SURF SKATE STYLE WITH NEIL CARVER. WORDS BY NEIL CARVER. PHOTO BY LANCE DALGART.
An Evolution of SurfSkate
by Neil Carver
The word ‘skate’ originally started in the 1660s with the Old Norse word ‘skata’, which meant ‘to glide smoothly along’. Using the word ‘skate’ in other combinations to refer to a form of board for skating began in the 1930s with the Scooter Skate, followed soon after by the Skeeter Skate, which could be ridden with or without the scooter handle. Interestingly, around 1945 the word ‘skate’ took on a secondary meaning; ‘to get away with something’, which presciently anticipated a certain essence of skateboarding that would only emerge many decades later.
Language is a fluid expression of culture and experience and, as culture evolves, so does the language. In the early 1960s the term ‘skateboard’ was coined, combining ‘skate’ and ‘board’, and modeled on the similar word combination ‘surf’ and ‘board’. In a way, one could say that even the term ‘skateboard’ owes its origins in part to surfing. There were many surf references in early skateboarding, with names like Surf Jet, Super Surfer, Surf Bird, Land Surfa and Sidewalk Surfer.
The term ‘surfskate’ began as a similar word combination, emerging around the same time as ‘skateboard’. In 1963, Sokol made a board they called the Surf Skate, with the term embossed on the top of its solid, narrow deck. Later, in 1965, came the Midget Farrelly pro model, made by the Surf Skate Mfg. Co. in Australia. At the same time, the Warwick Company in Great Britain made the Bullet Surf Skate. Even from its earliest days, surfskate was an international phenomenon.
Initially, the term was written as separate words, or hyphenated as ‘surf-skate’, perhaps because the combination was still new and had not yet fully assumed its integrated meaning. When it’s written with a slash, as in surf/skate, it refers to each as a separate entity in relation to each other. Jamie Brisick used it in this context in his Surf/Skate Connection article for Surfer. In it, he was referring to the relationship between Surf and Skate, not the style of surfskate itself. While putting a space or hyphen is a historic way to write it (thanks CR!), it still keeps the two at a distance from each other. To me, the term ‘surfskate’, written as a single word, is the one that most truly represents the melding of the two disciplines into the distinct and singular style it represents.
When did you first hear of SurfSkate style?
I grew up in Brazil in the early 1970s where skate media was scarce, so my references were very limited. In the few dog-eared issues of Skateboarder I was lucky enough to get from friends traveling back from the States, I saw pictures of Stacy Peralta surfing his skateboard. I found the inspiration for my own surfskate style in those photos, and went looking for banks and hills to surf around Rio de Janero. Back then we didn’t make a distinction; riding your skateboard like you were surfing was just what you did. Skateboarding was surfskating. It also inspired me to begin making my own boards, and modifying my trucks to turn better. It was hard to find good equipment so I had to make or modify what I rode from the start. It began my lifelong pursuit to get that surfy feeling under my feet, even if I had to make it with Carver.
What does SurfSkate style mean to you?
To me, skateboarding has always been surfskating, probably because I’m older and started riding before street skating existed. Surfing and skating were naturally connected, and so I always imagined I was surfing when skated. Finding the line with the most glide and flow, and using my body to carve and pump the same way I surf, to me, is the essence of surfskating. Surfskate cannot exist without surfing any more than it can without skateboarding, so lately I’ve been working backwards, shaping surfboards that feel like our skateboards, and going back and forth and exploring the resonance between them. It’s opening up the exploration of equipment on both sides of the shoreline, integrating performance between the two more than ever, and bringing forward nuances in handling.
Who has the best SurfSkate style?
These days I find inspiration close to home, from the people I skate with. Kent Nishiya has such a flawless and easy surf style. I love the relaxed approach he has, not trying to go big as much as flow smoothly. I’m also stoked on what Curren Caples is doing, taking the glide and flow of surfing and throwing in big airs and fast, sketchy lines. I think the way he’s combining elements of surf and street is the future of surfskate, and I can’t wait to deliver on some surfskate equipment that will support that progression.
How has surfing influenced skateboarding and how has skateboarding influenced surfing?
The influences between surf and skate reverberate back and forth, each one perpetually influencing the other at key developmental stages along their evolutionary paths. While the seed of skateboarding is generally attributed to the apple crate scooter, the evolution of this ‘board without a handle’ truly gained its first identity when surfers began riding them. Skateboarding remained surfing’s little brother for many years, until it moved definitively inland and adapted to the gritty urban terrain with a whole new attitude and style. Like any youngster, it rebelled against its hippy surf parents and went off in the opposite direction. The ollie was the key that gave skateboarding its new identity separate from surfing, which retained its rail-to-rail focus until relatively recently. Despite the cultural divides that persist still, riders continue to cross over. The ollie, the very thing that broke skateboarding out, found its way back to surfing, and is now a mainstay. Early pioneers like Christian Fletcher and Matt Archbold, while not the first to punt past the lip, memorably brought a skate attitude to their surfing along with their aerial techniques. They were literally translating skateboard tricks to the waves, and treating the lip as coping. And now the reverberations are coming back around again, where skateboarding is finding resonance within contemporary surfing. I think we’re witnessing an important moment in this evolution and it’s shaping up to be a new version of surfskate, not just a nostalgia trip down cruiser lane. Surfing is not the same as it was the last time it had its big impact on skateboarding, so the result of its influence might be less foreign to skaters, and more easily assimilated by a new generation. New surfskate will have equal parts street skate and point break in a way that has never existed before. It’s riding street banks like you’d surf a fast, snappy beachbreak, or going to the park to catch a long flowing line, or building a wave ramp in your backyard so you have your own inland peeler.
Is SurfSkate style important today?
Skateboarding has seen numerous evolutionary branches over its nearly 90 year history, and surfing has always been at its core, even though its overt presence has risen and fallen. Riding a plank standing sideways, whether it’s surfing or skating, shares many similar dynamics. Beyond riding technique, the way that generational influences shuttle between the two every few decades maintains a healthy evolution and keeps things interesting. Surfskate began in the 1960s, was revived again in the 1970s, and is now in the midst of a renewed progression. When Greg Falk and I started Carver 20 years ago, surfskate was a memory of the past, reduced to some uninspired reissues from the 70s. New surfskate companies are emerging worldwide now and we’re still in the early days. Surfskate is not a musty old style that has no relevance today, I think it’s the shakeup skateboarding is hungry for. The rush of gliding across the asphalt with grippy wheels and carvy trucks is undeniable. It does not, as some hardcore opinions might believe, take away from street skating, or represent some goony offshoot. As with all the blends of influences and styles, surfskate will incorporate more elements of street skating and continue the reciprocal evolution between surf and skate well into the future.
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.