Surfing isn’t about just riding one type of board. It’s about riding everything and picking the right board for the right wave conditions. Harrison Roach is the perfect example of an all around surfer. When the waves are suitable for a shortboard, he will ride a shortboard, when the waves are small, he’ll ride a longboard. He’s seen the scene in his hometown of Noosa change from hi-performance longboarding to now a more traditional single-fin longboarding style. He’s attended all sorts of events like the Joel Tudor Duct Tape Invitational and the Deus 9ft & Single event, and has even won some of them. Now he spends his days traveling around Indonesia getting footage for his newest film with Deus Ex Machina “South to Sian”. A great writer, a great surfer and a world traveler, thank you Harrison for finding time in your busy schedule with an interview and cannot wait until the film comes out.
Who are you and where are you currently right now?
I’m Harrison Roach and I’m currently in Noosa Heads, Queensland.
When did you start surfing and what was your first surfboard?
I started surfing when I was 5 years old and my first board was a pink soft-board, probably about 6 feet long and had three rubber fins.
You grew up at Noosa Heads. Can you tell us more about the surf community there and the history it has for the Taiwanese to understand more about it.
Noosa Heads now has a very open-minded surf community but when I was growing up people weren’t really that way. You were either a longboarder or a shortboarder. Things have changed a lot over the past eight or so years thanks to guys like Jacob Stuth, Tom Wegener and large group young guys who ride different crafts. I was often criticized for riding weird boards as I was growing up, but these days everyone is a lot more accepting. The surf scene in Noosa is really rad, I surf with old guys who have been riding waves here for the past forty or fifty years, and I surf with kids who have only just started. The water can be a little crowded at times, but the locals all know and respect each other.
Your most known for longboarding (single-fin), but you grew up riding a shortboard (thruster). I’ve read you came second to Jordy Smith on a couple of junior contests. Can you tell me about your transition from riding shortboards to riding logs and all sorts of boards?
I never had a transition; I have always done the same thing. Even from a really young age I would ride a longboard, shortboard and boogie board. My friend’s Dad would take a group of us kids surfing and we’d bring every board we owned and ride them all on the same day. It’s one of the great things about growing up surfing a point break… you get the opportunity to ride everything. And now I’m still the same, I still ride thrusters just as much as any other board, but I’m lucky enough to have access to a wide range of craft so I get to ride everything else too. Now instead of borrowing one of the old guy’s single fin shortboards I get them custom made from legendary shapers like Bob Mctavish and Rich Pavel. When I was 12 I would ride one of Bob’s Bluebird single fins that was made in the 70’s, now I have a custom made Bluebird that I watched him shape. I’m incredibly lucky.
What is it about riding a longboard (single-fin) that attracts you?
I love riding longboards because it means I can ride perfect small waves! Sometimes the waves are only waist high and you can’t ride a shortboard, but it is super fun for a longboard. I love to noseride too, the feeling of hanging ten toes off the end of a ten foot board is awesome. The other thing that I really appreciate about longboards is that they can carry momentum… they carry speed through small or slow waves and I go with the board, on a shortboard the board goes with me, I’m not sure if you’ll understand what I mean but riding a heavy longboard down the line on a fast wave feels really good.
Since Taiwan surfing has recently grew in only the past ten years. The knowledge of surf etiquette is still very unknown here. For example, the other day I was surfing and there was a longboarder getting every wave, even calling my friend off of when he was clearly in position for the wave. Could you help explain some basic surf etiquette that the Taiwanese can understand?
Hah! This is an interesting topic. It’s easy for me to know surf etiquette because I grew up surfing in a small community with elders who taught me to respect to other surfers. But in saying that, I come from a very crowded line-up with a lot of beginners that don’t know anything, and we’re constantly having issues with other people who “don’t give a fuck.” I’m not sure what the circumstance was with the longboarder, but obviously if he’s getting every wave then he is not sharing, and the best way to show surf etiquette is to share, to wait your turn and show smiles to the other surfers. That is the basic thing, wait your turn and be friendly.
Can you describe the changes that have happened in the longboard culture? (From Hi-Performance Longboarding in the early nineties to it’s current state)
Longboarding has two different styles, one replicates shortboarding maneuvers and the other is based on style and finesse, in my eyes, both are high-performance. I personally am interested in the classic style of longboarding. I don’t want to see a longboarder try to do an air because it will never be as good as how a shortboarder does an air… just like I don’t want to see a shortboarder noseride because it will never be as good as a longboarder. Back in the 90’s Longboarding was almost strictly like the shortboarders, but these days it has reverted to the classic style, with heavy single fins being the most popular. Before no kids rode longboards, it was super un-cool when I was young. Now there are a lot of young people who are interested in longboarding and it’s great to see the kids who are ripping. Longboarding doesn’t always look like B-grade shortboarding now, it looks like longboarding, and that’s cool.
Can you explain the differences in surfing between the Joel Tudor Duct Tape Invitational events and the World Longboard Tour events?
In the Joel Tudor Duct Tape events all of the longboarders are under 28 years old. In the World Longboard Tour events everyone is older than 28.
You not only are a professional surfer but also an avid writer. Can you tell me more about your background in writing and how you got started?
I didn’t go to university because I wanted to be a professional surfer. My biggest fear was that I’d become a dumb-surfer because I wasn’t using my brain. I figured that writing was a good brain exercise, so I started jotting down stories about my experiences while I was travelling. I’ve got a bunch of journals and notepads that are full of the funny and silly things that I was up to. That started it all.
You currently work with Deus Ex-Machina. Could you tell us more about the company and their values?
Deus Ex Machina is a great company, I first experienced it when I went to Bali in 2012 and straight away I wanted to be involved. It represents everything that I’m into… creativity, ingenuity, class, style, and adventure… The best way to experience the brand is to visit The Temple Of Enthusiasm in Canggu during the 9 Foot & Single. That’s when you understand how much fun we have being involved in the brand.
Can you tell us what’s your typical day like?
It’s always different. Usually I always surf, but what happens otherwise is always changing. I write a lot. I send emails to all kinds of people. Most days I talk to Dustin Humphrey, the owner of Deus Indonesia, about boards that are being made, clothes that are being designed, events that are being run. I’ve never wanted to be just a surfer; I try to do as many things as possible. Right now I’m editing a short surf film.
What meaning does surfing hold for you and how has it changed your life?
I just love it.
Can you tell us your current surfboard quiver and which board you have been riding the most recently.
Ahhh. I have a lot of boards. I’m not sure how many off the top of my head. Some of them are stashed away in a bat-cave, waiting to be loved. I try not to sell the boards that I really like. The one I’m most excited about at the moment is a 5’6 Deus X Neal Purchase Jnr “Twin Single”. It has two single fins that sit really close together at the tail, super interesting and super fun to ride.
What can we expect to see from you in the future?
A new surf film called SOUTH TO SIAN.
Have you heard anything about the surf here in Taiwan and would you be interested in coming out?
For sure I have and it’s all been good. I would love to come out. Right now I’m pretty busy travelling through Indonesia, but what are the seasons? Maybe I can work it out this year.
Any last words of advice or wisdom for the Taiwanese people?
Start shaping more surfboards, especially the young guys.