For a relatively small and geographically detached seaside town, St Ives has produced an impressively high calibre of surfers and creatives over the last few decades.
From Tom Lowe, one of Europe’s most accomplished big wave surfers, to acclaimed painter Danny Fox, there’s something about the town and its unique surf and cultural scene that moulds a distinctive type of character.
Or, as local boy Matt Smith puts it, breeds an eclectic mix of “hermits, travellers, pioneers, exhibitionists, psychos, soul guys, air guys, comp guys and pure surf guys and girls.”
Among the young surfers frequenting the beaches around the turn of the millennium was the enigmatic Sam Crookshanks, who after moving out to Australia’s Sunshine Coast has evolved into one of Britain’s most accomplished longboarding exports. Hailed in particular for his impeccable backside nose-riding, Crookshanks holds his own among Noosa’s rich crop of world-class loggers, even pipping good mate and local standout Harrison Roach to the win at the Noosa Festival of Surfing back in 2015.
At around the same time, he met the crew from Uppercut Deluxe and, impressed by his style both in and out of the water, they invited him to join their eclectic team of ambassadors.
Recently, we teamed up with the brand to offer every new subscriber to Wavelength a free grooming pack (including a wash bag, matt pomade and CT5 comb), which served as the perfect excuse, we figured, to catch up with Sam and find out a little more about his journey from the mighty Meor to the long lines of First Point.
WL: Can you tell me about your childhood?
SC: I was born and bred on one of the finest cultural Cornish coastlines! Good old St Ives.
With my dad’s work, my family and I always travelled around the world so I got to experience a lot from a young age. Moving to Australia in 2003 was absolutely incredible, especially because it opened up my world to a new lifestyle, culture and environment as well as friendships and career options. It was a new land of waves, wonder and music!
WL: And despite that move early in your life, do you feel Cornwall retained some influence on you?
SC: I’ll always be Cornish inside and out. Culturally, where I was born means so much more to me. All the history and heritage of that place has played a big part in shaping my personality and perspectives. Growing up somewhere so rich in history, home to the pirates of the land and sea, is what drew me originally to my interests in surfing, art, music and history. However, growing up in Australia throughout my adolescent years is something I would never replace. I feel I’ve been a part of surfing history, witnessing the swift evolution of Noosa.
WL: Could you describe that evolution?
SC: It’s been crazy to see how an iconic world-class surf break can draw in billionaires within a few years. Like Malibu in California, Snapper Rocks on the Gold Coast, Noosa Heads seems all of a sudden to be home to some of the richest people in the world. Guess they all wanna taste of our “subculture” lifestyle (laughs).
The hardest part is seeing/adapting to the change of 2020. It will always remain Noosa Heads. But we all know we lived through the “glory days.”
WL: I heard you spent a bit of time involved in the Penzance punk scene too?
SC: I never played music back home in England but I sure have had my fair share of festivals, punk shows, goth gigs, black metal gigs and everything in between! I used to be in a few bands here in Aus; Los Laws & Flat White (playing drums, bass and singing).
WL: Aside from playing music, can you tell me about what else you occupy your time with on land at the moment?
SC: A mystical journey of debauchery (laughs). I do like to structure life with my painting career. [Sam co-owns and runs one of the biggest house painting firms in QLD]. And, in my free time I will write poems and songs, play any kind of instrument I can get my hands on, build on my library. Wander around, escape and enjoy life with my girlfriend Isabel, my dog Benji and my friends.
WL: Before you started painting you used to work in one of the town’s most famous surf shops right?
SC: I haven’t worked in a surf shop in three or four years and I’m so glad I’m away from all that bullshit. The subculture of surfing will forever be fascinating and wonderful, but there’s so much poison and sickening bullshit that goes along with it. That’s why I’m a painter now- to divide business from pleasure
WL: You’ve had a few battles with personal demons around addiction that have ended with a few stints in rehab. Can you tell me about those?
SC: I’ve been when I was 19, 23 and 28. All for issues relating to my addictive personality… branching out into alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, insomnia.
WL: And does surfing help pull you out? Or is it just another addiction that just happens to be less destructive?
SC: It’s the first stabilisation /structure I ever grasped ahold of when I realised I was addicted to certain things. It gave me balance and order. But then again surfing draws me into the next best thing… the way the thrill of the sport can take you is relentless.
Up, down, sideways. I guess it’s ones personal choice on where they would like to be.
Cover photo: @kanebrownphoto