From my Coronado and Imperial Beach Patch Surfing Column of the week of March 16th:
Coronado’s Taylor Jensen is one of the most accomplished surfers to have come out of South County. Whether he is on a powering new school maneuvers on a longboard or ripping on his shortboard, Taylor, who holds 6 U.S. National longboard titles, mixes an impressive blend of athleticism, power and style into his surfing. He continues the long line of Coronado competitive new school longboarders including Mike and Terry Gillard and Dan Mann. When I caught up with Taylor, he was on his way to compete in the Noosa Festival of Surfing in Queensland, Australia.
When did you start surfing? And when did you get serious about professional surfing and why?
I started surfing at about 6yrs old. My Dad used to take me down to the beach and push me into waves on a blue body board. I was hooked from then on. I got serious about it when I got my first sponsor at 13. John Gillem hooked me up with Rusty Surfboards and that was it. I was sold on the idea of surfing for a living.
It seems as thought the Professional Longboard circuit is in a period of flux. To me you represent the best of “New School” longboarders carrying out high-performance maneuvers, but it seems as thought the sport is moving back to the traditionalist style as exemplified by the Vans Duct Tape Invitational that Joel Tudor organizes. Where is professional longboarding heading now?
Longboarding is sort of at a crossroads now. There has always been this divide between the traditional single fin side of things and the high performance side. There is no use trying to argue for one side or the other. That’s like someone who rides a twin fin telling someone who rides a thruster that they are wrong. It is surfing no matter what you ride. Longboarding, from a marketing standpoint, needs to head in the traditional direction. We need to differentiate from the shortboard side of things. People see me as the high performance guy, and yes I love riding a high performance longboard when the waves are good, but I also love riding a traditional single fin and noseriding. Joel’s Duct Tape tour is a great thing for the sport. I’m heading to Spain later this year to be a part of it and am really looking forward to it.
You’ve spent a lot of time in Australia. Why does it seem that surfing and especially professional surfing is taken much more seriously Down Under than in California?
Just about everyone lives on the coast in Australia. Surfing is a part of everyone’s life here, whether they realize it or not. Surfing in Australia is a sport in which training facilities are dedicated to. Guys are signing multi million dollar deals at the age of 16 now. It is a great thing to see.
With the rise in retro shortboads that are wider and thicker than modern shortboards and allow high-performance surfing in small waves, is longboarding really even valid anymore?
Longboarding is a preference. There is no need to validate it. Ride whatever you have the most fun on. That is the whole reason any of us ever started surfing. Everyone should have as many boards as they can fit in their garage and ride them all. Every craft brings a different feeling of stoke. That is what we are looking for every time we enter the water. Longboarding, either high performance or traditional, is something different and it is where surfing started.
What types of boards are you riding, and who is shaping them? And how do you work with your shaper to obtain the shapes and boards that work for you?
I’m currently riding Firewire Surfboards. And I have almost every board in their range. Dan Mann shaped my longboard model. The relationship between a shaper and a rider is key to getting the best result. I always looked up to Dan’s surfing as a kid and he has seen me grow up so we have that hometown bond that allows us to create a great board.
You are one of the more athletic surfers on the professional circuit at any level. How are you staying in shape for surfing? And do you think most surfers are ignoring the importance of working out and diet to stay fit for surfing?
I had a severe ankle injury for the past three months so I got really out of shape. Getting back into peak performance is a lot harder than I remember. I’m getting into yoga and stretching a lot. Eating really healthy and taking care of your body is critical for surfing. Surfers are fit because of the exercise they do while surfing. If you combine that with stretching and eating right you’ll be looking at a new you.
Who are the surfers who have influenced you? And who is moving surfing forward today?
I have never really looked towards longboarding for influence. They guys who are pushing shortboarding are who influence me. Guys like Christian Wach have taken noseriding to a whole new level? The stuff he is doing on the front of his board is amazing! Also I like to see people who ride everything and who just don’t conform to some BS image for the media. Be you and do what you want to do, have fun with it!
One of the things that I admire most about your surfing is your ability to absolutely rip in any medium on shortboards and longboards? Do you find it hard to go back and forth? Is there a period of adjustment you have to make to surf well when go from a longboard to a shortboard?
I love shortboarding. That’s a huge part of my enjoyment in surfing. I’ll generally go weeks without riding a longboard and when I go back I surf better than ever before. Taking time to ride different boards is a huge part of developing your surfing. It is how you learn to get speed from different sections of waves and its how you find your own style. That’s a quest that never stops in your surfing, that journey to find your own style is something you can always work on and refine.
Where is your absolute favorite place to surf?
A certain place in Australia. It is the most magical place I have ever been. The waves are amazing, the people are wonderful, and the whole vibe is so laid back. I’m in love with this place. It is what California would have been like if we didn’t stuff it up with all the concrete, freeways, and pollution.
Best surf trip ever?
Two years ago I ended up on a trip to Micronesia with Mick Fanning, Beau Young, and Steph Gilmore. I have no idea why but it was amazing. You learn a lot by watching people like that. I took a lot of knowledge away from that and I gained some great new friends!
Who sponsors you and how do you work with your sponsors to have a long-term mutually productive professional relationship?
Currently my sponsors include Firewire Surfboards, Ocean Current Clothing, On A Mission, Kicker Audio, Coral Reef Wetsuits, and Surfride Boardshop. The relationships differ from sponsor to sponsor but all of them are like family to me. We have lunches, go for surfs, hang out and chat. But at the end of the day I am not employed to just surf. I get photos in magazines, go on editorial trips, shot videos for sections in movies, write a blog, test out future designs and give them feedback from an athlete’s point of view. There really is a lot involved in it but its always going to be better than sitting behind a desk.
What advice would you give a young surfer thinking about making the leap into professional surfing?
If you are really serious about it, take the time to test out the different career paths within the sport. There is always the chance to be a free surfer if contest aren’t your thing. And focus on having fun, as long as you are having fun it is worth it. The minute you stop having fun is when it turns from a job you love into the job you hate and then there is no point doing it. Get out there and go for it!