We sit down with the Lennox Head local to discuss his transition from a promising rugby star to professional surfer, his Hong Kong upbringing and his goals for 2018.
**Tell us about your upbringing? **
I was born in Sydney in Randwick, then when I was two years old I moved to Hong Kong for my Dad�s work. He was a banker who worked in the stock exchange there for five years or so. When we left Hong Kong, we settled in Lennox Head. My Mum was originally from Lismore which isn�t too far away and Dad was from Tamworth, so we always used to holiday there as kids.
**What was your earliest memory of surfing? **
It must�ve been in a Christmas holiday break when we were holidaying there, but I think I really got stuck into it when we moved to Lennox. We actually rented a unit on the beach, so it was really convenient.
**What was Lennox Head like back then? **
It was fairly different. There were nowhere near as many people and nowhere near as many surfers in the water. You didn�t see too many tourists from memory and it was pretty localised as well.
**Did you begin competing around this time? **
No, I actually didn�t begin competing until a fair while later. I think I was 11 or 12 and I began doing a lot of those little Wahu comps up and down the east coast. I think we headed up to the Sunshine Coast and down towards Coffs Harbour for them. The competition scene really grew from there.
**If you�re talking to a person who has never surfed a decent day at Lennox Point, how would you describe it? **
First thing, it�s not easy to get out and in. The jump-off can be quite nasty and harder than a lot of Gold Coast waves, but for a natural-footer you can�t really ask for much more. It�s a dream. You�ve got long walls and vertical face that you can smash and then there�s a barrel section on the inside. The goofy-footers tend not to like it as much, but it�s definitely helped my surfing a lot.
**You also grew up playing quite a bit of football (rugby league and rugby union), why did you choose surfing? **
I played league and union from the time I was old enough to pick up a football. When I moved to Lennox, I got stuck into it and my Dad even coached the teams. I did those two, as well as surfing until I got to around 15 or 16 and then decided I wanted to focus on surfing.
**What made you make that decision? **
Living at Lennox pretty much. I was travelling so much every single weekend, even going to New Zealand to compete and represent the NSW and Australian teams. After my last trip to NZ, I just made the decision to stick with surfing. It was hard to turn my back on it and it took me about a year to make the decision, but it was definitely bittersweet.
**You touched on travel, for rugby, but tell me a bit about the travel you�ve done for surfing? **
I�ve notched up a few fun trips. I�ve been to Indo a bunch of times. I went to Salina Cruz in Mexico with my brother and Matt Banting which was amazing. I went to South Sumatra last year with Toby (Mossop) and scored that place incredible. I�ve also done heaps of Australia for events as well.
**What are your plans for 2018? **
I would�ve liked to get a better start in the Aussie leg of QS events, so once it�s over I�ll look at the calendar and see what events I�ll focus on and go from there. I know there�s a bit of an Indo leg coming up this year, so I�d love to get over there and nail a bunch of decent freesurfing on the side of the contests and balance it out.
*Images and Words: Ethan Smith*