We’ve been screening cult classics from the clifftops of Cornwall all summer long at Wavelength’s Drive In Cinema. With only a few weekends to go, don’t miss out on your chance to get tickets to see iconic features like Dog Town & Z Boys and Endless Summer 2 on the big screen.
“Waves, winds, hills . . . all are forms of potential energy. The trick is to translate it into kinetic energy, to actuate potential, to make it jump to our side of the mirror. Surrounded by tools, we rush to translate efficiently. Now, before the brand names and cigar-men take over, consider the skateboard as a translating device.”
– Steve Jones, Surfer Magazine Dec 1974
Surfing and skate cultures are so interwoven that their stories are often one and the same, like the Old Testament and the Torah. Beholding the two contemporary acts, particularly bowl skating, and the sibling resemblance is undeniable.
(As an aside, it always puzzled me why bodyboarders don’t identify at altitude as skeleton bobsledders, clearly the lying down and holding on with both hands based sport’s closest terrestrial counterpart.)
And while surfers who skate probably outnumber skaters who surf greatly, in no small part due to entirely practical reasons – you can’t surf to the shops – does that mean we’re better, or they are?
Who, like, won?
Watching Dog Town & Z Boys explains precisely how surfing influenced skating, as it suddenly went from headstands in knee high socks and cone slaloms to vert and above the coping in a compelling period in the history of both sports.
Ever since then, it’s hard to argue the fact that skateboarding has had the far greater influence on surf. From Chistian Fletcher’s skate inspired aerials and attitude, to every aspect of progression witnessed since, save big wave and tuberiding. Sure, there’re some cul de sacs, here’s hoping nobody in the future points to Juian Wilson joylessly boardsliding a floating rail as some kind of pivotal moment (while a comments pedant inevitably points out “Josh Sleigh was doin that in 2002!”)
And yet for all our shared heritage, after a certain amount of time apart, even the matching genome will develop overtly unfamiliar appearances. Like Galapagos finches from different islands meeting for the first time, looking at each others’ different beaks and chirping ‘freak’, unaware they share 99.9% of their DNA.
A few years ago I was working as a judge on a Cash For Tricks event, and the organisers decided to get in proper judge too. A guy who now judges CT’s, a really good surfer, so much so he’s even featured in SurfCore2001’s Insty. A true lord, then. Somehow, in the preparatory chit chat, we’d got on to big spins.
“A big spin is just a really big air, when you do like a big, spin” he proclaimed. “Why, what do you call a big spin, then?” with only a vague air of row back upon reading my expression.
That particular move being the zenith of my late teenage stint as a sidewalk surfer in the Asda carpark, I told him it involved a 180 pop shuvit it, but the board does a 360, so you land switch but with your board still nose forward.
While certain that I was factually correct, morally, less so. What had I become? One of those awful people that debate the degrees of rotation in an air?
“Look at where the nose is pointing on approach, and landing…”
Or. Definitely just don’t.
In fact, surfing had got itself all hamstrung by culturally appropriating moves from skate and snow and suffered a crisis of confidence, worried about getting the name wrong, not identifying a grab properly. A bizarre self loathing period prevailed when all things ‘progression’ became a radical ultra orthodoxy, a tyranny of expertise loomed should you ever out yourself for not knowing that it can’t be a mute grab if it’s a frontside air, obvs.
“Fucken whatever mate” said the excellent Vaughan Deadly in Aint That Swell recently, or words to that effect. “We’re not trying to be like them. They’re cool as for what they do, but surfing’s something else, why’ve we all gotta be so worried about what they call it? Surfing’s fucken surfing, and we call it what we call it.”
Deadly was spot on of course, and besides, skating has much more to teach us than names of moves they’d had done over a generation ago, after all.
The broadly much more altruistic nature of the skatepark compared with lineup for one. The taking of turns, the general egalitarian vibes, much less of the skill/experience based toxic hierarchy. The absence of the accusing “where the fk are you from then?” if a new face dared place their board in preparation to drop in.
Skating as the facilitator of surfing progression is never more apparent than in the case of Sky Brown; set to be Britain’s youngest ever Olympian at this summer’s postponed Tokyo Olympics as a skater, as a 12-year-old. The Japan/US based Sky and her generation use skate skills to hone surfing airs at the Waco wavepool that you’ve never seen Gilmore et al. attempt, let alone stomp.
An EoS interview that former Dog Towner Matt Warshaw did with the at times swastika festooned Jay Adams a few years before his death, revealed that the iconic Bert slides made famous in Dog Town – after the afro and bell bottom single fin Hawaiian style lord Larry Bertlemann – were in fact inspired by enigmatic Australian sour puss, Wayne Lynch.
“Warshaw: Those super low turns you were doing; everybody thinks you were imitating Larry Bertlemann, but I remember you were doing those things before we knew who Bertlemann was.
Adams: Jeff Hakman and Wayne Lynch were the first two guys who really influenced me. Especially Lynch. He was the most radical of all those guys, he turned so much harder.”
Alas, we couldn’t even come up with the misnaming of their manoeuvres ourselves.