Welcome to the 12th episode of our podcast.
I would like to thank the thousands of you that are following us since the first episode, we started only one year ago….the journey has been amazing!
Today is the 12th episode of the third series and the 68th episode we published since the beginning june 2020..…
We are preparing more series and we will be ready to hit soon 100 recorded episodes…. stay tuned!
Today’s guest is the legendary 1966 World Champion, Nat Young!
We discussed with him about his amazing career, surf books, surfboards and some very interesting stories about Miki Dora.
You can find the episode in all major podcast platforms (Spotify, ITunes, YouTube, Amazon) or read the interview here on our website (please forgive us of spelling mistakes).
A big thank you to Beau Young that helped us in organizing this interview.
TTOS: Aloha Mr. Young, welcome to the show, where are you today?
I'm fine, I'm doing good back here, I’m in a place called Angourie in Australia.
TTOS: How is everything over there in this time of coronavirus?
Well, it's a little, still a little bit difficult with some of the states because the actual lockdown is decided by the state, not by the federal government. If you want to go for instance to one or the other states that still has locked down, you have to go into quarantine. It's still a little bit hard, but I think it's getting a lot easier. We got our first vaccine about a week ago now and it's been going into all the nurses and the doctors and all the people that it's necessary to get.
TTOS: Thank you for sharing, today we are not going to talk about coronavirus, but we're going to talk about surf, a lot of surf. First question that I have for you is in your opinion, what is the most important thing in surfing?
I think the most important thing with surfing is to really live the truth of what surfing is, it's different to all the other activities. Most of the other activities don't live in nature like surf and surfers, they're not that really every day to day have to encompass what exactly nature really is. Us surfers, because we live by nature, we know exactly what's going on with the wind and the swell and we try to time our activity in order to get the best surf, we possibly can. I think that’s the biggest the biggest difference.
TTOS: Definitely, I agree with you, we deal with something that is the ocean that is alive like us. It has to become a good partnership…..
Yeah! We all learn all the classic lessons, you know, like “you're never gonna win”, don't ever fight the ocean because you'll never win and that's a very big thing. We see a lot of people, in many other activities, who still think that they can win and that that's fine for the activities they do, but, when you start to get the surfing, you learn very rapidly that you're never gonna win that, you've just got to give up and go with it, you know?
That's the way it works, you know, because there's no point to fight, you know, when you're on the bottom of the ocean and you struggle being held down, you just got to relax and, eventually, you'll come up, but you've got to really relax through it. Now, you can really get hurt if you're trying to find your way to the surface, when you shouldn't be just letting the ocean turn you up to the surface, most times it turns you up.
TTOS: I see what you mean, in fact, I was talking a few episodes ago with Tom Carroll, now he's doing meditation coach and meditation sessions, he told me if, all of a sudden, you're down in the water, meditation really helps to keep cool and make sure that you go through it without panicking… it is so helpful….
As soon as you get to a certain level of surfing, you realize that “that's the fact”, you can't fight, you can't fight nature. We used to have a logo when I worked for Oxbow, that said “You can't fight nature” and it's true…
TTOS: I’m very interested to know more about your first surfboard and if you still have it…..
No, I don't have it anymore. I actually don't know what happened, that's a bit of a shame. At the beginning, I had one that was called the Queen Mary, which was giant, it was a 10 foot long, three string balsa board, that was a second hand board, it wasn't my board as such, but then the next board was a nine foot called a “pig board” made by a local builder….he did a really good job, he blitzed over balsa and it was very white. This guy finished the board up and then I got into leave a little place in the front where I could paint “Pixie”, one of the three mice that used to be in a cartoon, but that was once again, a long time ago.
I had a lot of boards, today I probably have 30 boards, but I lost a lot of boards with the fires (early 2020 Australia’s wildfires),as they were on the farm. I lost the board from “Morning of the Earth”, I lost the board from my 50th birthday party that was present from Donald Takayama….
I lost a really, a lot of important boards on the farm, when the fire came….that was a bit of a shame, but that's what happened there.
TTOS: Unfortunately, it happened, but still the memory stays with you, right?
Oh yeah, I can recall pretty much all of the important boards that I've had in those days, you know, sometimes, these days, I find myself holding onto boards cause I'm not surfing like before.
I'm surfing every day I can, but, sometimes I don't bother going surfing and I might only ride five waves and that's all I want to get now….if I get three good waves out of five, then I feel really good. I come in on a beach and just watch everyone, but rather watch sometimes….. “less is best”.
TTOS: I agree with you less is best, definitely.
It's very frustrating when there's a lot of people in the water, you just have to be able to balance your input, so as you're not getting frustrated, it can ruin the whole surfing experience, especially if you end up getting frustrated by too many people in the water.
Unfortunately, that's what happened around the world, I mean, there are so many people surfing now and you can't be a hypocrite about this, I understand why they're doing it…. for the exact same reason that I started doing it….
TTOS: Very crowded waves all over the world, indeed! While you were talking, it came into my mind the interviews that I had with Joey Cabell and Fred Hemmings; they told me that, at that time, we were waiting for people to join us and go surfing because it was very dangerous….having a mate that was surfing with you was a good thing because, in case you were in difficulties, you had somebody that could rescue you….
I was talking to somebody on the weekend that was here and they wanted to know what Byron Bay was like in 1969. You know, when I first moved there I had to go find someone to go surfing with me. I drove around until one of my friends would go surfing. Surf was really good and there just wasn't anybody there to surf with. What Cabell and Hemmings are saying, is totally understandable to me.
Even here in Angurie, where I live, I've surfed really good waves with three other people for 30 years, bu it's not like that anymore, now it's crowded, but is still very important to make sure that you're still surfing. I have to keep surfing and when I will not be able to that anymore, that's going to be a very sad day…. If you're a surfer, you should be going surfing.
TTOS: Let's hope that that moment will never, never happen.
What, in your opinion, was the defining moment of your career?
I suppose the 1966 World Championship, because I felt like, at that stage, I was really doing the best surfing out of everybody that was there and I was surfing a whole different style compared to everyone else. The fact that I was successful was pretty great, you know, that was in San Diego, I was on a board that I shaped myself from a lot of Bob McTavish’s ideas and George Greener’s ideas… things that I'd been playing with…that board was fantastic, really responsive and I surfed it really hard.
I think that 1966 world championship was a defining moment as far as you know, because that's when I say, that the “short board thing” started to happen…
I don't know whether I was surfing a shorter board, but it was certainly shorter than what I'd been on a year before that…. You know, it was 9 /4 and it was not that smaller board, but still finer, lighter…
It was called, Sam was a good board, I didn't get that back either, unfortunately that was another one that I didn't have and I don't even know where that one ended up. Apparently they sent it from Hawaii back to me, but I never got it….
TTOS: That was the transition between a 12 foot and a 9 foot, but you cannot really call it like a shortboard, in my opinion….
I don't think so either, but everybody always says that it was the beginning of “the shortboard revolution” , you know, a lot of people in the competition were riding boards 10 foot long, my board being 9/4 was shorter than those that they were riding. That board didn't have much float, it was really low, but the biggest thing about it was that it had really tight rails and, you know, a lot of the boards that were being made around the world at that stage, didn't have really didn't have really tight, tight rails, they just had a very round rails.
TTOS: I remember those boards, I saw pictures and I agree with you about the rails….
Maybe this is a very simple question, I'm sorry for it, but genuine…. what is the emotion that you have when you realize that you are World Champion?
Yeah, it's incredible. I mean, it's one of the highest things that you can achieve personally… everybody's going “Hey, you're the best, you're the champ”, it's a wonderful thing. I don't think it should be discounted at all like certain people that say “it doesn't really matter”.
It was fantastic, I loved it when I was told that I was the world champion, I miss those years a lot.
I was trying to prove a point, I was trying to give a standard of what longboard surfing was… something really different.
TTOS: People today are referring to you as a legend, do you consider yourself one?
I suppose yes, but I don't think about it in this way….I think about it as a sort of, because you know, all the books and the movies and the things that I've said over the years, I consider myself a tribal elder…
One of the tribe, but today, as I’m 74 years old, I’m an elder….I feel like I'm being a good elder, I'm feeling like I'm living by the example of what an elder should live by.
In other words, still staying out in the water and surfing hard, that to me is important to be able to still do it, you know, I just hope it doesn't happen that I will be incapacitated to do that.
I'm not 74 yet, but 74 this year, but you feel like you're really you're really getting old, you know? I'm getting out and I'm not I'm not having a problem with it so far. My health is good, I've got a new knee which is you know, is made out of titanium and I've got a good supportive family around me. I think I've a lot going on in my life and good projects to work on, hopefully nothing will go wrong where I have to stop surfing before I get very old.
TTOS: I think that “keeping ourself busy” is the secret…
There's the old saying about it, it says “you snooze, you lose” so you have to just keep going. I still am doing my exercises every day and going for walks on the beach with my with my wife and just enjoying. I was on the farm and I had work out there with a big tractor and then doing work that had to be done. That's a different way to fly, but it's really it's really important to keep busy, even if it's just reading a book or doing my exercises, whatever it's all important.
TTOS: while I was preparing this interview, I discovered, and I'm sorry, I didn't know, that you wrote so many books and I found it like amazing. I wanted to ask you a same question about surfing that I started with at the beginning of interview, in your opinion, what is the most important thing in writing a book?
It depends… the autobiography was a major task for me because I had to go back to all of my diaries and I've been keeping diaries since I was 16 years old, I just write notes down that can refresh my memory. That was a different, that was the most important thing to me to do “Nat Nat”, that was a really good project. I still get compliments on that from different people, but the last one “Church of the open sky” was more when I was recovering from this knee operation and I just figured I'd just get a hold of the diaries again, I got my wife to bring them and I just started writing because I was just trying to do something constructive.
I started writing and, and then I started the story, I wrote about different people that I've spent a lot of time with, like Miky Dora, for instance, when we were in Afghanistan together and through that period, you know, and early days of France and in the seventies in the United States….
I think it's important to tell these stories, stories of surf because people forget that our history is really different compared to all the other histories…. We were really different, really interesting characters and a lot of times they weren't perfect role models as Miky Dora.
He wasn't a role model for me, it was just a really good mate, but, you know, he did a lot of things outside of the law…. you know, he was a friend and we were doing a lot of playing and I had some really good times with him, so I can tell a lot of those stories.
I did that in the book “Church of the open sky”, I tell all the different stories that I could think of, or that I could use my diary to reference back to
TTOS: Among those stories, is that one particular that you, you keep very dear to your heart.
No, not really, these were really pretty personal anyhow, I was just telling you how it all affected me and the way it all is. There wasn't any that were particularly meaningful… , I mean, I told you that story just a little while ago, I got Miky Dora because he was a nice, colorful, I think he was probably the most colorful person in surfing that's ever existed. I think it's fascinating that I got to be a friend of his for so long.
TTOS: What was the, the best or the funniest experience that you had with Miky Dora?
He was certainly entertaining….
I suppose the best story that comes to mind is when making a tour in the south of France and he was getting bored and decided that we should get into St. John tennis club. We were bad, I mean, he was a good tennis player and I was a complete hack, but you know, I can hit balls back sometimes.
We ended up getting into a game of doubles with two really good tennis players, then Mickey ended up being frustrated and suggesting that they should play for money, but we didn't have much money then, cause we we'd sort of blown all that money on the travels from Afghanistan…
We started challenging these people to serious tennis for 500 francs a game….we lost, we were down about 5,000 francs and then Miky just decided to start really playing….. he took every ball and he just nailed and we ended up making thousands and thousands of francs. It was quite interesting because it was Miky that was really playing them the whole way because we needed money to be able to live……that's how he was going to do it, he was a colorful guy and fun to hang out with that's for sure.
I thought I could play tennis very well, but Miky, between golf and tennis, he was a complete professional, you know, he played a lot with pros, he knew exactly how to hit balls very well. That's what it is…our thing was either riding waves or play balls
TTOS: At least, these two French tennis players, they ended up playing a tennis match with Miky Dora and Nat Young. ….it's not that every day match…..
Well, I don't know. I don't think I cared about who I was like, we really wanted to win. You know, I was good enough to win. I didn't count on Miky when he really got in gear, that was pretty funny, it was pretty fun, the whole thing was hilarious. We had a great time in France that year.
TTOS: What was the best teaching you had from surf?
It's the same as what I said before, you have to be patient and if you're patient a good wave will probably come, if it doesn't come, then you ride some rubbish and you go in and you do it again after. You have to think and you have to understand that it's not always perfect, sometimes you going out, sometimes you sit and you do it just simply for exercise.
I mean, I go out there and I get my five waves, but sometimes I won't even get five good waves. I'll just paddle around, out there and try to catch a few more waves….if it doesn't happen, that's okay, because sometimes it just doesn't happen. It is called patience
TTOS: The world would be much better if we had all more patience…..
Well, you know, I think that's another thing that surfing teaches you, you need to wait for your turn,you cannot have every wave… it's not just like that… You have to give in order to receive. That's just the rules of nature, that's the way it is. You better back up and do it because you're not going to get anywhere to do it the other way, you'll just end up getting frustrated, driving yourself crazy. So you might as well just give in and be patient.
Now, you know, everybody knows that I only ride five waves, I'm in pretty good shape and it's not like I don't get harassed by people out in the water, even the tourists when they here, you know, they sort of seem to know who I am and so they give me a bit a break, not that I want that much.
How do you working on on something new, particularly of course you are working on a lot of things, as we said, but are you working on maybe a new book or something else, a new project,
TTOS: Are you currently working on any new project?
I'm really just having time off as far as writing goes, I mean, I'm writing in my diary, but that's about all I'm doing the rest of it is old. I just haven't felt inspired since, I just thought “you know what, I'm just gonna take some time off and see if I can get some further inspiration to write again”, but I don't know whether it's going to happen. I've got a lot of things on with you know, this new house and because of the fires, I'd have to change its position about the house on the farm, you know? The family has decided that we want to go to a mile inland on the property, away from roads and away from all the people, there's been some big changes, you know, all you've got, you know, there's so much work to do up there. I got up there and that keeps me going.
TTOS:We're going to finish our interview with a short Q/A session, please answer the first thing that comes up to your mind….
The best surfboard that you have ever ridden
A Ryan Burch asymmetric, 7/2. Is the one I’m riding right now, it has got incredible acceleration.I love the board and I'll probably should get another one….
TTOS: Your favorite shaper…
I have to say Ryan Burch for shortboards and if you go to longboards, Donald Takayama for sure , unfortunately he is not with us anymore….
TTOS: Personal question, your favorite song….
Oh, that's a tough one, I lik the poetry of Bob Dylan….
There's a song that Bob Dylan did called “Bob Dylan’s dream” , and then it's been an important part of my, how thing for a long time. So that's my favorite song.
TTOS: Your favorite surf spot
Of course, I love I love my home break here in Angurie, but there are so many waves all around the world…. One of my favorite is still in Indonesia in Uluwatu, there the nature is probably the most consistent wave you can get, as long as you're prepared to pay for it, it's expensive these days to go there
TTOS: Who is your favorite surfer today?
Well, without a doubt, it's my son, Bryce Young, I don't know whether anybody you've ever seen him surfing, but it's just it's electric, that's why as the lead surfer of Vissla, he's just so good, just incredible, I guess also because I see him all the time, he's surfing sometimes with me, sometimes I'm just sitting on the beach watching and I just love watching his surfing.
TTOS: The last question is a bit unusual; we want to know your best relationship advice….
That's easy, you know, “hurry slowly” in other words, go really fast, but make sure that you're sure which foot's going where, so you can be walking the board and apply “hurry slowly” or you can be walking down the road or you can be taking an aircraft or you can be riding a wave…..it's still about “Hurry Slowly” that's our family motto and that’s what I think is the best way to represent me.