My time with two surf legends | From Chicken in the Barrel to Disco Bowling
I find myself running around at home like a headless chicken. The surf isn’t pumping nor am I packing for a surf trip to the Maldives, but I might as well be judging by the way I collect my stuff. “Is this shirt alright?” I ask my girlfriend. “Are you nervous? You never ask me what to wear”, she replies. “Of course I am nervous, I’m about to meet two of the best longboarders and surf legends in the world.”
Like a little girl
For weeks I’ve been following the CJ Nelson and Harley Ingleby – Euro Tour 2017 on social media. Ever since it was announced they were coming to the Netherlands, I have been tracking every step of the way. I say it’s for I Love Surfing, but truth be told on the inside I’m a little girl who’s about to meet Justin Bieber.
I haven’t always been like this you know, but it started when I began surfing. Before that, I did loads of different things but I never got as passionate about anything like surfing. With that passion also came an adoration for people who do special things in surfing. For me CJ Nelson is one of those people. I haven’t been brought up with surfing from a young age, but ever since I got my first longboard just over three years ago, I got familiar with his surfing. This only increased when I started surfing my orange 9’4” Australian Slasher. To be completely honest here, I haven’t really heard much about Harley Ingleby before this European tour. Well that’s about to change.
Stay cool man
My neck starts to cramp up. Of course I shouldn’t have taken my longboard and all of my stuff on my bike, but I am stubborn. So here I am cursing at the head wind and hoping I won’t cause an accident. Mainly because I don’t want to damage my Slasher. Shit there he is. CJ just sits there in front of Hart Beach, my local surf shop, chilling in the sun with a cup of coffee. I park my bike. I barely make it off without falling in front of the legend. Quickly I go inside to clean my board. It’s the middle of summer and my winter wax is still on there. It looks dirty, I feel ashamed. Inside I drop my stuff in the back, when all of the sudden CJ stands right next to me.
Out of the blue the organizer of the tour says: “oh, CJ meet Martijn. He works with us and rides the Slasher.” I stay cool and introduce myself, because I don’t want to come across like that screaming little girl inside of me. “Hey buddy”, he says. “Cool shirt you’re wearing. That’s where I’m from”. Wait what? I look and see that my shirt actually reads an address at the bottom. I have no clue that’s on there, let alone it’s literally where he’s from. My effort to look cool just went out of the window. Imagine what he must think of me wearing that shirt.
Sign my baby
Mostly, I have an introverted personality and I enjoy observing people and situations. As I clean my board I have plenty of time to do so. I always like cleaning my boars. It gives me a chance to reacquaint myself with them and so I take my time. Quite a few people come in and talk to CJ. I can tell some of them try to impress him. Some with the latest surf trips, others with the best waves they’ve surfed. One thing almost everybody does is they try to relate to CJ. Everybody has their own (little) thing that makes them feel connected to him. I wonder if he feels the same way. For me, it’s not just the fact he’s an awesome longboarder, or because I’ve got his address on my shirt. No, for me it’s something deeper than that.
CJ Nelson is quite open about a dark time in his past where he had to overcome an alcohol addiction. I’ve got someone close to me who also overcame an alcohol addiction and still works hard to remain sober. I’m very proud of that person, and I see similarities between her and CJ. It’s not something I would bring up with him personally, but it is something that makes me feel connected on a deeper level. And even though it’s probably one way, it does make him that bit more special for me.
Now that my board is clean, someone suggests I should have her (my boards are always ladies) signed by the master himself. I shrug it off and don’t want to ask him. I feel like so many people are already bothering him, or maybe I’m just too modest to ask. Anyway, someone else ends up asking him and he’s happy to sign my baby. I’m glad he did, because I’m really stoked to have an original autograph on my Slasher.
Chicken in the barrel
It’s time to re-wax my board, and it notice that I get a bit insecure about it. I’ve probably waxed dozens and dozens of boards over the years I worked in this surf shop, but I never had two surf legends watching me while I was doing it. By this time Harley also came to chill inside. Waxing a longboard is very simple; ‘From nose to tail, from rail to rail’. Still, if I do that the knuckles on my toes always bleed because of the friction with the wax. Especially, when I’m scratching for waves.
Just when I’m about to finish with the top coat, Ananda, one of the tour organizers, asks me if I want to join her and the boys for lunch. With ‘the boys’ she means Harley and CJ. Of course, I want to join but I also don’t want to intrude on their lunch. Luckily she insists.
During lunch I get the chance to talk to Harley. Amongst other things he’s also a two time world longboards champion. He lives in Australia near Coffs Harbour. I started surfing during my studies in Australia and one of my best mates, well actually my guru, is from that area. I’ve even camped near the beach where he lives. I think it’s cool that we have that in common. I notice this thought and realize I’m no different than everybody else who’s trying to relate to these surf legends. But is that necessarily a bad thing? Isn’t that what we just do in life in general? Trying to fit in and feel related to the people around us? To the people we like? Why is it any different now that I’m doing the same with famous athletes?
I struggle with my thoughts for a while. I decide that I shouldn’t overthink it and just be myself. Enjoy the moment. My train of thought gets interrupted by Harley as he overexcitedly shouts “Chicken in the Barrel!” while pointing to the menu. I explain it’s clever word play. Of course it refers to surfing a barrel but it’s also because the chicken is house smoked in a barrel on the beach.
Lunch for me ends abruptly when a friend of mine sends me a photo of my Slasher with a big penis drawn on it with black wax. Leave your board unattended at your local store and that’s what happens to it. I laugh, but also feel a little bit annoyed because I thought I built up enough respect so people wouldn’t do this to me. I find out one of the local legends, and also a very good longboarded, did this. Classic Renz van Baalen! The boys also think it’s hilarious. We need to get back anyway because the masterclass starts soon and we still need to suit up.
The forecast isn’t great but it’s sunny and there isn’t too much wind. A group of about 20 surfers signed up for the masterclass and also to test the new CJ Nelson and Harley Ingleby surfboards. Renz is one of them. He pops out a cheeky smile and immediately all is forgiven. Michael Schmitz, one of the most successful Dutch longboarder of all time, also participates. He and Renz always have a ‘friendly’ rivalry going on about who’s number one. Depending who you ask it’s either one of them. Even these core scene surfers behave like little screaming girls around these surf legends.
As soon as we get to the beach both run into the ocean and forget about all about the introduction of the masterclass. And they’re right, they probably don’t need it anyway. As Harley and CJ talk to the circle of enthusiasts, Renz and Michael are already throwing down some heavy manoeuvres trying to impress their heroes.
Top of the crazy scale
Somehow as soon as we go into the water the waves turn on. The ocean has a funny way of doing that sometimes. Every surfer knows what I’m talking about. Those moments you can tell there’s a special sort of energy in the line-up. I wonder if it’s got something to do with the presence of these masters and even the North Sea is trying to impress them. Whatever it is, it created a very fun session. I am surfing really well and must be inspired by the presence of champions. I also do my best to get noticed in hope of getting some tips. Harley and CJ also said we can ask them stuff during the session. I’ve got a couple of questions but of course I don’t ask them.
This attitude leaves me without any tips. No wait, that’s a lie. CJ did tell me to wax the tail of the board. Remember I mentioned I’m stubborn? I know he’s right, but I also don’t want to have open wounds on my toes the whole time. I tell myself, I will leave it like this until I fall off three times because of the lack of wax on the tail. Out loud I tell CJ he’s right and that I will wax it soon. CJ had gone home now and I can tell you that I’ve waxed my whole board now from nose to tail, from rail to rail. I guess even I’m not stubborn enough to go against the advice of this year’s Duct Tape Invitational champion.
After my session, I meet CJ on the beach and we watch what unfolds in the line-up. Renz is still destroying the waves. He’s very good, did I mention that? He’s also annoying because he literally catches all of the good waves. I don’t like Renz in the water as much as I like him on land. But he’s as local as it gets, and that’s just how it is. But wasn’t there something with mutual respect as well? Sure, but not when it’s on and CJ and Harley are watching I guess.
I ask what CJ thinks of the spectacle. “It’s right at the top of the crazy scale!” he says with a serious face. There are about a hundred people in the line-up and about as many beginners in surf lessons right in front of them at the shoreline. The beach is packed and people are shouting and screaming. Some are encouraging their kids in the surf lessons, others are cheering because Harley is ripping. I don’t even see it anymore, but I understand how it must seem crazy. Still I didn’t expect even CJ would say this, having seen the things he’s seen. Imagine, he surfed all over the world and Scheveningen in the Netherlands is at the top of the crazy scale.
Midnight disco bowling
The day ends with a barbeque at the beach location of Hart Beach. The sun is setting and an earie storm is approaching. Luckily we’ve got cover and a nice fire to keep us warm. I laugh when I see the buffet because there’s a ton of bread. Harley and CJ mentioned during lunch they can’t see another piece of bread after the tour stops in Portugal, Spain and especially France. CJ even posts about it on his Facebook page just before he sneaks off to bed. There are a handful of people left, including Harley.
All the sudden Romke, one of the owners of Hart Beach, mentions disco bowling. Not too long after that everybody is on their bikes (we all have one in Holland) on their way to midnight disco bowling. Harley sits on the back of Menno’s bike. Menno is the father of Tom Boelsma, one of the upcoming best surfers of the Netherlands.
We bowl in three lanes. I find myself bowling with one of my best friends Tommy a.k.a. Wayaba, Biancé, Ananda, and Romke. It turns out to be a very competitive lane. My first game I throw 147 points. Not bad for an amateur, but I just get beaten by Romke who bowls 148 points. The second game Tommy manages to throw a staggering 208 points. I don’t know how he managed to do that and neither does he. The last game Harley joins us, but we name him CJ Nelson in the game computer. We think it’s hilarious, and Harley takes on the role with flair. Of course we let him win. Not really, but it’s a good excuse to say why we lost to this Aussie.
Just act normal
The next day is the last day of their tour and my last chance to hang out with Harley and CJ. If you would have asked me beforehand if I would struggle to behave ‘normal’ around them, I would have known for sure that it wouldn’t at all. By now though, I realize that you can pretend that it’s not special to meet them all you want, but of course it is. However, like with everything in life, you just need to stay true to yourself and be who you are.
Still there was one thing left that I had to do that didn’t completely feel like being me and that was asking for their autographs. Sometimes though, you need to get out of your comfort-zone in order to get what you want. And I’m glad I did, because now I’ve got two I Love Surfing caps to auction for a good cause.
Harley and CJ thank you for this experience and this new perspective in life. Take care and hopefully we’ll meet again someday.
More photos by Wayaba_Surf