Joel Tudor has always been a polarizing figure in the surf world. Idolized by traditionalists for his grace, style, and equally fierce convictions, the 35-year-old San Diegan has assumed the role of tribal elder while still remaining the yardstick by which all other longboarders of the modern age are measured. And in a time where his genre’s influence is felt everywhere—from foreign lineups to clips on Dane Reynolds’ website—Tudor is as relevant now as he’s ever been. Here he offers us his perspective.
Talk to me about the current state of longboarding.
It’s awesome. There’s been enough of a jump in the right direction and it’s made the side that we all hated [high-performance longboarding] irrelevant—that side’s finally disappearing. I was fighting a lonely battle for a long time. It’s pretty cool that there’s a whole group now, as opposed to one person. The weight is off my shoulders. The other day I had some kid that takes jiu-jitsu from me in the studio, and I put in Alex Knost’s new movie and the kid was like, “He’s the reason I started surfing.” And I thought to myself, “That’s pretty rad.” And it’s got to that point where there’s an entirely different group that’s capable of doing what needs to be done, which is just inspiring kids who want to ride logs to ride them correctly.
Do you think there’s a place for competitive longboarding?
It’s hard for me to write it off because it gave me legitimacy and enabled me to make a living. I don’t agree with the ASP, but it is what it is. I mean, Al Knost or any one of these guys could enter and win if they wanted to. And it would probably legitimize them. They would only gain more credibility and be able to prolong the scam of making money for surfing your whole life. We’re all trying to follow in the Dora footsteps of scamming, scamming, scamming, because at the end of the day, we are scamming. If you just go surfing and you collect a check, you’re scamming society. It’s true. You do whatever it takes, and if that means winning an ASP world title, then win it, but it’s going to be a hard-fought battle. It took me seven years to convince them that I was good enough to win one. So a lot of people give up after a couple years. Do I think the way the ASP judges longboarding and the style of surfing they’re rewarding is cool? No, not really, but that’s another story. That’s a broken record, i’ve been complaining about that shit forever.
What should the criteria be? What is good longboarding?
Come to one of my contests [the Joel Tudor Duct Tape Invitational series] and check it out. Basically I believe that longboarding should never be held in waves over head-high and if they are, certain specific requirements of equipment can be adapted. But as far as the real beauty of the art is concerned, it’s an under head-high thing. And in that, you basically want to combine the surfing of Nat Young and David Nuuhiwa and put them both together. Maybe throw me in the mix. And you’ve got a pretty good format. I’m not trying to be egotistical, but that’s just my opinion. That’s the direction that it’s going. When you go to my contests and sit back and watch them, it’s awesome—it’s hilarious, it’s funny, and it makes surfing look fun.
That type of surfing seems to be making its way into performance shortboarding too.
For sure, if you look at the amount that Dane Reynolds is influenced by guys like Al Knost and other people—I mean if Dane goes surfing with Al, the next month Dane will come out with a video clip and he’s surfing similar to Al. So it’s just the evolution of how things are going; it’s cool. And, why not? Dude, if Dane Reynolds is looking to longboarding for inspiration, that’s sick.