Beau Young is an Australian singer/songwriter and a World Champion surfer. With the legendary Nat Young as his father, Beau was born with saltwater in his veins and a natural gift for wave riding. Recently, Beau is offering up his own signature line of surfboard designs. We spoke with him to learn more.
What was your childhood like?
The first few years of my life were spent living on a farm in the middle of nowhere.When I got a little older, Mum and Dad were separating, so I spent my time in a quite a few different places. Holidays on the North Coast with Dad, weekdays with Mum, weekends with both of them in Sydney where they went back (after Byron Bay) in an attempt to make their marriage work.
On North Coast holidays, I specifically remember we used to leave for a surf break in the middle of the night, arriving at Angourie or some place similar at daybreak. My sister and I would look for shells on the beach and play games while my dad surfed. Days were spent in the sun and we would get back to the farm tired and sore from playing at the beach. We would put aloe vera (sticky stuff) all over our faces and backs before bed because we were so sunburnt and wake the next morning for the same kind of holiday fun. Simple times.
I grew up surfing in Sydney at a place called Palm Beach. There is a tiny little wave in a sheltered cove next to an ocean pool that creates a break called “Kiddies Corner.” Many times I was late to school forgetting my shoes and wearing dads giant flip flops, kinda like the oddball surf kid.
When did you get your first surfboard?
I got my first surfboard around the age of 6. I was surfing before I could swim. But I was really timid for a long time when it came to the sea. The water scared me and it took time to realise how amazing it was. My first real wave was ridden on my father’s back. My first surfboard was a foam board with a plastic fin and my first real fiberglass board was a board Dad had broken and re-shaped for me.
To be honest I wasn’t really that into surfing until I was about 10 years old, I’d had a couple of close to drowning situations and I didn’t really think the ocean was my thing. Ti, my stepmum, got me into understanding the ocean. She would take me beyond the breakers, and holding onto her back, we would push through the waves and I could feel their energy and amount of power, and I slowly began to understand and welcome it.
What was the feeling you had when you first stood on a surfboard?
When I first understood how truly magical surfing was, I would get home from school and just stay in the water until the moon was high in the sky. I would literally catch hundreds of tiny waves, they were probably only 6 inches high, but they had enough propulsion to carry somebody my size. Most afternoons I was the only one out. I cannot even explain the sensation of surfing or what it gives. I really cannot describe the connectedness you feel with something so much bigger than you or I. I always look at indigenous cultures and their understanding of nature and the natural world that connects them to the bigger spirit and force. Surfing is grounding and completely confounding in terms of what it gives.
Who did you look up to and admire when you were a child?
Hmm… that’s a good question. I have always spent time with people generally a fair bit older than myself. Jim McGuinness is like another father to me, he looks after my dad’s farm, he has been there since 1970, before that he sold organic vegetable in Byron door-to-door. My dad always said JIm was one of the greatest surfers he had ever seen. Jim always shunned competitions, surfed alone, and he can make anything work when it comes to machinery and living and surviving on the land without “The Man.” One of my favourite and simplest yet most complex individuals I know.
I haven’t seen Skip Frye since this time, but when I was 12 years old I was in Bells Beach with Dad and Skip. He was just such a nice guy. I didn’t know anything about him except he was just a really a good human being. He had a pair of Converse shoes on and I’d always wanted to get myself a pair (later I did) but he had a quote for those shoes which I have never forgotten: “No slip no slide, and a smooth glide, the shoes with the star on the side.” Also he talked so highly of his wife Donna. I always really admired that, it reminds me of how my step dad Kevin has always revered my mother Marilyn, and I really think that is a tremendous quality in a person.
Of all the places you have traveled to, what place in particular stands out? And why?
Wild out of the way Indonesia just for the sheer beauty of the waves. I would also say France and Italy, more for their history and cultures than anything else, great people very family orientated. I also consider Japan like a second home. They are great people – very Zen.
Who/what inspires you?
I am inspired by a lot of different things: colours conjure emotions and feelings just like different guitar chords do. I find that kind of stuff amazing… they inspire me. These days I’m inspired by goodwill, giving and caring individuals. All the many charities out there that look out for children and animals. The people behind the scenes are my inspiration. They are the champions. My grandmother was always very charity driven, my step grandmother also. It is not the ones on the “silver screen” that I look up to so much (though they are very very gifted) – it’s the ones in the trenches fighting for human rights, our environment, and the creatures that dwell on this earth. Writing animal songs for children, I am very aware that a large percent of our animal populace are on the brink and it cuts to my core. I am saddened and have been very inspired by the likes of these fellows who are no longer with us: JJ Cale, George Harrison, Warren Zevon and the late great Donald Takayama. There are many more, obviously, but these guys were the first ones springing to mind.
Tell us about your music. What are you hoping the listener will connect with?
I think my music is hard to box in. I am not country, not surf, not rock, not kids and not folk.
I like to see all things that I do in that same way. I have always been that way with surfing and different boards because it is all so amazing. I would like my music to take the listener on a journey, I want them to long for home, long for travel, feel the ocean breeze, see the setting sun, dance the crazy animal dance to a Rhino song with a giant rock drum sound. In summary, music should conjure many emotions, with a lot of sound or sparse instrumentation – music should make you feel.
You are now selling your own surfboard shapes. What led you to that?
Making my own surfboard designs has always been there. To be honest, for over 30 years of surfing on a hugely varied amount of surf craft, I thought it was about time. Since a very young age I have been designing boards with shapers and I have always loved that process. Visions turn into reality. For years and years, friends have been saying I should make my own range of boards. I have always been the kind of person that really searches for the right style of board for the right conditions etc. Now I feel there is a quiver of boards that most definitely cover all aspects of wave riding.
I am really excited to be hands-on staying inside surfing with these board designs. For example, I had always had Japanese and European surf sponsors so the boards were available in those countries. I can finally get my boards all over the globe now to places like America, New Zealand and Brazil – and they won’t be costing the Earth.
It is really cool to be able to stay involved. Just because I live on a farm with my dog and am a virtual hermit, doesn’t mean I dont surf just as much now as I used to! I think my Dad is the same really, he has always wanted to stay involved.
My dad (Nat Young), Bob McTavish, George Greenough they had that time they called “The Involvement Period.” I feel I am going through my own mini “Involvement Period” with these designs. Dad has given me his blessings on a couple of genuine shapes from his earlier surfing years, I could not be more honored. Separate from him being my dad, I think there never will be a better all around display of longboarding than his in San Diego in 1966. To be able to make a board very similar to the one he rode at that time and with his agreement is beyond belief, like I said the loving father son thing is one thing, but his amazing surfing on that board at that time is a separate thing all together!
I think at this age of nudging 40, My surfing has really developed and I have a lot to give with these shapes. From the beginner surfer to the highly advanced surfer, I just want to see people happy and enjoying the sea.
What are you most proud of?
To be honest I am most proud of Animals Rock. Having a ton of kids rocking out and having a good time with their families to music that is real, honest and fun. Without even realising it, kids are learning so much about these beautiful creatures, the habitat, diet, weight, colour etc. For me, getting kids in touch with nature and the natural planet is something I am most proud of.
What meaning does surfing hold for you?
Surfing should ideally be like how Miki Dora described it. Letting all your troubles on land fade away once you paddle out. Surfing is another time and space – I find it easy to forget that now and then. Ultimately it really is a place (for me) for solitude and tapping into the moving natural world.
What brings you the most happiness in the world?
Being healthy and alive. As my dad always says “Make it a beautiful life”. When my grandmother was going to a higher place she held my hand and said “Love every minute”.
Who are some of the people you feel are shaping the path for surfing today?
I am not really up to date with who is doing what in surfing. I tend to look to the past within surfing and music for my appreciation artistically speaking. From what I am aware of in regards to making a push for immediate change, I think Dave Rastovich is out there practising what he preaches and that is fantastic. It can seem so overwhelming when you look at the World and what essentially humans are screwing up, but everyone counts – everyone. We all have a voice.
What is your favorite board? Your favorite surf spot?
My favourite board right now would have to be The Cloudwalker. The Cloudwalker is a 9’4″ singlefin longboard. This board was designed to be able to work amazingly in the smallest of waves. It is designed to fly even on the smallest of wave surfaces. So many times I have been in tiny waves and felt that the board simply did not plane to its maximum potential. From years of small wave riding I have ironed out the bugs and got a splendid board that turns, noserides, and trims with ease. Magic boards are rare and unlike a guitar (which gets better the more you play it) surfboards lose their memory and life. Now I know I can get the same fast moving responsive board once the old one has passed its used by date. I have a Takayama board I rode for 12 years and unfortunately I can’t get one of those again. Magic boards are hard to come by.
I like George Greenough’s philosophy when it comes to surfing, “Any chance you get to have a paddle is a great one”. In reality, I don’t have a favourite surf spot – I just like to get out there: 1 foot and onshore or 10 feet high and perfect.
What’s your favorite meal?
Nachos, pizza and mangoes… but not at the same time.
What’s next for Beau Young?
To leave the farm, get out there, and be more of a sociable animal. For too long I have been alone. I want to continue to create music and surfboards and get it to my wider group of friends. What’s next is to always be conscious of making every minute of this life amazing. Thanks.