Words: Steve Halpin
Pics: Steve Halpin, various
Steve Halpin is owner/founder/editor of Real Surfing Magazine. RSM aims to represents what’s really going down on UK beaches and among surfers in this neck of the wood with a slight leaning towards the nostalgia end of the spectrum. There’s also quite a bit of banter aimed at stand-up paddlers who frequent wavey venues. As such, and with a tongue in cheek approach, Steve’s usually good for a chat about SUPing in waves and why it’s still a struggle for acceptance.
Tell us about the ethos of Real Surfing Magazine and who you aim to represent.
Real Surfing Magazine is aimed at the everyday surfer and focuses on surfers and stories you can relate to as well as famous surfers of surfing past and present. We do not allow the big corporate labels to advertise in there and advertising on the whole is kept down to a minimum. We prefer the mag to be full of content and have more of a surfing community vibe and old school beliefs with inspirational stories mostly U.K based and lots of interviews with surfers that would not normally make it in the surfing magazines but have an interesting story to tell.
What’s your surfing background?
I started surfing back in 1985 in Southwick, West Sussex, near Brighton then moved to Newquay in the late eighties. Saved hard and travelled all over the world surfing for many years and have been fortunate to surf many of the best waves our planet has to offer. I first shortboarded for many years and over the last 15 have focused my surfing on retro twin fins, single fins and longer boards.
Your local stomping ground is Surf City UK – Newquay. How’s it living down there these days?
Newquay has changed a lot over the years but then so has the world around it. I love it here and I loathe it at the same time but I would struggle to live anywhere else. So much happens here but yet so little. The lineups are definitely more crowded today, but you can still get plenty of waves. I love the fact there are so many beaches in a short distance and varying facing beaches to find shelter when needed in Newquay. There are also lots of posers, fake middle-class surfers and grumpy shortboarders that falsely have a sense of entitlement but I suppose it keeps the scene `interesting` and alive.
How often are you out surfing?
I surf at least every other day on average. My mission is to surf at least 15 days a month minimum, in the worst, and the best of conditions. There are too many spoiled locals that only go in when it`s cooking and then moan that they are out of shape or are not in tune with the banks on a certain beach. I sometimes enjoy the onshores even more than the clean days as you get to surf when it`s really quiet and have such low expectations. I often chuckle to myself that if this `rubbish day` was back in Brighton, it would be epic. It is all about appreciating what you have and it keeps you fit and able to enjoy the waves when it’s good because you are on your game.
See many stand up paddlers in the waves around your ‘hood?
Yes, too many hahaha! I do not have a problem with SUPers on rivers, puddles, lakes or any flat water but not a fan of it in the waves.
What’s the general vibe in the water like if a ‘sea sweeper’ rocks up for a slice of the action?
I think most people mutter under their breath oh f.f.s. I think if a SUPer is at a good standard it`s not so bad as at least (you hope) they may be able to control their board, which is a small percentage, but I suppose it is the same with surfers too. The thing is that SUP is seen as a threat just like longboarders that can surf or actually even body boarders. If there is someone that is able to hustle in the line-up and have good wave catching ability, then they are a pain in the arse of course and it equals less waves. Someone that can catch more waves is frowned upon, much the same as how shortboarders view longboarders when they turn up and can surf.
Are there any venues you see with more paddlers? If so, why do you think these places attract them?
The bay is the SUP capital here I guess as it is generally full of newbies and intermediates looking for an easy time and I see quite few at Watergate. I think the bay is a bit dangerous though due to the straight handers and closeout waves often there, especially at low tide. I don`t know of any SUP`nests` though or maybe I’m blocking it out through trauma.
Anyone particularly stand out in terms of SUP surfing skill who you’d happily give a pass to?
Pete Edkins has got balls. I saw him once at Cribbar charging 20ft waves. Adam Zervas used to be out on a SUP for ages, but I think he gave it up in waves and went back to longboarding, otherwise I couldn`t tell you anyone’s names on SUP.
Why is SUP still a hard nut to crack in terms of acceptance within surfing line ups?
Everyone that can’t surf thinks it’s a shortcut to surfing waves, many don’t have the fitness levels or can’t pop up and that is scary, by default they have no idea of surfing etiquette and that is a major factor and part of surfing culture. When a SUPer turns up and gets greedy, they are going to really stand out. Longboarders and SUPers have a very long reach to hit you when they fall off with a 10 foot board and ten foot of leash that`s 20ft of danger coming at you. It is also relatively new and looks rubbish.
Would you say surfers think SUPers are on the lowest rung of the pecking order ladder or are there more loathed waterborne craft about?
Kayakers are equal, bodyboarders are above.
Do you think opinion is likely to change?
What about SUP foils or foils in general – seeing much of that in waves?
Don`t get me started, there is something about turning up at the beach with all that gear that never sat right with me. I love it that surfing is just you and the board, easy. None of this loading up your van or roof rack with boards, sails and booms. That’s what used to get me about windsurfing. By the time you have set your gear up and ponced about I`ve been in the water for half hour. To be honest though, even down here, I have only seen a couple of foils and they were done with a kite at Watergate and in control. It looked boring though.
Have you ever tried stand up paddle surfing?
Don’t be so ridiculous.
What about witnessing anybody previously dissing SUP and then next thing they’re involved as well – observed any of that?
My mate I found out recently that is a hater, confessed to his watery crime, we are not on speaking terms at the moment, I just can’t look him in the face.
Any advice for visiting stand up paddlers who may be planning a trip SW?
Yeah got to Croyde, they love you up there.
I can`t quite understand why I have been targeted as some spokesman against SUP in the waves. I still see surfing as a subculture as much as I know it is not and I am stuck in the past. I think it was a better place except for the windsurfers. But then windsurfing wasn’t such a problem because we we’re not in the same area as such. SUPing is its own thing and I get that and ultimately it is all tongue in cheek really and as much as many surfers think SUPing is crap, as humans we have to have something to laugh at. In the old days we were having a go at the bodyboarders. Kayaking is probably the only other `craft` that is as rubbish but I always make a point of saying hi to them in the surf if they are boating by, and the same with SUPers. They are still people and are just lost or confused. Surfing is rad, skateboarding is rad. Segway’s, SUP, scooters and anything with a foil on it (except baked potatoes and KitKats) are not.
Thanks and praise?
Thanks to the guy that ran me down at Watergate and left a huge lump on my head when he had the whole beach empty but came over to the peak I was surfing alone and ran me down. I would like to praise anyone with a sense of humour in this day and age and old school sensibilities. Ultimately I am only having a laugh and who cares what I think anyway…see you out there! Cheers, Stevo.
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