Do you ever pee in your wetsuit to keep warm? (How do you stay warm?)
Yeah, I pee in my wetsuit. It doesn’t really help that much, it’ll only keep you warm for about 5-10 seconds.
The stereotypical Californian surfer dude has long blonde hair and wears flip flops and Billabong shorts. What does the typical Canadian surfer look like?
Warm pants, maybe some long johns, a toque. Scruffy face to keep you warm. Maybe a tanned face from windburn. Basically surfers look like snowboarders because we wear all the same gear on land.
What are the typical regions to surf in Canada?
The West Coast, Vancouver Island and north of there. Tofino, where I live, is pretty much the main hub of surfing in Canada. East Coast around Nova Scotia and Halifax, there’s a lot of people surfing around there. There’s basically the coasts, wherever the ocean is. Nothing inland, it’s definitely not the same as the ocean waves.
Has anyone thought about going up to Nunavut to surf some of the Arctic coastline?
I haven’t heard! Pretty sure you could probably surf there in the summer.
Who's tougher, a hockey player, or a surfer in Canada?
Surfer’s tougher. The water’s cold, and the places we go to, we don’t know what we have to deal with. Cold waves, bears and cougars, we gotta deal with that too. You have to be pretty dedicated to put on a wetsuit and deal with the frost and ice.
In Point Break, Keanu Reeves picks up a surfboard for the first time at 25. What's the latest you've seen someone pick up surfing and still get the hang of it?
You can be 40 or 50 and pick up surfing, if you live by the beach and you surf every day you can pick it up pretty quick. It’s a fairly gentle sport on your body, you may strain some ligaments, but you’re not going to break any bones or anything.
People who don't surf always seem to be talking about how often sharks attack. Do you ever get worried about things like that in certain spots?
Not sharks. There’s lots of killer whales, though. And when you’re on land, you gotta deal with bears and cougars. Down here, there’s pretty much just sea lions that harass you; they get pretty big but they’re not a threat. The killer whales are pretty smart, they know we’re not good food for them. Sharks, I dunno, I’ve seen them, but not like a Great White or anything. If you’re worried about what’s in the water, you’re not gonna surf.
From what you've heard or seen, where can you go in the world to get the absolute biggest waves?
There’s a few spots in Hawaii, Jaws is the biggest waves. California, there’s Maverick. It all depends on the way the bottom of the ocean is shaped, the way the reefs are located. Probably Hawaii has the biggest waves for sure.
What is the biggest lie you've told about Canada?
That we have good waves up here!
When you tell other surfers that you’re from Canada, what are some of the weird/funny things they’ve said about the country, if anything?
It’s pretty accepted now. Years ago, a young guy asked if we had Christmas up here, and we said that Canada is where Santa Claus lives, so we invented Christmas!
Do you get a lot of shit from other water sports athletes? Like water-skiers?
If anyone’s going to be giving the shit, it’s going to be the surfers.
In the same way skaters hate rollerbladers, are there rivalries between different disciplines, eg. between surfers and boogieboarders?
You can get it between surfers and kayakers, who are after the same waves, or stand-up surfers, or boogie boarders. Surfing basically invented every other board sport, so surfers are on the top of the food chain.
How did you start?
I grew up on the beach and that’s all we ever did. That was our backyard, the ocean and the beach. We surfed and skateboarded, we had a halfpipe right on the beach. That was our environment and our playground.
What are the wildest conditions you've ever taken your board out into?
There’s a lot of wild conditions around here: blizzards, hard hail and rain, 50 naut winds, hurricane force winds, and so much spray coming off the water you can’t even see. There have been a lot of hairy boat rides just to get to some waves; that’s usually the scariest part.
What's your favourite music to listen to before you surf?
That’s a hard one. It depends, if it’s a long kind of point break and I’m just cruising, maybe some country music, like some Johnny Cash, but if it’s a steep beach break where I gotta get going fast, maybe some Metallica. A little bit of hip-hop, too, if the waves are very small and I don’t feel like surfing, it can amp me up a little bit.
What's the difference between the East coast and West coast surfing scenes in Canada?
Pretty much everyone around the world, if you’re a surfer, you’re the same. We get more waves here so it’s a bit more consistent. There are more surfers on the West Coast, but the access is limited, just because there’s not that much road. On the East Coast, there’s a lot of road and beach. It’s a lot colder on the East Coast, too. They don’t get as many waves, or as many perfect waves. There’s just basically more of a surf culture here. I think also because we’re closer to California, and the first surfers up here were draft dodgers from California.
How do you get rid of or prevent what Canadian surfers call an "ice cream headache?"
Put on a hood and keep your hood on! You just gotta deal with it, they will go away.
What surfer stereotype do you hate the most?
That we all say “dude” or “what’s up, brah” all the time.
What's the most terrible surf-related injury you've ever gotten?
I’ve gotten 8 stitches on the forehead, having a board just miss my eye: I had 4 right underneath and 4 right above, so if my board had slid in a different direction, I would have lost my eye. Over my face and my head I’ve probably had about 40 stitches just from boards and reef hitting my face. I’ve torn ligaments and sprained ankles, but that’s about it.
Have you ever taken a first date surfing? Good or bad idea?
Not a first date, but I’ve definitely taken a date surfing, and now she’s my wife, and she still surfs, so I guess it worked out.
Who's one Canadian personality you would let the undertow take?
Justin Bieber, for sure.
As you probably travel all over the world to surf, what do you miss most about Canada when you’re abroad?
I miss the crisp, fresh air, and the uncrowded surf, that’s the main thing.
What is the best thing about being a surfer?
You get to go play in the water every day and be outside. You get to see some amazing stuff. There’s always amazing stuff around the coastline, everywhere in the world. It’s refreshing.
And what’s the worst?
Being really, really cold!