There’s much to admire in the Harrison Roach oeuvre. A logger of global repute, but much more than just that, he’s also outstanding as a roaring tubesmith, an all around performer on shorties, mids, or fibreglass of any denomination.
His refined touch and waterpersonship is matched by a trim and tidy aesthetic. Bright-eyed and sharp, his diction is relatively rapid for an Antipode. His coiffe, cheekbones and stature somehow recall a cross between a dashing WW2 fighter pilot and his elfin schoolboy son, the grey flannel-shorted youngster running joyously out into the playground to cheer skyward at Rolls Royce Merlin engines roaring through pillows of fluffy cumulus overhead.
Even his name suggests an era-straddling quality, perhaps a virtuosic yet disagreeable band leader in a mid-century jazz ensemble.
We caught up with Harrison at home in his native tropical Queensland, the sound of exotic birdsong, even the searing humidity almost coming over WhatsApp’s thrice encrypted lines. He’d been indulging in some of the finest hedonistic pursuits Australia’s Pacific Coast summer can offer, sailing Hobie Cats abeam afternoon Nor’easters, ripping wee warm water beachbreak shoreys on shortboards, nursing hot Holiday Season hangovers.
“It’s a La Niña this year,” Roach explains, “which means we get a bit more action from the low pressure systems, potentially cyclones. We’ve already had a couple of good runs of waves on the points.”
“I had some travel plans lined up with Roark, some trips to places like Morocco, but that’s all off the cards with the current situation. But I’m happy to just surf around home. Home’s fine; I don’t miss airports, that’s for sure.”
We asked Harry to share some of his favourite surfing style influences, and he duly obliged.
“For longboarding, Dane comes to mind straight away, he’s one of the most technical small wave longboarders ever, and he’s so smooth. Just perfect style; and he’s got lift. Something about watching Dane at Noosa, which I grew up doing and still think about, he’s next level. I got really into rail design after riding his boards when I was 18 or so, they were the first logs I’d ever ridden, but they weren’t your typical California logs, they have an upturned rail off the bottom. They’re based off Australian shaper Peter Clarke’s designs, pre ‘68. I know Dane had one and that’s where in my mind he got his inspiration from. When he nose rides, something to do with the rail shape and rocker… lots of people seem to think it’s to do with how wide your board is, but the lift he gets out of his boards is second to none. He just seems to fit himself into the tightest, steepest pockets, it’s that full walking the plank thing where the board’s levitating – that’s pretty hard to beat.”
“Did you just see Nathan Fletcher’s huge air at Pipe? Fucking insane. Every Fletcher ever born is a style icon, Nathan, Christian, Grayson, Herbie… and the young kids too, they all seem to be freaks on boards. They’re just radical. I might be known as a trad style longboarder but that’s just one part of my surfing life; I’ve always tried to do airs, always skateboarded, and those guys have forever been at the forefront of all that. Like Christian’s airs back in the day, the way he boned them out, that’s what guys like Noa Deane or Chippa are doing today. They’re taking it to whole new levels today… but there’s a huge time gap between him back then and the top guys now. I love that more radical approach. Herbie Fletcher is a pioneer of tow and jetskis at Pipe, slide slipping in the barrel, he’s an incredible longboarder. He’s super creative, making rad old films in the 2000’s of all the guys I grew up looking up to. The whole family is full of freaks.”
“Oscar Wright is just punk. When you’re young, you wanna be rebelling from parents, school, whatever, any kind of responsibility, that’s what appealed to me about him. Similar to Christian in some ways… but totally unique, original. He’s somebody I look up to as a legend in the style realm. A girl bought me Volcom’s One Hundred And Fifty Six Tricks, the yellow VHS tape, when I was like 12 or 13. Mental. It’s an epic film made with a bunch of shitty HandyCam footage and Super8, with a Sonic Youth soundtrack And he’s doing his thing, painting rocks, ripping, being Ozzie. He was just a super creative and inspiring person. He still is, too.”
“A young kid who I’ve really been enjoying watching progress. Joel’s son, seems to be going from strength to strength. He was over here for a couple of months before Covid happened, and we scored a couple of epic swells. He’s really growing into his skill level, which is awesome to see. Surfing barrels at Pipe, the reefs around La Jolla, and longboarding too. He almost beat me in a paddle race. I was like ‘Jesus Christ, he’s gonna be a machine’. I used to think I was a good paddler and he’s like 14 and beating me. It’s gonna be real exciting to watch him progress in all facets, single fin surfing, thrusters, longboards I think he shreds.”
Harrison Roach is an ambassador for Roark Revival. Click here to browse the range in the Wavelength shop.