Bryan Steele
I’ve spent thousands of hours putting together my personal account of the creation and rise of hot dogging, kneeboarding, wakeboarding, hydrofoiling, and more. Each volume is an interactive word document that contains exhaustive research, and scores of classic photos and links to related content including vintage videos.
“Hot Dogging”, “Kneeboarding”, and “Hydrofoiling” are available now for FREE download. The rough draft for “Wakeboarding” has been written, and I hope to conduct a few more interviews with key players over the next few months to complete the first edition.