As is the case of so many young longboarders who grow up perfecting their style, there comes a time when the reality sets in that it’s not one endless summer. Life’s expectations come in and yes, longboarding will always be their love, but it has to fade into the early mornings and late nights relegated to the side of life’s expectations and a job.
So what if it never had to end? What if you could devote your life to the beauty and sport of longboarding and make a career out of it? That scenario has come alive in so many top athletic spaces across the world, we think of soccer - the beautiful game, skiing, tennis, basketball, running, the list goes on of both team and individual sports where there are professional paths for the athletes as well as an entire industry around them. The question arose - what would that look like for longboarding. How can you unite a community and give back to the sport? To be able to connect the modern and classic divisions? To empower the female and male athletes? To celebrate their unique styles and build upon the community and lifestyle experiences shared on the beach and beyond. To create a sustainable platform for the surfers. Is it possible? That’s where it started with Relik.
It first began with “no” - it will never work. That’s what they said. And so we started with no and built from there. At the beginning there was no expectations, we did not set out to compete with anyone else. There was a gap that no-one was filling and we knew with the right people, the right vision, we might be the ones to fill the need.
First we would need to find the world’s best. Find the current leaders and invite them to join the movement. This was Relik’s launching invitational event at Malibu in October 2017, bringing together the top 50 longboard athletes from around the globe. Once we’d found some of the world’s best we wanted to open up the invitation to the entire globe of new, undiscovered talent that was just waiting for their opportunity. Next we created the largest prize purse in history for a longboarding event - $150,000. This was the beginning of Relik’s longboard world tour - which saw a global video submission opportunity to join a longboard world tour with hundreds of submissions from countries around the world.
Now that we had discovered the worlds best talent we wanted to deliver them the best opportunity to showcase their skill at some of the world’s most iconic surf locations. Malibu and Trestles. These beaches, and the permits to use them, do not come cheap - but by investing in the locations, supporting the local communities and state parks, Relik doubled down on the desire to help sustain and continue to grow the longboarding community. And when all the stars aligned the last piece of the puzzle was to hire the best photographers and videographers. By capturing the talent and raw beauty of longboarding we celebrate the accomplishments and raise the bar of what the sport and lifestyle can look like. The uncompromising view of creating something special and building the creative Relik team is essential to elevating what is possible.
And slowly, with each focused effort we started to build on the foundations. One step at a time. More than opportunities for the long boarder’s to surf we united the spheres of people around them, in the back and front of house. Chances for people to earn an income. Local artists were hired to paint at events, food vendors grew their audiences to serve, craftsmen and shapers created boards and trophies, entrepreneurs with authentic brands like Slow Tides partnered with Relik. The creators and manufactures were included in the cycle and it grew, it unified and strengthened the community in a true push to create a sustainable platform.
And beyond our own competition how could we foster growth in others? Working with A Walk on Water to host their event in Malibu to help support and invest in the people doing incredible work for families. And next for SurfAid’s Cup. We thought - let’s not simply donate, lets sponsor and build a team to compete. We reached out to young longboarders giving them a chance to showcase their skill. By not only investing in their cause, SurfAid’s Mother and Child Health Programms bring clean water & sanitation, basic healthcare, and improved nutrition to extremely remote villages with some of the highest mortality rates in the world. We champion the next generation of young surfers - and low and behold - the young Relik team won the event!
With all these incredibly opportunities for outreach and growth we didn’t plan them that way. Our partnership with Surfline, born from the desire to provide a live webcast of the event to share the world’s best talent competing with a global audience, continues to be incredibly supportive. They help build our movement. And they, along with many others have been part of Relik’s organic growth. And when the doors naturally keep opening to bigger things you know that you’re doing something worth while. And then the haters will hate. They say you will never be able to clear the water, the local community will not stand for outsiders coming in. People love to play up the drama, the division.
But you reach out to local leaders, include them in the conversations, share with them the open, inclusive vision and are amazed. During the event at Lower Trestles you see the respect between short and longboarder’s and of course, it is so obvious that there is shared mutual respect, the ability to honor the other, but why did everyone say it wouldn’t be so? And you remind yourself that if you keep doing what you’re doing it will continue to become more clear. Build it and they will come.
Keeping it legit
While surfing’s timeline is peopled with many colorful characters, there has only been one Nat Young. An ‘influencer’ long before the term was invented, Nat breadth of experience and involvement is difficult to comprehend in today’s world of the specialist surfer. World champion, innovative surfboard designer, cultural icon, author, filmmaker…surf shop owner—the list of what Nat hasn’t contributed to our surf culture is the shorter one. And is there irony in the fact that the man who personified the “Shortboard Revolution” back in the late 1960s was also the progenitor of the Postmodern Longboard Era in the 1980s (winning three more world titles, we might add)? Not one bit. Because as perhaps the sport’s ultimate authority, what Nat says, goes.
Most surfers recognize Sam George as a byline, familiar with his written word. That’s what over 35 years of working as a surf magazine editor will get you. Less recognized, perhaps, has been his work as a documentary filmmaker, with plenty of ‘written by’ and ‘directed by’ credits to his name, including the Emmy Award winning Hawaiian: The Legend of Eddie Aikau. Yet through all these mediums of self-expression Sam has always made one thing clear: he’s a surfer who writes, not a writer who surfs. And he’s certainly done that, for over 50 years. In over 40 different countries. On literally every type of surfboard. Not only writing about but winning contests in the U.S., Hawaii and Australia (including longboard contests at Malibu and Sunset Beach.) A surfer that has done, and still does, it all.
There are only a handful of surfers who consistently have a description of their skill on a surfboard preceded by the word preternatural, defined as “beyond what is normal or natural.” For CJ Nelson that superlative can be applied to his ability to ride on the front six inches of a longboard, frontside or backside, fast or slow, forward or back. Truth is, however, there’s a lot more to this smooth-surfing Santa Cruz goofy foot than just being considered one of the world’s best noseriders. Over the years CJ has emerged as a thoughtful proponent of longboarding’s New School of self- expression: ride what and how you like, but do it with soul. Do it with purpose. And sure, if that perfect section lines up, do it with ten toes over.
Ok, let’s get the resume out of the way. U.S. Open Longboarding champion 1994, 2007. ASP World Longboarding Champion 1999, 2001, 2002. U.S. Pro Longboard Tour Champion 2002, 2004, 2005. Five-time U.S Longboard champion. Get the picture? Only half of it, it turns out. That Colin McPhillips is one of the most decorated professional competitors of the modern longboard era is pretty clear. Yet it’s not what Colin has done with a longboard under his feet that’s so impressive, but how he’s done it. Pretty much with a smile the whole way. The attitude implying that while his powerful, versatile approach won plenty of big heats, he never lost sight of the fact that all of this—the waterman’s life he’s so completely committed to—is supposed to be fun. He’s deadly serious about that.