Meet: A Throwback Aussie Pro With A Contemporary Skillset - Stab Mag
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Photo: Juan Fernandez

Meet: A Throwback Aussie Pro With A Contemporary Skillset

Joel Vaughan is all sun-bleached mullet, freckles and neck tan.

features // Dec 31, 2021
Words by Alistair Klinkenberg
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Joel Vaughan looks like a Pro Junior from the 80s; all sun-bleached mullet, freckles and neck tan.

And mid last year, fresh off the plane, wandering around Barcelona wondering if anyone spoke any English at all on his first trip to Europe, unchaperoned, he was very much following in the footsteps of surf icons past. The NSW Central Coast lad was at the younger end of the spectrum for the 2021 Young Guns, but made up for his lack of years with sheer froth at being overseas on his first big Quik team trip, and by hucking himself into the flats whenever the opportunity arose. We caught up with Joel mid-way through his Hawaiian winter to get the good word on his big year.

Stab: How’s your Hawaiian season been, this your first one?
Joel Vaughan: Yeah, I’d been here before when I was like, 9, on a family holiday, but this is my first time doing it properly.

Who’s ruling the roost in the Quik house currently?
Umm, at the moment it’s only Marlon, Harrison and I there. But Leo turns up every now and again and hangs out during the day and surfs with us which is pretty cool. 

Look at thing bounce. The mullet, we mean. Photo: Juan Fernandez

You’re from the Central Coast, somewhere that’s got its fair share of proper waves, how do Hawaiian waves compare?
Yeah, I’m definitely feeling comfortable being over the top of some reef, which is cool. I thought that I might be a little bit hesitant, but I’ve found myself going for some punts in some pretty shallow water. But it’s definitely got a lot more push than back at home on the beaches, but it’s super sick being over here and getting to try out new boards, longer boards and some different breaks, it’s cool.

You surfed Pipe and Backdoor yet?
Nah didn’t get to surf there yet. I’ve just surfed it when it was super small before the comp one day.

How about being a haole blonde kid on the North Shore, you been keeping your nose clean?
Yeah everyone seems pretty cool. I haven’t really met too many locals, I got to hang out with Jackson Bunch over in France and then he was over here for a few days and we got to hang out and I met a few of his friends, which has been pretty cool. Everyone seems pretty chill. 

What about Europe, was Young Guns your first trip over there?
First time, yeah. So got to experience some new culture. It was definitely different, it was a long trip over there. I think 30 hours all up. I flew into San Sebastian and then I was in Barcelona hearing everyone speak Spanish and I didn’t know what was going on, wondering if anyone spoke English and I had to just figure it out. Which was actually a pretty cool experience.

Eurotrip. Photo: Juan Fernandez

Have you done many big road trips, or has most of your travel been centered around contests?
I’ve really only done road trips for comps and a bit of training up at the HPC (Australian High Performance Centre), so I haven’t really done a lot. I really want to go south and surf some slabs. I went over to WA last year but got super skunked. Didn’t time it very well. 

Have you got your licence, did you drive in Europe?
Yeah I jumped in the car once with Kauli (Vaast) and he thought I was going to kill him. He says that I did a floater on the gutter, but I definitely didn’t. He was telling me to drive faster and I was just going the speed limit. I don’t know, I was wigging out. The gear stick’s on the wrong side. I turned right and went to go on the wrong side of the road, swerved back and Kauli was screaming at me. 

Any part of your Europe trip stick in the memory particularly?
Just the whole vibe. Everyone was super sick to hang around, everyone was surfing really well, it was overall just a really fun trip. We got to go go-karting, bowling, it was really, really fun. We got some good waves in France and then it went pretty windy and bad so we road-tripped through Spain, which was sick. Literally driving across the border and everyone speaks a different language was just totally different to what I’ve ever experienced. We got to surf some fun waves in Spain too.

Did you watch the original Young Guns films?
Yeah for sure, I used to watch those all the time, so I was super excited when I first got asked to go on the trip that I had to go back and watch them all again. I loved the Ments trip in particular. That first scene when they’re driving in with the boat and they’ve got helicopters and jet skis, that was super cool.

What about the other guys on the trip, you must really look up to the older guys like Rio and Mateus?
I definitely look up to those boys, they surf so well and they’re just genuinely good people as well, which is super sick. I’ve got nothing bad to say about anyone on the trip, they all surf super well and it was good to do a trip with them. Mateus is so good in the air and then he comes in and he’s just like a normal guy, super cool to hang around with. And then Rio’s so funny, he’s always coming out with hilarious stuff. If you look at the end of the Young Guns trip at all the random rude stickers, Rio was making all of them with his sticker maker.

It’s a fling thing. Photo: Juan Fernandez

How was the last year for you, have you just finished school?
Yeah I finished school and the last year’s been super weird. I’m working as a lifeguard and I had to tell them that I needed a month off work in the middle of summer and luckily they were really frothing for me. Before that we’d been in lockdown for three months so it was awesome being able to just leave and get out of the lockdown. But also pretty stressful at the same time because I had to get all these documents off the Australian government to be able to get on the plane, but as soon as I got on that plane I was so happy. 

What’s on the agenda for next year, any big boxes to tick?
The QS starts around February and my goal around that is definitely to try and qualify for the Challenger Series. I got to see all the boys from Oz go super well this year and it got me really inspired to try and make it as well.

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