Kneeboarding: Not So Weird

Surfing's second-cousin

| posted on April 10, 2014

Bill Sharp, my college roommate, was a kneeboarder. Smart guy. Funny as hell. Later became editor of Surfing mag, and ran a surfwear company or two. But a crazy fucker! Would jump off bridges in the middle of the night, midwinter, fully clothed. Got a ticket once for speeding down an alley—in reverse. Rode a hot-pink-and-black kneeboard at the Wedge, as big as it gets, and charged the North Shore outer reefs.

I never asked, but I’m pretty sure Bill got into kneeboarding because of George Greenough, who—and I say this with great affection—was the craziest kneeboarder of all, with his scarecrow haircut, Rain Man voice, broad-spectrum design genius, and pathological generosity. Never wore shoes. His feet looked like road kill.

For awhile there, because of Greenough, it was like you almost had to be a misfit to ride a kneeboard. Fish innovator Steve Lis was introduced to the surfing world in a magazine profile simple titled “Mysto Man.” Then there was Rex Huffman, who smashed into the reefs of La Jolla with roughly the same frequency and body-crumpling results as Evel Knievel smashing into Las Vegas parking lots. And of course Peter Crawford of Australia, who pranced around cackling and talking in riddles, like an Alice in Wonderland refugee.

And then suddenly kneeboarders just…vanished. Raptured away from the rest of surfing, it seemed like. I lived in the Bay Area from 1991 to 2011, and except for a couple of deeply-bearded survivalists up in Mendocino County, rarely saw a kneeboarder.

A few months ago I found the Legless.TV website, and was glad to learn that kneeboarders are in fact alive and well, and apparently all living in Wollongong, New South Wales. Ripping the shit out of it, too. Huge fin-ditch top turns, and these Superman-y things where board and rider disconnect midair, and snap back together like Legos just before landing. Really fun to watch.

Saddened me a little to see that they’ve gone all normal, though. Chayne Simpson of Wollongong may turn with Dane Reynolds-like flare, but he looks and talks like Opie Taylor. Nice kid. Friendly and bright. Don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing he wears shoes pretty much every day.

See Also


George Greenough

Rob Gilley salutes the kneeboarder

  • steeno

    thanks for the plug guys

  • Mrs Bunny

    I seen a rabbit on one of those things at Nobes once

  • Andy

    Kneelo here. Fuck shoes

  • Pete Haley

    cmom we are hardly normal.. how can that statment saddened to see that they have all gone normal. be said about a kneelo.. by definition we are abnormal.. we go against the norm.. we kneel by choice .. each and every one being an individual not part of the mass produced flock. and fuck me having to wear shoes now and then to keep the masses happy still dosent make you normal.. long live the brotherhood of the bended knee

  • whamo

    Chris Broughton and Rocky Rafkin and Marc Nelson and Furdog were San Clemente kneeboarders back in the late 60’s. Rock was photographed by Art Brewer going backwards at Rocky Point for Surfing magazine, but Chris was the best. He split for New Zealand as soon as he graduated from high school. Both of them were the guys kneeboarding flawless Trestles when the Coast Guard and Navy tried to stop them. That made SURFER, but someone else claimed it. Furdog stood up, and became a soul monster, eschewing everything to surf Lower’s for a few decades. Nelson was great in the tube. I knew a lot of classic characters from surfing San Clemente, from Griffin to Stoner, but the kneeboarders were in their own world.

  • Guest

    You can’t dig up the topic of kneeboarding without mentioning Chris Anderson, RIP.

  • Dunfee

    yew kneelos! still gettin’ weird on mine in NH and on some river spots in Wyoming… but I wear shoes.

  • You know who

    Check out Huntington Beach sometime there’s around 15 Kneelos out every weekend

  • Rattlefush

    We have discussed objects appearing to be in the face of waves in surfing’s narrative on Slater. At exactly, 1:00 “in this video” a kneeboarder carves a saxaphone shaped cutback in the face.

  • tunerbowl

    why dont they just stand up?….honestly

    • Peter Jelly

      I’ve always been told by kneeboarders that they prefer being as close to the water as possible. A feeling they “fit” into the wave better.

      • tunerbowl

        if thats the case might as well drag dick

  • Kerry Prochaska

    My surfing partner while I was in High School was a kneeboarder. I came to surfing (stand up) as a nerdy kid so I didn’t fit in with the ‘cool’ surfer types around the town. Chris didn’t hang with the ‘in’ crowd either and would ditch school at any time to hit the waves so I surfed with him. Besides he had a car with racks!

  • seldom seen smith

    Who cares what Surfer Mag deems alive or dead.

  • Jonathan

    I’d rather die on my feet than live on my knees.

  • johey

    I think its got something to do with the changing shape of surfboards. You can now do most of the stuff you can do with a knee board on a modern short board.

    Also have you seen the best surfers in the world ride Barrels ?
    They are down low, sometimes of one KNEE and are using their hands to balance / steer / control the speed of the board.
    Sounds alot like knee boarding to me

  • Camelia

    about timeyou showed some girls don’t you think?

  • Katy

    Love kneeboarders. Wish there were more around!

  • Henry Hester

    Mat riding is the new kneeboarding. It’s where the fish and kneelo guys have progressed too.

  • King DaniEl

    I used to ditch church and say to my mom, “I feel closer to God in the ocean_, and besides, I surf on my knees!” Also, kneelos, with our fins, are the unofficial lifeguards for our stand-up pals. I salvaged more than one injured surfer in my day. Fit deeper, took off later, etc.

  • dandrand

    i have a new kneeboard that has some extra features on it cant say what but it has patten

  • King of Nobes

    Here is just a short lists of men that I have seen shred
    Nobes on a kneeboard though the years……all of them tore Nobes it up back
    when it used to break somewhat of a little Nubes’s………there is many

    Bart Master of Water Maneuvers ‘Way Back Blazer’ Chadwick…
    Billy ‘Possesser of Ultimate Skill On Any Field’ Trusted Advisor to the King of
    Nobes ‘FullPower’ Rensbuger……..
    Bill ‘ ‘Mayor Zip’ Hollings……..
    Craig ‘Couragous’ Wesley………….
    Eric Kings Emissary of
    Art Dispersal-Bibliophile Delegate-Illusionist-History Master of the
    Realm of Nobes Advisor & Protector To The King of Nobes ‘The Shire-The
    Badger’1 of the Founders of the Original Fellowship of the Men of Nobes DuVall….
    Jim Gracious Protector of Kings Noble Herald Defender of the
    Realm of Nobes AdvisorTo the King of Nobes ‘Earl of No Surf’
    Edwin Kress…
    Joe IronChicken Monkey2 Sidekick of the Wizard of Nobes
    Robust Seeker H20 Regulator To All 14 Breaks In The Realm of Nobes ‘Trusted
    Advisor & Protector To The King of Nobes ‘Iron Planet’ Father to The
    Empress of Nobes GoodMan…
    Jim “‘RightousTurn Drive Up da Cylinder” Richardson….
    Regan Sapient of Surface Matter Trusted to the King of Nobes
    ‘MagicMixer’ Moniz…
    Steve ‘Flowing Hands of Plank Sculpting’ Trusted Advisor to the King of Nobes ‘FullThrottle’
    Scott ”SilkCreater’ Hoff….
    Steve ‘Knee Shredder Needles Eye’ Advisor To The King of
    Nobes “Certified” Pugh
    Steve ‘Master of Long Line Draw’ ‘Emerge’ Lis….
    Richard 1 of Original 13 of the Fellowship ‘VP’ .VisCount of
    Esteem Honor And Respect ‘Charisma
    ‘VisCount of Nobes The III” Xavier…..Respect2UAll…..
    By command
    I remain

    King of Nobes
    of the Fellowship of Men of Nobes
    of the Fellowship of the People
    of the Lady’s & Men
    of the King’s Council
    in the Realm of the Land of Nobes

  • nino

    i kneeboard SUP and stand up surf boogie boards.