SRFACE Diaries

Jacob Down

Written by Antonia

SRFACE Diaries gives you a peek into the lives of our ambassadors. Because we all surf but have so much more that makes us interesting human beings. This week, we’re catching up with Jacob Down, who spends his time between surfing, spearfishing, and surf house architecture at the rugged coast of West Cornwall.

How did you start surfing?

I didn’t come from a surfing background but the sea always featured heavily in my family upbringing. From catching mackerel in the bay with my Dad from a young age or watching Godrevy lighthouse disappear under a mountain of white water from my bedroom window on big winter swells, the ocean was always present and played a significant role.

I don’t remember the exact point at which I was introduced to surfing but I feel it was around the age of 8 when a friend’s dad gradually started to persuade us to take up stand-up surfing over messing around on the youthful boog.

Why do you surf?

It’s a great question. I had the pleasure of writing my architectural thesis on surfing as ‘an architectural act’ when I was studying at the Bartlett School Architecture, UCL, and it was an interesting opportunity to reflect on what it was all about. For me, I see surfing as spatial engagement and thus arguably an architectural experience.  The insertion of the human body into a morphing liquid form and the body’s ability to read and reconfigure to the tune of that space.

It is the state of flow and degree of spatial engagement which surfing demands, for those moments of glide, that ensure your mind cannot be anywhere else; absolutely immersed, engaged, and connected in the now. At worst, it’s just about getting wet, a physical and mental reset.  At its best, it becomes a lifelong tutor, healer, and cosmic world of its own delivering the ineffable time and time again.

What does a typical day in your life look like?

These days, due to my professional commitments and father duties, I always keep a close eye on the chart and try to schedule my week to ensure I’m not going to miss some A-grade waves. Typically, it starts with a quick check of the webcam / wave-buoys alongside emails and a little homebrew from the Gaggia Classic.

If I’m a little out of sync with the banks or tides I will hop on the bike and freewheel down the lane for a proper eyeball, and based on what’s going down I will surf before, during, or after some solid design time on the laptop. This can be based from my little cabin at the bottom of the garden or the main design studio in St. Ives. Always plenty of coffee throughout the day.

Evenings are spent with my beautiful little family – Ju and Tate – and once Tate is bathed and asleep, there is always the opportunity in the winter months to jump back into the cabin and work on some other more exploratory project work. Summer evenings will be spent down at the beach until sunset.

Who or what inspires you?

Natural landscapes, nature, evolution. Natural processes are so complex yet refined and optimized.  They are incredibly beautiful. Shoals of fish, swooping seagulls banking into groomed ocean swells, murmurations, solid winter storms exploding up granite tors. All truly unpredictable natural forms and motions.

What do you do to relax? 

Beyond the conventional, I really enjoy going for a dive with the speargun during the warmer months. On top of catching fresh fish to share with friends and family, there is something really special in the connection between being immersed in the ocean and having to slow everything down, focus on your breathing and relax, whilst simultaneously being in full hunt mode. You become fully a part of that underwater ecosystem.

I also enjoy listening to podcasts, my favorite being Surf Splendor by David Lee Scales. There was a recent episode where Mickey Munoz recalls a double overhead barrel at Desert Point describing that the experience was such a high experience, that the illusion of speed was so great that he exceeded the speed of light and came out of that barrel younger than when he got into it.. that kind of blew my mind but is totally relatable!

Do you have a tip for people who want to build a life around freedom and surfing?

Consider your commitments so you can remain agile. When the waves are good, you want to be able to go. Find the joy in riding all sorts of waves and boards. From jumping in with a Dick Peace bellyboard to riding a 9 foot Donald Takayama and everything in between. It will greatly widen your perspective and opportunities for getting in the water.

What is your favorite surfboard?

Campbell Brothers Bonzer 3 – No dims but circa ‘6″4. I picked it up second-hand from the Facebook marketplace. I almost didn’t buy it at the time because I thought it had too much volume. I distinctly remember my first wave on it,  stroking into a good size hollowing right-hander with ease before dropping into this expanding tube and being thoroughly surprised by this whole new sensation of speed, lift and drive off the tail. It gave me a whole perspective and has facilitated so much!

Surfer, architect and spearfisherman Jacob Down with his favorite surfboard

What is your favorite surf destination?

Every spot can have A-Grade life-changing waves on its day. Likewise, every landscape and culture will widen and give you a new perspective if you are open to it. At the moment, I am very much enjoying dwelling here in West Cornwall with my family. I have spent over 30 years growing up and playing within this landscape, and yet, it continues to unveil new corners, horizons and tales the deeper you look.

What is your favorite surf movie?

I really enjoyed Lost Track Atlantic by Torren Martin and Ishmael Folkwell. Very refreshing to see more of a crafted edit in the current climate of instant content production.

If you’re not surfing, you are…

… probably designing a friend’s house.

Name one thing the world could use more of right now

HGV drivers apparently. But to be honest I think the world needs a lot less of everything.

What accounts should we follow on Instagram?

@sa_rips it’s just next-level imagery.

Would you rather have unlimited paddle power & speed or night vision so you surf at night?

Nightvision. It reminds me of a time in the Canaries where we’d got up before dawn and blasted to a spot on the boat and jumped straight in. There was no one out and the sun hadn’t started rising yet so it was in the full twilight zone. My mind and body were both very much still asleep. I remember getting this crazy colorless barrel, where the water around me was like glass but fully illuminated by the moonlight, and then kicking out seeing the volcanic rock beneath, the lunar landscape behind, and planets and universe above. It was literally like the Cosmos level on Kelly Slater Pro surfer on the PS2. So night vision all the way.

Anything you want to share with our readers?

Thanks for continuing to make the great product.

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