(This article first appeared in the June 28, 2017 issue of The Independent Newspaper)
Long Island is known for many things, including beautiful beaches, but big wave surfers hasn’t been one of them – until now. Long Beach native Will Skudin is the first person ever from the Northeast area to make the Big Wave Tour this past May, treading in historic waters. As one of twelve men to compete in the competition organized by the World Surf League this is certainly uncharted waters.
“To make the Big Wave World Tour has definitely been a dream for me and it feels good to represent the United States and the Northeast,” Skudin said. “It’s something I’ve dreamt about for a long time and I’ve been working really hard for the last six years as an alternate to get to this spot … So, yeah I’m stoked but I really want to do something with it. I can’t get too happy. I’m on the same starting blocks as the other 12 guys on tour and I really want to stay on tour as long as possible.”
Will and his brother Cliff opened up Skudin Surf down on the Long Beach boardwalk in 2015 as a way to teach their knowledge of the sport to others.
On the first day of summer, and claim to International Surf Day, the company held free lessons and had quite the turnout. Having surfed back in my high school days, before what I deemed ‘real life’ set in, I headed over to Long Beach to see if I had retained any of my surfer ‘muscle memory.’ It turns out, I hadn’t but I’m optimistic for next time!
Skudin described board control as being the most difficult thing for those in ‘Surfing 101.’ “Not letting the waves throw you around is probably the most difficult part … When it comes to wave knowledge, learning the ocean, where to catch a wave, why to catch a wave, all that, that’s something you don’t have to deal with in the beginning lesson. We’re your interpreters of the ocean. Once you master that, the lesson goes where you want it.”
But Skudin emphasized, “You got to want it!”
Coming from a family of surfers — mom and dad used to hang ten together back in the 60s — Skudin remembers being on his father’s board when he was as young as two and starting on his own at six.
“My word of advice is to surf with someone that knows what they’re doing. No matter what level you are. Buddy system. Never surf alone,” Skudin advised.
More than competitions and lessons, the Skudin brothers also run Surf For All, a non-for-profit organization based in Long Beach. Opening back in 2002, the organization is dedicated to assisting individuals with special needs by passing on the joy of surfing with the ocean being ‘a source of healing and spiritual strength.’
Whether you want to ride a wave yourself or just watch comfortably from the sandy sidelines, you can catch a glimpse of this big wave surfer out in Montauk during September or visit SkudinSurf.com and Surfforall.org