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Behind the board with Joel Tudor
So Joel what have you been up to lately? I’m getting ready to add a 3 car garage with guest quarters on my property in Del Mar as well as getting ready to do the H-Pac in Hawaii.
Have you been competing much? Not really, but the season is just beginning to kick off. I thought I was going to be able to make the Noosa event this year but it conflicts with Puerto. I‚ll be doing the Puerto event in mid March right after the H-Pac. And I‚m considering doing the longboard tour this year since most takes place in Europe, but that can always change.
How about travel, any good trips lately? I didn’t really travel that much last year other than the usual. Hawaii, Costa Rica, Japan, and I almost forgot I went to China to hook up with my girl while she worked over there. Really an interesting place. But no real surf travels to speak of. I plan on this year being different.
I understand you just returned from Hawaii, how was it? I have been hearing of some of the best waves in years. Unbelievably good surf! I was there from the beginning of November through the beginning of Christmas. I got some really good days and then returned home to great surf. I was stoked. It’s been one of the best winters in years here. I’m not complaining!
Tell me about the new board company, is everything taking off well? We are just so grateful to the retail community and the consumers who are buying our boards. It‚s doing really well. I think there is room for new guys like myself and the old established companies as well. I/m just having such a good time working with my shapers on new board designs that I truly will work and be fun. That’s my goal, to have boards that make your surf session fun not frustrating. Not everyone is trying to be the surf pro and there is certainly nothing wrong with that. So we create boards that are user friendly, at least that‚s our objective.
Have you had a lot of good feedback? Yes it’s been nothing but positive. We hear most of the time “I had so much fun on that board”. I couldn‚t ask for anything more. At the beginning I had my fair share of critics, but that can also serve you well if you don’t take it personal and listen to what is being said and maybe learn from it. It’s all good. The best lessons in life come with a price, it shouldn’t be a cake walk. It’s been some hard work but as a whole I’ve received nothing but support from everyone.
So what made you decide to go out on your own and stop riding for Donald (Takayama)? That’s a hard question as there were many deciding factors involved. Without going into detail I just think I was ready to try new ideas and I think some of what I wanted to experiment with in the mid-length and retro shortboards wasn’t going to work with Donald. And I respectfully understand Donald‚s position. My relationship with him was incredible. He was my hero growing up and was my mentor or “Grandpa” thru all my years with him from grom into adulthood. He‚s the standard of excellence for ma and always will be. And I’ll keep that standard with me for life. I will always be grateful for what he helped me achieve. I had a great experience riding for him, but I think without either of us realizing it, it was time for us to move on and go into different directions. And that‚s what we did. As I’ve said, it’s all good.
Are you developing and sponsoring a team? I’m sponsoring some kids at the moment. I have 2 young boys named Christian and Carson Wach. I‚m hoping to bring Christian to the Margaritaville event there in Florida and have him compete in the Pro division. He‚s only 13 but he is amazing with natural talent. I think it will be good for him to go a few rounds with the big boys. His brother is 12 and really good as well. They are just great kids with a great family and major support. You’ll be hearing from both of them in the future. I’m also sponsoring two 15 year old girls, their names are Schuyler (pronounced Skylar)McFerran and a girl named Stephanie. Of course when you decide to sponsor people you expect them to perform well, but not necessarily winning all the time. You want all around good sportsmanship. You want someone who can take defeats with honor as well as wins with humility. I want people with personality and drive. Just as an example, little Carson Wach is only 12 and knows how to Crochet and is making beanies with a buddy and selling them to earn money for themselves. How cool is that! I am definitely into the kids being creative and artistic, it’s not always just about the win. I just want good competitors. Someone who can be a leader and have the ability to influence others. I‚m not looking to grow a huge team, just keeping it tight and small.
Here on the east coast a lot of the guys are really stoked on you boards and really starting to experiment with the midlengths, any suggestions or path to focus on? Just keep your mind open to old ideas made fresh and new ideas that are unconventional. It might just open up a whole new world to your surf experience. I’m not advocating getting rid of your thrusters long or short, I still ride both when the condition calls for it. I just don‚t want to be limited by what waves I can surf because I am limited by my equipment. It has just opened up a whole new world for me surf wise. Each board with its size and shape is a different experience. It’s limitless and fun! The ocean is a place where I go to rid my mind of everyday hassles of life and just for those moments have a good time. My boards create that for me. I‚m not trying to do anything really new but just give options that are fun.
So what designs would you recommend for our local surf? Probably for a shortboard the Good Karma or the JT Fish. For a Longboard the Diamond T or the Papa Joe.
I notice one of the new designs you are offering is a ‚80s inspired thruster, this doesn’t mean you are trading in your single fins does it? No of course not, but like I said earlier it‚s just one more design that helps me to surf according to the conditions.
Are you working on any other projects such as clothing lines etc? I do have a gentleman in Japan and he and I are working on a wetsuit called Amsterdam and will try to have it available sometime this year to retail shops. It is available in Japan but not here at the moment. I’d like to do some clothing but keep it simple with not a lot in the line. I ride for 55 DSLwhich is a part of Diesel and I am currently working with them to have signature pieces of mine in their line. I‚m excited about that. At the moment for my surfboard company we are doing t’s, long and short, and some sweatshirts that the retail stores can purchase. Hopefully we can develop more as the year goes on.
You were just in Orlando for the Surf Expo, did you get a chance to paddle out while you were over? No I didn’t, but I stayed with Parks who is an amazing wakeboarder and wakeboarded for the first time.
What did you think of it? I loved it and will be back to try it again.
Have you had the opportunity to do much surfing here in Florida? No not really. I’ve only seen your surf spots when at a contest. Mainly Cocoa Beach. I‚d like to explore it and see some different areas though.
What do you think of our local east coast guys and surf scene? There are some good guys, the vibe is mellow and I enjoy the east coast when I have the opportunity to travel and surf it. I think there are a lot of unexplored areas for me to surf. And I am looking forward to a time when maybe I can get to surf them.
There are quite a few guys from Florida out there trying to make an impact on the tour, have you developed friendships with any of them? One of them is Stephen Slater, what do you think of his style? I know Stephen from when I was still riding for Donald. He and I have hung out and traveled to different places around the world. I consider him a good friend. I respect what Stephen is doing with his surfing, I do believe we have different styles and maybe a different approach and obviously there is room for both. And of course I know many of the guys who have come from Florida and consider them friends.
You have been referred to by many as one of the best surfers today, maybe the greatest longboarder ever, how do you feel about all the recognition and credit you receive? Humbled and extremely grateful. Sometimes it‚s hard to live up to everything people say or write about you. But honestly when all is said and done I’m just an ordinary guy who was blessed with an ability and given the opportunity to display what I could do. I’ve had a good life and God has blessed me. I’m thankful.
In your own words how would you like to be remembered in the surfing history books? That’s another tough question, but as I think about it I can truthfully say I would want to be known as one who remained true to his passion without compromising his ethics. Where my longboard skills are concerned that I remained true to the essence of what my heart believes concerning style and that I didn‚t compromise what I believe to be good longboarding. That in some way I brought dignity to this part of our sport, and that in some small way I made a difference. That I’m not just a longboard surfer, but a all around good waterman. I want to be remembered for doing it all with style. And that I didn’t back down from what I believed to be the truth.
Any last words of wisdom? Know that all things are possible, don’t let the negative opinions in this world keep you from going after the things you believe in. Try to keep a grateful attitude. Remember that the important things in life aren’t always about materialism. Faith, family, friends, these are the things that determine a persons true wealth.
Unfavorable days gallery thanks so much Joel for taking the time to talk with me. We have a single fin contest coming up in March and would love to have you come down if you can swing it. If not then just let me know when you want to come over and do some of that Florida exploring, I am sure we could find a few volunteer surf guides to show you around. Good luck with everything, and I‚’ll see you soon.