The Lowdown: Considered to be “100 percent Westside” and one of Steamer Lane’s royalty, SkinDog is a mighty force on the water. Sure, he’s proven he can push it with “the big boys” locally, but SkinDog’s frenetic, adventurous spirit is downright captivating—watch, and you’ll see. These days, the Santa Cruz native enjoys partaking in the myriad of surf competitions out there and boasts a long list of sports sponsors. After nailing a Mavericks event several years back, his name has generated big buzz in the surf universe. But what was it really like surfing the Cortes Bank with local boy Peter Mel in Step Into Liquid?
Q: So, Dan Brown approaches you to be featured in this movie Step Into Liquid and how cool is it that you got to trek out 100 miles off the coast to the Cortes Bank? Tell me a little about that day and, of course, the waves?
A: Well the scariest part was just getting out there. We set out to sea at sunset the night before into 20-foot swells, and motored all night, up and down. To tell you the truth I wasn’t digging it. So when we woke up and saw the surf, that’s when the stoke started entering the picture. The waves were perfect. We couldn’t believe our eyes. It was like an oasis in the middle of no where.
Q: What was going through your mind when you going at it?
A: At first we were taking baby steps. Each wave we would take off a little deeper. There was an outside peak that, at first, we didn’t think we would ride, but by the middle of the day, we were trying to back door the barrel. As for what was going through our heads? Nothing, everything goes into auto pilot and you start running on instinct. All the many years of learning what the ocean has taught us just becomes instinct.
Q: Best moment you had during the filming?
A: I think meeting and hanging with the Maui Crew. When you meet Laird and Dave, you are intimidated. But once you get to know them, they are funnier than shit. When we went to Easter Island with them, we had so much downtime, that it turned into a major heckel fest. We were giving each other heaps of shit. I said some things to them where I thought they might kick my ass, but instead they’d laugh there asses off and start drilling me back. They made soooo much fun of my nick-name.
Q: What do you think of the film?
A: I think this is the best movie to represent the sport of surfing to the rest of the land dwellers. It opens the door and gives everyone a peak at what surfers are doing out there. You got to realize that this is only a peak and it takes over 20 years as a surfer to really see it all. I think this movie is going to open the door for many surfers to come.
Q: What was the premiere like in LA? Any funky celeb sightings worthy of mentioning?
A: It was really cool. We got to hang with the Flea from the Chili Peppers and got bro down with John Mackenro. Plus we saw Shawn Michael Barron.
Q: What do you love about surfing?
A: There so much to love about it. I really like the freedom. You can cruise or go crazy. You can surf alone or with friends. Guys and girls, rain or shine, day or night, young or old—the list goes on. Surfing is a life-long journey. I’m just getting my daughter started.
Q: What do you not love about it?
A: The crowds … that some times you have unskilled surfers getting in the way, and not understanding why your bummed. If you have and unskilled driver on the road, you have the same problem. You don’t have guys getting on the golf course hitting the pros with golf balls, and then saying, ‘Hey buddy, you don’t own the golf course!’ So why do we have guys dropping in on Pros, then saying, ‘Hey buddy, you don’t own the ocean!’ The ancient Hawaiian language has a word for them—Kook! It means unskilled surfer troubles.
Q: What’s your biggest inspiration?
A: The Santa Cruz Surf Community. This is Surf City and there are many good surfers, more so than any other city. And that stokes me out. We have so many surfers to look up to and learn from.
Q: Why do you surf?
A: Because it’s the only thing that stops me from going crazy. The world is so nuts right now and the ocean is the only safe place.
Q: You must consider yourself good, don’t you?
A: Yes, but I also feel that I can always get better. Surfing is a hard sport, just like golf, sometimes you’re on fire and other times your off.
Q: Do you surf the Web?
A: Yes. All the time.
Q: Land on any interesting sites you care to share?
A: Storm Surf.com rules for looking for waves. Mavsurfer.com is cool to see who’s ripping Mavz.
Q: Back to real surfing. Tell me about your fellow surfers. What do you think of Peter Mel’s skill?
A: He is a total natural.
Q: What’s Shawn’s biggest asset?
A: He’s the most innovated.
Q: What’s the most interesting thing about Flea’s technique?
A: He’s the most balls-to-the-wall.
Q: What’s the most interesting thing about your technique?
A: I try to push it. I try to pull into the biggest tubes. I know I’ll never be world champion, but I might just get the biggest tube in the world. That’s my deal. I just try to pull inside.
Q: What’s the best thing surfing has taught you?
A: Ha ha—the lessons never stop. Anticipation is a big one. In the ocean, you learn to avoid problems by anticipating them before they happen. You have to anticipate where the waves are breaking if you want to catch them. And another one, is that you can’t force things to happen, you have just go with the flow. It’s better to relax than to fight it.
Q: The name? Tell me how you came to be known as SkinDog?
A: I got the nickname from an evolution of name-calling. When I was younger I was really skinny, so ‘Skinny’ was my first nickname. And it evolved into ‘Skinny Dog’ and eventually turned into ‘SkinDog.’ But my friends still come up with other heckels that go with skin or dog.