"The picturesqueness destroyed by legs spread much too far apart and whole sections of delicious wave perfect for lip bashes or wraps being sped right by without even a glance."
The story of how skateboarding was birthed from surfing is well known by fans of both arts as well as by the general non-skateboarding, non-surfing public. It has been celebrated in documentary and feature films alike, the later, Lords of Dogtown, starring Heath Ledger, Johnny Knoxville and Emile Hirsch even receiving mixed reviews from a mainstream media not generally under our sway.
In short, Venice Beach, California, then poor and hard-scrabble with no yoga studios or fancy ice cream parlors, served as an epicenter, a paradigm shifting few blocks that sent shockwaves reverberating through all our lives. A crew of surf-first kids, stymied by living in Venice, Beach California and not having any waves worth surfing turned to skateboarding in order to fill the singular hole in their various hearts.
They attempted to re-create what surf hero Larry Bertlemann was doing on their sidewalks, “Bertsliding” all knees tucked in, hands dragging the pavement exactly like Bert himself who plied his craft on the gorgeous liquid quarterpipes of Oahu, Hawaii’s North Shore.
Skateboarding, to this point, had been a nerd sport with nerds doing tricks like weaving between cones and twirling on two wheels whilst wearing competition jerseys and bifocals.
The Z-Boys, short for Zephyr Boys, which also included girls, radically altered the scene by bringing surf to the streets and that is where our story should end. Another gift our Pastime of Kings has bestowed upon a supplicant humanity. Boardshorts, Mick Fanning’s signature beer opening sandal and skateboarding but that is where our story, in fact, begins for the Z-Boys also took their skateboards into emptied swimming pools, using the gentle curves of the pool walls to further emulate surfing then shooting above the lip, or coping, into the air and grabbing their boards this way or that way. Twisting that way or this way.
Soon we had methods, indies, melons, liens, stalefishes, 180s, 360s, 540s even, 720s.
Surfers, took notice and, beginning in the 1980s, began emulating skateboarders attempting to rocket themselves into the air above their liquid quarterpipe coping and method, indy, melon and stalefish. The spins came later, in the 1990s and 2000s, sometimes awkwardly, often misnamed but always filled with reverence toward its origin and great shame when errors were made public.
Skateboarding, in 2022, defines surfing more than surfing defines skateboarding. Certainly we have our longboarders, as does skateboarding, and our longboarding continues to define their longboarding but both are ugly retrograde embarrassments. Also, we have our big wave surfers, I imagine the equivalent of a downhill skateboarder. Guts, an overwhelming feeling of personal accomplishment but no broad appeal.
The state of the art, the only form of surfing that matters, is found in modern applications. Modern street skating with modern pool skating mixing itself in more and more. Modern surfing, as in technical World Championship level, high performance thruster with the wide point pushed forward a smidge, Italo Ferreira, Gabriel Medina, sometimes even Julian Wilson modern surfing.
There are those who claim the best modern high performance skateboard-derivative surfing is done in clips or on Instagram but the state of the art is in competition, where tension is high, hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars are on the line as well as continuation on tour. Modern high performance skateboard-derivative surfing done in clips or on Instagram is more than half luck, more than half simple repetition. Even the least adroit professional surfer can do something impressive if he gives his all to it and places his filmer on the sand at a wave and has him record eighteen hours a day for as long as it takes.
As in all arts the enjoyment increases with the knowledge of the art, but people will know the first time they see this skate-inspired surfing, if they go open-mindedly and only feel those things they actually feel and not the things they think they should feel, whether they will care for modern surfing or not.
They may not care for the new way at all, no matter whether the surfing is good or bad, and all explanation will be meaningless beside the obvious moral wrongness of the taking the Pastime of Kings and turning into a skateboard-derivative fly fest, just as people could refuse to drink vodka which they might enjoy because they did not believe it right to do so. The comparison with vodka drinking is not so far-fetched as it might seem.
Vodka is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing which may be purchased. One can learn about vodka and pursue the education of one’s palate with great enjoyment all of a lifetime, the palate becoming more educated and capable of appreciation and you having constantly increasing enjoyment and appreciation of vodka even though the kidneys may weaken, the big toe become painful, the finger joints stiffen, until finally, just when you love it the most you are finally forbidden vodka entirely.
The thing, of course, is to avoid having to give up wine but there seems to be much luck in all these things and no man can avoid death by honest effort and this seems to have gotten away from modern high performance surfing, but the point I was attempting to make was that a person with increasing knowledge may derive infinite enjoyment from vodka. So too, a man’s enjoyment of surfing might grow to become one of his greatest minor passions if he studies each nuance, each hand placement and knee tuck. Each pop off the liquid coping and how the surfer’s head is placed and where his arms are in relation to his body and if he is preparing to spin this way or that way.
In vodka, most people at the start prefer to mix cheaper ones like Absolut or Smirnoff with sugared cranberry water or orange juice because of their taste masking abilities while later, with enough effort in studying how to appreciate, they would trade all these for a light but full and fine example of Beluga which is distilled in Mariinks, Russia though it may be in a plain bottle without label, dust, or cobwebs, with nothing picturesque, but only its honesty and delicacy and the light body of it on your tongue, cool in your mouth and warm when you have drunk it.
So too in modern high performance surfing, skateboard-derivative surfing, at the start it is the picturesqueness of the entire tableau, the color, the scene, the onshore breezes and very likely palm trees swaying on the beach but these days pine trees swaying too as modern high performance surfing can be practiced anywhere there is both water and wave, even in Waco, Texas which has neither palm nor pine but does have the foundation of the burned Branch Davidian compound nearby.
The picturesqueness of a tan boy and his pointy thruster paddling into a shoulder high wave, onshore winds really howling, pumping quickly down the line and searching for the “ramp.”
The spectator approaching modern high performance skateboard-derivative surfing for the first time may see it as grotesque. The picturesqueness destroyed by legs spread much too far apart and whole sections of delicious wave perfect for lip bashes or wraps being sped right by without even a glance. But when they have learned to appreciate values through experience what they seek is honesty and true, not tricked, emotion and always classicism and the purity of execution of all the subtle nuances of the aerial maneuvers, and, as in the change in taste for wines, they want no sweetening but prefer to see truth. That the lip bashes and wraps are tired and old. That the legs spread much too far apart are essential. That the hands free 540 correctly called is absolutely essential and the man who calls it a 720 deserves death rather than suffering.
But, as with vodka, you will know when you first try it whether you like it as a tiling or not from the effect it will have on you. There are forms of it to appeal to all tastes and if you do not like it, none of it, nor, as a whole, while not caring for details, then it is not for you. It would be pleasant of course for those who do like it if those who do not would not feel that they had to go to war against it or give money to try to suppress it, since it offends them or does not please them, but that is too much to expect and anything capable of arousing passion in its favor will surely raise as much passion against it.
The spectator approaching modern high performance skateboard-derivative surfing for the first time cannot expect to see the combination of the ideal wave and the ideal surfer for that wave which may occur not more than twenty times in all the world in a season and it would be wrong for him to see that the first time. He would be so confused, visually, by the many things he was seeing that he could not take it all in with his eyes, and something which he might never see again in his life would mean no more to him than a regular performance. If there is any chance of his liking modern high performance surfing the best modern high performance surfing for him to see first is an average one, Kelly Slater throwing up an ally-oop in the no-losers round of a below average Championship Tour event. Julian Wilson attempting a hands-free 360 in the dying seconds of a round three heat he has already won. Yago Dora, not too highly paid, so that whatever extraordinary things he does will look difficult rather than easy. A seat on the sand not so near that he will see entire spectacle rather than, if he is on the rocks at Snapper, have it constantly broken proper degree of rotation and if his front hand was grabbing his inside rail or if his back hand was grabbing his outside rail or if there was no grab at all — and a hot sunny day.
The sun is very important. The theory, practice and spectacle of modern high performance skateboard-derivative surfing have all been built on the assumption of the presence of the sun and when it does not shine over a third of the best part is missing. The Spanish say, “El sol es el mejor tablista.” The sun is the best surfer, and without the sun the best surfer is not there. He is like a man without a shadow. The exact degree of his rotation lost. The exact placement of his head, hands, legs obscured.
A salty mid-length enthusiast in the back of the room: “What is he saying? What is that horrible surf journalist yammering on about?”
Someone near him: “He’s wondering if any of us truly appreciate modern high performance skateboard-derivative surfing.”
Salty mid-length enthusiast: “Oh, I thought he was asking if any of us wanted to be modern high performance skateboard-derivative surfers.”
Did you like the modern high performance skateboard-derivative surfing in the latest competition, sir? Gabriel Medina beating Jordy Smith at the Quiksilver Pro in 2019?
Salty mid-length enthusiast: “I accidentally liked it very much.”
What did you like about it?
Salty mid-length enthusiast: “I liked to see the surfers hit the waves right in the face then leave them then land back on them with spins and what have you in between. Hunched spins and grabs.”
Why did you like that?
Salty mid-length enthusiast: “It seemed so sort of homey.”
Sir, you are a mystic. You are not among friends here. Let us go to the Komune where we can discuss these matters at leisure.