SURF SKATE STYLE WITH LARRY BERTLEMANN. INTERVIEW BY JEFF HO. PHOTO BY JEFF DIVINE.
Hey, Larry, what’s happening, man?
Hey, Jeff, what’s happening with you!
I’m so happy to be talking to you. I just want to say that, in my opinion, you are the ultimate stylist. You really brought a lot to the world. Your style of surfing influenced generations of surfers and skaters worldwide. As far as I’m concerned, you’ve done so much.
Well, thank you, man. I don’t know if it was so much style as it was necessity to get what I got done. You only do it when you have to. [Laughs]
Yeah. The kids, and I am referring to the skate and surf team that I had in the ‘70s, Shogo Kubo and Tony Alva and Jay Adams and Bob Biniak and all of them, those guys named that skating move, surfing on land, ‘the Bert slide’. What do you think of that?
[Laughs] Oh yeah. I think that’s pretty cool because I was always looking at those skateboards. I’d surf all day and then I’d skate at night. To me, it was just a cutback, but when they started calling it “the Bert”, I thought that was really cool. I was like, “Oh, man! Well, that will work.” [Laughs]
I just remember the times when you came over with Ben Aipa and showed your surfing style to the rest of the world at the World Contest. It was such an honor to see. It’s great to have you talk about this surfskate style topic. Let me ask you a few questions first. What have you been up to?
I’ve been shaping and helping out kids to do the best they can, dude. I’ve been trying to keep the oceans clean. We have to love Mother Ocean, so we can keep surfing.
Yes. Nice. Are you on Oahu right now?
Yeah. I’m on Oahu. Last year, I was on the East Coast, teaching autistic kids how to surf. After that we went up to New York to see a Yankees game. It was the first time I’d ever gone to a Yankees game and what happens? We ended up on the giant Megatron! My friend goes, “I’ve been coming here my whole life and I’ve never gotten on there. You come here one day and you’re on there.” I said, “Somebody must have squealed that the Hawaiians were in town.” [Laughs] Mark Liddell, myself and Reno Abellira were up there.
Wow. That sounds like a good trip. Okay, I’ve got a couple of questions about surfing and skating. When did you first hear the words surfskate style? What is your earliest recollection of that?
Jay was always saying something like that. Jay was always talking about surfskate style. I was like, “Yeah. Surfing and skating is what we do.” That was in the late ‘70s.
What does surfskate style mean to you?
Well, surfing and skating feels the same. I try to make it where skating and surfing are the same maneuvers and one helps out the other. In fact, if it wasn’t for skating, I wouldn’t be flying or doing “Larryials” because that’s how I figured it out. Instead of pushing, I figured out it’s about where you push off the wave and sucking your legs in. If you kept your legs out straight, the board would just fly away. If you kept your legs in, it would stick to you because of the centrifugal force. I figured that out from skating. It was cool.
That is cool. Does skating and surfing work hand in hand for you?
Yes, absolutely. If there are tricks that you can’t do surfing, you can learn them skating and then do them in the water. It is surfskating out in the water.
Did you surf first or skate first when you were a young kid?
I surfed first, and then I took apart all of my sister’s roller skates and made skateboards.
In your opinion, who are the best surf skate stylists?
That’s a hard one because not too many surfers can skate. Of the guys I knew, it would be Vincent Klyn, Darren Ho, the guys that rode for Town & Country and Jay Adams. Jay was it.
I think Jay was one of the ultimate style masters along with you, man. Jay was trying to imitate you, you know?
He was trying to imitate your style on land. How do you think surfing has influenced skateboarding and how has skateboarding influenced surfing throughout the years?
I think, beyond the mimicking part, which helps out, it also helped because skating is done in different directions. As far as skating helping surfing, you get your leg work, and laybacks in on the skateboards. That’s what I used to do.
Well, you were the ultimate layback and cutback surfer during the ‘70s. I just remember watching you surf and you were just unbelievable.
Yeah. We went through a lot of clothes doing cutbacks when skateboards came out because we kept getting holes in our pants. [Laughs]
[Laughs] I know. Do you think surfskate style is important today?
I think for the surfing part, skateboarding is like training and you’re staying in the same group. You can’t surf all night, so the best thing to do at night is skate. Surfskate. Now they have the trucks that make a skateboard feel like a surfboard. It’s really unreal. I love it.
It’s some of the new equipment.
Yeah. Other than that, it’s those bouncing jumps on the trampoline, as far as training for surfing goes. Skating is much better for training like that.
Yeah. Learning about weighting and unweighting is really important.
Yeah. You put your weight in the turn and then you unweight. That’s how it works, right?
That’s right. What part of Oahu are you on right now?
I’m in Chinatown, right on River Street.
You’re right in the thick of it.
Yeah. I’m right here in the bottom of the heap. [Laughs]
No, dude. Is there anything else you want to say to the kids coming up in surfing and skating?
Yeah. Don’t worry about anything because you can do anything you want to do. Anything is possible.
That’s so cool. Thank you, Larry. It was so nice to talk to you.
Thank you very much.
I’ll look for you when I come to town again.
Okay, when you come to town, I’ll take you to my cousin’s place and play some music.
That sounds good. Okay, aloha.
Aloha. You guys have a good one. Thanks!
JUICE MAGAZINE SURF SKATE STYLE STORY:
The influence of surfing on skateboarding has been discussed since the beginning of both, yet we have now entered a new era, where skateboarding has returned the favor with its own unique influence on the surfing world. In order to get to the core of this cross over and to try to define the origins and current state and status of surf skate style, we’ve interviewed some of the most innovative skateboarders, surfers, artists, documentarians, photographers, filmmakers and musicians on the planet. In honor of the great, Shogo Kubo, who once said, “To me, style is everything…” welcome to our exploration of Surf Skate Style featuring interviews with Aaron Murray, Aaron Astorga, Abraham Paskowitz, Art Brewer, Bennett Harada, Brad Bowman, Brandon Cruz, Brian Brannon, Carter Slade, Chris Miller, Chris Strople, Christian Fletcher, Christian Hosoi, Craig Stecyk III, Darren Ho, Dave Tourje, David Hackett, Dennis Martinez, Dibi Fletcher, Don Redondo, Eric Britton, Garrett McNamara, Gerry Lopez, Glen E. Friedman, Greg Falk, Greg Galbraith, Greyson Fletcher, Herbie Fletcher, James O’Mahoney, Jef Hartsel, Jeff Ament, Jeff Divine, Jeff Ho, Jim Fitzpatrick, Jim Gray, John Van Hamersveld, Jonathan Paskowitz, Josh “Bagel” Klassman, Kalani David, Keith Morris, Kirra Kehoe, Larry Bertlemann, Laura Thornhill, Lizzie Armanto, Marc Emond, Michael Denicola, Michael Early, Nano Nobrega, Nathan Fletcher, Nathan Florence, Neil Stratton, Norton Wisdom, Pat Bareis, Randy Katen, Ray Flores, Rob Nelson, Robert Trujillo, Scott Oster, Shane Allen, Shaun Tomson, Shota Kubo, Solo Scott, Stacy Peralta, Steve Alba, Steve Olson, Takuji Masuda, Terry Nails, Tim Curran, Tim Hendricks, Tim Kerr, Tom Groholski, Tony Alva, Wes Humpston and Zach Miller.