British longboarders are a bit good. There are loads of them doing good things in all aspects of the 'sport', however that is interpreted. They share some thoughts.
British longboarding is on the up. While we have always had talented longboarders way back to Rod Sumpter in the '60s, I'm not sure we've had as many international stand outs as right now.
The last WLT comp in Papua New Guinea featured no less than three competitors (Bearman, Skindog and Hornbuckle), commentator Sam Bleakley and head Judge Lee Ryan. On top of that the UK just had three British loggers at the 2017 Duct Tape in Mexico (Lay, Crookshanks and Parry). So no less than eight surfers at the top of world logging, and more young surfers trying, and promising, to break through in the coming years.
We thought we’d investigate the reasons why our loggers are ding so well by asking our best representatives over the years and of course, have a look into raging argument surrounding number of fins allowed on over 9’1”s
SO RIGHT NOW WE HAVE MANY BRITISH LONGBOARDERS HIGHLY RESPECTED IN THE WORLD OF LOGGING FROM FREE SURFERS TO COMP MACHINES, JUDGES TO COMMENTATORS. WHAT IS GOING ON?
Firstly I think that the majority of surf we get in UK is very well suited to longboard surfing, we generally get a lot of mushy fat surf. Also Minnow from the BLU has created a solid training platform for us in the UK before competing on the world stage and with many talented surfers competing in the British contests, some heats could well be in a world event.
We also have the likes of Lee Ryan on the WSL judging panel and Bob Freshwater and Norman Wright judging the European events as well as the British events. Which is a good thing to have and ask for advice.
Lee and I are getting old now, so we’re more behind the scenes at the WSL events, with Lee judging (he was head judge at the WLC in China last year) and me presenting the live broadcast. Lee has been doing amazing things in New Zealand such as running The Ultimate Waterman event. Skindog is at the top of his game as a world class shaper and a threat for every world title event (remember he got third in 2015), and Adam Griffiths’ result in Papua New Guinea was so deserved. He surfed like a champion, and having lost his amazing mum at the end of 2016 it was a powerful moment. We’ve always had great representation at the ASP/WLT events way back to Chris ‘Guts’ Griffiths getting a fifth in Guethary, France in 1996, and a long list of names in between (both male and female) who’ve flown the flag for both classic single fin riding and more attacking progressive longboarding.
I believe a lot of the success is built on Minnow Green’s British Longboard Union (BLU) tour, and Norman Wright’s Hotdoggers Club, and top-class judges like Bob Freshwater. The BLU made a key decision to include a single fin division a long time ago, and that is a hotly contested event. And we must not forget all the surf industry people working at the highest level, such as film makers, designers, writers, event organisers, judges, boardmakers and glassers who are insanely good British longboarders. For example Welshman Conner Griffiths is working out in Noosa laminating for one of the most respected young longboard shapers in the game: Mitch Surman. Conner is an insanely talented logger. And South Devon’s Jim Newitt, who (inspired by Rob Beiling) really led the way in UK single fin riding (along with Ricky Kenyan, Richard Balding, Gordon Blake, Nick Carter, Noel Creavy and others), is Art Director at The Surfer’s Journal.
James Parry and Mike Lay just got back from the Mexi Log Fest at the long lefts of Saladita. James was shooting photos (and in my eyes he still has one the best backhand hang tens in the game) and Mike was a standout in both the Mexi Log Fest and Joel Tudors’ Vans Duct Tape Invitational (both formats requiring 9’6” plus boards, no leash and one fin). The winner of both events, Californian CJ Nelson (arguably the best noserider in the world right now), was so impressed with Mike’s performance that he used his Instagram account to share an @jimmyjamesparry image of Mike with this caption, “My brother @laymike driving a borrowed board at the @mexilogfest. I watched him absolutely dominate session after session during the week prior to the event. It was some of the best log riding I can ever remember seeing and it was consistent. I can’t wait to see where this young man takes his sliding.” That says a lot. Mike joined me on the last Brilliant Corners episode in Mauritania in February, along with Easkey Britton, and he was absolutely charging on his four fin fish, so he’s more than just a logger. It’s very exciting that so many corners of global longboarding are represented from the UK. Sam Bleakley
Yes, it’s amazing to see. So stoked to catch up with Sam, Adam and Skindog on the tour these days. The boys are ripping! Not sure how we all got there?! I guess hard work and passion for the sport! But you know what they say the cream always rises to the top.
Lee Ryan You know, we have always had a thriving longboard scene since the “rebirth of cool” in the mid-eighties. Britain has produced world class longboarders time and again. A lot of this success has to be attributed to Minnow Green’s British Longboard Series which has helped nurture the longboard talent for decades now with fun, cool and highly competitive contests.
The UK has always produced amazing longboarders so I’m not surprised a fair few have gone onto being highly respected in the world of surfing.
It should have, and should always be this way. No matter who you are, what you do, what various surfcraft you represent, where you’re from or what pure adoration and involvement you have within the sport of surfing. It maybe due to the fact that the British have been given a chance to show they are true purists within the sport also ... as well as your typical Australian, North/south American, Hawaiian, French folk alike. It’s great for the sport as it should display a diverse cultural representation world wide.
I think it’s mainly due to the waves the UK gets. The majority of the time we’re dealt with pretty weak, small swells that are more suited for riding a longboard, and a large amount of our beaches are longboard friendly too. The average British longboarder definitely has a much larger wave count than the average British shortboarder, as many days in the summer are doable on a longboard as opposed to a shortboard. More waves means more practice, so I think this is why our country has produced many great longboarders.
On the contest side there’s the BLU run by the legendary Minnow Green. That’s really helped a lot of competitive surfers get going, Ben’s obviously led the charge in that arena. For the free surfers I don’t think you can ignore Sam (Bleakley) or James (Parry) influence but I also think it’s part of a bigger shift in surfing; with the internet you aren’t only influenced by whoever rips at your local beach. You see what people are doing all over the world and can take what you’re into and leave what you’re not.
There is a great crew at all the national BLU contests where a healthy dose of competitiveness has really pushed everyone. Competing against countries like Australia in short-boarding is always going to be difficult due to the abundance of high quality waves they have to train in. On the longboard side, this is not so much of an issue meaning here in the UK we can practice in anything from half a foot and up!
I think we have always had a rich pedigree of international standard longboarders. When I was growing up Sennen was always full of amazing longboarders, more so than most beaches I think. The BLU did and still does play a massive part in the development of UK loggers, without the contest framework and the sense of community that it provides the scene wouldn’t be where it is today.
I think a massive thank you has to go to the WSL, for giving us a few European events in their tour. We are getting to compete against world class surfers from all continents, which can only help us learn and push us all to be better. I would encourage as many Brits who can, to be entering these events, to improve, as it’s a whole new ball game overseas. It’s also amazing to go over to these events, and have a British representation of at least half a dozen women and men as friendly faces and support for each other.
This has been going on since the ‘60s with guys like Rod Sumpter leading the way, free surfing and on the world competitive stage. We are just fortunate to be in an era where we have social media and people are taking notice.
Growing up in Sennen I was fortunate to have Sam Bleakley as a role model, from the beginning I knew that style is a huge part of longboarding thanks to him. I was also very lucky to have Lee Ryan pretty much take me under his wing when travelling, we travelled to a lot of the WSL contests when I first started he was so helpful in teaching me how to surf as a competitor. So it’s really cool seeing both my role models taking over the WSL tour. They know what they are talking about and they both really love the sport. Lee is the best thing that happened to the WSL as things are changing in a good way, it will take time but now Joel is having a little input we should be seeing longboarding go back to its beautiful elegant ways.
James Parry The worlds was really a big eye opener into the contest world and an awesome experience with Adam coming away with an amazing result. I know James Parry and Mike Lay just got back from the Mexi Log Fest and what I can see from photos that trip looked epic with some of the best loggers in the world all being apart of it, its definitely going to be a goal to get to!
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
I just love surfing because it’s great fun. Ideally, I would like to get barrelled a bit more often! Adam Griffiths
I’m really inspired by the emerging surf cultures in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean, and that’s something I explore in my Brilliant Corners films (and always have done in my writing). Making these films is a massive driving force in my work at the moment. I fractured my back in January 2016 in India, finished my PHD in the healing time, and once I was surfing again in summer 2016 I worked very hard to shoot a whole series of five new episodes, right up to the last one in Mauritania in February
I think the relationship between surfing and dance is very interesting, and something that can really be explored in the new wave of surfing lakes and wave-gardens where performance can be choreographed to music. And adaptive surfing and surfing for therapeutic benefits is something that really captivates me as a core part of Wave-gardens. I wrote a lot about this kind of stuff in my last book about surfing and mindfulness. As far as performance goes, women’s longboarding is amazing at the moment, and really touches on that relationship between surfing and dance. But women’s surfing in general is very exciting all around the globe right now.
The work that Easkey Britton is doing to empower women through surfing is gamechanging, from Iran to Papua New Guinea (PNG). The Surfing Association of Papua New Guinea have initiated a campaign to raise awareness about issues of gender equality and women’s empowerment, using surfing as the tool to get local communities active through the so-called pink nose revolution. By painting the noses of half of all surfboards donated to PNG pink, female surfers are given exclusive ownership of boards and their equal status is made visible. This
is a simple tool to promote women’s participation in surfing and to give women greater ownership and recognition in the surf. I believe that many of the models and policies developed in PNG can be to make a positive impact in many emerging surf cultures such as India.
Surfers that ride everything and flow with the wave, drawing unique lines inspire me. I have always been inspired by Joel Tudor, Donavon Frankenreiter, Tom Curren and Dave Rastavich. I also like surfers that never lose the stoke and passion for what they do. Barton Lynch and Mason Ho inspire me for their constant stoke! Lee Ryan
Right-hand point breaks for sure. Watching places like Morocco, California and Mexico firing really ignites the fire inside me to go and surf, even when Britain is producing its finest summer slop! However surfers like Ryan Burch, Tommy Witt and Augusto Olinto who are pushing the boundaries of single-fin logging really inspire me to go out and try new things on a wave. Jack Unsworth
I have two different types of inspiration really. I’m more a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde sorta guy. Dr Jekyll likes the honest passion, purity and natural stoke by yourself or with friends. The various paradise locations, a simple sunrise/ sunset, an offshore breeze, smiles from ear to ear, spontaneous adventures near and far, friendships and family connecting to one another over such passion of the sea.
Mr Hyde prefers the raw, punk rock, no rules, no responsibility side to surfing. A man truly seeking his own path, know matter what that takes with know obstacle greater than he. Sex, drugs and rock and roll. Himself versus the world, pushing the limits of creativity, chaos, absurdity, carefreeness and the truth behind many others eyes
I love being out in the sea with friends, family or on my own. I love surfing’s counter-cultural heritage. And I love surfing’s innate creativity we’re apes that have sculpted wings for ourselves to fly across waves of energy - that’s pretty special. Also, I think Thomas Campbell probably deserves a lot more recognition for his influence on modern surfing.
I love competing against and surfing with Skinner as he is continually pushing the level higher and higher and if you want to win you have to beat the best! The Delpero brothers are another force to be reckoned with. Their style, even in really challenging waves, is something that I really want to achieve. From a really young age I grew up watching south coast legends, Rob Beiling, Jim Newitt, Rick Kenyon, Steve Daniels and the like, and still really enjoy surfing with some of them today.
I get inspired by surfing great quality reef/point waves which is why I’m road tripping the length and breadth of the country at the drop of a hat to
try and catch my favourite locations when they’re at their best.
As for surfers who inspire me, I would have to say Curren, Slater and Occy are my all time faves for style, power and rail game. Joel Tudor and Rob Machado are close behind too.
Surfers who have inspired me are Ben Skinner, Mike Lay, Joel Tudor and of course the biggest inspiration was from my dad, Chris ‘Guts’ Griffiths.
Travel is a big inspiration for me, it inspires both my writing and my surfing. I love cold water destinations and places that are generally off the radar. Longboarding is an incredible tool for surf exploration as it opens up a whole other dimension of surfable waves not available to short-boarders. I get stoked if it’s one foot or if it’s six foot, just surfing in new places is a buzz. That being said, home is a huge part of my creative and surfing life, a day exploring Cornwall in the winter, looking for hidden corners, is a day well spent. Surfers like James Parry, Sam Bleakley and Matt Travis from Sennen inspire me and guys like CJ Nelson and Ryan Burch further afield. Joel is obviously a huge influence on all of us.
Ryan Burch definitely has to be up there, that man can ride anything, even a square block of foam and he still kills it. I’m super interested in his asymmetrics. I think when it comes to longboard videos you really have to think musically what works so jazz mixed in with a slight hip hop beat definitely works for me.
Just having an amazing surf, when you’re trying out new things and it all just comes together. Emile Currie
People that inspire me are people that are open to try new and different things. At the moment Ryan Burch is by far the main man for me. He’s designing and shaping all his own boards and
the lines he takes are so beautiful to watch on all crafts. He has carved his own path in the surf industry, in this day and age I feel thats a really difficult thing to achieve. Not only that but he is a super kind, humble and smart guy. We need more guys like this in the lineups.
WHERE DO YOU STAND ON THE WHOLE LOG VS PERFORMANCE MAL DEBATE. SURELY STYLE ISN’T DEPENDENT THE NUMBER OF FINS IN YOUR BOARD?
personally like riding a board the suits the conditions. If it’s tiny and peeling I love riding a log, unfortunately it’s not like that very often at home so I tend to ride a 2 + 1 board for more control and I find it fits into the pocket better and a log on choppy days or short waves!
To be honest I don’t think it should be such an issue the whole single fin vs 3 fin! Let the waves dictate the board you ride and ideally WSL should host a few events, one at a peeling point and one at a performance wave to crown the all round world champ.
I don’t mind what people ride, but stylistically I definitely favour longboarding based on footwork, noseriding and smooth lines, and I’ve seen this performed beautifully on all kinds of equipment over the decades. There has been a massive movement of single fin riding for the last five to ten years, but with the growing number of women longboarding in a variety of waves, I would not be surprised if a new generation of female longboarders who regularly ride either larger, more messy, or more unpredictable surf (ie beach breaks) on longboards might start to use side fins again for grip and control. I want to work with the WSL to unite both approaches for the wider health of longboarding. I’ve been around long enough to know that classic and progressive approaches have always caused friction within the longboard community.
Controversy can be exciting, and heated debate should drive innovation and experimentation. In a WSL contest format, what is vital is a clear vision about the criteria. For me the key thing that is being overlooked is footwork. The way the rider moves up and down the board through controlled footwork has to be central to a score i.e. using all of the board (through footwork) and all of the wave. Following a judges’ video replay, if it is clear that shuffling is used, the rider must be penalised. In the same way the shortboard judges will analyse the subtleties of airs, tube rides and turns, the longboard judges should do the same with footwork. Shufflers can then be eliminated. Footwork is currently mentioned as a key element in the criteria, but currently I believe it is being overlooked. I have witnessed excellent scores being rewarded for impressive turning, noseriding, pocket riding, speed, power and flow… whilst there was clear evidence of shuffling. In such scenarios I have considered the rides worthy of the shuffle siren. Walk don’t shuffle!
I am coming from the performance longboarding camp, so take what I say with that bias in mind. I feel that the board has to suit the wave, be it single fin, twinny, thruster, 2+1, quad or even fivefin set ups. If a surfer can perch on the nose and hang ten to the beach, does it matter how many fins are in the back? By imposing rules on the board types that can be surfed, you are essentially stifling progression in the sport, whilst also excluding a portion of competitors. If the contests were judged 50/50 then a traditional surfer could only score a ‘5’ if they do no turns and visa versa for the progressive surfer. This would mean to win you must show a mix of manoeuvres with style, speed, power and flow ... my idea of good longboarding. Don’t get me wrong, I think Joel Tudor is one of the most exciting surfers to watch at breaks like Pipe etc, but people seem to forget that he won his world title doing tail 360s and round houses!
I am waiting to hear if the ATP is going to be making everyone play with wooden rackets this year at Wimbledon.
I’m leaning towards the retro side of things these days as I think the retro movement as a whole is much more pleasing to the eye and the soul. I have an appreciation for the radical levels of the performance longboarders too but it just doesn’t engage me in the same way as watching great oldschool logging does.
There is one exception to this - and that would be Ben Skinner. This kid has the perfect blend of style and old-school flavour wrapped up in the most balls out high-performance surfing imaginable. Style has nothing to do with the number of fins on your board - it’s all down to how you choose to use them!
I’m on the log side of things as everyone has their own unique style which makes watching it way more interesting.
SURFING IS SURFING, when did it get so serious? Obviously you have to cater for each category of surfing. A traditional log inspired comp should seek to the traditional ways of longboarding and high performance longboard should seek to the ways of performance style manoeuvres. If we are going to treat this as a sport in which it’s highly represented, judges need to have a truthful insight in the history of the sport and know the rules first before we as surfers do ... otherwise it’s a waste of
top right Name: CONNOR GRIFFITHS Age: 22 HOMETOWN : SWANSEA, WALES BRITISH JUNIOR LONGBOARD CHAMPION, BRITISH SINGLE FIN CHAMPION.
bottom right NAME: SAM BLEAKLEY Age: 38 Hometown: GWENVER, CORNWALL EUROPEAN, BRITISH, ENGLISH AND CORNISH TITLES ALL IN ONE SEASON. NUMEROUS NATIONAL AND EUROPEAN TITLES. FOURTH ASP/WSL WORLD LONGBOARD TOUR SAN SEBASTIAN, SPAIN. EDITED THE LEGENDARY ANNUAL CARVE LONGBOARD SPECIAL (1998 TO 2006). WLT COMMENTATOR
time and money.
Traditional inspired logging, thrusters, single fins, bonzers, twin fins, high performance longboards, hand planes, finless boards, body boards, SUPS, guns are all individually so different when ridden on a wave. Everyone should respect and distinguish these basic facts. Joel Tudor and a few others, within the modern surfing world are great as they all respect a wide selection of various surf crafts. Having surfed within the crucial history of the sport they represent surfing in its most traditional, gentlemanlike way.
I think it’s really a deeper, fuzzier question of surfing as art versus sport. Are you expressing yourself or are you trying to beat other people? To me, performance long boarding has become a kind of one-design class sport where the guys who are into it are trying to win within a certain set of parameters. If you change those parameters to make the boards more traditional it’ll probably still be the same guys doing it, just with tweaked equipment. Style comes from mastering rather than winning. I stole that from Gerry Lopez. Matt Travis
I firmly believe we need two separate divisions in competition as they are two completely different approaches to riding a longboard, and the equipment is totally different. Most good longboarders can surf HP mals and logs equally well (Taylor Jensen, Josh Constable, Kai Sallas, etc) but some wave locations are suited better for logging (noseriding like Noosa, Malibu) and some places just suit more rail surfing (Pipeline, most punchy beach breaks) To find the best “longboarder” in the world we need a four or five stop tour in point breaks, reefs and beach breaks to determine who is the overall world champ. The funny thing is all the young kids want to be a hipster these days but the ironic thing is all the best hipster loggers like CJ Nelson, Jai Lee and Dane Peterson aren’t bothered about being WSL World Champ and don’t even compete on the WSL tour. They are anti-establishment.
The longboarding community is definitely stuck at some crossroads right now, for sure. Those that prefer to ride progressive longboards and those who stick to the traditional single fin. Personally, I prefer riding single fins purely down to the number of fun surfs I have on them, even when the waves aren’t great. Also being a competitive person I still enjoy competing so I have to go down the WSL route for now. I’m hoping the criteria will change in the future to suit single fins, however if this has to be done venues also need to be changed. The next stop of the European WLT isn’t exactly log-friendly. I’d like to see change!
I started off riding high performance boards, competing regularly, not shortboarding all that often. I loved surfing my HP, but ever since I transitioned to single fin logs I have enjoyed my surfing even more and have a far better all round appreciation for wave riding. It is totally possible to be stylish on a high performance longboard and also to be unstylish on a log, but riding a heavier single fin is far more conducive to stylish surfing than a high performance board (in my opinion, it’s all subjective after all). I’m not about to dismiss people who ride HP boards, I love watching Ben’s dropknees or Adam’s tube riding, but as far as pure longboarding goes, I get more pleasure watching Ryan Burch do a long hang heels, or Joel Tudor do a dropknee on his 9’9”. It is interesting travelling to longboarding hubs like Malibu and Noosa, or California and Australia in general, no one rides HPS anymore, it’s maybe one in 50. The UK is different in that sense, HP riders still probably outnumber single-fin loggers bucking the global trend. At the end of the day,
ride whatever you want it doesn’t matter, I just know single fins are the way for me.
Because I shortboard, performance longboarding came a lot easier to me, and I can throw a longboard around, a lot more than most girls can. But in the past year, mostly I’ve been working on is my traditional style. Traditional longboarding is an art, the way you move up and down the board so elegantly, and it’s such an awesome thing to watch when done correctly by the likes of Mike Lay and James Parry. But at the end of the day, being able to mix it up, combine the style and progressiveness, adapting to the conditions, is where longboarding is at its most impressive. That is something Skinner has absolutely nailed, and it’s paying off with his results on the world stage!
To be honest I don’t really care for performance longboarding, I have been there and done that. I started on a big single fin. I respect the guys that do it, they are very talented surfers. If the waves are longboardable, I get a log and if it’s a little bigger I love to experiment on mid-lengths, fish and anything else in-between. I can turn and change direction way quicker on something smaller, for me I don’t see the point struggling when I can ride something a little smaller with more flow. I always follow the Longboard Tour and at the moment in the performance scene I really enjoy watching the ladies. They surf them so elegantly, there’s a lot of guys out there who thrash around, pumping and hopping when there’s no need when you have nine foot of foam under your feet.
For me I just enjoy traditional logging because that’s what inspires me most and why I ride a longboard. When I want to try turns or airs I’ll go on my shortboard I’d rather just ride whatever board suits the conditions best so I’m not struggling and I’m still having fun. I think performance is cool because it’s hard going out in eight foot waves trying to get tubed but it’s just not for me.
Joe Hornbuckle Surely style isn’t dependant the number of fins in your board?:
No I don’t think it matters, my favourite board is a retro shape with a 2+1 set up. It was actually a trial, Nigel Semmens and I tried, to see how I would get on with it, and I love it! I also don’t think that being a more progressive surfer means you have to lose the element of style. Emily Currie
No, definitely not. However the weight and outline of your traditional single fin allows much more glide than your longboard with its 2+1 setup. Riding a single fin really makes you acknowledge the little things about riding a wave, so the whole idea of trim and flow are more refined and focussed on, and therefore looks a lot more aesthetically appreciating to the viewer. Jack Unsworth
No not at all. A lot of the time people just think that from an outside view. If you look at some of Tommy Witt’s latest footage he’s riding a 2+1 and he’s got one of the smoothest styles going. So I think the whole fin aspect is down to personal preference rather than style in itself.
Not at all, style comes from the surfer and the way they surf the board not the number of fins the board has. And in my eyes, the best surfers are the ones who can surf all sizes of boards and still look stylish.
Style, personality, and individuality are key factors within surfing. Each to their own. Do/ride/ shape/say whatever makes you captivated. Never lose sight of what makes you feel the uttermost. Sam Crookshank
Name: BEN HOWEY Age: 28 Hometown: BANTHAM, DEVON CURRENTLY FOURTH ON THE EUROPEAN LQS.
Name: LEE RYAN Age: 43 Hometown: PAPAMOA BEACH, NORTH ISLAND, NZ (FORMERLY NEWQUAY) EUROPEAN PRO CHAMP BIARRITZ 2004, NINTH OXBOW WORLD CHAMPS RAGLAN, 2003.
left Name: JACK UNSWORTH Age: 18
Hometown: WESTWARD HO!, NORTH DEVON EUROPEAN LONGBOARD JUNIOR CHAMPION 2016, CURRENTLY RANKED FOURTH IN EUROPE ON THE EUROPEAN MEN'S WLT AND LEADING THE MENS AND SINGLE FIN DIVISIONS OF THE BLU.
above Name: CHRIS GRIFFITHS AKA ‘GUTS’ Age: 51
TWO TIMES EUROPEAN LONGBOARD PRO TOUR CHAMP AND FIFTH PLACE AT THE ASP WORLD CHAMPS IN MACKING GUTHERAY.
left Name: MATT TRAVIS Age: 26
I TOPPED OUT AT A 5TH PLACE EUROPEAN RANKING FOR A WHILE. ONLY BECAUSE NO ONE SHOWED UP TO THE FIRST EVENT OF THE YEAR.