Joel Tudor, right, circa 1990, about to launch the longboard renaissance. Photo by T-Roc
Columns Waterspot

Waterspot: The longboard renaissance 30 years strong

I had been on the road chasing surf for two years when I returned home to Encinitas. Hawaii, Guam, Australia and New Zealand parted their pristine waters for me. It was a magical adventure filled with unforgettable people with whom I rode sometimes perfect, lonely waves.

I returned home in winter to find the waves small, cold and crowded. After avoiding the ocean for over a month, the legendary Donald Takayama invited me to surf with him. Of course, I said yes. He picked me up that morning with two ‘60s-style longboards strapped to the roof. It may seem strange now but longboarding at this time had been dead since the baby and bathwater “Shortboard Revolution.” This sent surfers to their garages to cut 3 feet from classic 10-foot boards and reshape them into generally crude mini guns or V-bottoms.

Shortboards were faster, more maneuverable and fit snuggly into the shady places. When it came to smaller, slower waves, however, shortboards were missing half the boat. I realized that on the first morning I surfed knee-high Swami’s with nobody out but Donald and me. The reason for the low attendance was that most boards from that era were designed for surf 5 feet and over. As anyone who surfs locally knows, waves of this size don’t visit Southern California every day. So, while our friends waited for the surf to jump a few feet, we devoured mini perfection, alone.

About a year later Donald began building longboards again. I was there when Donald’s top protégé, the great David Nuuhiwa, hopped on one of them. Takayama, Nuuhiwa, Dale Dobson, Herbie Fletcher and a crowd of longboarders at San Onofre struck a match that is still burning.

By the late ‘80s, longboards were back in a big way. Most of the new longboarders had come from the world of sub-7-foot thrusters. They often married longboard designs with shortboard advances to create narrow, highly rockered tri fins. They began something that would become known as the “Progressive Movement.” Some of the best among these subspecies were Joey Hawkins, Reese Patterson, and Jeff Kramer. Traditional longboarding, done on heavier single fins is often called “logging.” To me this is an insult, implying something slow and unrefined.

Never before in surfing or any other sport I know of, had the old guard been given a blood transfusion and ruled their sport again. A few kids who had been weaned on old videos of the aforementioned masters rode longboards in traditional fashion. The best of them was 13-year-old Joel Tudor.

By 1990 I was asked to take the helm as editor of Longboarder Magazine. Around the same time Steve Cleveland, Greg Weaver and I produced the first modern longboarding film, “On Safari to Stay” featuring then-unknown surfers Joel Tudor and Wingnut. I was employed as the mouth for most of the early events. From this position, I was able to witness rebirth.

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A few years back, Joel Tudor began what is known as the Vans Joel Tudor Duct Tape Invitational. Last year the tour consisted of four events held in Huntington Beach, Portugal, Japan, and New York. Under the direction of world-class longboarder, Devon Howard, the World Surfing League also ran four longboarding events in 2019.

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