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Joel Camping on the Nose - image from Surfline

Joel Tudor (1976-)

Consider the contemporary longboard explosion: many factors have been cited as flashpoints— changing demographics, technology, outright boredom—but it could just as easily be said that a single surfer—Joel Tudor—ignited the bomb.

Until about 1992, the typical longboard surfer was regarded as the outcome of eroded skills. Old, fat, and bald seemed to be the prerequisites. Then came the longboard rats. Joel and his contemporaries, looking for something fresh, found it in an old, familiar place...on the nose.

Over the course of the decade Joel has worked hard to defy the longboard stereotype. His shortboard skills, while never world class, have earned the respect of that camp. His focus on traditional lines at Pipeline have drawn praise from onlookers. Sessions at Todos Santos and in Indonesia have proven his fortitude in size. But without question it’s been his surfing on heavy, single-finned longboards that has had onlookers slack-jawed around the globe.

Proving his style was no fluke, Joel won his first professional contest at 15, and finished second in the World Longboard Championships in Biarritz the following year. A French surfwear company offered him his first real sponsorship package, and he embarked on an intense program of travel and contest appearances, usually in tandem with surfing legend and fellow team rider Nat Young.

Back in the United States the longboard boom was in full swing and Joel became a household name. As quickly as he was embraced by the general populace, he earned grass roots support with his work at various California pointbreaks. After several years of near-misses and bitter disappointments, Joel finally claimed the Longboard World Championship in the Canary Islands in 1998.

Based on originality, style, and personality, Joel Tudor goes down as one of surfing’s most influential — and entertaining — participants.

- Scott Hulet extract from Surf History

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