Best I Ever Saw: Joel Tudor on Skip Frye

“He was cutting through water like I’d never seen before.”

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I’ve gotten to surf against most of the guys I looked up to, whether it was Nat, Dobson, Nuuhiwa, or Paskowitz. You name them, and I’ve surfed against them. But Skip Frye was on another level, as a hero and as a surfer.

In the early 90s, I was in France competing in the Biarritz Surf Festival. I had made it to the semi finals, which was the first real money round. These were man-on-man heats, and I had to surf against Skip. It was the last heat he ever surfed as a professional, and I think it might have even been the last time he competed at all.

He came down to the contest in these Lance Carson trunks without a board and borrowed a 10′ Frye egg from one of his friends. Skip always had cronies, and rightfully so, just for his influence on surfing. These guys who hung around him would do whatever Skip did. I remember going down to his shop in Pacific Beach when I was young, and there would be five guys walking around and picking up trash because Skip picked up trash.

I won the heat, but I don’t think I should have. The judges just wanted to see a bunch of tricks. They pushed me through. They didn’t understand what was going on. Skip was just cutting through water like I’d never seen before. He didn’t even sit near me during the heat. He stayed down at the rights by the castle. When I came in, even my friends were saying that Skip ripped me apart. It wasn’t just the best longboarding that I’d ever seen—it was the best surfing I’d ever seen. To this day I don’t think I won that heat. Skip kicked my ass. He smoked me.