Supernaturally graceful goofyfooter from Del Mar, California; two-time winner of the World Longboard Championships, and a model of surfing form and fluidity. Tudor was born (1976) and raised in San Diego, California, the son of a general contractor, and began surfing at age five; at 10 he quit riding shortboards to focus exclusively on longboards, and in his early and midteens he was mentored by '60s surf titans Nat Young and Donald Takayama.
By 16, Tudor had become the pencil-thin Raphael of the longboard renaissance. He mastered all aspects of longboarding, but was revered mainly as a stylist from the traditional school: quick but smooth, light-footed, able to hang ten for 15 seconds at a time, and possessed of a near-telepathic wave sense. Tudor could also do progressive shortboard-influenced turns and cutbacks, but believed that flow and understatement were the cornerstones of longboarding. "This so-called 'modern' longboarding can go to hell," the high-voiced Tudor said in 1994, in one of many outspoken remarks that endeared him to longboard traditionalists of all ages. "It's so boring. If you want surf like that, get a 6'2" shortboard."
Tudor turned professional at 14, and won his first pro contest the following year. Two years later he finished runner-up in the 1992 World Longboard Championships, held in Biarritz, France, and it was assumed that Tudor would win championship titles at will for the next several years. He did in fact go on to take dozens of regional, national, and international pro contests, with multiple wins in the U.S. Open of Surfing, the Biarritz Surf Festival,, and the Noosa Festival of Surfing. But the world title proved elusive—he finished third in 1994, ninth in 1996, and fifth in 1997—until 1998, when he won the championship, held that year in the Canary Islands. He washed out early in the 1999 and 2001 titles, but finished runner-up in 2000 and third in 2001. In 2004, in Biarritz, Tudor at last won his second world title.
In 1997, Tudor became the first new-era longboarder to make the cover of Surfer, and in 2000—helped by his shrewdly developed role as surf world counterculture fashion trendsetter—he won the Longboard Magazine Readers Poll Award. Surfer's Journal meanwhile described him as "the finest longboard surfer of all time." Tudor had by then broadened his surfboard quiver to include a number of shortboards, mostly copies of early-generation models from the late '60s and '70s.
Tudor (6'1", 150 pounds) is the main subject of a number of surf videos, including Adrift (1996) and Longer (2001). He's appeared in more than 100 other surf movies and videos, including On Surfari to Stay (1992), Longboarding Is Not a Crime (1995), Super Slide (1999), The Seedling (1999), Shelter (2001), Sprout (2004), and One California Day (2007). In 2004, Tudor collaborated with photographer Michael Halsband to create the artsy portrait-filled Surf Book.
The Joel Tudor signature model, made by Donald Takayama Surfboards—Tudor's longtime sponsor—was for years the best-selling board of its kind. After a break with Takayama, he founded Joel Tudor Surfboards in 1997; in 2009 he launched another board line called KookBox.
In 2008, Tudor earned a black belt in Brazilian jui jitsu. The following year he won his division in the Brazilian Jui Jitsu US Nationals, and in 2011 he won gold in the Pan Am Jui Jitsu Championships.
The Joel Tudor Duct Tape Invitational surf contest, in which competitors to ride leashless singlefin boards, has been an annual longboarding event since 2007.