Story & photos Eve Jeffery
Walking on to the beach with Beau Young is a bit like stepping into a temple with a monk or a kitchen with a chef. I can pray and I can cook, but the ease in which a master enters his realm makes us mere mortals feel kind of awkward. Young is at home on the beach, or probably more like at one with the beach. This is his literal office.
Firstly, Beau Young is the nicest guy on the planet. Secondly, Beau Young is the nicest guy on the planet.
As a member of Australia’s surfing royalty, there was always a chance that Young was going to turn out to be a stuck-up pain in the butt, but, if he ever was, there’s is no sign of it now. And to be honest, I suspect he never was.
Beau’s success as a professional surfer saw him scale the heights of the ASP World Tour in the late nineties. He was crowned the World Longboard Champion in both 2000 and again in 2003.
Young has done the hard yards; he travelled the world with the professionals. He has done some easier yards; travelling the world as a paid free surfer. At the end of the day, both worlds had expectations of him.
Just in his thirties, Young gave up the profession of surfing, which left more time for other career choices and just plain old ordinary surfing.
‘I haven’t competed since the last event in 2003’, he says. ‘The more I played music and got into singing as well as riding all sorts of different surfboards, I always saw it as a touchy issue between surfing being a sport and a creative outlet.’
Beau says that he is a genetic surf expressionist and that has had a huge influence on him.
‘My father (surfing legend Nat Young), during his surfing career, always saw it as an artistic expression.
‘When I was doing the world qualifying circuit there were 700 of us travelling the world, dog-eat-dog situations to try to pay to stay in a shitty hotel then travel to the next event. I think things like that kind of stifle surfing. Surfing has a lot of individuals.
‘If people are not doing it happily then why are they doing it? It’s a balancing act. Is surfing about being a creative outlet for the individual who just wants to express themselves or is it an out and out mainstream sport that needs coloured singlets and prize money? There is no doubt that publicity and the chequered flag mentality is within the relaxed surfing environment. I’d rather surf the horrible conditions than deal with 50 people who are all on top of each other trying to get waves. The reality of where we live is that the place is so damned beautiful – the waves are perfectly designed for long rides.’
Young says the relaxed feel is what surfing is about for him now. ‘I was always unsure about competing against good friends for money. It can get pretty tense out there. It’s not ideal for me. Personally, I like to push my own surfing ability still to this day and it’s a great pursuit. All my friends just love surfing for what it is, I think; they are not there to be rich or famous out of it, though some of them make money out of surfing.’ Beau says he had a long period of making money from the waves for which he is very thankful, but those days are in the past.
Having lived in the Byron region for 15 years, Young feels that the general attitude about surfing is different.
‘The predominant mind-set is out of the box. A lot of people just see it (surfing) in the papers and think “Kelly Slater is incredible”, which he is, but that’s just one aspect of surfing. I think there is more of an open-mindedness to different forms of surf craft, be it a board with one fin, two fins, all different sizes; and you only have to look at Byron Bay to see the attire goes along with that, and I know it’s just a fashion thing to some degree, but I think it’s surfers. They don’t want to be branded – the way the surfboards are and the look of the people, they are all looking like they are out of the 70s. It says a lot about surf culture and that alternative mindset. These days not everyone wants to wear the same brand and surf the same board and I think that’s a good thing.’
Beau says that diversity is the key.
‘There are so many surfboards for all conditions. You know the early to mid-nineties was all about the three fin surfboard. There was nothing else, there was no other way. I was doing the circuit on the short boards. I broke out of that and started longboarding. I kind of left travelling the world with a whole lot of other competitors. Surfing longboards was the complete other end of the spectrum. Since then I have ridden everything in between. Now it’s good to see it coming around.’
Beau feels that, particularly in this region, people are more driven toward the culture and the history.
‘I think they are a lot more open in that way than just looking at results.’
Young himself is moving in many directions. Beau performs his Animals Rock children’s show across the country; he is looking towards new work in the adult music industry; and he is in the design stages of producing his own line of boards, some of them are set to go very soon. ‘I’m riding a whole bunch of different boards and I am also designing a whole bunch of boards. I just want to develop a range of different boards that cover many aspects of many different eras – different things for people to try, really. I think the fact that I am even able to do that shows that surfers are a lot more openminded now than they have been. A lot of the boards, if I was trying to design them 15 years ago, they wouldn’t have sold. It’s nice to know that there are more people surfing and riding different things’.
‘Most of the time I get in the water. I find that even when the waves are completely horrible or completely amazing, I’ll go out anyway. I have always been like that ever since I was eights-years-old, because the ocean has so many moods. It’s nice.’
See more of Beau at www.beauyoungsurfboards.com.