A couple weeks ago we published a story called, "Who's Following Who: Ten moves that skateboarders and surfers have stolen from snowboarding." Because sometimes it's easy to forget that skateboarders get pretty sensitive about the subject of imitation, the story wasn't run by our skateboard editor for a fact check.
It just so happens that our new skateboard editor is Lance Dawes, founder of Slap magazine, and holder of more skate history factoids than one human has a right to carry around in one brain. Needless to say, the article did not make him happy. So after he read it he fired off an email to the author of the piece, Chris Moran, pointing out inaccuracies, and generally doing his duty as a skateboarder to put snowboarding back in its place. Moran humbly replied, begging to argue a few points in his defense.
The exchange turned out to be wildly interesting, so we decided to publish it -- albeit in a much-abridged version -- in case any board-sport history nerds (like ourselves) might find it as entertaining as we did. The back and forth has been combined for easy reading. Moran's words are in italics. The original article is here.
First off, the whole comparison of snowboarding to skating and surfing has always been, and always will be, a crock. Skateboarders and surfers are not strapped to our boards. Period. End of story. We grab our boards to keep it on our feet while doing tricks. Snowboarders grab their boards because it looks like skateboarding. There are no comparisons, they're two different animals. When you take the bindings off then call me, we'll talk. --LD
As someone who appreciates that facts are sacred, and being a total stickler for history, I am truly in awe of your fingertip knowledge of skateboarding history. But I do feel I know something about board sports history, so if I can just reply on a couple of points in the hope of un-shredding my reputation, I hope you'll take it in the spirit intended? --CM
Our slashes were borrowed from Tom Curren.
LD: No, actually your slashes were borrowed from skateboarders: a la Christian Hosoi, who emulated Jay Smith, who stole it from Jay Adams, who got it from surf legend Larry Bertlemann, who was also a skateboarder.
CM: I'm absolutely aware of the surf-to-skate aesthetic evolution, but I was talking about how we snowboarders nicked the idea of destroying things (windlips, powder slashes, etc.) and that was, in my opinion, taken from the shortboard revolution of the late '60s to early '70s: Nat Young, George Greenough, McTavish -- the crew that stopped trying to dance around on the noses of their boards and instead started to hit the lip and attack the water.
I'd argue that Curren was a direct beneficiary of that era, adding the good-looking aspects to the slash that we snowboarders love: the big spray thing. I'd have name-checked Michael Peterson, as his fins-out style bagged covers back in the day, and certainly predates Bertlemann, but I figured Curren was the most "famous" of that crew, so I went with him.
Also, I think our cornice slashes are a descendent of surfing -- at least, that's what I'm trying to do when I spray powder. The layback is kind of different. It's a rad trick, don't get me wrong, but can we agree to disagree here?
LD: As a skater, I can't be 100-percent accurate about surf history, so I called big wave surfer Noah Johnson, winner of the Eddie Aikau Invitational in 1999, to make sure my "facts" were straight. Johnson confirmed that surfers were doing airs on waves from the late '70s on, but it was Christian Fletcher (who grew up with professional skateboarder Jason Jesse) who perfected the art, made them consistently and experimented with nearly every variation that you see today -- including the "rodeo flip" (or "Unit," see above) in the early 90s.
Kelly Slater has even been quoted as calling Fletcher the "Godfather of Airs" on a wave. One would be hard pressed to prove that surfing has taken anything from snowboarding.
CM: This is kind of like the fact that people were towing into waves -- or had the idea for it -- as far back as 1963. But it's when it caught on that matters, and that wasn't until Kerbox and Hamilton did it in the early '90s. That's when we really see it growing into the movement it is today.
Surf airs are similar. Six, seven years ago all the talk was about how Smith was going to change the tour completely with airs, and everyone has had to step up to do that now. But I should have name-checked Fletcher and his brothers. Huge apology if that offended anyone.
The fact that we took the humble frontside air and re-named it the Indy grab still has skaters apoplectic with pedantic rage.
LD: Ah, where to start with this one? It does bother "us" when two holy grails of skateboarding tricks -- the frontside air (1977) and the Indy air (1980), invented by two of the most legendary skateboarders, Tony Alva and Duane Peters -- are bastardized in description by an inferior and lower-ranking subculture.
"Indy" is a great example: The Indy air is a backside air, grabbing with your back hand. The sheer ignorance that your ilk spews by calling a frontside air "Indy" just goes to prove your lack of acumen. Also, Peters named the aforementioned trick after Independent Truck Company. So every time you say "Indy grab" you are referencing a skateboard company. Name one skateboard trick named after a snowboard company... Exactly.
(Editor's note: Gunnar Haugo was actually the first to do "Indy" airs, though they were called "Gunnar" airs (1978), but it was Peters, in 1980, who made skaters stoked on the trick. They were also referred to as the "Santa Cruzial.")
CM: Please don't take even more offense here, but I think you proved my point with your answer. Snowboarders have bastardized the two tricks into one. I know it's bad. But 99-percent of snowboarders say Indy and mean the grab. Sorry, I wish it wasn't so, but I can't see how this is ever going to change.
Neil Blender had the Patent Office on speed-dial after we took the method from him.
LD: No, it was Dave Andrecht who did back-arching airs on vert in 1980 -- it was his way to make the board and himself go higher. Blender learned backside airs by grabbing in front of the foot, but soon realized the proper "method" (hence the name "method," which was coined by Blender) to go higher and more tweaked was by grabbing behind the foot.
But again, Tom Sims (who was a champion freestyle skateboarder in the early '70s and founded Sims Skateboards before he went on to make Sims Snowboards) more than likely emulated Christian Hosoi while doing methods -- right after he decided that skating transitions were too hard to learn, and he'd be better taking what little skills he had to the "pow pow."
CM: Neil Blender is the person I associate with methods, and snowboarders probably afford that trick more respect than any other sport. We LOVE the method. But again, I'm saying that we snowboarders stole the method from skating -- but I was also joking. I'm sure Blender doesn't actually have the Patent Office on speed dial. But consider me schooled on who did them prior.
LD: Now I love Sluggo, but you think he was the first to do a backflip on a skateboard? What about the photo in TransWorld, circa 1990, of Alan Petersen doing a mute grab frontflip off a jump ramp? What about when Skitch Hitchcock (1976) did it on the Wide World of Sports?
CM: I consider myself schooled again. Seriously. That is awesome knowledge.
That it took Danny Way to drag skate jumps into the 21st century is telling.
LD: It's funny how Danny Way, John Cardiel, Noah Salasnek, Jeff Pettit, and Tom Sims were all skaters who picked up snowboarding and went pro within a year. That aside, you ignored the fact that skiers have been hitting "snowpark-sized jumps" for years.
Here's a quick breakdown of big ramps, long jumps and MegaRamps:
1993: Mat Hoffman (BMX) builds an oversized halfpipe to go higher on his bike.
1997: Danny Way builds the first MegaRamp with a roll-in to blast world record high airs. He also jumped out of a helicopter into the ramp.
1999: Andy MacDonald builds a roll-in to jump over 52 feet in his friend's back yard Lansing, Mich. A few years later Danny Way combines the jump and the quarter pipe to blast even higher. And let's not forget putting a rainbow rail in the gap and filming one of the most epic and well-respected video parts (The DC video) in the history of man.
CM: Your argument hasn't changed my stance on this one. Danny Way undoubtedly saw what snowboard jumps were capable of, got straight on the phone to his nearest wood dealer and told them to break out the champagne as he was about to get a super-sized order. And we all know Danny was a pro skater before being a snowboarder. I'm just saying that link is essential.
Spin to Win
LD: 1980: Steve Caballero invents the Caballarial -- fakie 360 ollie. No grabbing, no straps, no bindings.
1983: Billy Ruff invents the Unit -- frontside 540.
1984: McGill debuts the McTwist -- mute grab backside 540
1985: Tony Hawk lands the 720 (fakie to forward)
How old was Terje when these tricks were being invented? Who followed who?
CM: I'm not sure what your point about spins is. I'm saying that in terms of sheer revolutions, the spin count went skating, skating, skating, then snowboarding, then skating again. The chronology you've mentioned backs that up. Obviously Terje -- like all snowboarders -- nicked the idea from skating in the first place, but he added something. And then skating got it back. That's the whole premise of my piece.
LD: Stretching? Salba's been stretching since 'Nam. I'm sure the Greek Olympians were stretching B.C.
The Loop the Loop
LD: Duane Peters on the Skateboardmania Loop, circa 1978 (taken from his website):
"Like I've said many times before -- not a lot of camera's back then. The loop was an embarrassing joke among skaters 'til Tony Hawk did one 19 years later. This one was 16-feet wide, clear lexan, 33-foot long, 17-feet high entry ramp with no flat. It fell off a flatbed truck on its way to Hollywood and was a flexing, egg-shaped nightmare. I probably made the thing well over 20 or 30 times without a bag."
1998: Birdhouse Skateboards release "The End," where Tony Hawk lands (not attempts) the loop in a bull ring in Mexico. (Though legend has it that skateboarder Peter Hewitt, who was there during the filming of "The End," did the loop before Tony.)
2002: Bob Burnquist chops the top out of his loop. He completes the loop while airing the gap upside down, SWITCH!
2003: Burnquist does a natural loop without a roll-in, just from pumping the trannies.
CM: I was just saying that skaters did it first, but that the brilliant Halldor Helgason had taken it to the streets as it were (well, forests in this case), and that, I think, is pretty funny.