Wherever the cool-water Atlantic greets our rugged coastline, sometimes with a kiss, mostly with a slap, there is now a thriving longboard culture.
Why? It’s all about that unbeatable sense of trim – pure balance at maximum speed. To trim literally means to cut away, to get rid of superfluous activity for absolute lightness of being. But the great joy of longboarding is to paradoxically embroider around those minimalist moments of trim and to engineer trim through cross-stepping – walking the board and riding the nose. It’s all about designing the moment by bringing into balance moving feet on a moving board on a moving wave through a still mind. How many ‘sports’ offer that complexity in the moment? This stylish new supplement is a celebration of the new wave of trim plus walking the board – the meeting of simplicity and complexity, cutting back and working up. Welcome to Longboarding and Freeride.
On the B-side to The Surfaris 1960s surf-guitar hit ‘Wipe-out’ is a cornball classic called ‘Surfer Joe’. Joe “went down to Huntington Beach one week / For the annual surfer’s convention meet / He was hangin’ five and walkin’ the nose / And when the meet was over / The trophy was Joe’s.” Nobody could match Joe’s noseriding. Half a century later, the longboarding constituency is still obsessed with mastering the noseride. It still wins World Titles, raises hoots and ultimate respect and keeps you stoked until another sunset melts into the horizon. It is surfing’s most enduring, but also most elusive skill.
I was a crispy-nosed teenage shortboarder when I fell in love with noseriding. Oxbow asked charismatic Cornishmen Robert ‘Minnow’ Green to run a British Longboard contest at Fistral in the early 1990s. I was deeply inspired watching Jerseyman Noel Creavy and South Devon’s Rob Beiling working the rails to perfection, then hanging gracefully on the tip. Flamboyant Welshman Chris ‘Guts’ Griffiths brought another dimension and was the undisputed standout, cracking lips in a way I thought was impossible on a nine footer. After the event, my dad got hold of a radical, lightweight sparkling yellow 9’4”, second-hand from Chris Jones. It was a contemporary version of a 1960’s noserider, but with thin rails and a single six-ounce glass job. It was built for Jock Paterson, a Brighton skateboard phenomenon who became one of the best and most agile longboarders in the country. I ‘borrowed’ the board from my dad, got hooked and never gave it back.
When Minnow started the British Longboard Union shortly after, Guts was a guiding light, dominating in Europe as a full time professional and scoring fifth place in the World Championships in big French surf, knocking out Joel Tudor en route. Slick Newquay trio Lee Ryan, Will Eastham and Nick Carter tied up the contest scene back home for a while, and turned heads with their freesurfing. Watching them influenced me not just as a freesurfer, but as a serious competitor. Soon, Cardiff styler Elliot Dudley and Jersey-raised Ben Skinner would enter the stage, taking British longboarding to new heights, in turn pushing the latest wild bunch of hot talent like James Parry. Ben Skinner’s mark of respect is that the very best in the world always fear coming up against him in a heat. Elliot has also made his mark on the international scene and is a brilliant and widely travelled surfer. But British longboarding has spawned creativity far beyond the realms of competition, and we will not restrict ourselves to the contest heroes and heroines. There are those for whom surfing is both anchor and well of sustenance and inspiration in their lives, who move easily from the board room to the longboard greenroom, or from the aesthetic of fashion to fashioning beauty and elegance on the waves. One of these is designer and longboard fanatic Maia Norman.
Longboard supplements and specials have come and gone among UK magazines. We aim to grow this one from sapling to magnificent tree, nourished by you, our readers. Here is a rare opportunity to explore a new wave of length.