Hughes Surfboards at the Vans US Open of Surfing

6th Aug 2015

Raglan surfer, Hughes Surfboards shaper and best friend of Billy Stairmand, Luke Hughes joined in on the action at the Vans US Open of Surfing held at Huntington Beach last week where he watched his top surfer place ninth. Surfing New Zealand caught up with Luke to give us an idea of what it is like to be onsite at one of the biggest surfing events in the world... Interview by Ben Kennings

What was the main thrust for heading over to the US Open?

For me there were a couple of motivations. The main one being going to Cali with Billy before the comp so we could just spend some time surfing and hanging out. Not only is Billy our main team rider, he is one of my best friends and part of my family, so to go away together on a surf mission was pretty cool. Him and I ride pretty much the same boards so we packed two board bags with some new and old favorites and just went surfing. I spent a lot of time just watching him surf, and how his boards were moving through the water, then we would talk over what he felt they were going like. At the end of the day I just wanted to help him as much as I could, and thought coming on the road was the best idea.

Tell us how the week unfolded with Billy progressing to the penultimate day – it must have been a hoot to see him doing so well?

We focused on getting in a routine when we arrived the week before the contest. Up early, going surfing, then the coffee & bagel run, before either surfing again, or going and playing basketball or something active. When it came time for the comp, the routine was already set, and we just kept it going. I would help him with his warm up routine before he got in the zone and talked strategy with his coach Tom Whitaker, while I grabbed the spare board as caddy, tied up his rashey and gave him the good luck cuzzy shake. We kept everything the exact same until the final day.

Billy Stairmand throwing buckets during the Vans US Open of Surfing - Photo : WSL

What about the event itself, it sounds and looks huge online but what about the experience in real life?

Huntington Beach is literally the epicenter of the American, and global surf industry, and the contest is right by the main Pacific Coast Highway, with the Huntington Surf mecca on one side, the beach the other. The US Open is regarded as one of the biggest surf contests in the world because of this and with 75,000 people turning up on finals day, it is easy to see why. From the surf contest, the skate jam, the pop up stores to the general atmosphere people come from all over to be part of it. It really is as much of an event as they say, but seeing it first hand is pretty mind blowing.

We take it you got dished with premium ‘all access’ tickets?

I got looked after to say the least. As I was there to help an support Billy, I got a VIP Coaches pass, which included all perks of the competitors. But the part I really got hooked up with was from Oakley. I got to spend the week with the team, stayed at the house, hung out with them all at the contest, got invited to dinners, even played some poker, and B Ball with the boys. It was pretty cool to see the guys Billy spends his time with while away and see the family vibe they have going on. The other thing that was pretty awesome for me to see was how well Billy is known amongst the world’s elite. Everyone knows who he is, say’s hi, and has respect. I guess for me it was a pretty cool thing to see one of your best friend’s in a position amongst the worlds best, where they all know he deserves to be there.

Did you get a chance to look at everyone’s boards and talk shop?

When I was at the contest I was surrounded by the who’s who of the surfing world, both surfers and shapers, with a show room of the best boards in the world on offer. I didn’t want to be the random pulling out and checking everyone’s boards, so I kept it minimal. When hanging out with all the Oakley guys though I couldn’t say no, and had some awesome conversations with Seabass (Sebastian Zeits) and Tommy Whitiker, as well as looking at Italo Feirera and Grangers Larsons quivers. One of the things on my to do list was meet up with a good family friend of ours, Xanadu. He has known me since I was a little kid through Dad and the manufacturing industry. For me, meeting up with him again and talking about boards and business meant a lot. He is one of the best shapers in the world and sitting down and showing him the boards I made for Billy was priceless.

The ZORKN EPS that Luke made for Billy was almost tailored for the soft, but high performance waves of Huntington Beach - Photo : WSL

If so what were your thoughts on current design and what learning’s did you take away from the event?

Huntington is a pretty soft, flat wave, so theoretically your board should be reflective of that; generally shorter, wider, and with flatter rockers, and wider tails. However some guys, like Fillep Toledo and Tanner Hendrickson, were riding pretty narrow boards with single concaves and round tails. Tanner was probably one of the guy’s to beat all event, and not necessarily because of his above the lip flare, but how much drive and control ha had all week, in such soft waves. I asked Xanadu about his board and the widths, volume etc, and when he told me it was a normal short board, not a groveler, I was pretty surprised. Guess it proved how good some guys are really surfing, and in waves that are pretty challenging. The exciting part for me is looking at all these boards from around the world, and comparing them to what I make for Billy, but also then comparing them to what you would make for the paying customer back home.

What’s next on your return home?

First up it will be doing some more boards for Billy, based off what we have talked over while here in Cali, what I have seen in his surfing, as well as what I took note of while looking at other guys boards. He is away for the rest of the year in Europe until Hawaii, so we want to make sure his board bag is packed with boards he can rely on. From there I have a list of custom orders waiting for me, and there is also the never ending stock list to get through for the shop. Outside of this I have some things in the pipeline for both Hughes Surfboards and Raglan Surf Company that I am pretty excited about so after a month away, it’s back into it for me…

Luke laying one of his own down at Newport Beach - Photo : Hughes Surfboards

Would just like to send a massive thanks to Ronnie Nelson, Tom Whitaker and everyone from Oakley, as well as the family friends who looked after me during the US Open. To everyone form the comp that I hung out with, good time’s and I look forward to next year! Yahh da Boy’s!!!


Author : Ben Kennings
Source : Surfing New Zealand

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