The Night Before J Bay with Adrian Buchan

Curtains up.

We all know Ace Buchan. He’s headed for J-Bay again this year to, hopefully, make his folks proud. He’s lucked out in the past, but who can blame him? Jeffery’s Bay. Are you kidding? That place is mental. Every year I watch the epic battles that J-Bay’s offered. I’ve witnessed back-hand riders nail Supertubes, the clash of surfing titans, and the force of nature that binds it all together. However, every year, as Ace so simply puts it, there can only be one winner.

For myself, I’ve had my eye on a few candidates, though Adrian Buchan – Central Coast goofy footer – has always been an inspiration, both in and out of the water. He’s a humble man, intelligent with words, an incredible surfer, and devoted to his family. Not to mention our alignment with a passion for writing – but to the point! – I was as stoked as a fangirl when I managed to catch up with Ace. It was the day before he departed for South Africa, so we chatted about his prep, life back in AUS, and what we can all expect from the Surf Dive ‘n’ Ski team rider at J-Bay. And, hopefully, he’s coming back with a South African crown.

Enter stage, Ace!


What you been getting up to back home in AUS?

AB: Been surfing all morning with my Dad, which was pretty sick. It’s been kinda offshore all morning, and had a pretty steady set of ground swell for about ten days. It’s been cold, I’ve had my 4/3 out, I don’t even think I wore a 4/3 last year – LAUGHS – but it’s been somewhat similar to the sort of conditions that I’ll get in J-Bay.

AB: And I guess, the Central Coast has been good for me to have as my back yard, because there’s just so many different types of waves so I’ve kinda just been hunting down all the right hand reefs, and trying to surf there, nothing really matches the feeling you get when you’re flying down a solid set at Supertubes – LAUGHS – but yeah, I’ve just been at home, I’ve got a couple of new boards from JS, my family’s coming with me, you know so that’s exciting.

Nice. Does your family travel with you often?

AB: Ah, not everywhere. We did J-Bay together last year and we do probably most of the events together, but for things like Brazil we don’t, Fiji and Tahiti I go by-myself because we’re out on the boat a lot, so that’s not kind of family friendly place.

AB: Pretty much everywhere else. The Aussie locations are pretty easy. Europe’s great, America. Hawaii we’re in the one spot for six weeks.

AB: Mostly its actually pretty easy to travel with a family. Most of the guys on tour have got wives and kids. And it’s a cool environment for the kids, so we love doing it together.

Yeah, that’s perfect. And how does having your family travel with you effect your mental state, your performance? It must be awesome.

AB: It’s great. Look I mean, I guess for me I’m at this stage in my career when family is really important. It really gives me a chance to switch off and be really fresh when I do get down to the contest and paddling out because it hasn’t been completely overwhelming surf, surf, surf.

AB: I get to kind of switch off. And when you have a little two-year-old your hands are busy, you don’t really have a chance to be selfish, so its great. It’s been awesome to travel with them. It’s given me a fresh perspective of everything, really.

So your daughter, Ruby, she went down with you last year.

AB: Yeah, she went down with us last year, so this is her second time there. She’s already getting really excited, talking about seeing all the animals, going to collect shells – LAUGHS – and all that kind of stuff. It’s going to be great fun.

How has she developed from last year, does she kind of realise what Dad’s doing for work now?

AB: Yeah. She does, definitely. So its pretty cool, you know, she’s says she wants to surf when she’s a bit older, she’s talking heaps, and yeah, I think she kinda has a grasp on what I do now and understands it, which is cool. But it has made it a little bit harder now going away and not having them with me. So there’s pros and cons to that, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

She’d be on a little lifetime holiday; she’d be lovin’ it.

AB: Oh, yeah. LAUGHS

Is she flicking through Macka’s Barrel in the Dreamtime yet?

AB: LAUGHS. She actually hasn’t.

Oh, man. What’s going on!

AB: I know. We’ll have to get that one out. She loves her books. That ones probably just a little bit too advanced, but she’d love the photos and the pictures.

Speaking of your book, is writing still a passionate pastime for you?

AB: Yeah, it is. At this point in my life it is probably just something I don’t have too much time to devote to.

AB: But I actually just did write a piece for Stab on Kieran Perrow about a month ago. That was the first time I had written anything substantial in a long time. It was really cool to use that part of my brain again, but I’ve never kind of thought that’s what I’d do full time but I do really enjoy the kind of creative side of writing, and will definitely be something down the track that I’ll get into a little bit more, and see where it takes me.

Yeah, and it is a good way to re-wind. Relax and zone out for a bit.

AB: Definitely.

So what have you been doing to prepare yourself for Jeffery’s, apart from chasing down right-hander reefs? Been meditating, thrashin’ some music? Do you have a ritual?

AB: Yeah, I’ve just been keeping up my routine that I’ve had this year, which has been working really well. I guess I’m old enough to see what works for me and what doesn’t, I know the things that I need to do for my body.

AB: I’ve been pretty committed on getting in to the gym, you know, if I’m not in the surf. Most of my days I’m either up early and in the surf if the waves are good, or if not I’m in the gym trying to get a couple strength sessions in between events. I try and do a bit of yoga, especially when I’m on the road.

AB: Mentally I just feel I’m in a place now where I really appreciate what I’m doing, and having a family is a big part of that, I can honestly say that I can go to the events now and I really appreciate it and everyone that’s surfing. You know, I’m probably not looking over my shoulder as much as I once was, I’m just super comfortable being me and competing the way I like to compete.

AB: And J-Bay for me is a place is just really special. I’m really looking forward to going there. My parents are both from South Africa so I could have pretty easily been a J-Bay local if they hadn’t moved to Australia – so it’s an event that I’d really love to win – mentally it’s one I’m always up for, I know that’s not a problem, it’s all about now just having fun and doing some great surfing. I’m looking forward to it.

You’ve gone from placing in the third round to a third place finish last year. Is taking out the top-dog and nailing first place in your sights?

AB: Yeah, well I’ve had a few thirds there over the years, I’ve always kinda done some good surfing there, it’s definitely a tricky wave, back side, to do well – I don’t think a goofy has won it in a long time. Wilko and I have both kinda had a couple of thirds each, and both done some good surfing, Matty especially last time it was big – I think two years ago.

AB: It’s a wave I really relish the challenge for surfing backside and I think you can be really creative and draw some new lines. That’s my goal, though in saying that it’s a kind of wave where you can’t really have any pre-conceptions, its about treating each wave on its own and being instinctual, not getting too ahead of yourself.

You got the likes of Mick, Jules, Parko who all have a score to settle with J-Bay, gonna be a tough event.

AB: Definitely. So many great surfers. It’s kinda hard to single people out. The tour is pretty gnarly these days so you’ve kinda got to just focus on your own game and enjoy everybody else’s surfing too.

So who’s apart of team Ace at the moment? Who are you travelling with and how do you guys get along as mates and competitors? Is there a pre-event catch-up, or is J-Bay family time?

AB: Well every event’s different. I mean, Fiji was pretty special for the fact it was Taj’s last event and we all stay together on a small island – it’s pretty unique. But J-Bay’s different, people tend to kind of take friends or family, and the surfers are kind of more spread out.

AB: Though in saying that there’s a pretty great sense of comradery amongst the Aussie guys, definitely coming off the back of Fiji – LAUGHS – for me, obviously Matty and I are great mates and we’re from the same town, we both surfed for local Boardriders, and seeing him do well this year is super inspiring, I’m watching him reach his potential.

AB: I’ve spent some time with Mick in Fiji, we’ve spent some quality time together through the year and to see him back at J-Bay already and surfing is pretty incredible in itself. Yeah, there’s kind of no shortage of inspiration for me amongst my close friends. I’m excited to go there and soak it all up.

As you mentioned before Jeffery’s is such a powerful wave, its fast with real long walls, and you’ve gotta just take it as it comes. But if there was one thing you could take away from surfing those waves this year what would it be? Taking the crown or taking life as it comes?

AB: Yeah, I mean obviously there’s only one winner at an event, and it can be hard to walk away, but I think now I can kinda appreciate places now wherever I finish. In saying that I just want to go over there and do some great surfing, compete well and most of all enjoy it.

AB: If I can do that I think I can do really well, this year I’ve just been trying to soak up everywhere I go and I really think as you get older you really appreciate things a little bit more and having a family is a big part of that so showing the girls all the spots that I’ve been able to travel to the last ten years is great. But to answer your question, just to go there and to know I’ve really enjoyed the experience and given it everything.

AB: Competitively, yeah I want to win the event but above all I just want to go there and throw everything at it.


Feature Image by Andrew Shield | @andrew_shield

Published by Surf Dive ‘n Ski

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