Not content to settle into retirement just yet, this old school master is a pioneer of the sport and is shown due respect by all on the tour because frankly, he hasn’t lost a thing. A major threat to all contenders on the tour, Fish has recently taken on board some new age tricks to his incredible repertoire. Masterful.
JOHN “FISH” STEVENS
UK / All courses
Likes Smoothies, Thai food, family Dislikes Fried food, politicians Favourite Movie/ TV Big Wednesday, "Hyperdrive" Riding Style
Alternate Sports Interests
Yoga, Kung Fu
By Ken Wilson
For a professional athlete, the pain of unfulfilled goals can be a personal devastation some never recover from. It’s a major threat to future career, happiness and life. Far too often, would-be greats are reduced to shells of themselves if they, along with everyone else, are left to ponder “What if?”
The surfing community felt a collective sense of regret 10 years ago when John Stevens announced his retirement from the tour. Stevens, widely considered the best surfer on tour never to win a world title, came agonizingly close on four separate occasions. After suffering through a world of hurt, Stevens left the tour with a lot of unanswered questions asked of him. He felt the frustration of long time supporters, family and at times a scornful media who in surmising Fish’s career were less than kind.
Life after the tour proved John’s biggest test. Doing the occasional photo trip for long time sponsor Mambo and working as a draftsman for an architectural firm, it was a long way away from the heady days of the world surfing tour. But as he tells us here, just as unfulfilled ambition can break men, it can also make them. Sometimes, when put into perspective, a youthful lack of discipline and disappointment can strengthen resolve. Age can sharpen the focus and supply much-needed opportunity for reflection and growth.
This seems to have been the case for Fish, as he returned to competition and stunned everyone by taking out the QS rated O’Neill Coldwater Classic and then a few weeks later, he followed that up with another win at a 4-Star WQS event in the Brazilian Hang Loose Pro..
This interview began just after his recent victories.
SURFERS EDGE: How did it feel stepping straight back into the winner’s circle after such a long time out?
JOHN STEVENS: Good, I guess [Laughs]. I was really surprised that I could come back that quickly. I wasn’t ever going to be 100% sure as it’s been a while, but I’ve been training pretty hard and I’ve increased my aerial repertoire so I felt confident I hadn’t lost too much.
SURFERS EDGE: And how is the fitness?
JOHN STEVENS: It’s fine. I feel really, really good. I’ve altered my diet and my energy levels are pretty high thanks to that.
JOHN STEVENS: Ah yeah. Everyone seems so stoked. It was really cool. Having the crowd going ballistic at the end there was pretty good, really great and encouraging. Pretty massive and I’ll never forget it.
SURFERS EDGE: How are you feeling about the year ahead after all this?
JOHN STEVENS: I’m feeling really good. I was thinking about having a break from training, but my personal trainer rang me up and said, “You’ve still got more to do and you’re not finished yet.” So that was that.
SURFERS EDGE: You said you’ve cleaned up your diet. How strict is it?
JOHN STEVENS: It’s just having live food. Everything’s got to come from the ground or an animal. Junk food’s out. Just knowing what to eat and when.
SURFERS EDGE: It already looks to be an exciting year judging by some of the events and some of new young guys. The young guys seem to have shaken things up a bit.
JOHN STEVENS: Ah yeah, I’ve been watching Shane surf and he seems to have a few people rattled. He’ll go out and do a massive air first wave and they think they’ve got to do air’s to beat him. Even guys you wouldn’t expect, like Sean, they try to beat him at his own game. It’s good to watch.
SURFERS EDGE: You told me a while back you believe that the way your career panned happened for a reason. Do you still believe that?
JOHN STEVENS: Yes. I do. I don’t think I’d been home for more than a month in 12 years. I’d have 10 days or maximum three weeks. Everything just got to be so stressful. You get all these people in your ear going, “If you don’t do it this year…” or, “You’ve got to be World Champ this year…” Even just little random things like, “Oh, I’ve got my money on you this year.” I really lost the passion for my surfing final year on tour. I was just so over the UK. And then I just packed up my stuff and went, “I’m gone…” I went across to Ireland and caught up with my kids. It was really cool. We’d just surf all day. There was no pressure, no crowds, just rock up and go surfing. I really enjoyed my surfing again because of that. Then I’d see my best mate in the afternoons and have a beer with him…I’d just have one and I’d be so buggered from surfing, I’d just be falling asleep. And then wake up at five in the morning and go check the surf again and go surfing all day. It really brought my passion back for surfing. It was pretty cool.
The afternoon glass-off is typical this late of year in Pottsville on the NSW north coast. The water is warm and the point is quiet. A handful of surfers pepper the break as a pod of dolphins languidly cruise through the line-up. A surfer stands casually on a full, fat right hander. He drops to the bottom of the wave and then quite unexpectedly, powers off the bottom and launches into a series of vicious hard turns that somehow seem out of keeping with this lazy little scene.
A super talented freak, Shane would have been world champ long ago –if only it was a priority! Just as adept at both snowboarding and skateboarding, this year the Australian seems to be focussing on the challenge and finally realizing his potential.
SHANE MURPHY Gender
Wiry, but muscular
Blond, fro Nationality
Cruisy on land, hyper / exicitable in the water
Likes Chicks, waves, snowboarding, Holden EH wagon Dislikes Fried food, politicians Favourite Movie/ TV "Rubber Soul" Riding Style
Casual style, but ultra fast / very radical Alternate Sports Interests
By Kenny McCreery
So Shane, it’s well documented that you’ve between torn between free surfing and competition? Which one’s it going to be?
Yeah, up until recently I’ve found that a hard one answer truthfully. Look, I’ve made the call now so I’m in. But I do know from all the competitive surfing I’ve done growing up to date, it’s a tough gig. To make it at any level in professional surfing takes a huge amount of drive and ambition. The hotel rooms, airport terminals you know? Man, I love my sleep and paddling out for a heat when your body clock tells you its 3am is hard. But yeah, I do want to win and I’m more focused now I’ve made up my mind to have a crack.
You’ve had the hype machine singing your praises for years now as a junior. How have you managed to deal with all the attention?
I think that’s one of the reasons I just got into the free surfing side of things, just do magazine trips and stuff. I always liked doing comps but it’s kind of a distraction when everyone says you should win and then you don’t, but it’s also mainly about how much pressure you put on yourself. I think I was probably starting burn out at 14! (laughs). So I wanted to chill and sometimes you’d just want to bury your head and surf because it was easier to do that. But then you’d see crew you’ve flogged before doing well and climbing the ranks, and well to be honest, that just get’s me fired up.
What’s your main competition strategy? Do you try and adopt a free surf approach to comps?
It depends on the waves and where you’re at in the comp. Last contest I was trying to do an air wherever I could and mix it up with power turns. That is where surfing is going. The guys on the main tour are so powerful that it’s really a combination of both but it depends on the waves. So when the waves are perfect, power surfing looks better on good waves. If you’re doing an air reverse on a perfect J Bay wave it’s gonna look a little weird.
Okay, so how many world titles are you going to win?
Hopefully, I can get on the main tour. Let’s start with that first. Any surfer on the Tour will want to win a world title.
You’re still living in Pottsville on the NSW north coast. How did people used to react to your growing fame in Pottsville?
People are pretty casual here and they’re genuinely happy for me. They tell you straight, “You are doing good for yourself, Shane, good on ya”. I like that. It’s cool and real.
What do you like about Pottsville?
The waves are longer and there are a lot more right-handers. It’s always been good for my backhand surfing and there are some good low key lefts around as well. The waters really warm so it’s a pretty awesome place to live
Surfing is a big part of your life. What do you get into away from the surf?
I’m just about to spend a couple of weeks snowboarding in Canada with my cousins. Can’t wait, and it’s good to have a break. I love Canada man. You can go over there just have a good time and no one knows me so it’s great.
Murph you’re young, you’ve been free surfing around the globe, winning contests, the brands are chasing you, what is it like to be Shane Murphy right now?
Right now, yeah I can’t complain it’s really good. I’m relaxed and I’ve got a big smile on my face. The flights and travel are the hardest part but I’m really keen to get into the thick of it and do well on the main tour. That’s my goal.
Pocket-sized dynamo Olivia Sanchez has made everyone sit-up and take notice her maiden tour win last year. An explosive talent who can genuinely mix it with the men, Olivia blends new school tricks with refined old school style. Brilliant.
Well muscled, curvy
Quiet but confident
Likes Punk Rock Dislikes Disco Favourite Movie/ TV Supernatural Riding Style
New age moves plus power. One of the true all round riders on the tour
Alternate Sports Interests
Rock Climbing, skydiving
By Adam Preston
How did you get into surfing?
We live in a small town about 20kms inland from the beach, but my cousins lived in front of really good waves so my sister and I used to visit and surf with them. When I was about ten, I started getting into boogie boarding. I had a try at standing on a Mal and after that I was hooked, so I started short-boarding.Peru is an awesome place to get into surfing because there are a lot of waves and it’s not crowded.
You’ve got a really strong and smooth surfing style and the most common comment about your surfing is that you surf more like a “man.” How do feel about the comparisons that people make and how did you develop your surfing style?
I used to surf a lot with my cousins and friends who are all boys, or all men now (laughs)! So, I just modeled my surfing on what I saw around me – it was just natural and I didn’t really think about it. I just wanted to surf powerfully with a nice style. I am just a competitive person I guess, so anything they could do I wanted to do better. My cousins and all the guys locally are pretty strong surfers, so to get a wave you’ve got to go pretty hard, so I guess it’s also got a lot to do my local scene.
When was the first time you left Peru?
I was probably about 11. I went up to Santa Cruzfor a holiday with my parents. I still remember the big waves and cold water, plus I remember how everyone ripped there. I can remember feeling totally stoked and wanting to charge like some of those surfers
What about the first time you traveled off the continent?
The first time was Australia when I was 13; I was invited watch to a pro event. It was awesome. I saw all the pro surfers and it was just super cool. I couldn’t believe how big surfing is over there. I got to surf warm water barrels at D-bah and Kirra which I’ll never forget, plus I got to surf down inVictoria then so I got to surf at Bells and the breaks around there.
So when did you start surfing against the guys? What made you want to take it up to them rather than surf on the girl’s tour?
Well… I get this question a lot (laughs). Three things really, the challenge of beating the guys is really where it’s at for me, the money – you can make a lot more money on the main guys tour and then the waves on the guys tour are just more challenging. There are more interesting events and challenges on the men’s tour
You’ve generated a fair bit of criticism for the choices you’ve made, but a lot of people also admire your stand
Yeah—sometimes you win; sometimes you lose. I just look at it for what it is, call it for what it is. Woman’s surfing has come a long way, yes, there’s no doubt and it’s true. But the guys still surf better, they surf better waves on the tour and they make more money. The money is a motivator because the prize money, if you look at it is just so much better for guys than the girls. I don’t see why I can’t get a piece of that… if I’m good enough. And I am. You are probably going to lose more than you will win, so you just have to take it in and get the best experience out of everything. I had to fight for my place to get on the tour just like the others. A lot of guys don’t like me for it and that’s cool. A lot of girls resent what I am doing too, but most of them are happy for me because I guess I’m busting down the door for girls that come after me. I’m just the first, so it’s always going to be hardest for the first. I just try to surf better than a man, but without being one if that makes sense (laughs)!
What’s the best thing about surfing?
The best part about surfing is the rush and the quiet. I mean it’s – a rush and it can be really noisy when it’s big or crowded, but in general it’s that quiet feeling I love most when you’re surfing alone. That’s my passion and it’s what I like doing the most. Nobody really tells you how to surf a wave and you can just go out there and carve or cruise, whatever.
Sean is a stylish natural footer hailing from the East Coast USA. Fearless in the huge ocean surf, Sean gradually drifted from the ocean and on to the tour in search of fresh challenges. Super stylish blended terrifically with power. Sean is one of the best to simply just watch.
Well muscled, flexible Eyes
Dark brown Nationality
Likes Snowboarding, reggae, & heavy metal Dislikes Polluters Favourite Movie/ TV Don’t watch Riding Style
Alternate Sports Interests
Motocross / snowboarding
By Damian Smythe
After his first big wins over surfing biggest names at last years semi final at Pipe and a second win result in Portugal ( not to mention the big dollar sponsorship ), it’s safe to say Sean James has the surfing world at his feet. We caught up with the pro surfing prodigy to see how he’s coping with the hype:
Hey, Sean. First, lets talk about Portugal. This is the second time you’ve blitzed everyone at Portugal, what is it about you and Portugal?
Yeah, I’m not really sure what’s going on there. Seems to really fit my surfing! I love the vibe of the place – the people, the food. I’ve been there about five or six times now, so I’ve going over there since I was abut fourteen. It’s a pretty lonely place to surf sometimes and I tend to surf on my own a lot at this perfect left, which is really good for you’re all-round confidence not only there in Portugal, but for my surfing in general. It was cool when it comes time for the tour to holds its Portugal events – I get really pumped when that time of year comes around. Love those waves.
What was one thing that really stood out about your time in Portugal?
All of it -where do I start? Look the potential of the place is awesome – you know every different kind of break you can think of and no major crowd hassle. I will definitely be going back there and keeping an eye on swells down that way this year. I’ve got some good local friends there too, so I’m talking to them on Facebook and whatever all the time.
Ok let’s change the subject a little and discuss your approach to competition. What was goes through your head when you pull on the singlet?
Yeah, I just to focus and block everything out to the best of my ability… I do get pretty nervous sometimes so I’ve really got to remember to keep looking at the waves in the line-up, not at the beach. It can be a freaky seeing all those people right there looking back at you so I’ve got to keep my cool and just surf as I ordinarily do by myself or with friends. It’s not easy to block it all out and chill, but you’ve got to.
A lot of comparison is being made about a potential rivalry between yourself and Shane. You’ve surfed a lot against Shane growing up, how do you rate him as a competitor?
Shane is really explosive, no doubt and when he’s on he’s really hard to beat. I know first hand he suffers nerves like I do, so it might even be a case of who makes the better transition to the big leagues. Shane and I have had a few battles in the juniors and Pro Juniors over the last couple of years and he is surfing really well right now. But you know the bottom line is that’s its just surfing; it’s just two people against the ocean and anything can happen.
Finally, there’s talk you’re going to be signing a major new deal and there’s also talk of a movie deal. How’s it going so far?
Yeah, I can’t really talk too much about the sponsor deal and to be honest I’m a bit fuzzy on it all as my Dad is looking after all that. With the movie, from what I get it’s all tied up with the sponsor and I think we’re doing Europe and Hawaii mainly. I really don’t know at this point, I just get told where to surf and I just go, ha, ha. If the waves are good, that’s all I really care about so I’m really excited about the trips more than anything else and the movie and all the rest you know, they’ll take care of themselves.