Following a very successful summer climbing trip to Australia, Paul Robinson made a stop in Fiji to pursue another one of his passions: surfing. As a climber who also surfs, I’ve always been intrigued by the intersection of the two sports. I was lucky enough to get the chance to catch up with Paul after his trip to discuss his experiences in the water. A very big thanks to Paul for taking the time to talk to me and sending some rad pictures along!
How long have you been surfing for? How’d you get into the sport?
I have tried surfing a few times in the past but I really began surfing about 1 year ago. I got into surfing through my friend Marijus Smigelskis in Cape Town. I went and stayed at his house for a month and we either climbed or surfed every single day the entire time I was there. From there I was addicted.
Where’s your home break? What’s your favorite surf spot (that’s not secret)?
I live in Colorado so if I wanna surf I have to get on a plane. So unfortunately I dont have a home break. Some of my favorite breaks are Super Tubes at Jeffrey’s Bay in South Africa, Sunset on Oahu, and Restaurant’s at Tavarua, Fiji.
Best surfing experience? Worst surfing experience?
That changes constantly the better I get I guess. I remember riding my first wave and then I remember a super amazing ride I got at Super Tubes and then I think about the barrel I got today at Restaurant’s on a pretty big day and that is definitely one of them! The wave today was unbeatable! Long, steep, big, and a nice barrel section at the end over a super shallow reef. Can’t beat that for excitement!
I have been pretty fortunate in the water so far, knock on wood. But for worst, I guess when I was on the north shore of Oahu this winter, We were surfing this spot called 5-O’s and I didnt have the speed to make this one barreling section and got caught up in it and the nose of my board went straight into my arm and I got some bad cuts on my feet from the reef. I ended up having to get 4 stitches in my arm that day. I was a little timid in the water for a few days after that for sure.
Biggest waves? Any shark encounters?
I have slowly been working up my confidence over my year of surfing. I would say my biggest day/biggest wave was at Bell’s Beach in Australia. We saw the perfect corduroy ocean from the cliffs above and I knew it was going to be big but I knew more than anything, I needed to surf one of those waves. The sets ranged from about 12 to 16 feet. I was terrified but charged this one and rode it for so long! I was on my 5’11 short board and was so under-gunned! The whole time I had all my weight pushing forward getting just enough speed to beat the lip!
I have seen a few small sharks in the water but nothing major thankfully! Though surfing in South Africa can be a bit eerie at times.
Why do you surf, and how has it impacted your life?
I love it. It is like you are chasing this moment of pure perfection. It is so different from climbing and I love seeing progression. In climbing, I know I am getting stronger but it is so hard to see my progress where as with surfing, each time I go out I will learn something new. I like going out and having no expectations. It is something that I can do and just have fun. I don’t have to worry about how I perform or anything like that.
Any role models?
Dane Reynolds, Jamie O’Brien, John John Florence (I watch “Done” like everyday haha)
Have you ever competed in a surf event, and did you ever consider surfing professionally?
Haha no, I have not. Being a professional surfer would be an amazing job however, I cant really complain about the job I have either!
Do you find any parallels between surfing and climbing?
Yeah for sure. It is all about learning movement and how a wave/rock works. Once you can figure that out, you can climb/surf anywhere. It is also about going for it 100 percent. If you don’t give it your all in either sport you are not going to succeed. So many times I have not backed out on a wave because of the pressure I put on myself to perform. I want to be good at everything I do and don’t give up on it ever.
Does one help you train for the other, either physically or mentally? Do you get the same sense of satisfaction from surfing that you do from climbing?
I would say they are such opposites. I can surf and climb in the same day easily because they are such different muscle groups. However, since they are such opposing muscle groups doing both is really good to keep me from injuring myself and staying even in my muscle groups.
I definitely do. Climbing something really hard feels amazing as does screaming down the line on an incredible wave. They are different feelings of euphoria but both equally amazing.
Any elements of surf culture you’d like to see in climbing? Any elements you’d rather not see?
I can definitely say that climbers in general tend to be more laid back and less aggressive. Surfers all act as if they are mellow but you get them in the water and all they want is to get every single wave and kill someone if you cut them off. That aspect is definitely much better in climbing. All climbers seem to be very giving and laid back.
Anything else you’d like to add about your experiences as a climber who surfs?
I used to think climbing was the only way that could give me that feeling of success but there are so many other ways out there and surfing has become another way for me. I am not saying everyone will love surfing but if you think climbing is the only thing out there for you, there definitely is a lot more.