While we are great fans of surfing and admit it’s probably one of the coolest looking things to be good at, we realize that for something to look so piece-of-cake when it’s done well, there’s inevitably a lot more to it that we don’t understand. Stuff like vernacular, specifics and details are lost on most of us, and exactly the reason why most sports interviews are so boring.
So we decided to devise a questionnaire that seamlessly balanced surf stuff most everyone could understand, surf stuff dumb people like us would ask, and random bit of Canadiana, all resulting in a final interview to delight you and aggravate (a little) the very patient and cool guys we asked.
Do you think Canadian surfers have an advantage because the cold water provides an extra incentive for not falling off the board?
Nico Manos: [Laughs]. That’s a pretty funny thought. But no I don’t think so. I think for your everyday surfer, it has a little bit of an advantage because it’s not as crowded as some of the other beaches. When you do go out, you get a lot more waves because there are fewer people in the water, which is great. But winter surf is like skateboarding in a snowsuit. You know how your mom used to send you to school in a one-piece and you’re trying to learn how to Ollie like a ten set and can’t even see your board because you have so much gear on.
Do people ever surf at night or is that way too dangerous?
No. That’s actually one really cool thing about places that have snow because the it provides a lot of light. After you get a fresh snow fall, you can totally surf at night. But it’s not the kind of thing that people regularly do. It’s kind of a novelty thing when you haven’t surfed in a while or if you have a day job, It’s like, “There’s snow on the ground and it’s a full moon. Let’s go out for an evening session.” You can’t really perform out there though, you’re just kind of cruising.
Do you ever pee in your wetsuit to keep warm?
Yep, totally. I drink massive amounts of water just so I can pee in my wetsuit. Everybody pees in their wetsuit and if they say don’t, then they’re lying. In the winter, it’s pretty cold and that’s warm water up against your kidneys. The gross thing is that in the winter you wear boots, obviously, and the pee trickles down into your boots and never really gets flushed out.
What does the typical Canadian surfer look like?
That’s what’s kind of cool because our surf community is much smaller. We don’t have that stereotypical image. You can out on a Monday morning with a bunch of guys and there’ll be like a doctor whose taken a day off work, one’s a teacher who’s called in sick, and one might be kid who’s not going to class. There’s people from all walks of life.
What the the typical regions to surf in Canada? Has anyone ever gone up to Nunavut and surfed the Arctic coastline?
Yes. As far as I know. Your surf city in Canada, is Tofino. Your east coast epicentre is Halifax. But it spreads up the coast into Newfoundland and Labrador. There’s people all over Vancouver Island. They’re in the Great Lakes. They are river surfers in Montreal and I believe river surfing in Calgary. It’s pretty incredible, Canada has the longest coastline in the world and that’s one thing that makes Canadian surfing really exciting.
Considering how cold it is, who’s generally tougher, a tough hockey player or a Canadian surfer?
My answer to that is, do you think hockey players in Canada would get up at five thirty in the morning and put on a frozen wetsuit in 30 degree weather? To pick it up before school or work and drive out in the dark and put on a wetsuit that’s wet and frozen and jump in 0 degree water with minus 25 degree air to catch waves and then drive straight into town and go to work. Like, that’s pretty nuts.
In the movie Point Break, Keanu Reeves picks up a surfboard for the first time at the age of 25. What’s the oldest you’ve seen someone pick up surfing and still get the hang of it?
My mom didn’t touch a surfboard until the age of 65 and she successfully paddled into a wave and stood up several times. That’s the oldest that I’ve seen in terms of being able to stand up.
And do surfer gangs like the one in Point Break even exist, even in Canada?
Yea, that’s the other thing I was going to mention. There are particular spots with quite a bit of violence. It’s not like Point Break though. It’s maybe Point Break in the attitude. But I’ve witnessed it before and it can also be quite a bit scary. It’s grown men, usually large grown men on one of the sides fighting until someone, you know, is on the ground.
Non-surfers often cite shark attacks as a major concern. Do you ever worry about that?
No. You can take a look at the numbers. It’s like, people are afraid of flying and not afraid of driving. Something cool I heard, or maybe I read it the other week, was that you’re more likely to die driving to the beach than you are to get attacked by a shark in the water.
Have you ever told a lie about Canada?
No. I’m not that funny. A lot of people say, like, “Are you from Canadia?” That happens all the time. Canadia. And people from Maine not knowing where Nova Scotia is?
Do you ever get shit from water sports athletes? Like water-skiers?
No. Generally, it’s surfing that seems to be dishing all of it out. And we never take any. It’s basically surfers against every other water sport.
How did you get into surfing initially?
The first experience I had in waves in Canada was when my swim coach took me out to Lawrencetown Beach, Nova Scotia after one of the big hurricanes that came through. But I didn’t start surfing until I was 16. That’s one thing that is kind of a bummer about Canada is that I would’ve loved to have gotten into it way earlier. It would’ve helped my career a whole lot. But your parents just don’t think about getting a kid in Canada involved in surfing. People think about getting their kids into surfing in Claifornia and Hawaii, but not in Canada.
What are the wildest conditions you’ve had to take you board out into?
I’d have to say the cold conditions that we come across are the gnarliest, like minus thirty air and minus two degree water. And then, of course, we’re always kind of battling wind and things like that.
What kind of music do you listen to get amped up?
I’m big into finding new spots and photographing them and oftentimes we’ll have really long drives to check out a different part of the coast. So we’ve got everything from Kid Cudi to Deertick to all sorts of other terrible bands.
More importantly, what is your favourite Tim Horton’s donut?
Ah, shit. I don’t really eat the donuts. If I had to pick one, it’d be honey glaze. I’m more of a French vanilla man. I get the French vanilla because I want something really hot and warm.
Is there any difference between the East coast and West coast surfing scenes in Canada?
I would say so for sure. The west coast is a lot more of a scene and every other person surfs. On the east coast there’s a lot less people that are into it. There’s a distinction in terms of the types of waves we have. In Tofino, it’s generally poor quality but very consistent, whereas here we have very inconsistent swells, but they’re all very high quality when they happen.
How do you get rid or prevent what Canadian surfers call an “ice cream headache”?
You can scream really loud because that will bring the blood flow back to your head. But there’re lots of tricks you learn over the years to keep yourself in the water for longer than your body really wants to be.
What surfer stereotype do you hate the most?
I guess the language, how everybody’s like, “Dude. Bro. Gnarly.” You know what I hate is when people call a guy a “big surfer.” Like, “You know my friend is a big surfer.” And you’re like, “How big is he?” They always call him a big surfer. Big surfer!
What’s the most terrible surf-related injury you’ve gotten?
I had 13 stitches in my shin last fall and just a month ago I landed on a piece of rock on the shore. I fell straight onto rock and chipped a bone in my shoulder and I thought I had internal bleeding. I didn’t. I fell on my hip too. That was more of a disgusting photo than an actual injury. I landed on a corral reef in Indonesia and completely cut open my back and didn’t have access to a hospital. So I had to get duct taped back together.
Have you ever taken a first date surfing?
I’ve definitely taken my wife surfing and now she surfs all the time. I think it’s a rad idea, actually. It’s kind of cool because both of you are going to be really bad and you can laugh at each other and let your guard down.
As I’m sure you travel quite a bit visiting different spots, what do you end up missing the most about Canada when you’re abroad?
Well, our waves are incredible here. But I usually go away to get away from the temperature. But when I’m away from home, I definitely end up missing family.
What would you say is the best and worst thing about being a surfer?
I guess the best things are being outside and being in touch with the elements. A lot of surfers are basically meteorologists. We track wind patterns and weather systems and storms. Or just monitoring which days you need to take off work. It can be as simple as that. But we also see things like coastal erosion and sand shifts on the beach.
And the worst thing about being a surfer?
The worst thing would be the temperature, which is pretty brutal. And then, for most people, it’s knowing that the surf’s really good and that you won’t be able to get out there. Like, if you have a day job or family commitments, that’s just an absolute nightmare. I remember having bad dreams when I was younger about having to be in class to write an exam and the waves we’re 15 feet high and I was freaking out because I couldn’t go.