Ode to the Daffy

Our sport's crotch-ripping badge of courage.

At an aerials competition in Steamboat Springs in 1976, my oldest brother, David, went for a quad daffy, crossed his skis on number three, and woke up in the hospital. Later, we’d know this variation as the Screamin’ Seaman, but it’s a mistake you make unintentionally only once.

So why is the daffy—that glorious, crotch-ripping badge of courage involving one or more midair splits—tainted with dorkdom? Pop a daffy under the lift today and you’re considered an ironic hipster or a loser. Which is a shame because the daffy is one of skiing’s marquee stunts—one that, unlike a cork 540, is still within the grasp of everyman.

Its place in the annals of aerial maneuvering is hallowed, with cameos in everything from Hot Dog…the Movie to Warren Miller reels. Credit this to its difficulty compared with its more mundane cousins, the twister and spread eagle. The daffy was how you earned your true stripes on the slopes. It takes guts—and big air—to mock gravity with your tips and tails like that, and then get them back underfoot in time to touch down. Lose it on a twister? Who cares? But screwing up a daffy means exposing your family jewels to the mountain’s whim. Of all upright aerials, the daffy places you in the worst crash position imaginable—both its bane and its beauty.

My moment came on a simple double-daffy attempt on the back side of Colorado’s Lake Eldora. One stride, two strides, a cross and a bone-rattling crunch. It psyched me out for years, relegating me to lamer splitsters—candy-ass alternatives with one less tip drop.

But do it right and it’s pure Picasso. Nowhere is this illustrated better than on a black-and-white poster hanging in my mom’s living room, showing my other brother, Stephen, throwing a heroic daffy off a homemade kicker in Boulder, Colorado’s Chautauqua Park, the Third Flatiron framed perfectly between his outstretched, Nadia Comaneci legs.

The real irony is that the move seems to have disappeared just as skis began getting shorter, which actually made daffies simpler than they were when we boosted them on 205s.

Since it’s easier than ever, there’s no better time to resurrect the daffy. Think globally, daffy locally.

Three Reasons to Stick Your Daffy
(by Clark Lewis, M.D.)
1. Hurting soft parts: torn cremaster muscle. Too gross to explain. Google it.
2. Hurting softer parts: high-riding prostate from unstable pelvic fracture.
3. Hurting softest parts: bloody urethral meatus from pelvic injury. Another for Google.