We catch up with Bajan surfer Che Allan about his ten-week stay in Australia, growing up on a small island and what it’s like to make the trip across the Caribbean Sea to Florida to regularly compete.
You’ve been in Australia since the World Juniors in January. What has the average day consisted of while you’ve been here? I’ve been in Australia for ages. Usually my days consist of surfing twice a day, usually I shoot or film at least once of those. Then the rest of time I’ve been cruising. I don’t have too much of a set plan for each day.
What has been some of the highlights of your trip so far? I think it has to be Kiama. I love going down south. I also like heading up to the Gold Coast and around Byron Bay. Byron is so cool to see, both at night and in the day with all the hipsters, street performers and all the people everywhere.
So it’s safe to assume there’s nowhere like Byron in Barbados? No, there’s nowhere like Byron Bay at home.
For people who have never been to Barbados, describe the island to them? For people visiting, it’s like the tropical paradise you see on the movies, but living there is fairly different. A lot of the employment is based on tourism, but we live a pretty quite and normal life.
And what about the waves? The waves are good. It’s a small island and it’s only half an hour coast-to-coast, so you’re usually guaranteed waves somewhere on most days.
Is there anywhere in Australia that you’ve been, that’s similar to what you have at home? If there’s anywhere, it’s maybe the south coast of NSW. We have one city that’s pretty developed, but everything is a lot smaller than what is here in Australia.
Who did you grow up watching surf as a kid? Believe it or not, Barbados was an island that a lot of professional surfers always visited. Kelly Slater was there pretty regularly and John John has been there before. I remember watching Mitch Coleborn and Dusty Payne when they came over to film for What Youth also, so seeing those guys was always an inspiration and drove me to want to get to the same level some day.
Was it surreal seeing the world’s best surfers turn up to your small island home? Totally. Usually, you have to call people to get them in the water with you because you’re surfing on your own most of the time. Now, when I’m in the same contests and heats as them on the Qualifying Series it seems pretty crazy.
Did any of those guys ever share any wisdom with you from their years on the road? Not really. I did ask a lot of questions about waves in Hawaii and Australia and stuff I was curious about, but that was about it.
You have to travel to Florida a lot. What’s some of your favourite memories from going to the States to compete? We have to go to Miami, which is the closest American city to us, so we are always flying to Florida to do the NSSA regional east coast events. When I started getting older I began going over to California and doing their west coast events, and I always preferred the waves there, as they were a little better. The east coast can be inconsistent unless you score places like the Outer Banks in North Carolina, which is where you see all those big brown barrels. The people on the east coast are awesome though. People like Cam (Richards) are really cool. Did the small waves on the east coast help round out your repertoire? Definitely. It’s pretty much all reef breaks and no cold water at home. All those trips to the east coast in winter when it was freezing and small helped me develop my surfing a lot and get better in different conditions.
What do you really want to achieve in the rest of your time in Australia? I’ve got two good results now, so hopefully I can head into the QS event in Avoca and get another good result and get the ball rolling for myself into 2018.
Words and Images: Ethan Smith