Harrison Roach is a talented Australian surfer who was recently featured in the films Picaresque and The Present ripping on an Alaia. A surfer who can ride anything, Harrison has been a featured rider in countless magazines. We took some time to ask Harrison a few questions.
What was your life like growing up?
I grew up (and am still growing up) in Sunshine Beach, Queensland—just a two minute walk to the beach and a four minute drive to the Noosa Point breaks. The lifestyle here is laid back. As children, my friends and I spent every moment of our spare time in the ocean. It was all I wanted. If it was flat, I’d swim. If it wasn’t, I’d surf anything I could get my hands on: longboard, shortboard, bodyboard, whatever. That’s what I did then and what I still do now.
When did you get your first surfboard?
I got my first surfboard for Christmas in 1994. I was four years old. My dad bought a secondhand foam shortboard from an older kid’s father. It was bright pink and I was stoked. My first fiberglass surfboard was a year later as Dad managed to get his hands on the board from an old Noosa local. It was a 5’11” Sam Egan channel bottom with a Cheyne Horan star fin. I wasn’t quite sure what the fin or the channels did, but I loved that board, and Sam Egan was the legend father of Luke Egan!
What was the feeling you had when you first stood on a surfboard?
I’m not sure I remember the first time I stood on a surfboard, but I remember the first time I rode an unbroken green right-hander. After finishing my ride, I couldn’t help telling everyone how good I was; I was a cocky little grommet even at five. That first real wave on the channel bottom made me feel like a king and, since then, I’ve been obsessed.
Who did you look up to and admire when you were a young man?
I have always looked up to professional shortboarders. They are freaks! I had new favourite surfers every time a new video came out. I watched The Hole more than a thousand times. Martin Potter was the king! When I first saw 156 Tricks on VHS, I was obsessed with Oscar Wright. When I saw The Blueprint, Shane Dorian was my hero. I had never heard of Miki Dora or The Seedling or “logging”.
The first longboarder I ever thought was actually cool was Tom Wegener. He was our friend Margie’s new boyfriend and he let me ride his heavy single fins. He stressed to me the importance of trimming. Trimming was a concept I was unaware of as a kid. However, the guy who I looked up to most was, and still is, Dane Peterson. He has been my mentor and brother as I’ve grown up. I have never seen anyone surf as good as Peto on a longboard.
Who inspires you?
Dane Peterson inspires me—his surfing, his photography, his craftsmanship … even his ding repairs. Whatever the guy puts his mind to comes out amazing. Jordy Smith inspires me. I came second to him in two junior contests one year; he is on another level in every aspect of surfing. I learned that the hard way. Kai Neville inspires me. His new surf film (Modern Collective) blows my mind every time I watch it. He has taken the best young surfers in the world and shown them in a new light. These guys are taking over. As Mugatu said, “So hot right now.”
What inspires you?
Modern Collective, Christian Wach’s hang tens, Peto’s flow and my girlfriend Eadie’s drop punt skills with an AFL footy.
Tell us about your most memorable wave.
I was on a boat trip in 2008 in the Telo Islands, in Western Sumatra, surfing a wave called Coffins with Adam Kobayashi. It was a solid swell and pretty sketchy when we first got out. I got stuck inside on a big one, broke my leash and got clobbered on the reef. AK, the hell man he is, rode straight in over dry reef and got my board. I would have left it for the locals rather than do that.
By the time I got my board back and put on another leash, it had cleaned up and was looking big and perfect. I paddled back out a little hesitantly after my previous beating. I watched AK go down hard on a huge one and the butterflies in my stomach got even more agitated. After five minutes of waiting, another boat turned up with five blokes just to watch. I couldn’t let any more waves pass. I caught the next big one that came and got what was the best barrel of my life. The butterflies were gone, adrenalin was pumping and I was ready for more. I think I got the best barrel of my life 10 times that day.
What is the greatest thing you have learned in your life?
To smile. When you can smile genuinely, you can be genuinely happy.
Do you have any regrets or wish you had done something differently?
I wish I started playing guitar when I started surfing, then I could be a surfer and a rock star! (Laughs)
What are you most proud of?
My extended family and my close friends. They make the good times great.
What meaning does surfing hold for you and how has it changed your life?
Surfing means more to me than I could explain. Sometimes it annoys me; I can’t stand being away from the ocean even though I love the country. My university degree has been put off for the last four years and I want to try live in Tokyo. Because of surfing, I can’t. I’d go crazy if I did. I’m obsessed with surfing and the ocean; my life revolves around it. Without it, I’m lost.
What brings you the most happiness in the world?
My family, my girlfriend, my friends and the ocean.
Who are some of the people you feel are shaping the path for surfing today?
Always Kelly Slater. Always Joel Tudor. Everyone in Modern Collective. Also, Mark Matthews, Rasta, Kassia Meador and Christian Wach—all unique surf shredding people.
What is your favorite board? Your favorite surf spot?
I have a 5’6” Neil Purchase JNR sweet pea quad that I have surfed way too much. Raggs Right in the Mentawais is my wet dream.
What’s your favorite meal?
Mum’s homemade chicken curry.
What are you currently listening to on your iPod?
Beck—Modern Guilt and Gnarles Barkley—The Odd Couple.
What are you most grateful for?
My upbringing—my parents have always encouraged and supported me.
What’s next for Harrison Roach?
Maybe a Harrison Roach feature film? Other than that, it’s Costa Rica in six days with Matt Williams, George Trimm and Eadie. VASSUP!
All photography courtesy of Dane Peterson. All images are copyrighted and may not be used without permission.