Skudin – Strong Island Son

By on February 24, 2017 in Surfing with 0 Comments

Skudin is 31 years old and wears a scraggly reddish beard. He was always a skinny kid, but years of competitive swimming and surfing have covered him in lean muscle. When he was 15, he announced to his parents that he wanted to surf big waves, and that he wanted to be the youngest goofyfoot ever to surf Mavericks. These were unusual goals for a kid in Long Beach, even among the city’s talented contingent of small-wave surfers. But the Skudins are not your typical New York family.

Two weeks before Skudin’s session at Jaws, I met his parents, Dave and Beth, at The Park, a sleek sports bar on Long Beach’s busy six-lane Park Avenue. It was the coldest day of the winter—13 degrees—with a northwest wind slicing across the low, mustard-colored marshland separating this western tail of Long Island from New York City, which looms on the horizon like an approaching concrete-and-glass glacier. Beth, who is small, serene, and fair-skinned, thanks to her Irish roots, had hair still wet from her evening class at the Long Beach Recreation Center, where she has taught swimming on and off since 1991. Dave, who had just stepped off the train from Manhattan, where he works on Wall Street as a U.S. Treasury bond broker, is barrel chested and thick jawed; the latter trait is one he passed on to all four of his sons.

Dave and Beth both grew up in Long Beach and met as kids on a swim team at the local rec center. They were also both from surfing families, raised on the beachbreaks scattered between Gilgo State Park to the east and the Rockaways to the west. Beth’s father, an actor and artist named Dick Bolton, was one of Long Beach’s earliest surfers. In the 1960s, he became friendly with Duke Kahanamoku, who visited Long Beach occasionally to give swimming demonstrations. In the family’s modest bungalow, there is a framed photo of Kahanamoku with a note written to Beth on June 29, 1964: “To Beth, Aloha” it reads in sloppy cursive. It’s signed by The Duke.

Dave’s childhood was not as dazzling. After their father passed away when they were young, Dave and his three brothers were taken under the wing of their swim coach, Woody Davis. “Woody made sure we kept swimming,” Dave told me one afternoon as we drove past the beachside block where he lived as a teenager. Davis was able to get all four boys to college on swimming scholarships. Today, Dave’s brother, John, is a captain on the Long Beach Lifeguard Patrol. “We’ve been wet more than we’ve been dry,” he says about their upbringing.

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