WHO’S NEXT: SHANE BESCHEN

posted by / Magazine / February 2, 2004

Look out world. After being knocked off the WCT in 2001 — then knocked around by the ‘QS in 2002 — surfing’s ultimate contest machine has passed through the firepits of competitive hell and been reforged into something even more dangerous. Now, not only is Shane Beschen driven, he’s happy — happy to be back in the big leagues. Which means he’s even more determined to stay there. Says Beschen, “I’m definitely going to be doing my smartest, strongest surfing; I’m not messing around at all.”

[Conducted in November at Shane's {{{Rocky}}} Point home between cleaning the garage, getting a lollipop for his son, and generally enjoying domestic life].

Last year, you were like “next year, I’m gonna make it.” And you were looking solid in, like, February. Were you that much more driven after last year’s disappointment just go out and nail it fast? Yeah. Definitely, after having to come here to Hawaii and not qualify by like a heat or whatever it was. I lost the round before the quarters, and if I’d gotten third in the quarters I would’ve made it. So, yeah, I definitely wanted to get the job done early.

So at what point did you feel like you had it in the bag? Definitely what sealed it in mind was getting second at Margaret’s. It was only the first event, but for that one result I got like 2400 points. To start off with a result like that just kind of took a lot of pressure off right off the bat. Like, that’s the big result right there, counting two for one. Then I just tried to stay consistent. Obviously, I tried to win every contest, but just stayed consistent, some quarterfinals, a semi. Just consistent results to solidify it.

And what helped too, throughout the year, all the big events were won by ‘CT guys. Like every one. Cory won Huntington, Mick Campbell won Margaret’s — guys that don’t really even do the ‘QS like Taj and Andy did a few events. {{{CJ}}} did well in a bunch too, like Durban and Margaret’s. So a lot of these top CT guys were taking a lot of the points. Last year in the ‘QS there was probably 10 guys that did in every contest, the point total was super high. This year there weren’t too many guys who did well in every event. So as the year went on, all I had to do is be consistent. Like Neco and Trent had realy good years. Neco made like every semi or final and Trent won like three contests. He could qualify off three events this year. Those guys are the only two ahead of me and they’re ‘CT guys too! I have enough points I didn’t go to Brazil, and I wouldn’t have to surf Haleiwa either if I didn’t want to. To know that for the last few months has been great.

Compare that feeling to last year . . . Exactly. Now I’m just a spectator. I’ve just been watching other guys try to qualify. I’ve been working with Chris Ward who’s like 19th right now, the last guy, and it’s like “come on, buddy.” Right now he’s in. But there’s two ‘CTs and one big ‘QS so all these things can happen. And in Japan I was telling Bruce, “You’ve got to end it. Just end it before you get to Hawaii.” When you come home, you want to be …comfortable. When I was watching the results in Brazil and saw Bruce got third, I was so proud of them.

So you’ve been giving Wardo and Bruce some coaching? Not coaching really. Just support.

Who else would you like to see make it? Well, Bobby Martinez is really close too. He’s another kid I hung out with. And Roy Powers is pretty close too. The ‘QS is so segregated it’s gnarly. There are 60 f–king Aussies sitting together watching every heat and cheering for every Aussie guy there f–king is in the contest. And there’s a little crew of Americans. And I try to give ‘em all a little support, like Joel Centeio, Jason Shibata, Fred, that little Hawaiian crew, and Roy and Bruce and Timmy Reyes.

A lot of those guys you mention have been trying for several years now. And you obviously came real close last year, and nailed it fast this year. How do you explain that you made it with such a short go. Is it just the experience? [Derek ho walks through] DEREK: Sorry to interrupt your little thing here, but he never should’ve been gone. [laughs] That’s the difference. SHANE: I was there, and I did it for eight years . . . DEREK [from outside]: Different league! Different league!

SHANE: Really, the reason why I feel I didn’t make it last year is because I was still in denial that I was even having to do the WQS to do the ‘CT. Because the year before I still feel like it was a total farce. I feel like no one should’ve been crowned world champ and no one should have been eliminated from the tour. Five events is not a tour.

So last year I was in complete denial. Never in my wildest dreams did i think I’d be knocked off the tour. That sounds gnarly to say, but I’ve had years where I missed three events or whatever and still qualify. And to decide a year on five events.. . .everything just happened so fast. It was like this gnarly tragedy happened, a big dust cloud and all of a sudden I was on the ‘QS. It was like my mind was still on the ‘CT but I wasn’t invited [chuckles]. And I thought I would just requalify easier than it was. So when I didn’t qualify last year is when it really hit me and really sank in to me that, ‘Hey, the only way you’ll be able to compete on the WCT again is if you go qualify. Just like everybody else.” And when I say that to myself, I’m basically saying, “Everything that you’ve done in your life up to this point in your surfing career means nothing. All you got now is a round of 96 seed and these WQS contests.” That was it. And that’s when I mentally just refocused and came out of the fog of the whole 9/11, five-event-tour, doing the WQS, missing out, all of this bad weird stuff happening. Stepping outside and saying, this is reality. If you want to keep your career going, this is what has to be done. And that’s when I totally got remotivated to do it.

And I decided, Hey. I still feel like I’m improving with my surfing. And I still feel like I want to compete for another five or six years. So lets’ do it. Let’s focus and get the results and do it. And once I got second in Margaret’s, that just gave me even more fire. That’s the one big result it takes, now let’s back it up.

But there’s a lot of ‘CT guys right beside you. It’s not like you’re beating up on a bunch of guys who aren’t in your league, you’re going through everyone. And we get letters sometimes saying the ‘CT guys shouldn’t be able to compete against the qualifiers. But it seems like you have to have that. Do you think the system’s flawed? Or, perhaps the first question is, which do you think is harder..the ‘QS or the ‘CT? Well for me personally, I feel like the WQS is harder. But for other surfers I notice the WCT is harder. Because these surfers are qualifying through the ‘QS year after year and not qualifying through the ‘CT. And they always do good in the ‘QS events, they’re always in the quarters, semis or final. No one specific, but here’s a solid group of guys who seem like they excel in the four-man heats. And I feel like I excel in man-on-man, being patient, catching the good waves, and getting an eight, nine or ten. That’s where I feel more comfortable than hassling guys, and relying a little more on the luck of who gets the waves. It’s much more of a fight on the WQS.

When you qualified the first time, was the two-tier system in place? Yeah, that was the first year they did it. And basically me and everyone else — Taylor, Machado, Todd Prestage, Shane Dorian — all these guys qualified through the PSAA. Because the PSAA was really strong back then. So we all qualified through there. And then the WQS started expanding more and more. Now the WQS is way harder. There’s three times the amount of guys, for one. Every country has so many more good surfers coming out now. And they all can surf beachbreak, and the whole WQS tour is beachbreak. So everyone’s playing on a level field, because they all rip at beachbreak. Now when you get to big right points or long left barrels where you see more of the form or style coming out, that’s when I feel I have my advantage. So there’s not too many events like that on the WQS.

Like with Margaret’s, that was one event where I felt I had the advantage, because it was six to ten feet, howling winds, onshore, hailing, just gnarly elements — elements that discourage most people. And the waves had size, too. Waves breaking all the way through the channel, just big and messy. I was stoked. When I pulled up and looked at it I was like “Wow, looks just like the last time I made the final out here.” When I was a kid, I was in the final and beat Tom Carroll, I got third and he got fourth. [laughs] Elkerton won or something. So I pulled up like, “Right on. I like this.” And that’s where I got my big result. And every other contest was small, and just luck or positioning. Because every kid out there is capable of getting high scores. Especially in a beach break where everyone’s getting mediocre waves and then two guys in a heat get that one wave that lines up, they’re done. Especially with just two waves.

That’s a big flaw. WQS events should be best three waves. Because a lot of the times, it’s in shit waves. And you have four guys. And the one guy will catch that one good wave and he’s through. He makes the heat on one good waves. And there’s no real skill in getting that one wave, it’s just a dice roll. But you know, I don’t have to focus on that anymore. [laughs]

You’ve been outspoken about the ASP judging criteria before. Are you happy where the WCT is at now? I think the judging is definitely on the right track. I think it will never be perfect because we’re all human and we all have our own opinions. That’s a major x-factor in judging. But I personally feel, and I already submitted this to the board, I think the next step t o the ASP is reviewable heats. There has to be video instant reply for these man-on-man heats. I think the way the scores can fluctuate throughout the heat changes more than it should. And when you watch one wave and watch the other guys wave, back to back directly on a TV screen, it’s so much easier to compare than when you see a guy’s wave right at the beginning of the heat and the other one right at the end; And there’s all this drama and suspense in one heat and not the other. Or they catch a really good wave and time goes buy and the level of that wave is forgotten, and the next guy is not judged accordingly.

So I think it would be so easy to have two cameramen, one for each surfer, side by side, at the exact same angle, so it wouldn’t be any angle discrepancy or anything. And have it just like the NFL. If a guy loses a heat because of a score,it can be challenged, reviewed. And if the evidence is clear-cut, it can be changed.

And I think that aspect would be rad for the suspense, for the public and for TV. You see it again. And it would make the judges want to be more spot on because they know they could be challenged.

They might be stoked. It would probably make their job easier. Exactly. What if they miss the wave or whatever, or if one guy ‘s riding and another stands up out the back?

Look at J-Bay, it’s like how do you even judge when one guy’s taking off at Boneyards and the other’s pulling in at Impossibles? J-bay! But if there’s two different cameramen, they’re getting ‘em from when they paddle to when they kickout. And if any part of the wave is missed it can be easily watched after the heat. Or during.

Now, last time you offered your opinions there was some backlash. Have you changed your approach? Well, what I’m suggesting here is purely for the good of surfing. I’m not saying the judges are doing a bad job, they’re doing a good job. And everything that comes out of my mouth from now on I want to be in a positive light and for the good of the sport. And that’s all I wanted then, but I went about it in a negative way so it was tarnished. But this time, I’m not going to be talking shit on anyone, I’m going to suggest it and if it gets voted on, good. I think definitely the ASP right now needs to take surfing to the next level. It seems like surfing is so big right now, and the ASP has the best surfers in the world right now. There will be no arguing with that. And I think they need to market their tour. They need like a marketing director to make the ASP a business. They need to have rad ASP jackets and run it like the NFL. And now’s the time to do it.

So I’ll always have a forward-thinking and open mind about the sport of surfing, just because I love it so much. And I want to see the best for the athletes because I know they’re gnarly talented people. And I think if future kids can make a good living off surfing, that’s insane. So everything I’m suggesting is purely constructive. And if it happens it does, and if it doesn’t … well, I’m not going to be throwing any revolts against it. [chuckles]

Earlier you said you felt like the new guy on tour again. Does it feel like a rebirth? Definitely. I definitely feel reborn. I mean two years is a long time. And yeah, I’m just psyched. It’s like having another chance. I think I’m going to do better this time because I’m so much more focused. And I’m not going to be displacing my energy into anything that’s not going to help me with my cause. So I’m psyched. That’s all I can say. I feel like a kid. I’ve been groveling out there on the ‘QS with all the kids for the past two years, so I definitely feel like I made it. I feel like… I feel like this is one of my bigger accomplishments, going back and doing this. And not only just for qualifying, but just going throughout the whole humbling experience of having to go backward to go forward.

What would you suggest to those surfers who’ve been going at it a few years and haven’t quite made it? Is there a piece of advice you can pass on? My biggest advice is to work on your way of thinking, your focus. It’s all mental. All the kids out there have the talent to do it. But the mental strength is what it takes.

Any strategy for next year? Word is you’re training between now and the beginning of season while the rest of the tour takes a break. Yeah, my vacation officially ends on the first of December. So, yeah, now that I have a second chance I want to do things I’ve never done before to prepare myself. I’ll be taking a little more extreme measures to get ready for next year. I’m going to try to do the best that I can. And hopefully that results in a world title. Because it’s just a matter of consistency. And if it doesn’t happen, that’s fine, but I’m definitely going to be doing my smartest, strongest surfing in the contests. I’m not going to be messing around at all.

Is the title any more appealing now that Kelly’s back on tour along with Andy, Taj, Parko, Fanning — basically the strongest talent poll in years — does that just get you going? Oh, that’s a total driving factor. It’s like I’m a kid. Even though I’m older than those guys and more experienced, I’m like the kid who just qualified. I’m the new kid on the block next year, and those guys are the guys. They’re the top-five surfing superstars of the world. And I love it. I want to be the underdog. I want people to think I’m going to lose. And then just go out there and take guys out.

It’s just like Kelly, he felt like he had something new to prove. There’s a new crew of guys there. I think that’s why he was so driven this year. Seems like he probably felt like he was being passed by. Andy won the Surfer Poll and he was winning the title for most of the year with Kelly trying hard. And it’s been really impressive to see Kelly stay so consistent and win so many events and be in the lead coming into Hawaii.

And what’s gnarly is Mick Fanning and Taj Burrow have had world title years too,. They’ve done so good they could’ve one the world title some other years with how many results they have — and they’re not even close! So, its been a brutal year for those guys. And hopefully they’re all a little bit tired from it [laughs].

Anyone in particular you’re looking forward to competing against? I don’t have anyone in my mind that I’m telling myself I want to surf against. What I have most in my mind is I’m going to surf the best I can and make the smartest decisions possible against whoever I surf against. So I’m really not focused on the guy, I’m focused on the actions I take and the decisions I a make. Because within that 25 minutes, every aspect of it matters. Besides, most of the time, it’s not even the big-name guys you’re going to lose too. It’s all the other guy son tour. Taj lost to Renan Rocha in Brazil, and everyone probably thought Taj was going to take him out. And next thing you know Renan’s in the semis.

How does Monument play into all this? Is that something you’re letting be while you focus on the tour? Or is it like, the more you succeed, the more good comes to the company? That’s definitely how I feel. I’m hoping the better I do in my surfing career will translate into the better my company does. I’m still going to be involved in the marketing and making sure the ads look tight and checking on clothes wherever I can, but mainly my end is the marketing side. I’ll definitely be seeing every ad before it goes in the magazine. But I don’t play any other part I running the business. So my partner will be there every day. I took a smaller percentage of the company have that creative influence but the freedom to do the tour and promote the company in that way.

So yeah, I’m stoked. And hopefully in five or six years, Monument will be a solid company. And in five or six years when I retire, hopefully they’ll be some kids I’m sponsoring on the ‘CT that I’ll be rooting for and I’ll be helping them. That’ll be a really cool thing.

Last year when we talked you said, “I’m making the tour; done deal.” Care to set any dates on that elusive world title? No. Definitely not. The world title is a goal for many surfers. But, it’s a reality for the one person who puts it all together, the gnarliest for that one year. And all I can say is I’m going to be focusing on that and we’ll see what happens. Matt Walker

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