Thirty-eight-year-old Adrian 'Ace' Buchanis about to embark on his 16th consecutive CT season. Of the current CT roster, it is only Kelly Slater who has more experience. Buchan's incredible career includes two CT wins (beating the GOAT in both Finals) and a reputation as one of the most stylish and technically gifted surfers Australia has ever produced. Out of the water, he is a dedicated husband and father to three children, an environmental and mental health advocate, and a published author. We caught up with Ace at his Avoca home on the eve of the Australian leg:
WSL: For the first time in your career, you have two CT events near home? How does that feel?
Buchan: Pretty special. To have spent the last 18 months at home and now be preparing for two events an hour on either side of my home is so cool. I grew up cutting my teeth on events like the MR Surfest at Newcastle and The Pro Junior at Narrabeen so it feels like I've come full circle and I couldn't be more stoked about it.
Can you explain how much North Narrabeen features in the Aussie competitive psyche?
You really can't underestimate the importance Narrabeen has played in Australian surfing. The first CT I went to was the Coke Classic at Narrabeen in 1993. I was so pumped to watch Kelly; he'd just won his first World Title and I was just this wide-eyed grom who already had his heart set on being a pro surfer. The first heat I watched Kelly, he lost in Round 2 heat to a little-known surfer called Isaac Kaneshiro and that was a good lesson; anyone is beatable. In those days The Pro Junior was at Narrabeen every year in January and mimicked the CT format. It was such a big deal. It was an epic event and became a huge goal of mine to win it which I was so pumped to do in 2001 and round out my junior career.
What type of surfing will you need to do to win at Narrabeen?
Narrabeen is known for its long reeling lefts which love an east or NE swell, but in reality, it has many moods. The Alley Right can get rippable and so can the wide right in front of the car park on a more south swell. You have to be pretty adaptable, but I think it lends itself to that pure Australian breed of power surfing. That shows in the surfers it's churned out. It will take explosive surfing to do well there, but also some canny competing.
And is it the same for Newcastle?
Newcastle is similar in that you've got to be prepared for anything from reeling lefts at Dixon park to big rights marching into the point at Merewether. I love that challenge. The Surfest event was where I had my first big breakthrough after the Juniors getting a second to Kelly so I've fond memories of competing there.
Just how keen are you keen to start competing again having missed the Pipe event?
I'm really excited, though a break was probably the best thing for me. It's given me the chance to take a breath with my young family and put our feet in the ground at home. We embraced life on the road and all the ups and downs, but the stability has been nice for a change. It's also provided the chance to work on some things in my surfing that I haven't had the time or space to do in the past. For even subtle changes it can take a while to re-wire when you have been on autopilot. I wanted to add some impact and moments to my normal lines and I feel like I've done that. So I'm pumped to now have the opportunity to put that work into practice.
You've also had experience competing at Rottnest. What can the surfers expect from the new Search location?
Rotto was like a breath of fresh air and an adventure for us as juniors and I see it being the same for the CT. It's raw, exposed, and about as Australian as you can get. I've only done two trips there so I'm no local, but I guess that is two more than everyone else! I've got a couple of pretty vivid memories of competing there. I remember the second year waking up on the morning of the Final and riding my bike across the island to Strickos under this incredible sunrise and then winning the event in really fun waves later that day.
Anything else you want to discuss, highlight or get off your chest?
I just want to say a huge thanks to everyone at WSL for pulling this leg together. It's no small feat given the environment we're living in. And also to the international surfers who are making big sacrifices to come here, some without their families and doing quarantine to make sure we have a tour this year. All the Australians appreciate it. Let's go!