Stab Magazine | My Style, with Brendon Gibbens
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My Style, with Brendon Gibbens

From Stab issue 80: My Style, with Brendon Gibbens, 23, Cape Town, South Africa Interview by Elliot Struck | Photos by Chris Gurney I was born in Hamburg, in Germany, of all places. My dad was transferred for work, so my mum, my two sisters and I all moved there with him. My sisters speak […]

style // Mar 8, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 6 minutes

From Stab issue 80: My Style, with Brendon Gibbens, 23, Cape Town, South Africa

Interview by Elliot Struck | Photos by Chris Gurney

I was born in Hamburg, in Germany, of all places. My dad was transferred for work, so my mum, my two sisters and I all moved there with him. My sisters speak German fluently, but I don’t, ‘cause my parents enrolled me at the American kindergarten there. Then we moved back to South Africa when I was five.

I tried to be a junior Olympic swimmer. I was 15 and it was so much hard work. The training was a nightmare, you’ve got to really want it. I also used to be really short, so I always felt disadvantaged. Then once I stopped swimming, I started growing! I think I’m around 6’0” now, which would’ve really helped in my swimming days. There was two rounds of South African trials to qualify for the Olympics. Qualifying for that second stage meant you were so close to making that Olympic qualifying time. I never made that second stage, but I got close. I can’t remember the time, but I was split seconds off. It was 200m backstroke, and I’d always made podium, but at the qualification I came fourth and I was just devastated. I threw the towel in. Literally, I threw the towel on the ground. But it taught me discipline. You’re never gonna get anywhere if you don’t put in the hours. I kind of brought that over to surfing, but it’s totally different because it’s not structured like swimming laps, or having some crazy Hungarian coach shouting at you the whole time…

I had hopes and dreams of qualifying. It felt for a long time as though WT qualification was the only path for a South African aspiring to be a pro surfer. The path I’m on now is totally different, and I almost feel like I had to alienate myself from that in a way. Just surfing Misty Cliffs with the great whites every day, and having my friend Alan Robb filming me. I’m definitely a product of the whole Dion.tv, internet DIY thing. The whole digital world of surfing now is a great thing.

I do a little bit of my own editing every now and then. I’ve got a camcorder – it has the same look as one of those old VHS cameras, and I guess that’s trending at the moment. The whole Super 8 thing seems like a lot of work and sounds expensive. Surfing will definitely start going down that VHS-look road, though. Everyone’s going to be shooting lifestyle on old iPhone 3’s in a year’s time, probably.

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There’s no shortage of talent in South Africa, but making a name on the global stage has proven to be a challenge for many would-be surf stars from the Dark Continent. Gibbens reckons taking an alternate course has been the secret to his success.

I definitely like that Palace Skateboards video style. I’ve only seen Endless Bummer and one or two others though. I really like that 90s-style House music they use, and that’s the kind of music I like to make. I use Ableton Live Suite 8 – I don’t know much about it though. I’ve got a buddy, one of my best friends from high school, who’s studying music production and he’s showing me some things. But it’s mostly just been a couple of years of fiddling around with it. I don’t really know what I’m doing (laughs), I feel like all my stuff ends up sounding generic. I also really like playing the drums and guitar. My friend Alex, my best friend from Cape Town, whenever I’m there we jam, he plays guitar and I play drums. We don’t record anything but we just go wild and it’s so much fun.

Music I listen to is all over the map. I struggle with sticking to a specific genre, especially when it comes to making music. Everything I listen to is derived originally from all Kai (Neville)’s movies, or (Dane) Reynolds’ webclips, to be totally honest. But I guess I’ve been listening to a lot of The Cranberries lately. That first album, Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? It’s funny, I heard one of their songs the other day somewhere, and my sister used to play it a lot when I was a kid, so it brought flashbacks. And with that house song in my last edit, it was a guy called Ron Trent. So, I guess Ron Trent and the Cranberries, and whatever YouTube suggests below those.

Turtlenecks. Um. I just like them. I don’t know what else to say. I didn’t see someone cool wearing one that made me want to do it – I saw a mannequin wearing one in a store one day, and thought it looked good. Am I the only surfer to wear a turtleneck? I’m sure Craig (Anderson) has one in his closet somewhere…

I inherited my parent’s old Mercedes Benz. It’s a 190 SLE, late 80s, and I just love that thing. It’s so silly, the least practical surf car ever. All my friends back in Cape Town say I look like a drug dealer in it. I guess you can appreciate the craftsmanship involved with a good-looking car, but I’m not a car enthusiast.

I love wearing booties. I love cross shore winds. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a left or a right, I just love racing down the line and trying airs into cross shore wind. I don’t necessarily prefer cold water, but I do like wearing boots in the surf. If there’s any opportunity for me to wear them… obviously I’d never do it with trunks, but even if it’s a short arm, long leg wetsuit, I’d definitely wear boots. I guess at that point it becomes about how they feel surfing rather than beating the cold, cause if it’s warm enough for bare arms, it’s warm enough for bare feet. I really like the grippy feeling of them. I just wear whatever I can get my hands on. Those light ones with no straps that have really smooth rubber on the outside, they’re good. The separated big toe is good, too.

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Mr Gibbens, enjoying everything that booties and cross shore winds have to offer in WA. He and Dillon Perillo made the trek from their Northern Hemisphere bases, knowing WA was a must-have section in their film, expected to drop later in 2015. (Sequence continued below…)

The five best waves in the world? I love going to Yo-Yos in Sumbawa. It’s nice and isolated, and that wind is howling from 10am onwards, so for recreational surfers it’s absolutely awful, which keeps the crowds at bay. It’s just really warm and clean, with a beautiful landscape. My local spot in Cape Town, Misty Cliffs, is my favourite wave in the world, just because it’s close to home. It’s got a gale force wind crushing into the right. It’s actually a terrible wave. But it’s so beautiful
there. This last trip to West Oz was amazing – it feels really similar to the area in Cape Town that I live. Similar vegetation. But, way better waves in West Oz. And you get to wear booties! Macaronis last time I went… I’d love to go back there. And maybe Lowers if the crowds weren’t there. Although, I’ve never had a good surf there.

Dane Reynolds has been a huge influence. And Jordy, Julian, Craig, Dion… Dion.tv was huge for me back when that was a thing. Pretty much everyone in Kai’s films. I feel I can relate to regular footers more, though. I definitely love seeing combos, because I myself am not very good at linking two turns or airs together. Dane, Jordy and Julian are really good at linking it all with flow.

Jordy… In my opinion, Jordy was the animal spirit of South African surfing when he left Billabong and there was the bidding war over him. Then he became this behemoth pro surfing figure, where he seemed untouchable. He’s the pride and joy of South African surfing, but at the same time he’s achieved so much that it’s really hard to follow in his footsteps. It creates a shadow. It’ll be a long time before any South African surfers match what Jordy’s done.

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