Welcome to the weird world of the Firewire Vanguard. Local ripper Bruce Campbell got himself one, and I just had to find out more about this crazy looking thing...
Ok, let’s start by admitting this has to be one of the oddest looking surfboards to hit the waves in a looong time! Give us a quick heads-up on what it’s called and the dimensions.
Ya, I completely agree! First time I laid eyes on the board, I laughed at its awkward features. It is called the ‘Vanguard’ Firewire by Tomo Surfboards. It has a thruster and quad fin option.
5' 4" x 18" x 2 1/4" Volume: 25.9 L
And what’s the story behind its design? Just someone drinking too many Jagermeisters one night and hitting the shaping bay with a moerse hangover the next day?
The original board design comes from the shaper Daniel Thomson. Thomson has forged his reputation on blending the design principles of the thruster - those three-finned, wave-destroying machines that have become standard issue on surfing's World Tour - with the speed and flow of the 1950s-inspired planing hulls and fishes that have come back into vogue over the past decade. The boards look downright futuristic, some of them resembling fighter jets. Stu Kennedy (pro surfer) was over at Thomsons house for a party and Stu started digging through his boards and when he found this design he simply got up and left and went straight to the beach. It has just grown from there onwards.
So how did you end up coming to be the proud owner of the double-ended flying machine?
I had been looking at it on the net quite a bit and watching all the different You tube videos on the board and listening to peoples interviews and it got me interested. So I went to the Country Feeling shop in J-Bay where all the Firewires are and tested out the demo board, I surfed it for about an hour and got out the water and went straight to shop and got myself one.
Looking decidedly weird is one thing, but how does this board actually go?
Well I was really uncertain on how it would go, I thought it may be a bit loose or won’t be able to turn critically off the top, but 1 hour on the demo and I was sold! It is ridiculously fast, as soon as you get to your feet the board just goes, got so much drive. I first started off doing some big carves and cut backs on it to try and get use to the speed and then I had to put it to the test on the bottom turn. So I took off on a decent size wave out at Seals and went as hard as I can off the bottom to see if it will slide out and it didn’t, it went off the bottom so well.
It is lightening fast off the lip and it holds its rail all the way through a turn. The parallel lines of the board reduces drag and thus lifting the nose up out the water, so to help generate more speed. The tail has a twin diamond tail profile which is super sharp and really bites when you put it on the rail. With the reduced nose swing of the board it goes incredible in the air as well, super quick to pop out the water and rotating is made easier with the reduced length of the board.
What sort of conditions is it ideally suited to? Does it like to carve or fly?
I initially got it for smaller PE waves but I have been surfing it in all types of surf out here in St Francis, I’ve surfed it in 1-2 foot soft Seal point and then also 4-5ft foot bumpy howling onshore Seal point. Took it out at solid Bruce’s and it just held its line so well, then recently put it through a big test of heaving 4-5 foot beachie barrels and it went amazingly, just had so much drive from the take-off and making barrels was just too easy. Not once has the board skimmed out on me which I thought it would do.
Is this something that will be your go-to board now, or you’ll only pull it out in certain conditions?
This will most certainly be my go-to board now, unless surfing anything bigger than solid 6-8 foot then I may look at one of my bigger boards.
Length-wise – do guys go for the same length as their normal shortboard – or do you ride it a bit shorter?
Quite a bit shorter than your normal board, my normal board is generally a 5’10 and this board is 5’4 so that is quite short but you would not be able to tell that it’s so small when you're surfing it.
Do you have to be a hot surfer to really get the most outta the board, or do you reckon it’s also got a place in joe-averages quiver as well?
No, I reckon everyone should have one of these boards in their quiver. Because the board is narrower than your normal board it forces you to surf on the rail, which is where all your good surfing comes from-on the rail. After riding this board for a few days and then I went back to my normal board, I surfed better on my normal board because I kept the board on the rail the whole time.
Shot Bruce - good to know the ironing board surfs like a real board!
n.1. the front part of an advancing army.
2. the forefront in any field.
3. the leaders of any intellectual or political movement.
[1480–90; earlier van(d)gard(e) < Middle French avangarde, variant of avant-garde]
We catch up with Ryan Anderson - a local longboard legend of the 90's. Ryan still rocks his longboard at Millers, but it was back in the heydays of the 90's that he became the SA Longboard champ, and represented South Africa at the World Games & Oxbow World Champs on a number of occasions.
So where did it all start?
I must have been about 10 or so. My first board was my Dads board from the 70's. He had it custom made by Gary Cooper, called a Delve. The Cooper Brothers used to shape a lot of boards back then. It was a 7'6 single fin, we later chopped the tail off and made into a twin fin, cos singles weren't cool anymore! I started surfing at Kings beach and Millers with my best mate in junior school, Ryan Hartel, we were super groms, stoked to the max!
Then from Std 6 my main posse was Marius Roberts, Greg Heasley, Jason Dixon and Alan Buchanan. We used to hang at Millers, Pipe or Fence every day and connect with guys like the Douglas-Jones brothers, and the crew of Jorg, Bobby and Quintin and some of the Summerstrand groms like Jason Van Greunen, Jean Pierre, the McSkimmings etc.
My 1st thruster was about 6'1, it was promo board that Ward Walcup (a famous US shaper) had made as a prize for the Spur Surfabout ASP comp held at Outer Kom in Cape Town. Think it was about '84. It was an iconic event - massive lefts rolling through the kelp bed's. I was there watching the comp with my dad while on a soccer tour. I managed to get the autograph of my 2 heroes at the time, Barton Lynch and Ross Clarke Jones!
Someone won the Spur board and we bought it off them. It was called a Bordello! I was a lightie and had absolutely no idea I was walking around with a "whorehouse" under my arm! All the older guys used to tease me when I walked past them carrying it! And I had no idea why!
You got sponsored pretty young...
Yah, my first ever sponsor was Radical Sports Surfshop owned by "Chappy" Adshade. They flowed us deals on gear and I had the Barton Lynch and Damien Hardman front and back Gorilla Grip on my boards, I was stoked! Greg Smith from Curved Air started making my boards from a pretty young age and we had a great relationship for many years trying new things with my shortboards, eventually crossing over onto the Longboards too.
When I was about 12 I made the EP groms side, along with guys like Quinton Jones, Duncan Scott, Koffie Jacobs, Greg Heasley, Justin Douglas-Jones, Nolan McSkimming and Bryan Moulang. Quinton Jones was another Curved Air team rider and we used to train like mad in heavy onshore conditions till our eyes would burn, we put serious time in the water.
In those days most of the comps were sponsored by local surf shops and I won a good couple of them like the Bruce's Beauties Classic and the Oceans Surfshop Comp. I then started entering the junior pro events around the country and got some good results in the Samsung Surf Classic, Rip Curl Junior Pro and a few others. This was all on shortboard still.
Groms were kept in line by the older guys in those days - any stories?
For sure - you knew your place in the line-up! Fence was still a real wave back then with heaving thick peaks and barrels. I remember paddling up towards the main peak - and guys like Clinton Bradfield and Wildy Van Wyk would take one look at you and send you back down to the next peak! But you didn't mind cos you would see them get so deep in the barrel, so it was cool. You had to earn your right to get the set waves!
Ross van Zyl, Hammie Combe, Brad Davies and that crew were the real cool cats back then and really good surfers. I remember them ripping me off cos i had a Zero wetsuit that zipped up the front - and they'd go "Hey, you got your suit on backwards!" As a grom you remember those things cos they were the main dudes! Arno Lane was also know for abusing groms like Justin DJ! Good times!
Why did you make the switch to longboards?
There was a Longboard revival in the early 90's, and my dad started surfing again. I got roped into the EP team for the Longboard SA's in Cape Town as they needed to make up the numbers. I ended up nearly beating David Jenkins, the SA Champ. So I decided to start surfing on the longboard a little more to at least put in some effort and see how well I could do. I never thought that I would become so hooked on noseriding and that longboard surfing would take me all over the world and eventually land me in the surf industry where I am today.
After a few years longboarding I ended up winning the Open division of the SA Longboard Champs, and my dad, John, won his division too - so we pulled a memorable family double SA Champ vibe!
A year of two out of school I made the SA Longboard team for the World Champs at Malibu, California. Other EP guys in the team were Craig Cuff, Turtle Morris and Greg Smith. This was my first trip overseas for surfing and being in Cali was like going to the home of longboard surfing, the longboard scene was huge and I was very inspired to get into the thick of it. I had a fair event and ended up coming 17th - which was pretty good for my first pro event overseas. I decided then that I wanted to spend more time in Cali and break into the US longboard scene.
You competed overseas for a while, tell us about that.
After my first World Champs at Malibu, Craig and I stayed on in California for about 3 months. I didn't have any paying sponsors at the time, so I sold raffle tickets and all sorts to collect the money to go on the trip and so we could go to Hawaii too. We connected with the most amazing people up and down the Cali coast who took us in and let us couch surf! We stayed in Silverstrand, Oxnard (Tim Currans home break) with our mate Jimmy Lee, Santa Barbara with Jerry Dow and Van Bergen Family, and Hawaii with the Rasmussen Family. We would busk our way down the coast going to Christian Surfers chapters talking to the lighties and playing music. Basically just cruising and spreading the vibe!
After that first US trip all I wanted to do was get back to California! I managed to secure a sponsorship with Xerox and then Minolta through my Dad and they started paying for me to travel to the world champs each year. I would basically use the money to get to the US and then base myself there to surf the US Surf Tour for 6 months (June to Nov) and go between Cali, Mex and Hawaii. Then I would come home for the summer and do it all again the next year! I lived the endless summer for a couple years and it was legendary!
How did you fare at the World Champs?
I surfed world champs in Reunion, Canary Islands, Malibu and Makaha. My best results in world champs were at Malibu when I placed 17th and Makaha, Hawaii when I placed 9th. The Hawaiians were calling Makaha 8-10ft!
I ended up surfing in many other pro events on the US Surf Tour over that time where I got some good results.
My best result overseas was a 2nd place at a Budweiser US Surf Tour event at Huntington Beach. I also surfed for the South African team at the ISA World Games at Huntington Beach where I reached quarters and got a quarter finals at the US Open of Surfing at Huntington Beach.
What was Hawaii like?
Hawaii is still the best place I have ever surfed. I was really lucky to hook up with awesome families and friends who accommodated me, as well as local Hawaiian legend Tony Moniz, an 80's pro surfer and big wave charger. He is connected on the island and hooked me up with a quiver of shortboards to ride on the North Shore when I was done with my contests. He also let me cruise about in his van - which served like an entry ticket to most spots.
And your first wave at Pipe? The real Pipe!
It was about a 6ft day, and I got dropped in on, and then closed out and got bounced about in the washing machine! But it got better from there - I did score some epic barrels after that. My favourite spot was Log Cabins, as its not as crowded and its a mix of barrels and walls. I got a big backside barrel out there one day that I didn't think I would make and I got some hoots from the locals and the pros who were out. Stoked!
We tried to surf some heavy local spots, like Velzyland, but when the heaviest Hawaiian local (perry Dane) just looks at you skeef, and says "Brah, you aren't surfing here", well - you listen!!
In Cali I also surfed some of the most amazing places though! Places that most people never get to surf, spots like Hollister Ranch, Camp Pendleton (above Trestles), Point Magoo, The Channel Islands off Santa Barbara. Those were some of the best memories I have. Its amazing how far a foreign accent and a good attitude can get you!
For the next 2-3 years I would spend 6 months in the US/Hawaii just travelling and doing comps to make some bucks - usually following the World Champs, and then home for 6 months....fixing dings with Phil Wheddal for Greg.
You did some Mex missions as well...
Yah, we used to head down to Baja most weekends in the summer - whenever the south swells would roll in. It would light up the right points and the beachbreaks down there. The surf there is insane and very uncrowded. This one spot is called Baja Malibu, which is this long beach with A-frame peaks all along it. The trick was to try take off on a peak, and then connect into the next peak and keep going down the beach. My best effort was connecting through 3 peaks! It was very similar to Fence, so I felt pretty much at home.
Is Mex as dodgy as they say?
Absolutely, the Federales are always looking for extra cash for another bottle of Tequila. But my mate Piggy worked out that if he put his bible on the dashboard then they seemed to leave us alone! I would also practice my American accent a lot for the border check point, cos I would forget my passport and have to say I was a US citizen to get back into the US, cos I looked like a Mexican after a summer on the beach and I wasn't keen to spend a night in a Tijuana jail!
Any close calls whilst you were competing?
I just missed out at the US Open in Huntington Beach - by like 0.02 of a point or something. I had to surf on a mate's board which didn't help! What happened was that they randomly used to check the length of guys boards to make sure they were 9ft. And mine came up as too short! This was because Greg measured his boards as 9ft on the curve, whereas these guys just wanted 9ft straight, so mine was an inch too short. That's why Greg's longboards then became 9ft1 as standard after that!
So what brought the nomadic lifestyle to an end?
I was riding for Tony Moniz's boardshorts label called Faith Boarding Company. I was going to bring the label back to SA, but at the last minute the guy who was going to partner with me and finance the operation decided to immigrate to Oz. So that kinda fell flat and I was then thinking of returning to the US to try get my visa to work and stay there.
Oakley was one of my sponsors at the time, and they had heard about my plans. My mate Cuan was the marketing guy and he called to say that I must come for an interview to discuss getting involved with them launching Footwear and Apparel in the SA market. I had grown up around clothing as my mom had a clothing boutique and manufactured ladies clothing, so this seemed like a good direction for me.
I ended up working for Oakley for over 4 years, as the Footwear and Apparel Brand Manager. It did mean the end of my competitive surfing, but I learnt plenty about the action sports industry and we did annual trips to conferences in awesome locations like California, Cancun Mexico, Barrier Reef Australia, Lake Tahoe Ski Resorts, Las Vegas etc.
I then bailed to the UK for a year, and on my return picked up the Quiksilver/Roxy agency for the Eastern Cape from Greg Smith who was one of the Oakley agents. I have been in the agency business for 10 years now. I represent surf brands like Quiksilver, Roxy, DC, Volcom, ONeill and Fox, among other denim and footwear brands for the Eastern Cape and Garden Route areas.
OK.... what's the story about the Dolce & Gabbana fashion shoot!?
Craig Cuff and I got a call one day asking if we would like to earn some money modeling and surfing for an Italian fashion magazine called Joyce. We thought, for sure, we are used to being hodads anyways and would surf and make some cheesy poses for cash no probs! It was a killer hot summer and we were hanging around at Sards a lot. So we hooked up with these guys for a few days and traveled around the area wearing and surfing in some pretty groovy threads ....which ended up being D&G.
Shot Ryan! Gotto say those green jeans were pretty funky!
Jorg Brand had a fun surf at Humewood on Saturday. So far so good. However, as only a true blonde could do, he somehow managed to forget to strap his board on properly after his surf. All was going fine right up until he was flying along the freeway and coming up to the Cape Road turnoff when he suddenly saw his beloved board fly off the roof. It then proceeded to fly down the road and then finally got itself ridden over by numerous trucks and cars and ended up in pieces. A tearful episode no doubt. Well, I know I probably woulda cried if that happened to my board!
Jorg reckon he was more distraught by his board's death than when he lost huge bucks on a trade earlier in the week. Says he didn't sleep well on Saturday night at all. A death in the family is traumatic for sure! Luckily Deno has all the specs on file, so Bobby the Robot will be spitting out a replica pretty soon.
The funny thing is, a lil birdie told me this is the second time it has happened to him....
So, a word of advice to all those with favourite boards, hightail it down to Dennis at the Boardroom and get em measured up and their dimensions stuck into Bobby the Robot....just in case you too have a blonde moment...