How Surfing and skating both started
Surfing and skating have influenced one another for decades now. We will talk about how it has influenced one another from past to present. If you know a little about surfing or have watched some surf movies like Mavericks and Z-Boys; you can now see that when the surf was flat, surfers would skateboard when they were bored. That is to achieve a similar feeling as surfing but on land, also called “concrete wave”. Even though surfing and skating have had their downs, it has become a family between the both.
We will go over the years and how it has influenced each other as the two sports grew and became as one. This is the entire history of surfing and skating uniting each other.
It all started in 1957
Jim Fitzpatrick, one of the pioneers of skating said that skating’s first maneuver was just standing on the board and going down the hill. Just like surfing at that time, it was just about standing on the surfboard and going down the wave. There was no big maneuver, not big airs, nothing crazy at all. That was the goal for both surfing and skating.
Even though the mindset of both surfer and skateboarders was very similar, their equipment and board design were the complete opposite. Hawaiians were carefully selecting the right koa tree to shape their surfboards. They cut it very carefully and shaped the surfboard with an axe and a chuck of handheld coral, then they made it nice and smooth with stones.
In California, the kids that were skating ripped off the boots from roller skates, cut the rest of plates in half, and bolted the wheels and trunks onto random wooden planks. Skateboarders describe this first skateboard as impossible to ride as any pebble, twig, or even leaf would make you fall. The big revolution happened when clay wheels were invented in 1959. It opened up a new world from metal wheels, it was much easier to ride a skateboard and it became more daring. This is when every ramp and ridges started getting used as waves were popping up on land everywhere.
Just like when shapers started to shape smaller surfboards as more material was available and made it easier to shape. There was a huge difference in riding a wave when you went from a 10’5ft 40lbs surfboard to an 8’3ft 18lbs. It was easier to do a bottom turn and did not require as much power. Fitzpatrick remembers going for a bottom turn and the surfboard hitting the lip of the wave and knocking him unconscious.
A design story
The deeper we get into surfing and skating as one, the more we realize it is actually all a design story. As the boards in both sports evolve, new spots and maneuvers come in. Waves like Teahupoo, Pipeline, and even Could Break could not have been surfed in the early 60s because the surfboards were too big and would not fit on a wave like such. Same things come for skating, handrails and ledges were entirely disregarded as there would not be any kick tails/noses, therefore ollies.
When Mark Richards visited Chicago, he realized that they had no concept of skating, but they were the only ones assembling trucks and wheels today. Richards and his father convinced the distributors to take the beautiful skates they had just made, cut them in half, and throw away the boots. This is when skating started to really get moving.
Skaters were ten described as “sidewalk surfers” as Hobie and Marga emerged as industry leaders. At that time Jim Fitzpatrick was off the tarmac at Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport. As he was skating, cross-stepping, doing tic tacs, coffins and spinners; the crowd loved it. As soon as he would stop, they would ask for more!
The start of competitions and movie features
By 1965 Skating had become an international recognized sport holding its first International Skateboard Championships in Anaheim, California. ABC Wide World of Sports even featured it on their show. Another movie called Skater Dater came out as well that year featuring beautiful skate scenes and received a best live action short Academy Award nomination!
By Mid 1960s around 50 million skateboards had been sold in America alone! That was a high number when the sport just started being featured and demonstrated.
At the same time, Hollywood started featuring surfing in their movies, television series and shows. The Beach Boys created a song called “Catch A Wave” and so many more. A lot of movies started to show surfing as a sport, even Elvis straddled a surfboard! This whole publicity for surfing was great, more and more people started surfing and enjoyed the sport.
In 1961, Phil Edwards initiated surfing Banzai Pipeline. Pipeline is known as to be one of the most dangerous surfed wave in the world. By 1965, Jeff Hakman won the Duke Kahanamoku invitational competition at Sunset Beach, Hawaii. And in 1966, Bruce Brown released “The Endless Summer” as one of the most popular surf movies.
At that time there was not much more than surfing big waves and skating with clay wheels. Then surfers started being creative by cross-stepping to the nose of the board as well as skaters did. When a barrel would show when surfing, the surfers will duck under the lip and squat down. On the other side, skaters would get barreled with curling hedges and trees. Waimea beach was mostly surfed with a 11 ft surfboard. Drainage ditches, empty pools were skated mostly barefoot. There were not so much high-tech maneuvers like in today’s time.
People then ended up realized how much skateboarding hurt. Everyone bought one skateboard, but they were never going to buy another. They realized it took a lot of pain and that there was no way around it.
Soon all of that changed. At the 1966 Surfing World Championships, Nat Young won with a 9’4 squaretail and Greenough-designed fins. Consequently, kicking off the shortboard revolution! Frank Nasworthy, a skater and surfer from the East Coast would invent urethane wheels for skateboards.
The separation of both sports
If you’ve ever seen the move Z-Boys, you might remember the Bertlemann Effect. This is when on a surfboard Larry Bertlemann plants his hand in the water and arcs tightly into the pocket of the wave. On skateboard, Jay Adams, Tony Alva, Stacy Peralta and their crew planted their hands on the concrete to whip their skateboards around. The moves are almost identical and called Berts.
In Skateboarding Berts were what burnouts were to hot rodding. That move made screeching, farting sounds that would annoy others. All done on urethane wheels. Those wheels allowed skaters to do higher, faster, and father out!
How Frank Nasworthy discovered urethane wheels
When he was visiting a plastic factory in Virginia. He saw a cart full of urethane wheels all designed for roller skates. He grabs one, sniffs it, squeezes it, runs it on concrete, and thought “What If…” Took a set home and put it on his Makaha skateboard. This became the ultra-smooth ride which revolutionized skating! In 1973, he then launches Cadillac wheels. And sales rockets into the thousands of hundreds. Skateboarding was going where it was never before.
In the Mid 70s, surfing and skating were deeply entwined. As skateboarders like Jay Adams would copy what Michael Ho and other amazing surfers were doing but on land. But skateboarding had so much more going for the sport as other disciplines came in. Things like slalom, downhill, and freestyle. Freestyle was described as the figure skating, with handstands, nose wheelies, 360s, and high jumps. It was all surf inspired from the Bahne/ Cadillac Nationals in Del Mar, California in 1975 with head to head against low gravity. Much like when Nat Young had won the championships, the skaters repurposed flatland course with carvings and bottom turns and cutbacks and Berts.
After those skateboarders showed such a great show. The skate park boom followed. Between 1976 to 1978, at least 200 skateparks were built in to the US. As they were modeled with the surf approach, with bowls, snake runs, banks, pools, full and half pipes. The names of the skateparks were described as: The Concrete Wave, The Endless Wave, or even The Pipeline.
During that same time, surfing was progressing dramatically. Mark Richards and friends rode deeper in the barrel than ever through possible on the North Shore of Hawaii. On the South Shore, Buttons was doing 360s and slid his surfboard’s tail. The most common of all of the surfers was the low center of gravity, with butts and chins super closed to the wave of the wave.
Peter Townsend the 1976 IPS world champion recalls that the winter Jay Adams and Tony Alva spent In Hawaii was amazing. Between surf and skate sessions, they all threw their tails and Berts evolved. Instead of planting their front hand, they started planting their back hand on the concrete. This is when Townsend was able to practice the layback as a skateboarding move and applied it to surfing.
Tony Alva had a huge role in the development of skateboard; with being the sport’s first world champion in 1977 and starting his own skates company at the young age of 19. Tony also played a part of the movie Skateboard. But his greatest contribution to skateboarding was the aerial.
In the mid 70s skating resulted in a flurry of empty pools. Vert-addicted kids would jump fences and skated the empty pools until they were kicked out or even arrested at times. While skateboarding was subjective, pool riding was cut and dried. It was all about getting as high up the wall as possible at this point. In 1977 at the famous Dog bowl which was a kidney shaped pool in Santa Monica; Tony Alva grabbed his rail, popped an air and landed it! This was a big hit for skateboarding!
Surfing and Skating Combination
If there was one move that would combine surfing and skating as one sport; was the aerial. With the new Rector safety equipment and independent trucks and parks with perfect evolution, skateboarding jump to light years ahead. Aerial then became inverts, which is when the skateboarder plants a hand on the coping and grabs the rail with the inside instead of outside of the hand. At the Dog bowl, Dennis Agnew did a seeping, surf style frontside carve around the deep end and then launched himself up the opposite wall, raised his front wheels, and then board slid for 30 feet; this was then called the rock ‘n’ roll slide. Around the same time in Hollywood, Florida at a skatepark called Skateboard USA, Alan Gelfand added a tiny tail pop to his lip slides. Which then evolved into the ollie; that is the most radical trick in skateboarding.
Everything then made perfect sense to both surfers and skateboarders. Waves are in motion and no 2 are exactly the same, so the surfer only gets one chance. But skating on the other hand is static, you can practice a trick as long as your patience or pain allows you to.
But unfortunately, the skating era was coming to an end. The owners of the skateparks were not ready for all the insurance suits that will be caused by their parl. Just like when Little Johnny was going to be pitching for the Dodgers, went skating and broke his arm. He would never be able to pitch again and wanted all of the skatepark owner’s money. All parks were destroyed and two years later they were all gone.
Even though the admiration of skateboarding went down, the tricks kept being invented. It all happened on backyard ramps, empty pools, and full pipes that skaters would keep doing their thing. Surfing also struggled to keep up during that time. In the late 70s the twin fin invention and design definitely helped; there were fast and loose and turned super easily. But the big disadvantage with the twin fins was that it offered an uncontrollable sliding and didn’t work very well on big waves.
But the evolution was coming in hot! On a backyard ramp in San Clemente, a 10-year old surfer and skater Christian Fletcher got so good at his airs that he was able to land it on wood, concrete and even water, every lip started to look like launch pads for him to throws his airs. In Sydney, Australia in his own shaping bay, Simon Anderson wondered what a surfboard would be like if it combined both single and twin fins designs. On a fresh blank a surfboard he then saw 3 fins!
The Thruster, 540s and handrails
Surfing then laid skateboarding, the latter grew up under the former’s wing. And then in the late 70s skateboarding broke away with air popping and ollies. But in reality, surfers had been playing with airs all along, even thought they were never actually taken seriously. On the cover of Suring in 1975 in Santa Cruz Kevin Red is above the lip with a single fin.
In Florida it was Matt Kehele who was doing “Kech airs”, in Hawaii it was Larry Bertlemann who was launched “Larryials. And in California Davey Smith and friends were grabbing their rails and going up high in the sky. But it wasn’t until the late 80s that an aerial was considered a legitimate surf maneuver.
After all of the skateparks closed in the late 70s, skateboarders were taking backyard ramps and wooden ramps to help them with their vert addiction. Some articles even helped skateboarders on where to find ditches, bowls, storm drains and even though how to build your own skate ramps.
The looks of the sports
While surfing cared and wanted to model itself as a sport after golf, and tennis. Skateboarding on the other hand was the opposite. It embraced its unruly and rough around the hedges heart. Skateboarders like Duane Peters pulled and plants with leopard spotted hair. And Steve Olson grinded coping with a cigarette dangling from his lips.
At this point half pipes got higher and wider, with a flat in the middle and perfect transition. Christian Hosoi also called Holes launched a 6ft, 8ft, and then 10ft world record air on a skateboard.
Tony Hawk then mastered a bunch of other new tricks like the Stale Fish, Finger Flip, Mute Air, and the Method Grab.
At the same time as people were talking about the new thruster, surfing was growing! The thruster created a surfing boom as well as crazy colors and different patterns onto surfboards, wetsuits, and even surf-wear. ASP started adding some new events for the tour which were held in some small towns, low quality surf. In 1985 the world professional inland surfing championships took place in a wave pool in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
As skate boarding’s tricks were building by the day, surfing on the other hand stuck to their same up-down, up-down lines that have been seen for the last decades just with more precisions and power. Tom Curren took that up-down up-down method and turned it to great effect with hitting the wave’s lip at what we call 11 o’clock.
Tom Carroll and Gary Elkerrton were surfing Pipeline and sunset in the giant barrel waves as if those waves were tiny. And then there was Martin Potter who surfed with crazy speed, and then followed with his figure 8 cutback under the lip of the wave.
In the late 80s at the giant wave Third Reef Pipeline, Herbie Fletcher would charge up the lineup with his jet ski and was going super-fast to go across the incredibly long sections. Fletcher was a part of the Astrodeck team which was full of the best surfers in the world at that time. Just for fun, he would put the surfers in the water, would throw them a rope and pull them with his jet ski to the massive blue section of the massive set wave. They were pioneering tow-in surfing.
Herbie’s son Christian was skating between surf sessions at Trestles at some local half pipes with Christian Hosoi. He loved to perform big airs on concrete so as the surfing industry seem uninspired, he was doing airs on waves as well!
He described it as surfing on his skateboard and skating on his surfboard. On skateboard he had more surf style, and, on a surfboard, he had more skate style.
As Christian was competing in surfing, the judges did not like his aerials. He was not judged right. They had no idea how to judge an air and did not seem to want to see progression. So that made him loose every competition he entered. But now seeing all the surfers doing airs and getting huge points for it owe it to Christian that had started that trend.
As surfing made an advance toward skateboarding, skateboarding went off in another direction that surfing couldn’t get into. Skaters like Natas would ollie up to handrails, board slide, and then flick off and land them perfectly. The streets started a skating revolution.
They were nothing like waves but walls, ledges, handrails, steps, dumpsters, and more were the new skating terrain. And the trick that made it all possible was the famous ollie.
The surf skate division got wider and wider throughout the late 80s. With of course and always a few exceptions, pro surfers earned their stripes trough winning competitions and making the Top 16 surfers in the world. Pro skaters on the other hand, made their reputations through videos and photos in magazines; not with competitions. While ASP championship tour was bringing surfers to small coastal towns, skaters went to big cities to infuse the sport with an urban outlaw edge. Surfing was also primarily Caucasian; while skating was multiethnic at that time.
In 1990 surfing and skating only showed some resemblances from each other very vaguely. But this was soon changing with the help of the legend Kelly Slates and the Momentum Generation.
1990s- The New Age and Spirit of both Surfing and Skating
During this new time; surfers rode super thin, super narrow thrusters with exaggerated nose kicks that made the surfboards look like an elf boot. The threw and showed some very nice tight snaps, released their fins, and spun in full rotations.
The Momentum Crew, also known as the New School, showed up in the surf industry during the early 90s. Included were Kelly Slater, Rob Machado, Ross Williams, Tim Curran, Shane Dorian and so many well-known surfers now days.
In 1992, Tom Curren went on and won the Wyland Pro obviously lacking logos. The sport then seemed like it was suffering an identity crisis. Asking themselves who they were? Where they were from? And probably the most important question to be asked Where surfing was going?
Curren himself tried to answer the first question. On Rip Cur’s “On The Search” campaign, Tom and Frankie Oberholzer were traveling to far found trip in search of the perfect wave to surf. During this trip Tom Curren played the guitar, hanged out with locals and showed was surfing was all about while catching and tearing apart the beautiful blue majestic waves. All answering who are we? The answer came to be that surfers are: adventurers, wandering people, wave whisperers whose magic needs no contest jersey or fans to exist.
The second question was Where are we from? And that had been answered by Joel Tudor. The Duke, Phil Edwards, Tom Blake, Nat Young, and others were collectively suggested through elegant cross stepping and soul arching tens that the tradition of surfers had a great style. It all went down to the water and sand getting in your car, the music you listened to, and the shoes you wear. Most of all surfers and its community comes from a tradition of fun. Whether it is on a 10ft tanker or a 5’4ft fish surfboard, it was all about fun.
The last question being Where are we going? Had been answered by the New School Group with their new way of performance. The individual tricks itself was impressive but connecting all of the surfing tricks and maneuvers together was even more impressive. It was not about pulling the biggest move of your life anymore; it was about pulling the biggest move of your life and then without any pause or pump going and launching for the next one. The new surfboard that consisted of less volumes helped a lot with this strategy.
Surfing and Skating Coming as one
At the same time; skateboarding was on a similar kick; wheels went tiny and boards became narrow. Skaters then rode switch which added a seamless, ballet flair that was not like surfing’s reverse. Steve Rocco; a freestyle skater founded World Industries which then sparked a revolution in skaters with some professionals and industrious teenagers to start their own companies. At that time; skating represented an outlaw, X-rated counterpoint of view to the public.
While there was board experimentation happening everywhere in both sports. Sector 9 and Gravity longboards were the most popular and were ridden in slalom style, often barefoot by kids that owned VW busses. Their ads featured surfers and were making the first overlap between the two sports in a while. Carver took it a step further and created skateboards designed to simulate high performance surfing on concrete.
Surf, skate, and snow were now a Holy Trinity of sorts and captured brands like volcom and magazines to combine all 3 sports in their marketing and ads strategy. Winter competitions were held to determine the best crossover athlete of all 3 sports. South California then gained its reputation as a boarder’s paradise, where you could surf, skate, and snowboard in the same day.
In the middle of the decade, surfing and skating then echoed each other really well. Ju=im Fitzpatrick became the president of International Association of Skateboard Companies (IASC) and then leaded hard in the state of California to make the cities immune to skate park injury litigation. As the bill passed, setting an example for other states; skateparks came back and were now built with dreamy ledges, and amazing rails.
During that same exact time Quiksilver sponsored the Grajagan Pro and also filmmaker Jack McCoy hosted the Billabong challenge. Both events were hosted in amazing waves in the middle of nowhere. This came to the conclusion that quality surf would be without accessibility. And that became the new Dream tour were sowed.
The Swatch Flowrider added some surfers, skaters, snowboarders, wakesurfers, and skimboarders together on a stationary wave. Where slater, Hawks, and Haakonsens performed their respective genius. They all watched poolside and took notes.
At the 1999 Pipeline Masters, Kelly Slater took off a rifling left and hooked off the bottom turn to launch out of the lip, did a flip and twist aerial that spectators were baffled and impressed. It was like watching a skate move on water. Later as he was calling it a “Rodeo”, he missed it and didn’t pull it off. But it showed a glimpse of the future.
During that same year, at the Summer X-Games in San Francisco, California; Tony Hawk pull off the first 900 skateboarding trick. It was just a glimpse of what of the skateboarding future would look like; it was also broadcasted on national TV.
At the Nickelodeon kid’s Choice awards of 2003 and 2004; Tony Hawk was names Favorite Male Athlete, beating Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, and Tiger Woods.
The parallels of both sports go on. Taylor Knox freefell into $50,000 beasts at Todos Santos to since he won the K2 Challenge. Ken Bradshaw also rode his record breaking 60+ft outer log cabins monster. And on top of that Danny Way dropped from a helicopter into a giant half pipe in Las Vegas.
On top of all of that Jamie Thomas also ollied off an 18ft ledge. He did not land it but he definitely raised the bar for the next decade.
Just Because Rebels
As talked about earlier during the 80s and 90s, surfing was about aerials finding legitimacy, but then in the 200s it was about bursting 6ft and above, with tweaks and grabs pulled straight from skateboarding tricks. Websites passed print media in the race to document the latest and greatest videos out. On the other hand, ASP judges were blamed to not be keeping up with the trend.
Even though airs were not yet to be recognized; one stands out. It was at the Quiksilver Pro New York, in the semifinals. Kelly Slater needed an 8.04 to be Taj Burrow and move on to the finals. In the last minutes, Kelly took off on a closeout right, pumped twice and threw a massive full-rotation air reverse. This got him a perfect 10.
This day, aerial surfing was redefined on what we consider an excellent wave. A lot more professional surfers like Dane Reynolds, Julian Wilson, and Josh Kerr started to throw airs in competitions.
This is when the new millennium started and burnt like fire. In 2000 August 17; Darrick Doerner towed laird Hamilton into a monster wave in Teahupoo, Tahiti. It looked like a cartoon, a category 5 hurricane and looked like the lip of that wave could have crushed a house. Terror and awe were both showed by the surf community. There were never a bigger wave ridden like Laird Hamilton.
Skateboarding then answered back in 2005 July 19. Danny Way barreled down a 65ft chute at roughly 55mph, and lateral distance of 70ft on a mega ramp that looks like an Olympian ski jump, and then landed it! It was very fearful but the fact that he launched over the Great Wall of China with a swarm of global media present, it then became historical. Way to set a new world record; the first person to leap the entire Wall without a motor vehicle and land successfully.
Making money with surfing and skating
During the quiet breakthrough of both sports on concrete, and in the water. Skateboarders were trying the same tricks 100 times until they finally pulled it off. They would stay in that same spot until they landed it.
Surfing has its own version of that with the Billabong XXL Big Wave Awards that offered thousands of dollars for surfing the biggest wave. Makua Rothman made $66,000 for surfing a 66ft at Jaws. And then Pete Cabrinha set a new world record and made $70,000 with his 70ft left at Jaws.
Volcom Stone’s Kickflip-Off in 2007 offered the first surfer to land a kickflip on a surfboard $10,000. Zoltan Torkos won it and then upped the purse to $20,000 for the first surfer to pull it off above the lip.
Contest now days offer new ways to earn lots of money and new tricks and maneuvers that can be made up. It is now known all over the world that surfing and skating offer some of the best lifestyle. One thing is for sure: surfing and skating are reaching more and more mainstream with some movies and shoots. It’s the spirit, and lifestyle that tie both surfing and skating as sports together.