Interview Nathan Myers
Photos Anthony Dodds
“I hate longboarders as much as anyone,” says pro longboarder Harrison Roach, “when they paddle out in big waves and start hogging all the sets. That’s what gave longboards a bad name in the first place.”
It’s an interesting bias to examine: the underlying hostility of thruster-culture against log-riders. Of course they’re fun to ride in small waves, but don’t dare be seen dragging 9-feet of foam up the beach sober.
Roach grew up in the swell-starved, sand-point heaven of Noosa Heads, Australia. As a competitive grom, he was told to choose: short or long. “People told me you can’t succeed at either if you’re trying to do both,” says Roach. “But I wasn’t worried about succeeding, so it was easy to just have fun.”
While the shortboard shredders sat home watching DVDs on small days, Roach was riding logs, fish, alaias or just going bodysurfing. When the waves came up, he rode shortboards. And he spent twice as much time in the water as anyone else.
Eventually, Roach went to check out the Oxbow World Longboarding Championships in Anglet, France. With just one competition determining the world champ, he figured, “why not?” When he arrived in France, he found the world’s best doing spinners, airs and fins-free turns just like the shortboarders, only way worse. “You could get 9.5s for not even cross-stepping,” he says. “It was embarrassing to be part of.”
SURFING: So then, what should longboarding look like?
HARRISON: There’s nothing wrong with what they’re doing (performance longboarding) -– it’s still fun. It’s just completely different to the way I ride, and to what guys like Joel Tudor, Dane Peterson and Tom Wegener have been doing all along (traditional longboarding). Our style is more about smooth footwork, smooth rail-work and just riding the whole wave instead of tearing it apart.
What’s the most difficult thing to do on a longboard?
Nothing surpasses noseriding. A Hang 10 done high and tight in the pocket, through the section, with the tail counterbalanced by the wave. But you do it because it feels good. The more critical a Hang 10 is, the better it’s going to feel.
So would you say there’s a new movement of classic longboarding taking shape these days?
Well, let’s just say it’s the first time in my life I don’t need to make coffees or teach Germans how to surf. The Van Duct Tape Invitational events are giving a forum to the more classic style of log-riding. There’re guys like Thomas Bexon and Ryan Burch shaping excellent traditional single-fins — I’m actually able to make a living as a surfer. [Harrison recently developed his signature single-fin model with Deus ex Machina.]
How does the “performance longboarding” community feel about all this traditional logging movement?
I think what scares them is the thought that if their girlfriend were down at the beach, they’d prefer to watch smooth footwork and good style rather than guys trying airs on their longboards.
So, you think those guys actually have girlfriends?
I think what we’re doing shouldn’t be threatening to them. They don’t have anything we want. We don’t have any interest in riding for SurfTech or trying to pull the biggest longboard air. We’re just our own little niche.
Do you think your new niche will be more accepted by the shortboard community?
For me it’s just about surfing more. Having fun, even when it’s small. If the waves are good, I only want to ride a shortboard. My longboards keep me in the water when it’s 2 or 3 foot, which is something that happens all the time back in Noosa. But on the Gold Coast, it’s been built into their psyche that you can’t ride shortboards. Fucking mals! They’d rather sit home watching videos.
Does riding a shortboard make you feel more competitive?
I think people can get competitive about anything. It’s just hard to take something too seriously when it’s only two-foot and you’re surfing with a couple Germans on soft-tops. But if you put $100k on the line for the best longboarding section, I think you’d find longboarders are as competitive as anyone.