Mixing summer fun and tattoos can be a bit rough — you can’t let a fresh tattoo hang out in the sun too much, and you can’t let that tattoo soak, so the beach is out. However, summer-themed tattoos are obviously in a different category entirely. There are plenty of tattoo homages to autumn, winter, and spring, so we’re gathering some summer lovin’ for you, starting with the most classic of all summer activities — surfing.
Surfing, like its skateboarding and snowboarding counterparts, requires an incredible amount of balance, intuition, and skill. The nature of the waves has a bit of a pattern, but there are so many factors that make or break you out there on the water — wind, a storm far off in the distance, what happened somewhere further up the coast. Most skilled surfers know what time of day and what sort of weather patterns will make for the most wild, adventurous waves, and you’ll see ‘em out there getting battered down by huge waves and running back into the water for more. Truly inspiring, summer (and autumn too, for those die-hards) fun.
While it’s a global sport now, surfing originated in Hawaii. First described in 1769 in the travel diary of Joseph Banks, a crew member on the ship HMS Endeavour during the first voyage of Captain James Cook, surfing predates any European contact. The ruling classes of villages had their own private beaches and specialized surfboards, but lower castes could rise up, in popularity and favor at least, by being skilled at the sport.
Heʻe nalu, which roughly translates to “wave riding,” has had its ups and downs in popularity in the last few hundred years, but like any physical activity, has remained a steady passion for ocean-lovers and thrill-seekers alike. And not surprisingly, the culture of surfing is pretty well-aligned with tattooing. We know — “but you just said the sun and waves and tattoos don’t mix!” — but it’s not about the practical it’s about the spiritual and the cultural.
For artists like Mark Longenecker, for example, surfing and tattoos are utterly intertwined. Working out of his own shop in Cocoa Beach, Florida, Longenecker is so deeply influenced by beach city culture that his shop is named Endless Summer and he’s developed his own beach-side tattooing style, which he calls “tropistyle.” When he’s not tattooing, he’s in the water, and when he’s not tattooing or in the water, he’s deejaying or painting surfboards.
So slather some sunblock onto that freshly healed tattoo, throw down some money for a basic shortboard (or longboard if you’re feeling a bit more mellow), and get yourself to the beach. With your surfing tattoo, you’ll fit right in.