SRFACE Diaries

Rhys Smith

Written by Sieuwe

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: Rhys Smith from Tynemount, Scotland

How and when did you start surfing?

I grew up on the south end of the Great Barrier reef in my hometown called Bargara. Kelly’s beach was my local and we lived directly across the road from it, I could see people surfing from my balcony. I would walk across the road and sit in the sand dunes most days watching people surf, it was so fascinating to me.

My grandpa taught me how to swim and dive when I was 4 years old. We lived in a safe neighbourhood, my mum would let me roam the beaches all day at a young age. She had a rainbow-coloured Morey boogie board with flyers down the side that I used to stand up and ride in the white water at around 5 years old. I fell in love with the ocean and surfing then before I really knew anything about it, it was just a natural transition.

When I turned 6 we went into a surf shop in Noosa, my mum let me pick out any surfboard I wanted. I was drawn to this used 5’7 Impact shorty with ZEE wetsuit stickers and red flames up the side. It was love at first sight. I still remember pulling it out of the racks. The retail guy gave us some wax that used to come in a plastic cup in the early 90’s, but we had no idea what it was for.

Mum swam out with me at a spot called Granite in Noosa national park, which looking back now is kind of a gnarly spot for a kid’s first surf. It was 1-2ft, which felt like quadruple overhead at the time. I just kept slipping off the gloss finish every time I paddled for a wave. Mum had a go and couldn’t work it out either. So that was that. The board went into the garage and didn’t see the light of day for around 6 months.

My brother’s friend Andrew Laurie came around our house one day and showed me what that wax was for, he waxed my board for me. I ran across the road, paddled out the back and rode my very first wave all the way into the sand. That was it. I was hooked, addicted, caught the bug… however you like to say it. It’s been a life-long journey ever since and something that has defined my entire path.

Why do you surf?

I’m pretty sure the ocean is the only place I feel fully at peace and clear-minded. I’m a kinaesthetic learner, the ocean has taught me so much. I love the challenges both mentally and physically in such a humbling and beautifully powerful environment.

I continue to make life-long friends through surfing all over the world and push my boundaries as an athlete. I’ve got to experience some of the most amazing remote places on the globe. I reckon that one lifetime is not enough to experience everything surfing has to offer. The surf industry is now pushing for a more green and sustainable future, which I’m super passionate about.

What does a typical day in your life look like?

A typical day in my life doesn’t really exist.

Generally, I’m up with the sun and out in the water early, then coffee and I’m ready for the day ahead. My fiancé Katie and I co-founded Regeneration Yoga – an eco-friendly yoga equipment company, which has us wearing many different hats throughout the day.

At the core of everything we do is wanting to improve sustainability and the wild spaces around us – aiming fully carbon neutral in the next 12 months. We’re passionate about reducing our impact, having seen the impact of plastic pollution first-hand in the ocean. Currently about 95% of the raw materials we buy are recycled or organic with 0% single use plastics attached to our supply chain and packaging.

Who or what inspires you?

The Brazilian storm really has me inspired right now… which as an Aussie-turned-Geordie may be a little controversial haha. They put in the hard work towards winning and achieving their goals and I love seeing it! They’re strong and fierce athletes, they’re dedicated and focussed on achieving their goals. It’s just a no bullshit attitude towards surfing.

Personally I’ve always looked into self-development strategies which has helped me to progress throughout my life. I’m straight up surf and yoga. But watching these guys compete and win everything lately makes me want to train and surf harder, that’s so inspirational to me right now.

What do you do to relax?

I love camping adventures and getting out into nature. Sometimes it’s like a picture book out there, sometimes it’s a bit more challenging but I love both sides and seeing how the elements can test you.

Once I went on a trip to Scotland with a couple of friends, and the forecast just got worse and worse. One night, on-shore gale-force winds and the 50-year-blizzard hit our ‘sheltered’ beach, snapping our tents and forcing us to shelter in a narrow cave. By morning everything had frozen solid, including our souls. Completely exhausted from the experience, we moved into a bothy for a few days for shelter. We had one glorious day of weather and went hiking along the coastline, exploring some remote beaches we had never seen before. Despite everything I’ve never felt so relaxed, just sitting in our shelter out of the storm. Pure bliss.

If you’re not surfing you are…

Doing yoga, hiking, camping, getting outdoors somewhere wild. Sitting still isn’t really my thing, unless there’s a great film on.

Name one thing the world could use more of right now.

Green technology to clean up the plastic pollution in our oceans. Also, a mainstream outlet for it to be recycled back into parts for that technology to grow, essentially correcting the damage we’ve already done. I’m a huge fan of the new range of Yulex wetsuits and super excited to run them through the mill.

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

Be bold and take risks. Think outside the square. Fortune favours the brave! And when you do make your fortune, re-invest it to make the world a better place. Money drives the world forward but it doesn’t do much good just sitting in the bank. Use your surfing as a way to travel the world and connect to the people. Get a better understanding of everything around you and find your own ways to improve things.

What’s the worst job you did so you could surf?

Oh geez I’ve done many different jobs over the years – from surfing, working in film production, being a chef, a carpenter, a labourer, to online work, surf coaching and cleaning hotels. Even a bad job is better than no job at all. If I made a few pennies to put in my pocket, could surf when I wanted, then get some hot chips with chicken salt afterwards without a great deal of stress and deadlines – such is pro junior surfing life – then I’d say that was a great job.

To be honest I’ve loved every job I’ve ever done, because it was what worked for me at the time. All those jobs projected me forward to the place I am now, where if the surf’s pumping I can finally make the call to do what I want.

What is your favourite surf destination and why?

Indonesia, and in particular – G-land! I feel connected to the jungle and the people there, and have spent a lot of time there over the years. I love hanging out with my best mate and mentor Johnny Hadji, who has really shown me what life can be like if you dedicate yourself and have fun along the way. Speed reef, when it turns, has a feeling like no other place on earth. It’s blessed me with memories that’ll last a lifetime and made every inch of reef rash worth it. 

What is your favourite board and how did you acquire it?

Last summer I rode a Christenson 7’2 C-Bucket mid-length, it definitely touches the soul. But as soon as the waves are half-decent, I end up back on my shortboards.

Most of the time I’m riding a 5’10” x 18” 3\4 x 2” 1\4.

To each their own, it’s fun for me experimenting on all types of equipment. I really enjoy bodysurfing as well, I guess your body’s the most important surf craft we’ll ever have. There are so many different feelings to surfing, you can really match what you’re riding to your’s and the ocean’s mood for the day ahead.

What is your favourite surf movie?

My Dad bought me a copy of Wave Warriors 3 on VHS when I was 5, and it blew my mind. I’d watch it on repeat for the next 15 years. I might go put it back on after this. That one holds a lot of sentimental value for sure.

Other films I’ve loved are – Morning of the Earth, Endless Summer 2, Tom Curren’s Through the Trials, Quiksilver G-land 1997… I could go on for ages.

I’m a massive surf film fan, they’re so sick and super fun to watch. Next time the surf’s flat, get the crew around and line that collective of films up. If you have any recommendations for me DM me @rhyssmth.

What accounts should we follow on Instagram and why?

If you’re into high-performance surfing, follow @Riowaida_ simply because he rips! Surfs so fast and progressive with a canny style. I’m frothing every time he drops a clip on insta and you will be too.

@moticpanugalinog is an insane street skater from the Philippines. Always getting creative and shreds. And I feel like he can go all the way.  Support the underdog with a God given talent.

@regeneration_yoga We love seeing how people are taking whatever they do to the next level, and how yoga can help with that. We are always here to support people who reach out to us and love seeing people make sustainable changes to their yoga equipment! Send us a DM or via our website.

@daewon1song – his account is better than a hot pie and sauce.

Name one thing you would give up surfing for?

Long distance paddle boarding between remote islands.

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

Unlimited paddle power, it would help with the tides here in the United Kingdom, plus it can be so frustrating when you see a perfect bomb rolling through and you’re out of position, if only you could paddle faster! Am I right?

I’ve been hooked on night surfing in the past, but I like daytime surfing more most of the time. I did have one incredible night session at Bingin, Indonesia – 4ft and perfect, under a full-moon with all the coloured lights reflecting up the face of the waves from dreamtime beach – trading off some insane rainbow-coloured barrels with 4 friends, from 11pm till 2am. Truly felt like a surfer’s version of Mario Kart.

Anything you want to share with our readers?

Two great books you should read at some point in your lives – The Alchemist and Echart Tolle: The Power of Now. These books altered my path for the better, and they might shed some light on things for you too!

Surfer: @rhyssmth

Behind the lens: @Lauriemccallphoto, @lasurfpics & @ganstonlee

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