Those of us who grew up inland had no choice but to ride those two-by-four death traps as a substitute for surfing, writes Chris Ahrens. Courtesy photo
Columns Waterspot

Waterspot: Surfing’s little brother? Skateboarding

When I began surfing and skateboarding in 1962 the two sports were so closely linked skateboarding was called “sidewalk surfing.” Those who grew up at the beach tell me their routine never changed — surf until the afternoon wind blew out the surf, then ride crude planks on metal wheels, in imitation of surf moves.

Those of us who grew up inland had no choice but to ride those two-by-four death traps as a substitute for surfing. While they were great fun, and good around town transportation, one pebble on the driveway could send you to the doctor.

By the early ‘70s I was living at the beach and would sometimes travel to the “black hill” in the planned community of La Costa. There were no houses yet and therefore no traffic, just a perfect ribbon of asphalt that sloped steeply toward the ocean where Bruce Logan, Greg Weaver, the late Ty Page and many others distinguished themselves.

By the time skateboarding crashed (economically) in the late ‘70s, La Costa had become a community complete with condominiums and lots of traffic. By then most of us had turned back to the ocean to slide on a softer medium and encounter fewer broken bones.

But it wasn’t long before the Dogtown crew led by Jay Adams, Stacy Peralta and Tony Alva again took to surfing concrete waves, this time carving in empty swimming pools. Previously considered impossible, pool and ramp riding came into its own with the invention of the urethane wheel.

Skateboarding took off again, reached a peak and quickly went underground. Those who continued skating went far beyond the sidewalk surfing of the ‘60s as new school leaders Tony Hawk and Christian Hosoi paved the way.

While Hawk with his tricks and Hosoi with his aerials proved vastly entertaining, their achievements were miles beyond the average skateboarder.

Enter La Jolla surfer/skaters Steve Lake, Dave KIimkiewicz, Dennis Telfer and Tal O’Farrell, the founders of a recreational skateboard company called Sector Nine. I recently chatted with Lake about Sector Nine’s founding in 1993.

“It was over a beer and a game of pool that we decided to make a company from the flat, pintail skateboards we were making for ourselves and our friends.”

After borrowing $10,000 from Lake’s parents, the boys approached the biggest skateboard manufacture in the world to make their boards. The response was that there was no market for this style of skateboard. That, according to Lake, “made us more motivated.”

Inspired by the Sector Nine story, I began to realize that I didn’t need to jump a wall, do a 900-degree aerial turn, or do anything but swim in a pool. Skateboarding could go back to its roots, as surfing’s little brother, and something I could do.

While they no longer call it sidewalk surfing, you can see skaters rolling down every city sidewalk in America on a simple device that has turned boring concrete and asphalt into a playground with endless possibilities.

I have a skateboard in my garage and I’m going to jump on it as soon as I’m done with this column. If you see me in a cast that means my session didn’t go well.

If you see me smiling, however, that means I survived my reintroduction to the sport and am, once again, on a roll.