The cover of our July issue features Justin Quintal standing ankle-deep in snow, thrusting a neoprene-gloved fist in the air as he watches a nearly perfect, right-hand barrel rifle across the foot of a large Icelandic headland. Printed on the image, directly below Quintal's stoked-out silhouette, is the phrase "Worth It," which could describe the outcome of any number of the multifarious board-riding Floridian's recent cold-water forays.
In addition to his recent exploration of Iceland's frozen shores with Sam Hammer and SURFER photographer Chris Burkard, Quintal recently toured the forested coast of British Columbia before laying it on the line against a talented field at the most recent Duct Tape Invitational in Tofino. He did all of this without the support of a major sponsor, all while busily building a surfboard company, Black Rose MFG., with longtime shaper Ricky Carroll, specializing in traditional longboards and old school fins for an East Coast market that hasn't historically shown much interest in either.
I sat down with Quintal, and he reminisced about scoring in Iceland, winning his fourth Duct Tape title, and the state of modern longboarding.
Talk about the cover shot. Do you remember that moment?
That was our second day in Iceland, and a huge snowstorm was hitting. We were the first people on the roads as soon as they were opened. It was dark, and you couldn't see anything. We drove in a couple shifts, stopping to sleep. And then the sun came out and we checked a few spots. All of a sudden, we see this right slab. It looked so good. We were freaking out. My wetsuit, which had been in my board bag on the roof, was frozen solid and I had to thaw it out using the car heater. Meanwhile, [Chris] Burkard was yelling at us to get out there. We surfed until it got dark, which was only about four hours later because of how short the days are. The waves just kept getting better and better. I think I was the last one out of the water. I turned around to watch that set come through and that's about when the picture was taken.
How did this trip compare to some of the other cold-water strikes you've done with Burkard?
We did a trip to the Faroe Islands a couple of years back. That was cold. But Iceland was next level. Chris is really high-energy. He does a lot of research and puts together a pretty tight schedule. There's not a lot of daylight in Iceland, so we are packing in a lot of surfing into short windows. In-between that, we were driving and not getting a whole lot of sleep. All of that, plus your body is using so much energy, just trying to stay warm. Coldwater trips are really challenging, but totally rewarding.
You also trekked around Vancouver Island recently. For a Floridian, you definitely spend a lot of time in a wetsuit.
Tommy Witt and I went up to Canada a week and half before the Duct Tape Invitational. I lined up a camper truck and some campsites. It was kind of a gamble. We didn't know much about the area. Timmy Reyes hooked us up with Sepp Bruhwiler, who along with his brothers and Pete Devries are known as pioneers over there. We scored some really incredible waves and saw some bears. Overall, it was a really successful trip. We're currently putting together an edit of some of the highlights.
Speaking of cold water, congrats on your fourth Duct Tape Invitational win. Why do you think you've been so successful in that format?
Some of it comes down to luck. But I also think you create your own luck. I'm pretty ambitious. I want to win these events. Part of that comes from being from the East Coast. It's hard to make a name for yourself there.
In Tofino, the waves weren't that great. Even for someone who grew up surfing short-period, windy waves in Florida, it was pretty challenging. But all those guys [in the contest] surf so well. Joel [Tudor] and Vans do such a good job with the invitees for the event. There was some insane surfing happening. I think I just got into a rhythm in the final heat.
You also competed in the ASP Longboard Championships in China a few years back. Why would a single-fin, traditional longboard enthusiast compete in an event typically dominated by high-performace longboarders?
I did the Belmar Pro in New Jersey. It ended up being the only ASP-rated longboarding event in America that year, and I won. So I was the North American ASP longboard champ, which is pretty pathetic, considering it was one contest. That qualified me for the World Championships in China.
Really, what I had in the back of my head was that Joel [Tudor] used to do ASP contests back in the day. At that time, he was really the only person riding traditional single fins in contests. Everybody else was on rockered-out tri-fins. I really respected the way [Joel] was shredding on traditional equipment. That was the motivation to go to China. I wanted to win on a single fin like Joel did 20 years ago.
At the same time, I really wondered what modern longboarding was all about. When I got there, I realized that, as adamant as I am about riding traditional equipment, the guys who compete in those contests are just as hardcore about high-performance longboards. I felt like the oddball out. And I don't want to take anything away from those guys who compete in that format. I just don't see myself doing another contest like that.
So is the Duct Tape more representative of the state of professional longboarding?
I think what Vans is doing is a great showcase. It's an excellent event with some of the best longboarding in the world. It'd be great if we could piggyback off events at some of the spots on the WSL Tour. I think if they had the best traditional loggers at the best waves, I think it could be as lucrative as the shortboard contests. I'd love to watch someone who hangs ten at Malibu pull into barrels at Pipe on a longboard. I wouldn't miss a single heat.
So what does it mean to be a professional longboarder in 2016? Is longboarding still relevant?
I don't necessarily see there being a need for such a thing as a "professional longboarder." To me, longboarding is just riding a longer, heavier board with one fin. It's a focus on style. I like this quote from Baldassare Castiglione: "A certain nonchalance as to conceal all art and make whatever one does or says appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it." There are a lot of guys who typify that from the generation before me: Tudor, [Alex] Knost, CJ Nelson, Dane Peterson, Kassia Meador. All of those longboarders had a huge impact on surf culture. We're at a really exciting time for logging. Longboarding is based on traditions, but if you watch some of the young guys coming up, it can be just as progressive as high-performance shortboarding.