Expat in Thailand Interview with Grant Young

OK so let’s start at the beginning. Tell us a little about yourself.

Well I was born in 1953 and raised in the town of Narrabeen which is about 30 km. north of Sidney. You might have heard it from the Beach Boys song. I’ve lived there my whole life. Actually considering the size of our club, North Narrabeen Boardriders Club turned out to be something of a machine that has turned out more top 40 international surfers than the rest of Australia. Some of the best and most innovative shapers and designers in the world come from Narrabeen. The three fin and thruster system came from a mate of mine Simon Anderson. There were other guys like Terry Fitzgerald, Jeff McCoy and at the moment we have a lot of the top pro riders using boards by Brett Warner, James Chill of Chilly Boards who are boys from our Club. Over the years we have consistently turned out some of the best board riders in the world. I taught world junior champion Davey Cathels and Laura Enevers. So growing up there was a real experience mate. Being part of the surfing machine that is North Narrabeen has been truly amazing.

When did you Start Surfing?

I was about seven years old when I learned to swim at the local rock pool and my father was president of the North Narrabeen Surf and Lifesaving Club at the time. He got me on a board and I was stand up surfing by the time I was twelve. I joined the North Narrabeen Board Riders Club in 1966 and the rest is history. We are really blessed because we have a massive lake system in North Narrabeen that has a ocean entrance so the tide is always running in and out and also makes it one of the best, most consistent beach breaks in the world.

Tell us about the early days of surfing in Australia

In the late 60’s and early 70’s when professional surfing started we had a lot of competitions in the area. Inter club competitions, state and national competitions all took place in North Narrabeen. The Billabong World Junior Championships were held there. The Coke Classic originated there too which was one of the top rated events at the time. With all of the surfing history it really drives the local kids to want to do better and excel in the sport. I was sponsored by and worked for Terry Fitzgerald at Hot Butter Surfboards when he was creating those beautiful masterpieces with his airbrush designs on them and really ripping it up in Bali and Hawaii. When the 1972 World Championships came around it featured twelve Aussie riders. Six of them were from our club. From the 1980’s until I left Australia I stayed active with the North Narrabeen Board Riders Club. I was judging state and local competitions, life guarding and raising my family.

What brought you to Thailand?

In 2005 I had a spinal injury. I was basically paralyzed for two months and had to undergo a spinal fusion operation that kept me out of the water. I tried to surf again but the environment out at North Narrabeen had gotten pretty aggressive and old guys like me don’t have much of a chance in the lineup. Out of respect they would let me have a wave but they were few and far between. With that and my injury it wasn’t the best place to be. I was divorced and my kids were grown up. Change was due so I came to Thailand. I knew there was surf here but I was busy doing other things and quite frankly I didn’t think my back would support me. I moved to Khao Lak and saw some of the boys surfing. I said to myself “Well that doesn’t look too challenging. My back is feeling pretty good so let’s go out for a paddle!” One of the local surfers, Lee, lent me a board. I paddled out, a wave formed, the surfer in me kicked in and I knew that I had to stand up. I got up and immediately realized that the passion and drive that makes us surfers came flooding back.

What do you think of the surf in Khao Lak?

I was really surprised at the number of good surf breaks in Khao Lak. I was even more surprised that there aren’t many surfers here. The Andaman coastline all the way up to Burma has a lot of potential. It’s never going to be a world class surfing location but there are some great places for beginners to learn how to surf. Khao Lak has a non- threatening laid back environment. The water temperature is beautiful and the sunsets are truly inspiring. It reminds me of Tahiti…with spicy food. Because there is virtually no one in the water it’s a great place to hone your skills without being embarrassed about wiping out.

Do you like the direction that surfing is headed?

I always wonder what the future holds. There have been so many advances in board making alone. As far as performance you have to leave that up to your imagination. Back in the old days it was considered impossible to do an off the top reentry. The things kids can do with the waves these days are magical. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next!