The Ambassador

posted by / News, Video / April 6, 2011


The son of a Rhodesian-born (now known as Zimbabwe) English teacher, and educated at one of Australia’s most prestigious private schools, it’s no surprise Ace Buchan has developed into one of the finest ambassadors of professional surfing we’ve ever had (not to be confused with great ambassadors for surfing in general, which you’d more likely attribute to Archy/AI/Ozzie).

At 27, Ace is already a key player in the World Pro Surfers union and the decision making process that charts the future of competitive surfing. He’s also the published author of a children’s book and last year finished equal first with Owen Wright for the World Tour’s “goofy-foot world championship” (or equal 7th overall). Here he discusses the handicap of having just one lefthand wave on tour, the Kelly effect, why Freddy P is wrong, and what we can expect from the tour in 2011 — if Dane Reynolds doesn’t return. —Jed Smith


An Ace for radio. PHOTO: Jimmicane


SURFING: One event down. What did you take away from it?
Ace: The standard has definitely gone up a notch. There are no easy heats anymore. You’ve gotta work hard for your points and for your wins. Everyone is really comfortable with the spots on tour and the wildcards that are coming through are getting better each year. Also, the guys that make it on tour are much better because there are fewer of them. That also probably reflects the WQS, which is held in a variety of waves now rather than pretty average beachbreaks.

Kelly is the front-runner to claim an 11th world title. What will it take to stop him?
It’s so early in the year but he’s obviously confident right now and having fun competing. They’re two elements that are pretty lethal. He’s so experienced when he gets into those [high-pressure] situations; he doesn’t get flustered, and younger guys get flustered. I was excited when I had him needing an eight with five minutes to go (in Round 5 at the Quik Pro) but he got an eight. You’ve gotta be able to come through those situations and have what it’s gonna take to beat him and produce your best surfing when you’re under pressure.

Is he that much better than the rest of the tour or are there other factors to his success?
Talent wise, I don’t think he’s that much better than everyone. Obviously he’s an extremely talented guy and he’s got that experience. I think it’s amazing that he’s had that longevity. He’s physically in great shape. He doesn’t actually look like he’s getting older. He still looks very fit and you’ll look at peers that are his age and retired a few years ago, not naming any names, and they look ten years older than him. Being around young guys, you get to a point in your career when your brain is telling you can’t keep doing these things anymore. But if you look after your body there is no reason why you can’t. You see Kelly and hear his interviews and he’s got that belief and sees no reason why he can’t replicate his best surfing. I read an interview with him in the latest Surfing World [magazine] and he sees what Jordy and Owen and those guys do and he’s kind of in awe. But then he’s like, “If they can do it, I can do it.”


Ace up a sleeve. PHOTO: Jimmicane


What it’s like to paddle out next to him?
There is a little bit more anticipation and excitement. He’s definitely got a presence as a competitor. You build that up over years. The longer you’re on tour you develop that persona or competitive alter ego. Kelly is definitely very comfortable paddling out for heats and being in that space. Kelly has that confidence. You’ve gotta have that confidence and expectation of a positive result. That’s what competing is about. Whether you’re making a shot or trying to execute a move, you’ve gotta have that expectation that it’s gonna come off and obviously Kelly has that. When some guys come on tour you can feel that they’re still feeling their way. Competitively, surfing is such a mental sport. A lot of it is about being comfortable within yourself.


Backhand slap to the Ace. PHOTO: Jimmicane


What factors will win and lose you heats on tour this year and who will that suit?
Good surfing is gonna win you heats. You saw that on the [Gold Coast] with Kelly. He was able to mix it up in heats but he wasn’t surfing super new school. Taj was the most exciting guy and he had a pretty innovative attack but he wasn’t busting out many airs. And Tiago made the semis and he’s just a really solid, powerful surfer. Good surfing, whether it is above the lip, in the barrel or on the face is gonna win you heats. And if you’re maturing as a surfer and progressing. Dusty really showed that in the first event, that he’d gone away and worked on things that he failed to execute last year.

So you think there is an element of getting judged against yourself?
Yeah definitely, definitely. It shows when the surfer is surfing out of their skin or above their level. I think the judges see that as well.

Isn’t that unfair though?
I don’t think you’re judged solely against yourself. You’re against the surfer on the day but I think if I go out and do my best surfing and do a big air at the end, that will be [judged] different to someone who does airs often. The surfer has to show the judges different stuff. Last year they must have got sick of me doing five-thousand backhand reos. By the second to last event in Puerto Rico, they didn’t want to see another one. That’s when it comes down to being judged against yourself.

Dane Reynolds was absent from the opening event. What affect did that have on the level of surfing on show?
Obviously Dane is amazingly talented and we all watch his heats. It’s hard to say. He’s been hot and cold for the last few years. He did some of the best surfing all year at the Gold Coast last year. It was a bit of a shame not to see him and the waves this year would have really suited his surfing. I’m sure he would have been bummed not to be able to compete there but maybe this is what he needs — to step back and have a look and decide whether this is really what he wants to do now that it’s been taken away from him. I’d love to see him competing and throwing everything at it.

Does Dane’s absence affect the judging patterns of a contest and was his presence accelerating the progression of competitive surfing?
I wouldn’t specifically pin it on him. With Dane or Kelly or Jordy, if someone puts in a benchmark performance in a round, the judges are going to look at that and say, “The bar has been raised. Here’s what’s possible.” Dane did that in the quarterfinal against Joel last year. Would things have been different if he had been here this year? I don’t know, but obviously those other guys have the ability to change the judging.


Ace in the hole. PHOTO: Jimmicane


Teahupo’o is the sole remaining genuine left on tour. There are also just nine goofy footers in the Top 35. Is this a genuine handicap for you to win a world title or to stay on tour?
It’s definitely an issue and it’s becoming more out in the open. As a goofy footer you have to have a phenomenal backhand to stay on tour, ‘cause we go right very often. I’ve been on tour for a while now and I’m really comfortable going right and at times I actually see it as an advantage. But I’d like to see more lefts on tour because I can’t remember the last time I saw Kelly or Mick do a backhand reo. I think it would be great to get some more lefts on tour and it would show some more weaknesses, not only among the naturals but the goofies because we work on our backhands so much. I think it would be exciting to see the top guys go left a little bit more. Day in, day out, surf fans are going left and right. They don’t wanna see guys just going right.

Freddy P was recently quoted as saying the new 35-man tour doesn’t work and competitive surfing is headed in the wrong direction. Both of you are involved with the surfers’ union — how do you feel about the changes and the direction the sport is moving in?
I disagree that the tour is moving in the wrong direction. The way that it happened and how the numbers got cut, things could have
been different. It was tough that the numbers were shortened and we all lost friends from tour and now it is more competitive and harder.

The argument is that we are becoming a global sport, and to encompass all those smaller nations, by having smaller numbers, we are limiting the opportunity of guys from smaller nations to get on tour. Three or four years down the track we might be able to reevaluate it, but I think it’s working really well and I love the format. The way it is now you’re seeing the best guys surf more and that’s what surfing lacked. A few years ago with [a proposed] Top 16, I thought that was a step in the wrong direction. Look at tennis and the amount of hours you get to watch Federer or Nadal or Roddick on court, compared to the time you get to see Jordy or Kelly surfing. It’s a big difference. The new format is definitely a step in the right direction in terms of seeing the best surfers surf more in the best waves.


Ace is wild. PHOTO: Jimmicane


And your goal for 2011?
Last year was a good year for me and re-establishing myself in the top ten was my goal. Top five this year. I‘m enjoying competing more than ever. I’m excited about every stop. Surfing wise, I’m having fun trying different stuff and adding new moves to my repertoire like airs. Just to be there competing with the top guys is enough motivation for me to improve. As long as I’m motivated and passionate I’ll enjoy it.



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  • Tom

    Whats the song in the video? Anyone know?

  • stu

    I love that all it takes to be one of surfing’s smartest is to go to high school and have a dad who can speak the language well. No wonder Chas thrives in the surf world.

  • Skud

    Youngin On His Grind by Wiz Khalifa

  • Svenbo

    Top Five? HA!

  • GriDlok

    Freddy “Excuses” Patacchia offers nothing valid.
    Excuse his ignorance and baby noises in the corner.
    Its one thing to make a fuss and another to provide some realistic solutions.
    Pretty sad that Fred has done little to improve his surfing, but has improved his vocal announcements: posturing as the fashionable “island goon” barking at the tour.
    No survivor or warrior spirit. Just an infected dog whining in the wind that some of you seem to toss a bone to…lemmings.

  • Steve Shearer

    Pin sharp Jed and Ace came correct except for this clanger:”The standard has definitely gone up a notch”.

    Not true. Compared to performance benchmarks at Snapper and Puerto Rico last year the standard was lower, due to the lack of the Reynolds factor.

    Kelly hardly had to get out of third gear to win the event.

  • card dealer

    ace = ace of boring repertoire
    I usually skip watching his heats for fear of boredom.

  • Aamion Goodwin

    This is amazing… You people log on and talk crap about good people, I feel sorry for you all. I thought I was gonna read some good comments about my friends. Never again will I waste time looking at these Negative comment boxes.

  • Pingback: Ace Buchan Gods Own Toilet Duck - Flip Flops City Surfing Blog

  • mlancaster

    Good on you Ace, I enjoy your interviews and surfing. Aamion, job well done at pipe earlier this year.


  • Spike

    How pathetic is it that you all spend your time posting negative comments about people you don’t even know. Card Dealer – it’s funny that you’re so bored by Ace’s surfing that you skip his heats but you took the time to read this article and look on the hurley website. You people are a joke. Talk about tall poppy syndrome

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  • Mitch

    You guys with negative comments are a joke like Aamion said. If you can’t surf better than the people you think are boring, then what does that say about your surfing. There’s more to surfing than aerials and gay tail flicks with a bit of practice and the right waifer board anyone can do. But drawing lines that are different, power turns that lay the board on the rail, and commitment to surfing powerful waves is where it’s at your f$c%&n wankers. Probably never progressed from your local beach break slop.

  • john

    Ace is pretty ignorant saying the judging isn’t based around Reynolds. It’s based on anybody ? Pfft ! Who, you Ace ?, a conservo paycheck comp drone ? Not once have i said, fuck how was THAT heat with Ace and Logie. Buchan would truly jump for joy if Dane never returned to the tour.

  • amos

    card dealer .you should stick to dealing cards ,you no nothing about surfing.

  • Obermeyer

    @Mitch, sorry, but I think it’s safe to say we should hold the Top 32 to a different standard than the random surf fan. The negativity is weak, but fuck how that was that heat with Ace and Logie. AMAZING. I think.

  • 999

    Hurley is a successful surf company.

    But, sadly it is a widget factory pumping out over-advertised “cool OC-wear” for the masses. They market the crap out of themselves and bring in $$$, but have become an industry eye-sore because of the big capital H plastered from Brazil to Canada. Once, everyone has the big H, they win:

    End goals and target market: Capitalized H rainbow-wear for the H rainbow subjects around the globe—>This is the reality of your business, rainbow-wear w/ big capitalized H’S.

    Guys at H, you do NOTHING to a brand that was set up before the year 2000 (1999) and are cranking out widgets; so you now are angry that we post opinions. You have lots of time on your hands, so its no surprise.

    Some of you at H have made yourselves believe that you are living the dream, but you are mindless contrived zombies making rainbow-wear that most of us get a good laugh at–>so don’t overly assert your selves just yet.

    “Bro, we surf at lunch when its good”
    I’m sure you do bros, cause it’s the “life” right?
    The thirty going on twelve year old routine so we”stay stoked” mantra. Contrived. The surf industry is a cesspool and Hurley offers little to the waste pit of year old fashion-copied wear, but—->rainbow colors and capitalized H’s,rainbow colors and capitalized H’s, rainbow colors and capitalized H’s since the year 2000.

    You aren’t much different than this rider that was attacked for not having an exciting repertoire. I guess old things breed success right?

    Did you get the memo? its not 1999 anymore.

  • Ben

    I like Ace. It’s always nice to have an articulate surfer out there. I do vehemently disagree with his assertion that Kelly does not differ from the others in terms of talent… Look at the air-drop to barrel tens he had last year and ask yourself: A) Could any other surfer have made those (No), and B) was completing said drops a function of competitive skill or simply unparalleled raw talent (you know the answer). Possibly the most talented surfer ever (maybe Dane or AI are similar) combined with radical focus, confidence, and fitness equals the most dominant athlete ever. Recognize Ace!

  • amos

    in answer to ben a ] because i dont know the ability of every surfer in the world ,and i dont know if any other surfer has done the drop into barrel i could never say its not possible for anyone else to do , and the unparalled raw talent is a fair enough over the complete range of moves ,but not nescessarily on every single move . the most dominant athlete ever ,is a stupid statement with a very narrow minded sports knowledge.

  • Ben

    Ease up Amos, it’s called being a sports fan. Show me footage of a surfer who has come even remotely close to making the impossible look possible. Yes, theoretically there may be some obscure surfer in Timbuktu who has made the most impossible drop ever but he ain’t on the CT or public radar, and thus for the sports fan he doesn’t matter. And anus, I’ll put my sports knowledge (or any other knowledge) against yours any day. It’s called an opinion. And if you have have a different one then by all means throw it up there, just come with some support cause I will continue to school you.

  • amos

    Ben . jimmy Sholders 16 world rodeo titles ,jahanger kahn 555 consecutive wins ,Heather McKay no losses in 20 years .and there are more, and as for show me the footage ,what part of ” i dont know if any other surfer has done the drop” , would make you think i would have the footage . and you think by calling me anus, does anything other than make me think you are abusive . Ben your ability to debate is limited to rants and abuse .

  • Ben

    Think the dynamic medium, quality of competition, and longevity/ability to improve in the face of the competition. My bad on the insult; don’t refer to me as stupid again and it will be a wash. Regarding footage, there are thousands of free surfing hours of the other contenders, namely Jordy, Mick, Joel, Taj, Dane, and so on in countless videos. Among most surfers Slater’s sections and performances engender more frequent “what the….?” followed by a replay or rewind of the video. Slater appears (don’t take it literally as you have in prior posts) to be able to do everything that any other surfer can do PLUS demonstrate balance, flexibility, and ability to emerge from impossible situations that the other surfers do not. Thus he is the best, by far. Frankly I can’t see how a reasonable person can even debate it. The exception to Slater’s dominance was AI in heavy surf, but alas he is gone.

  • amos

    Ben my use of the word “stupid was not meant to mean that you are stupid ,it was in reference to the statement “equals the most dominant athlete ever ” The most dominant SURFER ever ,i would agree with , But there are athletes who have dominated their chosen sports at a greater level of dominance than Kelly. This is not just my opinion i got this info off google .
    Also there is no debate on my part that Kelly is the best all round surfer, competition or freestyle ,

  • kadafi

    Author, how exactly is Ace, an ambassador?
    I asked a few of my friends, both Aussie and American and a few knew him, but not his role of ambassador. From interviews and second-hand reports, he seems like a humble and talented surfer so I am not adding a negative comment to this board, but simply inquiring why the author didn’t delve further into Ace as an author of a book? This would have been cool to see another side to the surfer and how he went through the writing process and the books’ impact. What about his actual input into the World Pro Surfers Union? It would have been interesting to see how different surfers had been contributing ideas and how everyone is aligned and what policies might be up in the air. The readers want to know more about the impact pros like Ace have, but instead the article was one dimensional and just focused on Ace’s surfing and not his leadership. I don’t mean to come across as arrogant, but we deserve to see the connection and if there is none; don’t title it that way.

  • Larissa

    I like Ace he’s a good surfer and a good guy… He probably wouldn’t talk trash about any of you so why do it to him!
    You people need to get a life!

  • Jed Smith

    “Ambassador” is not an official title. I don’t think there is such a role within the World Tour. But Ace is undoubtedly a great ambassador for professional surfing. As for his role as a children’s author:

  • andy

    happy guy , good style