Ben Skinner - dryrobe® Ambassador
To say that dryrobe® ambassador Ben ‘Skindog’ Skinner is one of the UK's most influential pro surfers is something of an understatement. As well as having multiple international longboard titles to his name, and being consistently ranked amongst the top longboarders in the world by the WSL, he also produces some of the most innovative boards out there through his Skindog Surfboards brand.
Ben’s passion and talent for surfing clearly runs in the family. Not only is his son (and fellow dryrobe® ambassador) Lukas Skinner one of the UK's most exciting groms but his daughter, Lila, is making waves after winning the U12 girls comp at the 2021 Rip Curl Grom Search.
We caught up with Ben to find how he’s coped with a year of lockdowns and what’s he’s got lined up next...
The past year has been hugely challenging for everyone. How have you and the family coped with a year of lockdowns?
It has been a strange year for sure in a lot of ways, but I have to say we have had some real quality family time during these periods. Life’s normal routine was hectic with so much travelling away from my family, whilst trying to juggle work and find the balance we all need in life. Once lockdown hit I was forced, like everyone else, to stop travelling and competing - life was stripped back to basics. I honestly feel like I had time with my family that I wouldn’t have previously had with them and enjoyed every minute of it!
Your son, Lukas, suffered a serious injury skateboarding in September last year, how’s he doing now?
It was a worrying time for us last year and even more so during a pandemic! He is doing great now though. It happened in August and he had four months of doing nothing apart from resting until the middle of December when we went to Bristol for his final scan and they gave him the all-clear to get back to his normal life.
As you can imagine it took some time to get back to strength for him, especially in the depths of winter! He was lucky enough to get lots of support from people in the industry to help him get back on track. Richie Inskip was a major part in helping him get back to strength. Now he is back to 100% and surfing every day possible and loving it!
(Check out our interview with Lukas)
How did you get into shaping your own boards and starting Skindog Surfboards?
I have always had a passion for surfboard design from falling in love with surfing at such a young age, but never thought I would be making surfboards for a living. It all happened really when we found out Michelle was pregnant with Lukas. Professional surfing is great while it lasts, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to support them purely from that. One of my best mates Jason Gray also found out he would be a Dad around the same time, so we decided to start something for them and Skindog Surfboards was born!
Jason had already 30 years of experience in making boards at that point and I was willing to learn, but also continue to compete at an international level on our own boards. That was 13 years ago!
Over the past few years, there have been some great advances in surfboard technology. How have you incorporated these into the development of the latest Skindog Surfboards?
So we are lucky enough to be working with Thunderbolt Technologies, a Japanese construction by Yu Sumitomo. When I first saw this technology it blew my mind and I knew then that we would see it rise to the top of the longboard constructions worldwide. We are also lucky enough to be working with Firewire on selling our thunderbolt range worldwide.
What’s the next exciting project round the corner for Skindog Surfboards?
We have some new models coming into our range whilst we continue to make boards for our growing team of athletes and customer base. We cannot wait to see our young juniors grow into the surfing world, with the exciting prospect of the Olympics in our sport.
Whilst you’re still very much competing at the top level, you’ve had an incredible amount of success in longboarding. What would you say is your proudest accomplishment in the sport?
I would have to say the fact that I have managed to stay in the top five in the world through a full criteria change. I started longboarding in the days of performance longboarding and my board designs were all aimed at that.
The challenge of designing boards that would change my surfing to adapt with the changes in the sport and staying at the top felt like one of my biggest achievements. I cannot wait to get back to competing on the WSL tour.
Now everything is starting to open up, what have you got lined up for the rest of the year?
Hopefully, the World Longboard Tour could run in September at the Ranch and Malibu - which is a dream come true. Fingers crossed by September it will be possible to go out and compete.
You’ve surfed and competed all over the world. What’s your favourite break and is there any spot on your ‘bucket list’ that you want to surf?
I absolutely loved going to Madagascar. We stayed at the Madagascar Surf Resort which holds a maximum of 8 people and has around 10 waves in front of the camp with no one around! That is the dream.