The Connection Between Skateboarding & Surfing

Surf Tales General

The Connection Between Skateboarding & Surfing


N: 36° 46′ 41.7324” W: 119° 25′ 4.5516”

One of the longest debates amongst boarders is the eternal ‘what came first’ conundrum. Much like the chicken and the egg debate, the answer is obvious…Surfing came first. However, what is less well known is the long relationship between the two sports. Today, skateboarding is beloved amongst surfer’s when the swell’s have become to large and the urge to ride a board still lingers. This need to satisfy the surfing urge when the ocean has closed business

From the Beach to the Street’s

Surfers in California quickly grew tired of having to wait for calmer waters to get the adrenalin rush or shredding and cutting. The answer was to attach roller skates to the under side of a wooden slab. Such quick thinking and ingenuity started the development of modern skate culture. Though the boards didn’t look like any more than a piece of ply wood with clay wheels, when the wheels began to roar on the tarmac, Skateboarding was born.

I can only imagine the look on the faces of Jacki-O inspired suburban moms when they first saw longhaired hippies barrelling down the sidewalk toward them. In the early 60s, this sight had become so prevalent that toy companies had begun making the first skateboards. However, the accidents and scrapes that happened while skateboarding became too off putting for toy companies and families alike. Skateboarding short time in mainstream production rapidly came to end. Cementing the sports exclusive appeal amongst underground and off shore cultures.

The Modern Variant of the Fist Skateboard

The Rebirth of Street Surfer’s

During the 70’s there were several events that together made skateboarding flourish again. Firstly, polyurethane wheels were invented. These wheels were a massive step forward compared to steel or clay wheels that had been repurposed and torn from the bottom of roller-skates. Secondly, the Californian drought of 76 & 77 resulted in peoples swimming pools evaporating. The result was an empty bowl with a shape that mimicked the waves and walls that surfer’s loved so much. Bowl Skating was born and this time it wasn’t going anywhere.

The empty pools brought the skateboarders the similarities to surfing that they were looking for. In the worlds of skating and surfing, this development catalysed massive improvement in the field of materials as many individuals were involved in both worlds. New forms of surfboards were made, making it easier to cut short and sharp turns. Thanks to the new wheels developed for skateboard, the same kind of turns could now be practiced and honed in the comfort of ones empty swimming pool. The goal was to make sharp turns as close to the edge of the swimming pool  as possible. Just like surfers did on the lip of the wave.

Tricks are done on the edge of the ramp or in the air

What gave skaters a big advantage over surfing was the fact that the terrain you skate over always remained unchanged. It was a sport based on the constants of concrete and wood, unlike the changing and undulating ocean.  Surfer’s do not have the luxury of being able to practice over and over again on the same conditions, well unless you in Kelly Slater’s wave pool (but who has the money for that).  Because of this, the development of skating overtook surfing, going so fast that it didn’t take long for skaters to fly above the edges of the pools. This inspired the early surfing attempts at aerials off the ledge of a wave. Today, surfers and skaters draw inspiration from each other and push each other to keep on pushing the limits of board sports

Both Go Their Own Way

The early 90’s was a period defined by the invention of street skating. Skater’s left the relative comfort of their empty swimming pools in search of new ramps & rails. They began to jump stairs outside college campus’s and glide down handrails. They developed new techniques to help them travers the urban jungle. Tricks such as the iconic Kick Flip were introduced to help them dismount awkward city structures. These Flip tricks were the first techniques that diverged away from surfing and formed a totally independent identity for skating. In 2007, Volcom offered $10,000 to the first surfer to land a ‘Kickflip’ on a surfboard.

The two sports continued on different paths however they never stopped influencing each other. This is particularly true when it comes to surf & skate photography. The legendary surf photographer Marc Hostetter saw how skaters would place a flash away from the camera to help illuminate the skater. This inspired him to have a second photographer in the water to use the flash in order to make the surfer stand out in the image.

The Advantage of Skating for Surfers

There are a huge number of surfers who swear by the benefits of skateboarding for helping with surfing technique. This is especially true if you do not live near the ocean as so many modern surfers don’t. The basics of skateboarding has many similarities and the ability to continuously practice is a real luxury. Skating over and over again allows you to learn how the board reacts to the movement you make. Lessons that can be adapted and applied next time you hit the waves. You will move faster, smoother and more concise if you keep your skills up to date by skating in the off season. Beyond that it will also keep you fit!

Thomas from SurfaWhile at Star Surf Camp in Moliets

The benefits that skateboarding brings to your surfing ability is recognised by some f the best surf camps in the world. More & More skating is being implemented in the camps with some of the big names even erecting ramps in the relaxation areas. Our favourite ramps can be found at Dreamsea & Star Surf camp in Moliets. By far the most beautiful ramp can be found at the incomparable  Quinta surfhouse in Ericeira, the ramp resembles the empty swimming pools of the 60’s. Its still possible to head there and check out the ramp for yourself this fall.

the Quinta surf house with infinity pool and a spacious skate bowl (hidden behind the tree)

Chris

I am a Journalist, Photographer & Musician from North London. I arrived at SurfaWhile after finishing my Masters in Ancient History at the University of Amsterdam. I aim to find and write about the hidden gems of the surfing world to inspire your next surf holiday as well as interviewing exiting talents in our international surf community.

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