SURF SKATE STYLE WITH ROBERT TRUJILLO. INTERVIEW BY JEFF HO. PHOTO BY TOSTEE.
When did you hear of SurfSkate style?
The first time it really started to register was in the ‘80s when I used to see shots of Davey Miller in Breakout Magazine, launching airs. Also there was Jay Adams. When I used to surf the Venice Breakwater as a grom, I’d see Jay Adams out there in a camouflage wetsuit. I knew of him as a skater, but I was impressed that he was such a great surfer too. Where we grew up on the Westside, pretty much every skater surfed, and surfed well. In the ‘90s, I became really good friends with Christian Fletcher, and he took it to a whole other level. Surfskate style has always been around me and my friends and where I grew up and the lifestyle of skate and surf.
That’s so cool. I was just talking to somebody about Davey Miller and I only have really good things to say about him. He’s one of the guys that was underrated as a surfer, and his surfskate style was unbelievable.
He was so progressive and you never hear his name. I remember, as a teenager, seeing those great photos of him and I thought he was really cutting edge. He was a bit of a mystery too. I remember him as the one that was launching big airs, right up there with Christian Fletcher.
What does SurfSkate style mean to you?
It’s just like anything. When I play bass, people say there’s a certain style to the way I play and my body language, which I believe is equated to skating and surfing and even snowboarding. About 20 years ago, I was addicted to snowboarding for about 10 years, right up until I joined Metallica, and then it all had to sort of chill because I needed to keep my limbs together. In anything that you do, there’s got to be style, whether it’s with the music you create, and your style as a performer and what you do. It’s a natural thing that happens. I believe, with skating, there’s a certain flow and presence that really matters. My son is a skater and he skates in Venice at the skatepark all the time. He’s one of the locals there, and it’s a blessing to me because it’s where I grew up and to see him get in the mix and be one of the locals is really beautiful. The thing that gets him over the best is his style. He’s so damn stylish and there’s something to be said for that. It really does matter. Maybe the reason that I connect with it too is because of how I perform and what that means to me. I see some guys playing bass and they look stupid. Style is important. You can take a band like the Clash, and Paul Simonon has style in the way that he plays his bass. The bass lines are simple, but they’re effective, important and historic. You know why? It’s because he’s got a signature to him and to his presence and his style. People may not know his name, but they know his bass lines and, when they see that photo of him on London Calling, they know what’s up. It’s attitude.
Yeah. It’s an attitude. You really do have a very distinctive style playing the bass and when you’re performing. I’ve seen it and I’m really impressed by it.
Cool. Thank you. Well, it’s natural. There’s a natural flow that goes with what you do and what you love. When you see guys out there skating and surfing, with really good style, I think it says a lot for how they feel and their lifestyle, and the true passion that they’re bringing to the art.
There you go. It’s style, baby! Okay, check this one out. Who has good SurfSkate style, in your opinion?
We could talk about that list forever, but Tommy Curren is the ultimate style master. Christian Fletcher is either celebrated or criticized for his style, but I think that Christian’s style is awesome. It’s edgy and the passion is in the edge and the physicality of what he’s doing and trying to do to push the limit. I equate that to skating directly. Christian Fletcher is my other favorite style master. Those are two guys that are in my generation. If you want to go before that, then you’re getting into Buttons, who was the ultimate. I was fortunate to meet him a few times and that was a highlight of my life. Buttons was the ultimate style master.
Buttons had the style. Here’s another question. How do you think that surfing influenced skateboarding and how has skateboarding influenced surfing?
Surfing influenced skateboarding in how you turn and how you position your body and your body language on your board. There was a surfer who was giving me some pointers about six years ago. He’s an Australian guy, Dan Ross. Dan was on the circuit for many years and he battled Kelly Slater at Ocean Beach, and then Kelly won the title, but then it got revoked because apparently Kelly didn’t have enough points, so Kelly had to do another heat. Dan Ross was the surfer that barely lost to him and then everyone celebrated Kelly winning the 11th title. That was Dan Ross that surfed against him in the 11th title heat. That was his shining moment because he nearly defeated Kelly. Dan is a good friend of mine. He actually lives on the Westside a lot of the time. We were talking about hand positioning and low center of gravity. About six years ago, Dan and I got on skateboards and we were watching some footage of me at Bells Beach in Australia and it was overhead and it was really fun. I was backside on a wave and it was a very special wave. It was probably one of the best waves I’ve caught and managed to get on film and documented. It was in the newspaper in Australia and I was stoked. They had a photo of me doing this nice big turn on the inside section at Bells, but the ironic thing was my style. This guy, Dan, was complimenting me all across the board. We were watching a few other waves and then he said, “Let’s go outside and get on a skateboard.” I remember doing turns, but staying low to the ground, and arm positioning had a lot to do with it. It was about where your arm was placed on the turn and how you utilize your arms for momentum. It was more like the Dane Kealoha style, and we were doing it on skateboards. I feel that the same exact technique, which he was presenting to me on a skateboard, obviously had everything to do with what you were supposed to do on a surfboard, and how you get the maximum potential and flow out of your turns. That was all done on a skateboard. We were going back to the basics on a skateboard, but it was all generated around surfing. Now with surfing, you get aerials into it, and that’s all directly correlated to skating. I remember Danny Way doing kickflips on his surfboard 20 years ago. He wasn’t even a pro surfer. He was a pro skater, but he was doing kickflips on his surfboard, and he landed some and he was missing a few, but I was really impressed. I was like, “This dude is doing kickflips and it doesn’t even matter to the rest of the world because it was just him and me there right then. He was so humble. He was like, “I’m going to try this kickflip. Who cares if anyone notices?” He was doing it and that was a long time ago, but I will always remember that day surfing with him in Cardiff. As a surfer, he was pushing the limits and applying that skate maneuver to surfing.
That’s crazy. Okay, here’s another question. Is SurfSkate style important today and why?
I think it’s all important. I think, in the modern era of surf and skate, most surfers have mad respect for skaters. It’s insane. Some of them that aren’t even that great at skating, maybe they just cruise. I cruise. I’m not in the bowls launching like my son. I love to cruise. One of the highlights of my life happened four or five years ago when my son was seven. My wife dropped us off at Bay Street and we got on our skateboards and rode down to the Venice Skatepark. That was the first time we rode skateboards together like that. We were on the street and we were dodging and weaving around people, just me and my son. That was one of the highlights of my life, and it’s funny because it totally revolved around skating. That’s a tangent I had to throw in there. I just wanted to share that.
That’s cool. What is your son’s name? I haven’t seen him since he was a little guy!
My son’s name is Tye and he rips on bass. He’s way better than I ever was. He’s ripping on a skateboard and he’s learning to surf now. We were at Topanga yesterday and I’m trying to teach him how to surf. Going back to surfing and skating style and how it’s important now, I think, nowadays, as a competitive surfer, for the most part, you have to be able to launch airs and push the limits on small waves and rip ‘em. At the same time, you have to be able to hold your own in big surf. With big surf, there’s style that has everything to do with that, and being judged on your style at Pipeline or even at a place like Teahupoo, it starts to get into that. It’s important to where people like Kelly Slater, every time you see him pushing a wave, he’s trying some kind of crazy 360 air or 720 somewhere on the planet. He’s pushing the limits and doing stuff he does as a progressive surfer, applying that element of skateboarding to what he already does so well on bigger waves. He’s getting more and more progressive at his age and that’s important.
Kelly is just insane. That rodeo air that he did, he didn’t even move out of his heat because they underscored him on that. I thought, “Oh my god, what is the world coming to?” That was one of the most fantastic moves I’d ever seen.
Yeah. It’s incredible. He does that in Australia and then he’ll do that in New York too. Who does that? He’s doing it on a wave outside Manhattan and launching an air that is celebrated and historic.
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.
FOR THE REST OF THE STORY, ORDER ISSUE #75 AT THE JUICE SHOP…