Australia has had a big hand in surfing, producing talents who redefined the sport or shapers whose innovations have played a pivotal role in the equipment we ride. Australia's Harrison Roach is a product of this legacy. The Sunshine Coast local grew up surfing some of the Noosa points, one of longboarding's spiritual homes, and is now at the vanguard of a new generation pushing this style of surfing forward.
Roach has long been recognized as one of the most talented longboarders on the planet, but he's coming to the Jeep® Malibu Classic presented by Havaianas chasing the particular validation of a World Title.
An equal seventh at the Noosa Longboard Open and a runner-up finish at the Cuervo Surf Ranch Classic place the 31-year-old at No. 2 on the rankings heading into what is the final event of the season. The WSL caught up with the Australian as he prepares to make his dream come true at Malibu.
WSL: Here we are on the eve of the World Title showdown after the transformation of this Longboard Tour. What would it mean to claim a Title for Australia after Harley Ingleby won in 2014, and why now?
Roach: There's a lot of respect and clout with winning a World Title, and I think it would validate my career as a surfer and as a longboarder. Justin's (Quintal) already won a Title and that's definitely why I got back into it. I remember those events when I was 17 or 18 and it was a completely different style of longboarding at that point and I think that's what made me give up competing at that stage in my life. But it was exciting when Devon (Howard) came on board and the initial sort of chat surrounding the Tour was that it was going to focus more on a traditional style of longboarding that was different to shortboarding.
The culture around it then wasn't who I was or what I was interested in. When you mention guys like Harley Ingleby, he's a great friend of mine and I have so much respect for him and competing with him growing up, and he's such a fantastic surfer as well. But at that point I was starting to focus more on travel and doing things that didn't involve competing just because it costs a lot of money to do these events as well. It's nice to be here now and in the running for a World Title.
Do you feel that this criteria now is throwing it back to an ‘old school' style and showing what longboarding truly represents?
Nowadays, I wouldn't call it so much old school as I would modern longboarding. It can be pretty confusing generally just with so many different ways you can longboard with so many different competing values. I just surfed at the Surf Ranch and did so how I normally would, and I was getting high scores and that's really validating for me. I'm super happy with the way things are going this year and I feel like I kicked things off in the right spot.
Who do you think is helping push that modern style and is it what you want to see out of this Longboard Tour?
The surfing I've witnessed through guys like Kevin (Skvarna) and Justin (Quintal), and countless others who are and aren't competing at this event are pushing the style toward that modern longboarding. Hopefully that's the way it continues to move in professional longboarding because that's the way the culture is, and has been, going the last ten or so years at least. Now we're seeing it in a competitive format which makes it entertaining to watch and with the WSL platform I know I'd be watching it if I weren't competing.
You're on the forefront of leading Australia's next wave of talent as Nat Young did decades ago. How does that feel to help bring back this modern longboard style that he and so many others began?
I don't know if I'm quite ready to put myself in the same boat as Nat Young but he's a massive hero of mine. And this style of longboarding that we're doing now is looking back to move forward. Which I think pays tribute to guys like Nat and Bob McTavish, and so many more in that 60's era all the way to the 90s. That period where shortboarding took over and when that style was left behind, we look back to those guys and what they were doing on the boards they had was top level. And I think would still compete super well against us in today's competition.
But, a World Title is definitely something I've always wanted and I'm happy to have a crack at it. I'm feeling confident in my surfing and building off the last event I'm really excited. Hopefully we get some fun waves and I can pull it off.
Tune in LIVE to watch Roach and the rest of the world's best longboarders compete October 11 and 12 at the Jeep Malibu Classic pres. by Havaianas on www.WorldSurfLeague.com.