In March 2011, Santa Cruz, California-based surfer, Zoltan Torkos, landed the first filmed kickflip on a surfboard. At least he thought had. Action-sports-apparel manufacturer Volcom, who offered up $10,000 for the first person to do one, refused to pay him, citing rule number three of the 2007 contest rules: “the kickflip must be a proper air that begins from a bottom turn, is launched off the lip and travels above the wave.” But on March 9th, Volcom reversed their decision and awarded Torkos the money saying, “there is no denying that this is the first functional kickflip caught on video and a milestone in futuristic surfing.” Despite granting Torkos the award, Volcom immediately put up another $20,000 and clarified the rule to encourage more (and bigger) attempts. Zoltan, undeterred by the controversy, says he’ll be the first to pull the trick in competition … off the lip of the wave.
--Ali Taylor Lange
OUTSIDE: When did you first attempt the trick?
TORKOS: One day I was surfing with my friend Carl Reimer and I almost pulled the kickflip. He said that I was going to be the first to do it. That ended up being the last time I ever saw him alive. He was shot to death later that night.
How did his death affect you and your surfing?
That day turned my life upside down. Everyone thought I went crazy over it. It didn’t matter how many times I hit myself in the face with my board or busted my nose or my arm. I couldn’t fall enough. I had to keep doing this to make some positive change in the world in the only way I can.
How did it feel to finally land it?
Honestly, I didn’t realize that I had done it and I kept surfing. But then it sank in, and I looked up and I pumped my fist and I screamed.
Were you disappointed when Volcom didn’t recognize your kickflip?
No. The day that Carl died was the day I felt negative. After I sent the video, I thought I’d won, but there isn’t much you can do. So I accepted my no.
What made Volcom change their mind?
The controversy was that Volcom said the kickflip didn’t count because I didn’t do it high enough off the wave, but the world said that I did it. I’ve never heard of any surf contest being appealed. I think Volcom was really surprised by the online response. For me that response was a bigger validation than Volcom saying anything.
What do you think of the new $20,000 prize?
It’s funny because that’s why I got the $10,000. More than anything, I am just happy. I did it for the love of my friend, and to help surfing. If Carl’s shooter had surfed that day, or had been interested in something other than gang violence, it would have been so different for everyone.
Where do you want to go from here?
I want to take surfing mainstream and captivate the world the way Tony Hawk did with skate boarding. Since Volcom, things have changed for me, and it’s my dream to never have to go back to working outside the professional surfing and skating tours.
Torkos is planning on attempting the trick at the Ala Moana Bowl, South Shore, Hawaii this summer.