D rop Knee Tribute
Project Date: April - June 2000
Non Google Sponsors
Arch drop knee, Dewey Weber style
Drop knee turns adapted to the long skateboard
Deep power carve drop knee, Kevin Miske style
Skating and text by Keith Johnson
Photos by Karen Paquin
Including interviews with Robert "Wingnut" Weaver and Kevin Miske
The classic drop knee turn has survived through half a century of evolving surfing technique and has of late undergone a resurgence in the longboard world. This turn belongs in long skating as well, as an enjoyable way to carve, as a path to skating's surfing roots, or as part of a stylist's longboard repertoire.
The term "drop knee" comes up often in surf, skate, and body boarding magazines and on internet postings. Even if you are not a traditional longboarder, you may know the term. It can refer to a kind of kneeling stance in body boarding. Skateboarders refer to drop knee when talking about a deep crouch used in slides or laybacks. The drop knee I'm addressing in this article is the term originally given the free heel stance used by surfers in the 50s and 60s to turn a heavy longboard to the heel side. Its identifying characteristic is the knees; the back leg is extended to the tip of the tail, the ball of the foot pressing the rail, and the knee dropped toward the deck; the front leg is bent as well.
In a project that has taken over a year, I have researched the classic drop knee turn and its modern variations and worked to adapt it to the long skateboard. I have watched surf films, classic and contemporary, and chosen several surfers who have brought the drop knee to heights of function and style. I was fortunate to obtain interviews with two of these surfers, Kevin Miske and Robert "Wingnut" Weaver, who commented on their drop knee techniques as well as the styles of other masters.
Using photo sequences, I will break down the most important features of skateboarding drop knee turns adapted from different eras in surfing history. Although all these turns have the dropped knee in common, the body styling and shaping changes dramatically as I go from past to the present drop knees.
Tribute drop knee turns: objective
I believe that when you are learning an art form, it is helpful to imitate masters of the form and analyze what they are doing. Such an excercise would be done by a student of jazz music or drawing as well as a sport. After a period of imitation, you can borrow elements from the masters and add your own twists and creations.
In the sequences here I perform a variety of drop knee turns that use a number of techniques such as leaning, arching, counter leaning, and rotational force. Some of these techniques will be explained in the text. The turns reflect a timeline of drop knee history, from the fities to the present.
Each turn is meant to pay tribute to a particular surfer. I made a conscious effort in these photo shoots to imitate to the best of my ability each surfers style, and not to mix elements or create my own moves. Although my ultimate goal is to use these moves to develop my own drop knee style, my purpose for this article is to analyze the styles of the masters, and comment on the advantages and disadvantages of each separate turning style.
Some background on the drop knee
Pioneering arching and rotating drop knee, followed by recovery turn
Minimum effort drop knee, followed by cross step and walk to the nose
Cross stance trim to drop knee cutback, followed by arching cutback ending turn
Deep drop knee bottom turn followed by roundhouse cutback
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Copyright ©2005 Keith Johnson
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