There are few more iconic bottom turns than that of Gavin Beschen at Pipe. Photo: WSL
The Stab Interview With Pipeline's Long-Haired Style Icon, Gavin Beschen
How the alien stays forever young and who he admires today.
As humans, we love to romanticize the past.
It's especially easy to fall down the well of nostalgia when speaking with or about someone who has a rich history.
Gavin Beschen is a “someone.” His career and relevance have spanned decades. He’s seen it all and done it all. And to this day, he continues to be admired by all, young and old. Why?
After one conversation with Gavin, it's become evident how he maintains a career as a freesurfer in a time of robust, industry-wide unemployment.
So why talk about the past when Gavin is still working on his future, while owning his new(ish) role as a mentor?
Stab: Who is Gavin Beschen today?
Gavin Beschen: I feel I'm the same kid that was over here in 1990, when I was 15, just in amazement and in complete awe of [Hawaii]: the people, the community, the love everyone has for the ocean, and the land. I feel like I've always done my best to hold onto that beginner's mindset.
I was very fortunate to have my dad support me through surfing as a young kid. He was a house builder. So I grew up pulling nails and tying rebar in the cement. And he gave me a choice. He said, "Well, what would you want to do, work with me or surf?" And it sure as hell didn't entail working 40 hours a week, pulling nails and pouring cement.
So I was really fortunate that my mom and dad helped support me and just gave me a choice as opposed to just clipping my dream and saying, "Ah, you'll never make it." That's what all the teachers were out there saying.
Do you still feel like that same sort of energy motivates you and inspires you today?
Yeah, I do. I mean, a lot of the work ethic my dad taught me inspires me to get up and make something of myself and not be lazy and do what I can and do what I love. And, yeah, I think it is a really critical motivational factor.
Granted, it's got to be cultivated. Otherwise, there's so many things and people who are out to get you down and try to suck away your energy and maybe feed you false ideas.
And so I do my best to really utilize what my dad taught me. And it's not always easy because life is far from easy.
Right. Everyone can relate to that.
Yeah, so it's really just waking up and focusing on something positive, and using that as a pinnacle for where you want to be drawn to and where you want to see yourself—in the moment, down the line, and in the future.
Choose your path, follow it indiscriminately.
For you, as a lifelong freesurfer, it must have been tough to show value and hard work compared to, say, your brother Shane, who was on the World Tour. But you did it, year after year. What do you credit that to?
Oh, I just think losing so much in contests and after a decade of losing by a fraction of a point, that stuff can really wear on you. I mean, even if you're not a competitive surfer, it takes it out of you, doing your best and still not winning.
Would you say you're competitive?
No. And that's the other factor, is I never had that desire to be competitive or in the competitions. And that's why I always did my best to work at freesurfing and being with my friends and people who love to film.
And I was really blessed to have Volcom give me the choice and chance to be myself, which they still allow me to do. And regardless of results, they just put their trust in me as I did with them, and in return, I would do my best to surf as hard as I could and do whatever it takes, whether that means doing promotional aspects for them or whatever.
Like today. Skateboarding around in your yard, on your Sector 9, while we photograph you and your kids eat breakfast inside.
Or, yeah, do an interview. I mean, that stuff to me was a small price of time to live my dream.
So I really reached out to them and made sure that I was always there and available, and if I needed to do more, then I really wanted them to let me know.
What advice are you giving to some of the younger kids on that? Because that’s hard to teach and rather something ingrained in you, sort of like a skill set. Are there any younger surfers you're guiding or mentoring?
Well, just the etiquette of respect. If someone's trying to help you, and they're going out of their way to help you, you do your best to show them the respect and repay that to them as a mutual acknowledgment of the rub-a-dub style.
It's like when someone's reaching their hand out, and offering you help, don't take that for granted.
"You see, son, the trick is grab your rail off the bottom and look over your left shoulder. But don't forget to keep your fingers creepy."
Who are some of the names around Hawaii that have asked you for advice or, whether they've asked for it or not, you've given them that advice?
Well, I’ve always looked up to the kids from around here at a young age, because they were already instilled with that appreciation for their family.
Like Mason with his dad. Mason was always...it didn't matter who you were, he shared a little heart with you. And even his dad’s brother, Derek, is like that as well. And John John was just a product of his mom's love; he always had time for anybody and acknowledging others. It really helps if you acknowledge yourself and have self-respect and respect for others.
And those are the golden rules. There's a reason they're golden, because they are the realest and highest forms of bowing down, because we're all the same. We're all one blood.
What surfers inspire you to keep evolving, doing bigger airs, or putting it on rail harder?
Guys like Michael Ho, who is in his 60s, still showing all the kids how to surf Pipe and Backdoor. I really look up to guys like him and his brother, Derek, and the fact that they're just not giving up. They're surfing harder and better than anyone and with the most Aloha. And I look to Michael's son, Mason, and the guys like John John and all of the North Shore kids, Koa and Eli. They’ve had such a good upbringing and sense of respect from their fathers and from all their uncles, and it really shows, so I really look up to them as the next, younger generation, paving the way for those golden rules of Aloha.
So I look up to the youngest of the kids to the oldest of the elders for my inspiration and everything in between.
You’ve inspired some of today’s best surfers, whether it was with your power or aerial surfing. Noa Deane comes to mind on our recent Electric Acid project. Do you ever watch someone else’s surfing and think, "That looks a little like myself," and wonder if you can push yourself to their level?
Oh yeah. It's always important to see how you can better yourself and improve. And there's no better way than to look to the people who you enjoy watching surfing. Like Noa's a great human, and I love watching him surf. And I always aspire to be closer to those individuals that I look up to and respect.
Do you ever see any maneuvers, whether it be from a Chippa Wilson or one of the more progressive air guys, where you think “Oh, I want to do that.” Do you find yourself watching that stuff and kind of studying a little bit?
Well, I mean, I grew up surfing with Justin Madison and Joe Crimo. So it was like they were so far ahead of what was going on. Even before them, I was on the merry-go-round and getting spun around by Matt Archbold and Christian Fletcher. So I was exposed to a radical group of people who inspired me at a young age, and they still do.
Stay forever in motion.
***Gavin’s son politely interrupts the interview:
Son: Papa, I found a papaya tree broken.
Gavin: I know. So, you want to cut it down?
Son: It is already cut down.
Gavin: Oh, okay.
Son: Can I use it?
Gavin: You can use its material.
From a skateboarding standpoint, and sorry I'm jumping around here, how much do you credit your style and staying progressive in the water to skateboarding?
It's critical. Pushing around and just carving down a hill or practicing turns and all that stuff is so important in your day-to-day training, especially if you want to get better at surfing. Because it's a state of staying balanced and keeping the youthful state of mind and not thinking “Oh, I'm too old for this, or I might hurt myself, so I'm going to just put it down.”
I hurt myself, and I'm hurt all the time, but it's something I don't think I'll ever want to put down.
Who is the best surfer/skater today or in the past?
Right now, one of the most amazing humans, I think, in all aspects, from music to skating to surfing, is Kalani David. He grew up here as well. He's just one of the humblest of all warriors. He can play the drums like an animal. He can skate the vert ramps, and he's just the most down to earth human. And that's what I really look up to him. If you met him, you'd never know. But yeah, I think he's definitely up there as far as the top of the line people and skaters, surfers, music. And you got guys like Ivan too, John John's brother, and Nathan Fletcher. He pretty much does everything.
You’re going on a boat trip to Indo and you can only take five guests. Who are the five guests you're bringing?
Wow. Five guys. Yeah, that'd be tough. I'd ask them, "Doesn't the boat hold more than five guys? Is this just a speedboat or what?"
But yeah, no, it would probably be all my closest friends like Kaimana, Tai Vandyke, and someone like Mason Ho and Derek and Michael. There's a long list. I'd love to go on one of those again. But yeah, all those guys just because there's just such an incredibly good feeling surfing with them and the amount of knowledge you learn just by watching them.
In one sentence, what advice would you give to an up-and-coming surfer visiting the North Shore for the first time?
Just no shame.
Come say hello and extend your hand and don't be afraid to smile and have a moment to talk story. Don't be in such a rush. It only takes a few minutes to make a forever impact. And you never know, in a few minutes, you could build a friendship for life, and that's why surfing is so special, the tribe and the community. So don't ever think you don't need to say hello to everyone.
Because that could be your best friend you're walking past.
If you see Gav on the North Shore, come say hi.