Stab Interview: Bryce Young On The Joys Of Asymmetry And His First Film In Four Years - Stab Mag

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Stab Interview: Bryce Young On The Joys Of Asymmetry And His First Film In Four Years

Plus, who he thinks is the best surfer on earth.

// Aug 19, 2023
Words by Christian Bowcutt
Reading Time: 7 minutes

I wanted to know where Bryce Young was.

Sometimes when admired surfers go missing, we assume the usual suspects: Their sponsors dropped them, they got into drugs, they are clocking in at the oil rigs, they are *gasps* modeling.

Surfing is no stranger to estranged heroes. It’s always been a culture of vagabonds and drifters and ne’erdowells. The sort of people that are supposed to go missing. You don’t blame a swallow for flying away.

But Bryce Young isn’t a swallow. And he isn’t a vagabond, drifter, or ne’erdowell. He’s a kind, thoughtful, healthy, almost monastic man. And I wanted to know where he’d been.

Bryce. Powder day. Photo: NeedEssentials

Bryce Young was marketed to us by Vissla films in the pre-Plague days as a sort of supernatural talent. A son of a world champion, a world traveler, and a graceful master of every conceivable type of board — from a snowboard to the alai’a.

He also just released a full-length surf film — the first bit of surfing we’ve seen from him since Jack Coleman’s 2019 film, Groove Move.

The film had the Stab office and Slack channel buzzing — was this the best rail surfing we’ve seen in years?

Click play and sink into a stupor of thought. Video: NeedEssentials

Bryce — like some of the world’s greatest guitar players (look at their hands) — has natural peculiarities that lend him superhuman surfing powers. For instance, he’s extremely tall, and, like Owen Wright, or Ryan Burch, or Jordy Smith, he uses the height as stylized leverage, lacerating sections in a way that is beautiful, unique, and scathing.

I spoke to Bryce on the phone last week about where he’s been the last four years, who he thinks is the best surfer in the world, the difficulty of barrel-riding, and what makes him happy:

Stab: We became a big fan of your surfing when all those pre-pandemic Vissla movies came out: Palmera Express, Pedro’s Bay, Rolling Review, etc. But we didn’t see any of you after that. In an interview, you mentioned that Aussie bushfires of 2019 and 2020 destroyed your family’s home a took a toll on you. Is that why you chose to take a break from releasing surf videos and being on social media?
Bryce Young: I was really hurting man, to be honest. The home was built by my father decades ago, and it was my family’s sanctuary. I wanted to be sharing my surfing during that time, but it just wasn’t a possibility for me to share clips or be on social media. It really put things into perspective for me and I just left the country and traveled and sorted out those feelings and tried to figure out what was next.

There were other things going on in my life — lots of changes — and everyone has their own ways of processing traumatic experiences. I needed time away from sharing, to learn how to move forward and turn it into something positive. And now with the film, I was able to finally share my story honestly.

Bryce and his father, Nat Young. Photo: Need Essentials

What was your dad’s [world champion Nat Young] reaction to everything considering he built the place?
It was absolutely devastating for my whole family. Especially for my dad. It was his first home that he built with his friends. We lost so many family artifacts and home videos and photos and all that. But the silver lining is that my family wasn’t hurt, we’re all still here and that’s what I’m grateful for.

And that’s the thing about things, even beautiful things. Things get lost and you move on.

You once said that Ryan Burch is the best surfer on the planet. What is it about Ryan’s surfing that makes you make that statement?
It’s his authentic, completely unique, beautiful approach. That’s what the surf world needs — independent, free thinkers and nobody is more of that than Burch.

And I don’t just mean from a surfboard design standpoint. Obviously, he’s paving the way and cutting his own trail with shaping. But from a purely surfing standpoint, his surfing isn’t copying anybody. It’s trying to do nothing but be a full expression of himself.

And obviously, this is my personal opinion, I can’t speak for anyone else, but I don’t gel with the idea of alternative boards being seen as “weird” or “funky” — they are functional and high-performance. I love seeing Mikey Wright and Steph Gilmore riding Burch’s boards. It shows how these boards are not “weird” but are at the forefront of progression in surf design.

Bryce leveraging his God-given leg length. Photo: NeedEssentials

Your surfing in the film on those boards was next level as well. What do these asymmetrical Burch boards allow you to do better than conventional, symmetrical boards?
It comes down to speed for me. You don’t have to work for speed the same way you do on conventional boards. I don’t want to discredit symmetrical board design because obviously they have their place, and work great. But Burch boards for me are the epitome of thoughtfulness and function.

How are you making your day-to-day living these days? I know you tried your hand at masonry and trade work at one point.
I’m incredibly grateful and lucky to be fully supported by NeedEssentials now for my surfing. It’s kind of a dream come true. I get to go on trips and make the kind of films I want to with a crew of good friends that fully support me.

Contrary to some dissenting voices, asymmetrical go both ways. Photo: NeedEssentials

You’re 32, right? How has the experience been transitioning out of your twenties as a surfer and becoming a fully-fledged adult? What advice do you have for someone in their twenties?
Yeah, when I turned 30 I was kind of like, ‘Holy shit. My twenties are over.’ [laughs] The crux of it is just that age is a number and your experience depends on how you treat yourself. I feel like I’m finally learning about my body and trying to take care of myself more.

I think I’m realizing that If I want to do these beautiful, fun things for as long as possible that I need to do more strength training, and stretching, and look after myself properly. I think I’m lucky to say I’m 32 and still learning.

Some of the slabs in your film are really fun to watch. Has tube riding always come easy to you, or is it something you’ve had to cultivate and learn with time?

As much as I think front-side tube riding does come naturally to us as surfers, backside tube riding didn’t come as natural to me. I had to learn it my own way. At first, when I was younger, I practiced in a parallel stance just to get my body mechanics in the right spot for pig-dogging. After lots of years of tube riding with my feet almost together, I started creeping my back foot back and finally adopted the traditional pid-dog stance.

Who are the best tube riders in the world to you?
For me, the best tube riders in the world are Dave Rastovich, Craig Anderson, and Laurie Towner. Those guys are phenomenal.

The pig-dogging might’ve taken work, this came naturally. Photo: NeedEssentials

It seems like you haven’t gotten caught up with what the rest of the surf world is doing, but remain totally at peace with yourself and your own program. Is that how you see it?
Well, thanks [laughs]. I’m not always at peace, that’s for sure. But I think we as humans all have things to learn from each other. We try our best. For me, my mom has been so instrumental for me in terms loving others and being accepting and kind. Watching the way my mom interacts with life and those around her is so inspiring.

There are so many ways to point a stick at things that differ from your own beliefs, so I think having the opinion that your way of doing things is the only way isn’t fair or true.

Bryce might’ve learned surfing from his dad, but it was his mom that taught him skateboarding. Photo: NeedEssentials

Are you full steam ahead with surfing and trips and footage? Or are you thinking of settling down a bit and planting roots?
At this stage, so many of my friends are settling down and having kids and stuff. I do want to be a father someday, and I have an awesome girlfriend who supports me. Right now though I am focused on traveling and seeing new spots and going full steam ahead and surfing and making films.

But family life is something I definitely look forward to in the future.

Last question — you’ve been a lot places, but is there one place you are most curious to go to that you haven’t been to before?
Africa. I really want to explore that beautiful coastline, particularly J-Bay. J-Bay is like a shining beacon for me [laughs]. So I hope I get there and get to experience that on these boards and share it.

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