Tracks - - Wave Weapons For The 21st Cen Tury -

"My fore­head is sun­burnt, my eyes have ptery­giums, my neck has a rash, I've got staph and one of my shoul­ders just went again. Sound shit­house? Surf­ing is shit­house. Here I am sit­ting in the mid­dle of nowhere wait­ing for a Val­ium to kick in, so I can re­lax be­fore pop­ping my shoul­der back where it usu­ally sits, chas­ing a dream, won­der­ing why I do it. Just kid­ding, the thought has never crossed my mind, my shoul­der sits in place and I haven't just eaten a Val­ium. That was a few years ago, and though I was rat­tled, I wasn't ques­tion­ing what I do or why I do it. So I've been asked why do I surf? It's the one ques­tion I can't an­swer. The one ques­tion I have never asked my­self. Surf­ing to me is like arms and legs and shoul­ders and knees. I can't live without them. Af­ter only a week of not surf­ing I'm at a loss for what to do. That time I dis­lo­cated my shoul­der I was surf­ing a wave in South Su­ma­tra, the same wave I'm go­ing to surf at dawn to­mor­row. Af­ter that in­ci­dent I spent three months out of the wa­ter. I was at a loss. Af­ter a while I even went to the gym...if I didn't surf would I be a gym junkie? It's un­likely but so is the next op­tion. I surf be­cause head dips, west­erly wind, finners, Phil Ed­wards, Mon­taj, nip­pers, Biddo, Elanda St, Sun­shine Beach... I surf be­cause at some point in my child­hood I saw a big boy

do­ing it and thought he was cool. Be­cause ev­ery time I'm stand­ing in the pocket drag­ging my hand along a wave's lip I smile. Be­cause ....

. ... the feel­ing of weight­less­ness when I'm hang­ing ten is like stand­ing on the end of a div­ing board that's full of flex and ten­sion and lift..... Be­cause the air in a tube some­times sucks me back be­fore it spits me out. Be­cause ev­ery now and then the wind, weather and ocean all come to­gether to cre­ate to­tally unique forms of wa­ter that I can stand up on and ride along. I surf be­cause at dawn to­mor­row Jimmy's could be pump­ing and if it is, I want to be there. I surf be­cause I am a surfer and un­less some de­bil­i­tat­ing event oc­curs, I al­ways will be. Surf­ing is not shit­house, it's a life­style. My life­style. And fuck knows what else I would be do­ing."


who thought deeply about surf­ing and surf­boards.” Al­though nei­ther of his par­ents surfed, they were beach peo­ple – solid Noosa cit­i­zens who worked hard all week (mum in real es­tate, dad driv­ing a bus) – and the fam­ily spent ev­ery sum­mer week­end on Sun­shine Beach, where Harry would be­come a star Nip­per, and later wash glasses in the surf club bar for travel money. Ev­ery east swell and south wind, Biddo would be rap­ping on his win­dow at dawn for a run to the points over the hill. While it was an idyl­lic surf­ing child­hood in many ways, there were in­her­ent pres­sures on any­one who dis­played pre­co­cious tal­ent, which Harry did in spades. No one re­ally ‘did it all’, not yet. Rasta ripped on ret­ros and looked cool on a mal, and from the older gen­er­a­tion Wayne Deane could look good on any­thing. But the thing was, ev­ery kid on the block wanted to be Parko, Mick or Taj. Harry was on the Taj team, but his ‘dark side’ was also tak­ing him some­where else. He joined the Noosa Board­rid­ers and won ju­nior short­board ti­tles, but he pre­ferred the com­pany of the old salts at the fam­ily-friendly Noosa Mal­ibu Club, where his dad could sit on the sand with a beer and watch him cruise through heats on one of Homey’s old mals. This was the fer­tile sand in which Josh Con­sta­ble and then Ju­lian Wilson were nur­tured. Harry was next in line, but like Josh and Jules be­fore him, he was con­flicted. He says: “I wanted to fuckin’ win con­tests and get spon­sored! No mis­take about that, but be­cause of what Noosa is, it was all about long­board­ing, so as well as rid­ing body­boards and short­boards, our gang started rid­ing long­boards. For me that’s where the re­al­i­sa­tion of di­ver­sity kicked in. It might not have been bon­zas or twin­keeled fish yet, but it was the spark that led me to rid­ing how­ever many dif­fer­ent boards and de­signs I could get my hands on.” But, in­spired (and of­ten driven by) lo­cal men­tor Josh Con­sta­ble, who was hav­ing a crack at the QS, Harrison kept his Taj dream alive. Harrison: “By the time Josh was driv­ing me around way too fast in his

Com­modore (laughs) he was just fin­ish­ing his stint on the QS and was re­fo­cus­ing on long­board­ing. He was this cool dude with spiky hair and a cou­ple of ear­rings - clas­sic ‘90s pop punk. I looked up to him a lot. He was a great short­boarder – still is – and a great long­boarder. But I think his short­board­ing tal­ents were sim­i­lar to mine in that he was be­ing com­pared to Parko and Mick, and I was be­ing com­pared to Ju­lian Wilson, who had this freak­ish tal­ent I could never beat. The only year I won the Queens­land (short­board) ju­nior ti­tle was the year that Ju­lian had moved up to the mens!” Up against it, but still de­ter­mined, Harrison took the ad­vice of more se­nior surfers and got some coach­ing: “I was 14 or so and pretty se­ri­ous about it, and ev­ery­one had a coach telling them how to surf. I had Eg­gie, a good bloke who taught us more than tech­nique. I thought some of the stuff was quite good, like the the­ory of how to turn the board in dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions, but then I went down to Ma­roochy­dore to train with this se­ri­ous guy, and he’s telling me to do airs in one-foot slop. In knee-high shit, do airs! I said I couldn’t, and he got quite pissed off and said, ‘Well, the good guys can!’ My at­ti­tude was, let them do it. “At this time a friend’s dad told my dad that I was go­ing to have to choose be­tween rid­ing a short­board or a long­board or I’d never be any good at ei­ther. Dad was like, worry about your own kid, mine is just here to have fun! I mean I was more se­ri­ous about it than Dad was, which was re­fresh­ing, but it’s prob­a­bly true that I could have been a lot bet­ter at one or the other if I’d fo­cused just on that. But it wouldn’t have been as much fun.” Around the turn of the cen­tury there was a nano-sec­ond when it ap­peared that an al­ter­na­tive long­board uni­verse might de­velop in which the best dozen or two long­board­ers – like the best fifty or so short­board­ers – might be able to make a de­cent liv­ing out of com­pet­ing and en­dors­ing prod­ucts. It had al­ready hap­pened to some de­gree for world cham­pi­ons Rusty Keaulana and Bonga Perkins in Hawaii and Joel Tu­dor in Cal­i­for­nia. This was the dream that Josh

Con­sta­ble had put away his short­boards and his hair dye for, and it had come true with the 2006 ASP world ti­tle, so Harrison Roach fol­lowed suit. Hav­ing won the Aus­tralian ju­nior long­board ti­tle in 2005 (around the same time he also won the Queens­land ju­nior short­board ti­tle) and hav­ing picked up sev­eral event ti­tles in Noosa and up and down the coast in the year or so since, Harrison grad­u­ated from school and de­cided to make 2007 his gap year and go chase long­board fame and for­tune. Sun­shine Beach Surf Club, where he worked as a ‘glassie’, put on a fundraiser for Harry and Jesse Jer­rems, an­other lo­cal long­boarder. Harry’s surf­board spon­sor La­guna Bay Long­boards, raf­fled a cou­ple of boards on their be­half, and the boys were off to France. The French com­pany Oxbow had a multi-year con­tract to spon­sor the world long­board ti­tles (nor­mally a one-event cham­pi­onship) at venues around the world, and this year they were at home in An­glet. Harrison’s grow­ing rep­u­ta­tion se­cured him a spot in the tri­als, where there was just one main event slot on of­fer. Harry breezed in, then took out his men­tor and reign­ing world champ Josh Con­sta­ble in the fourth round. He didn’t go much fur­ther, but win­ning or los­ing at the Oxbow barely even mat­tered com­pared with the re­al­i­sa­tion of what was go­ing on around him. “I re­alised that these were all older guys and it seemed to me like most of them had been on the tour for 15 years al­ready, that they were just there be­cause it was what they had al­ways done. They just didn’t seem like pro­fes­sional surfers to me. Ev­ery­one was ei­ther a chip­pie or had a surf school, be­cause there was no money in pro long­board­ing. Look, I was 17 and hav­ing a great time hang­ing out with these guys, par­tic­u­larly the Hawai­ians. Had my first beer in a pub, smoked my first joint…it was great. But one of the things that struck me at those world ti­tles was that there wasn’t much of a fu­ture in it. In my mind, long­board­ing was go­ing to be my ex­cuse to travel the world, and at that stage I thought com­pet­ing was the way to do it, but when I was com­pet­ing in France all I could think was that I would be hav­ing a much bet­ter time if I’d just come to surf. “And the long­board­ing I saw in the con­test wasn’t where I wanted to go with my surf­ing. This was soon af­ter Thomas Campbell’s Sprout had been re­leased and had had such a big in­flu­ence, par­tic­u­larly in Noosa where I’d been ex­posed to Tom We­gener and Dane Peter­son. Nose-rid­ing had be­come a big deal, so I was mov­ing away from high per­for­mance shred­ding to a more sub­tle and clas­sic style, while at the world ti­tles in France the Brazil­ians were

lead­ing the way with a kind of long­board­ing that re­minded me of our grom comps. To be hon­est, I was ap­palled by a lot of the surf­ing I saw. Guys seemed to be surf­ing with a kind of des­per­a­tion.” The road for­ward was be­com­ing clear, but it was not paved with gold. Says Harrison: “I’d just been picked up by (cloth­ing brand) Rhythm and they’d give me like $1500 to go do a surf trip, and I re­alised that do­ing that was way bet­ter than spend­ing my money to be at Jan Juc when it was on­shore and hor­ri­ble and I was in need of a four-point ride in the last minute to get through to the next round. So I’d turned my back on per­for­mance long­board­ing, and now I turned my back on per­for­mance short­board­ing. When I got home it was pretty ob­vi­ous. (Amer­i­can surfer/ pho­tog­ra­pher) Dane Peter­son was lend­ing me his boards, beau­ti­ful Scott An­der­son logs – sin­gle fins, heavy, 50/50 rails, like the old mals that Homey and Biddo would lend me. I’d al­ways loved ‘60s surf­ing, the ac­cent on trim, and the thing I saw least of in France was trim. So I had my new di­rec­tion and I was just lucky that Dane would lend me boards and that Tully St John at La­guna Bay Long­boards would shape me boards that were just like them.” The gap year was widen­ing. Harrison be­came a couch-surf­ing no­mad, split­ting his time be­tween Noosa and Cal­i­for­nia, where a “tribe of cool kids” was re­dis­cov­er­ing old school Cal­i­for­nia long­board cul­ture. Says Harrison: “I hung a lot with Rob­bie Keigel and Alex Knost, but there were a lot of oth­ers pick­ing up on the same in­flu­ences. It was great for me to see what was go­ing on be­cause that style of surf­ing was per­fect for the waves at home, and all the peo­ple I stayed with over there would come to Noosa and stay with me. That was im­por­tant be­cause, to be hon­est, there aren’t that many places where you can do that kind of surf­ing.” “That kind of surf­ing” means log­ging, a term that Roach avoids like the plague. He prefers to call it long­board­ing be­cause, in his view, there is only one way to ride a long­board, and that is in the style of the great trim artists who in­vented it. It was this con­vic­tion that led him in­evitably to clas­sic stylist Joel Tu­dor, who was putting to­gether a nose-rid­ing in­vi­ta­tional in con­junc­tion with the US Open at Hunt­ing­ton Beach. The Paci­fico In­vi­ta­tional, the fore-run­ner of the glo­be­trot­ting Vans Duct Tape In­vi­ta­tional se­ries, was held in crunch­ing six foot close­outs, and the no-leash rule meant that in­vi­tees were con­stantly swimming for their boards in dan­ger­ous swirling wa­ter be­fore they were smashed into the pier. As an ex­po­si­tion of tra­di­tional long­board­ing, it left some­thing to be de­sired, but Harry didn’t care. He was off up the 405 Free­way in the front of Joel’s van, bound for pump­ing Mal­ibu. He re­calls: “Surf­ing Mal­ibu with Joel was the high­light, and rid­ing on the free­way with him telling me about Cal­i­for­nia surf his­tory while rolling a joint on his knees and dip­ping it in hash oil as he drove. By the time we got to Mal­ibu I was out of my mind and it was dou­ble over­head and pump­ing. I just went out and surfed all day. That was the start of a re­la­tion­ship with Joel, and I fin­ished up rid­ing for him for a few years, spend­ing more time in Hawaii. An in­cred­i­ble time in my life. Be­ing a real child of the 21st cen­tury and still liv­ing at home, I could get by on the small amount of money I got from my spon­sors, and Joel would let me stay in his granny flat for months at a time. We went to New York and surfed Mon­tauk, Long Is­land, surfed Mex­ico and Cen­tral Amer­ica. Then the Duct Tape se­ries started and I would be

Photo: Damea Dorsey

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