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Magic in the Water

blog_dirt_zoltanLocal surfer Zoltan Torkos’ quest to land the perfect kick flip
Zoltan ‘The Magician’ Torkos wants to inspire Santa Cruz youth to pull tricks, not triggers. A Santa Cruz surfer, Torkos descended from a long line of Hungarian magicians. Torkos, along with videographer Casey Panudy, recently posted online a video of himself attempting a kick flip on a surfboard.

Despite online message board brouhaha over the legitimacy of the trick—as it a real kick flip or a failed attempt? Torkos is keeping it all in perspective and dedicating his quest for kick flip perfection to surfer and Santa Cruz high grad Carl Reimer, a victim of gang violence who died last year.

“I want do it to influence kids, so things like [the death of] Carl don’t happen, so kids do radical things instead of shooting each other,” says Torkos.

A basic skateboarding trick, the kick flip, which was originally called the “magic flip,” has eluded surfers for decades. The trick requires that both board and rider be airborne. Using their feet, the rider must flip the board 360 degrees to the left or right before landing back on the board.

In 2007, Volcom, a surf/skate apparel company, offered $10,000 to the first surfer who could perform a kick flip on video. To meet the rules of the “Kickflipoff” contest, the surfer had to perform the maneuver above the lip, or top of the wave. There were no hands, laybacks, shoes, or wave-catching assistance allowed. And rule No. 6: “You must completely ‘ride out’ the kick flip.”

Based on Volcom’s criteria, Torkos’ video will not win him the prize money. But is it a successful kick flip?

“A very common move in surfing is people will fall into the whitewater and stand back up,” Torkos says. “But it’s hard for them to deal with a surfer doing the first kick flip ever. It’s not a move that anyone’s ever seen in the world.”

The video has 15, 639 views on Youtube. The general consensus in the video’s comments and the surf media seems to be that Torkos is coming much closer than most, but the trick could be performed more cleanly. In particular, controversy stems from his landings.

In skateboarding, lying down and riding the board on your stomach at the end of a trick would not qualify as a successful kick flip.

But, Torkos is quick to point out that competitive surfing judges have rewarded surfers for similar maneuvers.

Torkos cites a contest victory by 10-time world surfing champion Kelly Slater as evidence that his own kick flips should be considered real.

“Kelly Slater just did it in Australia in Bells Beach, an air to layback,” says Torkos. “And not only do they score him for a layback, he wins the contest. If it’s OK for Kelly Slater, why isn’t it OK for me?”

Torkos has taken the criticism, controversy and message-board banter in stride. The surfer says he draws inspiration from his family’s unusual chosen profession.

“I came from a magic family,” Torkos says. “I think that’s what made me believe in the unbelievable. It’s not about tricking people. My grandfather taught us the good energy would come from us and come through us and make the audience happy.”

For Torkos, performing a trick, whether with magic or surfing, is not about deception, but about entertaining and maybe even inspiring the audience to believe in something they thought was impossible.

It’s a gift he hopes to pass on to honor the life of his friend Reimer. On the day he died, Reimer, 19, and Torkos surfed at The Lane together.

“He actually completed one of his first 360 airs that day,” says Torkos. “I tried a kick flip.”

On the last day of his life, Reimer encouraged Torkos to continue trying the kick flip. He believed “Zoltan The Magician” could do the trick that nobody had mastered.

“That was a magical day that will always be in my heart for the rest of my life,” says Torkos.

 

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