Twenty-seventeen was a big year for Newquay’s Adam ‘Bearman’ Griffiths.
He came fifth in the world on the longboarding world tour, fathered his first child with his wife Holly and opened up a bar and kitchen at Great Western beach.
He hit the ground running once again in 2018, chasing swells around his native coastline and making a strong case for most barrelled man in Cornwall, and as Spring beckons, is gearing up to re-open ‘The Slope’ for what he hopes will be another successful season.
We recently caught up with Adam, to talk about his year, progressive longboarding’s standing in the world, how a lack of industry cash bread a culture of mentorship, improving the waves in Newquay bay and why it seems like longboarders are getting all the waves.
Last year was a big one for you, tell me about your experience on the longboard world tour?
Well I almost didn’t go to the first event in Papua New Guinea. I had just being going to the events in China for the last five years and was getting a bit stale and I’d just found out I was having a kid as well, so I was a bit worried about going to PNG and getting Zika virus.
I’d decided I wasn’t going but then I went and saw Skindog (Ben Skinner) and he told me how wet I was being and helped me change my mind. I ended up going and getting my best result ever.
There were really good waves; right hand barrels in the morning and then perfectly rippable waves all day, it was a really good event all round and I finished third, which was a good start to the season for me.
How long had been you doing those WSL comps before that?
Seven or eight years.
Knowing you, I don’t have you down as this ruthless competitor, do you feel like this result you’ve got now is something you’ve really pushed for, or is it more that you just love surfing and enjoy competing?
I’ve kind of always known that I’ve got the ability to beat the guys, but it’s putting it all together in that 20 minute heat and it’s never really all fallen into place for me before.
I’ve never really gone out there to win an event, I go out there because I love going, competing, seeing all the top longboarders in the world and hanging out and surfing with them.
I just look at it as a bit of fun and a bit of a holiday really.
Those comps are still quite niche in the surfing world, compared to the viewing figures of the CT and the Big Wave World Tour, what do you think they could do to make them more exciting and make more people want to tune in?
I think this year just gone they got quite good viewing figures. In Taiwan they got over 300 thousand watching on Facebook and they’re still waiting to give us the stats from the WSL platform.
I think this year was more exciting, it was a good webcast. I think now the WSL have sorted out the women’s tour and the BWT, they’re going to move on to longbaording next.
We had a meeting in Taiwan, and they’ve got a couple of exciting events planned for 2018/19.
Do you feel like there’s a lot less investment now in progressive longboarding than there has been in the past?
I feel like I got into it at the end of the Oxbow era, where they put a lot of money into hosting the big high performance longboarding events, then obviously the recession hit and everyone took a bit of a hit sponsorship wise.
I think the big Joel Tudor single fin movement made logging really cool and I think progressive longboarding got a little bit left behind. Ten years ago it was all about surfing off the tail, and it went too progressive.
Where as now I think the judging criteria that the WSL use is based on traditional longboard surfing; they want to see the nose rides in the critical parts of the wave. I think people maybe got bored of seeing big turns on a longer board when the progression at the time was all about moving towards smaller boards.
Even shortbarding went through a phase of getting shorter and wider boards, so I think it’s just phases and trends and it will all probably come back around again in another ten years time.
Are there some up and coming longboarders in Britain that you think might be able to take on you and Ben’s legacy?
Well Jack Unsworth has just qualified for the World Tour next year, so that’s really exiting, he’s a great surfer. He’s more traditional, so it will be interesting to see how he approaches it, because the waves on tour at the moment are quite high performance and there are only two guys riding logs.
Jordan Zervas is going to be a really good surfer and Barnaby Innes as well.
Do you guys feel that you have a role in mentoring that younger crew?
Yea for sure, if they want to come and ask me some advice I’m always keen to give it to them. I surf with Jordan a lot so I’m always giving him a hoot and bigging him up.
Skinner has got his team riders riding his boards, so he helps them out a lot. He’s mentored Jack and Jordan, and also myself as well. He’s put British longboarding on the map really.
It seems like that’s an area where British longboarding really has a strength over shortboarding, because you don’t see much mentorship going on between established and up and coming shortboarders, where as it seems with you guys there’s always been a culture of that.
Yeah, I guess the boys don’t want to tell them their secrets, I think now being a professional is so niche you’ve got to look after yourself if that’s your career.
But that’s not true of the longboarders?
I just don’t think there’s as much money. You know Skinner has got 11 European titles and been second in the world, so he’s managed to make a living out of surfing, but it’s pretty tough going if you’re a longboarder. Also I think Minnow created a really good community with his BLU competitions.
There were so many good longboarders around at that time that we all had a really good training platform to move onto the world stage, but I don’t think the shortboarders had as many big names to look up to and compete against.
You also became a dad last year, congratulations! Has that changed your perspective on surfing and life in general?
It’s a great feeling, I feel happy and content, I’ve got a good wife, who still lets me go surfing (laughs). Obviously we had Lakey and I went to Taiwan two weeks later, so she came at a good time and I was still lucky enough to go and compete.
It’s a great feeling and I’m looking forward to growing up with her and nurturing her and hopefully she’ll be out there surfing with us soon.
You also opened up your bar and kitchen down on Great Western in Newquay, can you tell me a bit about that?
I was lucky enough to win the tender with my business partner, which was a really big deal for me and my career. I’ve had the surf school there previously and I love being down there on the beach, and now we’ve got the cafe and the bar too.
We also managed to bring in a bit of history from Roger Mansfield, who’s a local surfing historian. It turns out that Great Western beach was the original surfing beach, where it all started, so for us it was really cool to incorporate that into the branding of The Slope and make people aware of Great Western’s history.
And so you just finished your first summer down there, have you got plans to get some parties going and get a little scene emerging?
Yea, we’re going to start doing more of a grom club- last summer it was just a freebie for young kids to come along, borrow a surfboard and get out there with their parents, so hopefully we’ll try and develop that for older kids as well.
And we’re going to host some open mic nights, as we had a couple last year that went really well. We’re just keen to ease in to it and get some locals down there; it’s a great spot for a sunset and a beer.
I guess all you need now is them to put a reef in and turn Western into the best spot in Cornwall and you’d be sorted.
They were going to put one in weren’t they, that would have been amazing, I think the fisherman didn’t want it to happen and after Bournemouth not working out people might not be that keen to invest.
Are there more options that might make it a better surfing beach?
I’d like to build a sandbank, or a groin off Towan headland and one off Western headland and one at Tolcarne, that would break it up a bit and make a bit of a wedge. But I don’t think they’d be too stoked with three big rock jetties.
So pictures of you getting barrelled were popping up all over the place at the start of this year after that epic run of swell, it’s quite rare to see longboarders snagging all the good ones when it’s head high and barrelling, do you think longboards are underrated as a tool for getting really barrelled?
I think as long as it’s not too slabby you can get in that much earlier. You can come in behind the peak and backdoor it, especially when you’ve got it as a quad set up, it just holds a little bit better in the face.
I don’t ride longboards all the time when it’s barreling, it’s nice to mix it up, but the waves we’ve been getting recently have been perfect for a longboard.
Do you think that’s something you can see more people taking up now?
Well maybe, there were four people out there on longboards the other day, plus a goat boater and two stand up paddle boarders, so who knows… it would be a bit of a nightmare if there were too many out there, but you know it’s a great board for it.
In that vein is it hard when you’ve got that board that will let you in earlier, to make sure, especially in a crowded line up on a classic day that you’re not taking too many?
(laughs) Yea it’s hard not to froth out to be honest, the problem is that you can get a lot of waves that a lot of other people cant catch, so it might look like you’re catching a lot of waves, but sometimes there’s the ones that just sneak underneath people which the shortboarders cant catch.
But you do have to sit back, have a little check and slow down. I think you’re never going to be the favourite person when you paddle out on the longboard wherever you go in the world, you’re always going to get a few looks, but as long as you’re surfing the waves well, people soon get used to it.