From winning this summer’s U18 UK Night Surf in Newquay, to representing Wales at senior level in the European Championships on the frigid Norwegian coast, it’s been a pretty good year for Swansea shredder Patrick Langdon-Dark.
The Gower youngster sealed the deal last month at Fistral, where he prevailed in wind-stricken 3ft ramps to win the Nerf Clash of the Groms and be crowned UK Pro Surf Tour champion at U18 level.
Now firmly established as one of the UK surfing’s hottest future talents, I caught up with Pat to discuss his trajectory to the top – something he’s achieved without the luxury of a major sponsor.
How does it feel to be junior UK Pro Tour champion?
Sick, I’m super happy. Also, it was one of my main goals for this year. When I lost in Thurso [Clash of the Groms], I thought I might have messed things up a bit. I just told myself, ‘I’m going to win this last event in Fistral. I’m gonna win the title.’ I trained my butt off; I was in the gym every day and surfing every day pretty much.
I knew everyone was going to be surfing really good so I was really motivated, but I didn’t want to get ahead of myself too much. I just knew that if I surfed well then I was in with a good chance of winning all my heats. My dad kept on reminding me too, just to go and surf well instead of thinking about the title.
I had three or four heats on the Saturday, and it was a heavy 4ft, long paddle-out and stormy. Then Sunday was a bit weird – I was up at like half seven and then just waiting for the final around 3pm. I was against Seth [Morris], but we’re both good friends so it was competitive and fun at the same time. I was a bit nervous and got one wave that didn’t feel too good. It was low tide and really sucky and washy, and I got some airs in.
All in all, I was just really stoked because winning the tour was my main goal and I achieved it. I wasn’t bursting with joy so much as really happy and relaxed because I’d done what I’d aimed to do.
What was the vibe on the beach like?
It was the opposite to the night surf in June – just freezing northerly winds and rain. There were just the competitors on the beach, no real scene going on, getting changed freezing in the back of the van.
When did you start surfing?
I think I was nine when we went to Rhossili on Gower with my dad and his mate; it was the first time I’d been on a green wave. I remember thinking how different it felt from being on a bit of white water. I was like ‘What the hell!?’ and my brother was laughing at my expression and stuff. Then we went to Cornwall a week later and I surfed all week and loved it.
My first comp was when I was 13; all the other boys were sponsored already, so I felt a bit behind but I knew I had it in me to get good so I just free surfed as much as I could.
I think not getting into the competition mould at a really early age kind of helped me because I wasn’t just trying to do three turns to the beach time and again. I was trying airs and stuff from early on so maybe that helped me develop a more innovative approach.
Do you have any sporting role models?
Probably Mick Fanning because he trains like a beast, it feels like he’s been training that way for longer than most and he’s always been known for being in really good shape. Obviously Kelly’s a massive role model, but I really like Medina. He’s not everyone’s favourite but I like how hungry he is, how much he trains and how much he shows he wants it. Also, Andy Irons because he’s a legend; his style and strength were insane.
You can’t do what guys like Filipe Toledo does without being extremely fit, flexible and powerful. Like, the airs he does – if you go partying and drinking everyday then your body’s not going to do that. It’s such a different level now.
What’s your style?
I don’t know, quite a wide stance; wider than most people. A bit overly energetic maybe. I try to be stylish but, you know, you never want to try to be stylish and make yourself look different because you are who you are. I remember an Andy Irons video where he was basically saying that trying to surf like someone else just isn’t going to end well, so just be yourself.
What board are you riding?
JP’s been shaping my boards since I was ten. I’m riding a 5’5, bright pink and a bit of volume; John [Purton] hasn’t told me the precise details. I love it, it’s just a little rocket. I’m not sure if I like the idea of having more volume, I like being small and lighter but it’s made such a difference in how fast you can go, and if there’s like a one-foot double up you can still try airs, you’re not flinging around loads of nose and stuff, it’s just nice and compact.
I ride a 5’7 too with a really shallow swallow tail which I surf when the surf’s been a bit better.
How’s your last year been?
Through spring and the start of summer I went to Portugal twice, France, Northern Spain and the Basque Country; they were all for Pro Juniors. I’d love to get away on a free surf trip soon though; I just put all my money into the comps.
In the UK this year I’ve been to Cornwall a lot, I got up to Thurso too and I was there again when I got back from Norway. I love it there – Thurso’s such a mental wave. I was there once competing against Alan Stokes; we both had a by-through the first heat but surfed it anyway. My first time out there, it must have been about 30 mph cross shores, about eight foot on the peak, three foot of chop coming up the face and proper scary.
I was on my 5’7 with small fins – so under-gunned – and I’m like ‘So, Stokesy…where shall I sit? – laughs – How do I surf this wave?’ And he’s like ‘Oh just go on this one, you’ll be fine, we’re both going through anyway!’
The first one I took off on I just went over head first, popped back up and I’m just looking up ready to take an eight-footer on the head, thinking ‘this is not fun’. After a few waves things got more enjoyable. The final day there was six-foot sheet glass, barrels the whole way.
Did you surf anywhere else up there?
We surfed another slab a bit more towards John O’ Groats. There was a big channel then a point coming out into it and there was a fun right breaking off that and going really deep, and that was pretty sketchy.
You’re sitting in the water thinking about killer whales and stuff like that, loads of seals popping up and having a nose around. We surfed a river mouth beach break as well which was really fun. Mark Vaughan surfed a hell slab up there at about ten foot; he was charging.
What was it like being selected for the Welsh team for the Euros?
Yeh, I was so happy with that – it means a lot to surf for your country, but it’s more the fact that I was in the men’s while still a junior, and I’ve got another year at under 18s. It’s been a really big goal for me to prove that I’m good for an adult surfer in Britain as well.
I came 11th in Norway which I was pretty happy about but I was still a bit gutted not the get top ten. I surfed against a lot of good guys in the heats like Portugal’s Pedro Henrique and Leon Glatzer from Germany.
What’s been your favourite win so far do you think?
I won the U18 night surf in June in Newquay, which was sick cos it was one of my first U18 events. It was so busy, the beach was full to the brim, all the balconies and bars were packed, and the lights were going.
I got one good wave at the start, and then I needed like a 7.93. My mum and dad and everyone were watching back at home over the live webcast, and I knew I could get the score.
I had a brand new board and it felt really good. One wave came in and with 15 seconds left I just hammered it on my back hand, put in about six turns. I looked to the beach and I got an 8 or something. Everyone erupted, people were coming up and high-fiving me and stuff as I was walking through the crowd; it was pretty amazing.
Who’s sponsoring you at the moment?
Elusive Surf from Porthcawl, my wetsuits are Xcel, JP for boards and a company called Select Security who fund me a lot as well and really help me out with travelling. I wouldn’t have got to the Pro Juniors if it hadn’t been for them. Also, Carve Eyewear for sunglasses, and I have to give a big shout out to my osteopath at Align Therapies for helping keep me in shape.
Are you gutted to not be a grom anymore?
I get called a grom a lot but after under 16s has gone I’m not sure if I am one now! The best thing about being a grom was dropping in on everyone for sure and basically being super cheeky. The worst was probably trips with the Welsh team because you’d get hassled by the older boys, you’d get your hair shaved or you’d wake up with half an eyebrow missing or whatever – so funny cos you’re just young and you love all the attention from the older guys, but then you get back to school a week later and the headmaster’s like, ‘Why are you half bald?’
Who else is tearing it up at your age?
One of my best mates Logan Nicol from Cardiff; he’s one of the best surfers around. He has to travel for like 40 minutes to surf at Rest Bay so he’s really motivated.
And Seth Morris from West Wales; he’s doing really good. He trialled out with England and he’s been to Japan recently and he’s doing brilliantly. He surfs really well.
Ellie Turner also is really good – I surf with her sometimes and she’s really good, such a nice person. She’s the opposite to me in comps though, she’s super chilled out for her heats, asking to borrow my watch or some wax or something just before she goes in the water. Then she goes out and gets like, two 8s. Alice Barton from Gower; she’s like 13 I think and I surf with her a lot. She’s going to be really good, surfs all the time and she’s super committed.
Favourite wave in the UK and abroad?
Favourite wave in the UK is probably Aberavon – it’s been cranking recently, I surfed it for three hours the other day – me and Joe Morris from Port Talbot, then we went to Spoons to get breakfast and went back in for another two hours!
Abroad, Trestles. That left is mental. We were up there for the Worlds in 2015 which was in Oceanside, California. We surfed there once but it was six-foot glass, and just awesome.
How are you finding balancing studies against surfing?
It’s going OK so far. I found it hard last year – I’m doing a Btech in Sport and Exercise Science in college. When I signed up for it I thought I’d be playing football every day, but the physiology side is pretty full on. I’ve learnt so much though and I’m really I’m enjoying the course.
It’s really helped me with time management. My parents are really supportive of my goal to become a pro surfer; my dad maybe doesn’t mind as much if I’m behind in college, but my mum’s really onto me to get my studies under my belt. One day you might get injured and not be able to compete. At least this way I’ll have a course that can get me into uni if I need a backup plan.
Best thing about surfing Gower?
There’s loads of spots – not all amazing, but there’s so much variety. It’s cool just goosing around with your friends, especially now I can drive. The community here is so sick too, knowing everyone is really fun.
My friends on Gower have always been a bit older than me, like two years above me so they were able to drive first and we’d all go off together. We all just meet up and surf together. Not as much now though as they’ve all gone to uni, so I surf on my own a bit more now. People I surf with every day are Jo Morris, PJ, Coggo, Logan, then down Langland I know everyone so it’s pretty fun.
How’s your year ahead looking?
I’ve got a trip coming up in the New Year to California with friends, and then the Pro Juniors start early again this year in March, I think in North Portugal. After that I’m headed more south in Portugal for another Pro Juniors, then I think there’s a seniors QS 1,500 in Spain so I may go in for that. Then I’ll just target to do well in the rest of the Pro Juniors.
The QS’s are good – I’ve done a couple and they’re hard, but I believe I can make a few heats, plus it’s a good experience. I’ll try to do most of the men’s British tour and U18s. I love doing the UK events because my friends are involved too and you know everyone, so it’s pretty sick.