Last summer, filmmaker Thomas Campbell invited a group of surfers to join him on an Indonesian boat trip to gather footage for his upcoming film. Campbell has always documented surfers who draw idiosyncratic lines and who have an openness to experiment with a wide range of surfcraft. For this trip, Campbell called up a freewheeling cadre of characters: Alex Knost, Craig Anderson, Ryan Burch, Jared Mell, Ozzie Wright and Bryce Young. Each of these surfers has carved a unique path through surfing, and some have left indelible imprints on the surf world at large.
Over the span of ten days, the crew bounced between perfect reef breaks, swapping boards (many of them handshaped by the surfers themselves) and drawing inspiration from each other’s distinctive approaches to riding waves. For the next week, we'll feature conversations with each surfer, offering a glimpse into the minds of an eccentric cast who have gravitated toward obscure lines and modes of thinking, defining surfing’s modern counter-culture in the process.
Today we’re featuring our conversation with stylish Australian regular foot, Bryce Young:
Which surfboard designs are you most excited about at the moment?
Basically any piece of foam that's touched by Ryan Burch. He's a shaping sensei.
It seems like you guys have a really close relationship even though you live on opposite sides of the world.
Yeah, he comes and visits me in Angourie a couple of times a year. He and I are a lot alike. When you're surfing with someone you're on the same page with, you can really push each other. He's probably my favorite person to surf with besides my dad [surf legend Nat Young].
On the Indo boat trip, you were riding a 5’7″ flex-tail fish and a 6’8″ step-up twin. Those seem pretty far from what most people would bring to Indo.
I think certain people have always experimented with new craft in Indonesia, since the waves are so perfect for that. So trying new ideas there isn't entirely novel. I think we're just trying to do what our forefathers did.
With your dad's background, I'm sure you got plenty of surf history lessons growing up. Do you think it's important to study surfing's past?
Absolutely. Especially if you're new to the sport, it's essential to delve into what the forefathers of surfing have done. Because it's pretty much all been done before, you know? Surf history is an amazing thing to look back on and use to try to make sense of the present.
Is there a particular moment in surf history that has really inspired and influenced you?
The Shortboard Revolution will always stand out in my mind, especially the time when my dad and Wayne Lynch were riding the Evolution boards in Morocco. I love getting on a mid-length and trying to emulate those guys; they were just doing it way better back then.
And you're dad hasn't stopped experimenting himself, right? I know that Burch made him an asymm not long ago. What's it like seeing him gravitate toward those designs as well?
It's been unbelievably cool and special to see that. Glassing that asymm board with Ryan and handing it to dad for a Father's Day gift was one of the coolest things I've ever been apart of. Now he won't ride anything else. When he's not on his longboard hanging ten or doing one of his classic drop-knee cutbacks, he's on his asymm just tearing the bag out of it. He's definitely embraced the full evolution of boards--not that the circle is done yet.
Were the other key figures of the Shortboard Revolution, like Bob McTavish and George Greenough, around when you were growing up?
I didn't see too much of George. George was always this elusive mystery man. But my dad was always telling me about George. That first world championship he won in 1966 was really thanks to George taking the fin off Sam [Nat's championship-winning board] and refoiling him a new fin weeks before the event. Everything he was doing design-wise came from George. I think the same goes for Bobby. They were like sparring buddies, surfing a ton and building boards together--which is probably the coolest thing you could do with a friend.
Kind of like you and Burch?
Yeah, exactly. I've been shaping for 5 or 6 years now, but I still feel like I'm still learning how to put a tool to some foam. I'm stoked to learn from Ryan when we're together. When we're in the shaping bay, I'll yell over the wall asking him what step I need to do next and he'll yell back exactly what I need to do from the bay next door. It's pretty special.