Editor of FHM.....and ex PE local
Local Spot: Fence
Weapons: Dennis Ellis 6'2 and Greg Smith 7'2
Wheels: Chev Aveo
Graft: Editor of FHM
Favourite surfer: Kelly Slater
Favourite spot: Supers for the wave, Seals for the vibe
Local Crew: If I'm lucky I'll catch Etienne Potgieter, Bryan Moulang & John Scheepers in the water
Surfing achievements: I made the EP team, barely! Surfed Vic Bay and Seal Point Quads, and was reserve one year for SA Champs in East London. Also made the SA Universities team back in the Eighties. When I was at Rhodes most of the ou's were a bit kak, so I won lank of those compo's. Great for my ego and totally got me laid, which was awesome!
Behind the scenes...
Take it away Hagen!
Take us back to when it all started?
I was 14 years old when I started surfing, so that makes it back in 1985. Standard seven vibes (Ed – Grade 9 these days). I went to Grey for high school and got into boogie boarding to start with. Then my mate Anthony Foster took me surfing with him and his boet at Millers. He had a stand-up surfboard and I decided that was the way forward…
You’ve gotta join some kind of subculture at school, I guess. I was into cycling at primary school, and Grey didn’t have that as a sport. They didn’t have surfing either, but still. Surfing kicks cycling’s ass!
What was your first stick?
A 5’5” Larry Levin twin-fin swallow-tail with channels and a green-and-white spray job. Got it second-hand from Lifestyle surf shop. In those days it was at Pleinhuis, the centre there opposite Market Square, where City Hall is. That was my surf shop, and a couple of years later I got a job there.
Where did you start out?
Kings Beach, where I’m sure most people start. I also used to go out at St Francis Bay, as we had a holiday house there. Huletts was where I first road across the face of an unbroken wave (Ed – Huletts is a mellow right point next to the slipway).
Who were your crew back in the day?
Ha! I became a Fence local. My china’s were Smiler Smith, George Brunyee, Michael Jorgensen, Gav McLeod, Leon “The Scab” Kruger, Waldemar “Wildman” van Wyk, Philip Playdon, David Arnold and Kevin Goldberg.
We belonged to Club Fence, which was run by Richard Rath. We idolized the shredding older okes like Phil Weddel, Leofwin Erasmus, Justin Erasmus and Brad Wanwig. We used to have Club Fence meetings every Friday at Humewood Mansions! The older okes would dop, but we were still at school, so we just hung out. Looking and learning the age-old skills of talking kak and lagging at each other.
What sort of kak did you used to get up to?
A fair amount! I remember rawling with Smiler once because he kicked sand on my wax. He punched me in the face and I had to tune my old lady the bruise was from my board! I remember dopping Esprit on Kings Beach the one night, and my mate Konrad van Staden sommer kotched it out straight away! (Ed – Esprit was the equivalent of an Archer’s or Breezer today, just a whole lot more vile!)
Are you a born & bred PE boytjie?
Born in Bloemfontein, technically, but I don’t remember that! So yeah, I’m a PE oke.
Did you ever used to bunk school to surf?
I was at Grey, as I say. Didn’t do too much bunking, actually. I was too chicken, and also PE surf is seldom good enough to risk getting lashed! I had a 50cc motorbike, so I used to go down to the beach on my boney during lunch break and check out if there were waves. Then I’d tune the okes after break and we’d decide if we wanted to go surf. We used to live in Central, which is close enough to the beach.
Any grom abuse back in the day – given or received?
None given. I reckon we learnt proper respect from our elders though - the senior surfers at Club Fence and at the EP Surfing Association. Guys like Vince Barnes and Carl van Vuuren were running it those days. They used to call me “Klein Kak” for some reason!?
Okes were actually quite cool to us lighties. The worst they used to do was force us to go out and surf the Juniors heats in huge 6-8 foot surf. The one Beachview compo it was totally 10 foot and they sent the Boys out!
How’d you rate the surf now vs then?
I actually scheme it’s better now, but what do I know? I live in Joburg and only surf when I come down to check the folks. I did get sweet 3-4 foot Millers last December, which was as good as I’ve ever had it.
We used to surf round the corner more often then, and I don’t know if people still do that so much any more. Ou’s seem a bit more skei. Crime and stuff, I guess. But there must still be okes getting barreled at Non-coms and stuff, surely?
Tell us a funny story from back in the day.
The one time my old lady dropped us off at Lookout for the day to surf. We had a wave and then we got hungry. So we sent my cousin Clemmie to hitch-hike to town to buy chow. We tuned him to buy a big packet of Flanagan’s. After two hours, we’re super skraal and the oke finally gets back with a packet of Creoles! Creoles! The miffest-tasting chips ever. They were FISH-flavoured. We were, like, WTF? He tunes, “I thought you said Fanny Chips”!
Any classic surf trips or sessions that stand out?
One legendary one up to Mozambique. We went to Tofinho in 1997, when Moz was just opening up after the civil war. We also stopped at Ntlonyana in the Transkei on the way up, and got some waves there. The day after we left, a oke got shnacked. Aussie oke. The shark chowed him and all that washed up later was his board, with a piece of his leg attached to the leash. Hectic, hey?
And our first ever surf trip. Seals in Standard Eight. First time’s the best time, hey.
Have you surfed overseas at all?
Ja, I did a “round the world” trip. Oz, Fiji, Hawaii, California, USA, New Jersey. Too many stories! I stayed in Hawaii for about three months, and Oz for five, along the way. In Hawaii cars are so cheap they’re actually free. Ou’s just give them to each other when they leave Hawaii.
They’re complete rustbuckets as well. The one time me and my mate Tom and these girls went to Honolulu to jol. We partied all night, then we drove back to the North Shore as the sun was coming up. Halfway back, the car f**ks out on the highway. So we just get out the car and hitchhike home. Sommer abandon the car. The towing cost more than the cabbie, so you just los it. That’s the States for you.
Any scary moments surfing?
The one time in Fiji, I stayed at a surf camp on Yanuca island. The nearest surf spot is Frigates Pass, which is way WAY out in the ocean on an outer reef. So we get a lift out to the reef with these lighties on a little boat. They drop us at about 3pm, and tune they’ll be back around 6pm to pick us up.
We’re out the back, behind the waves and they look pretty good, so we scheme sweet. We jump overboard and the okes leave. We paddle into the line-up, and it turns out the waves are, like 10-12 foot bef**k massive. On my first wave I freefall into the pit, wipe out and snap my 6’10 like it’s a toothpick. I get washed into the rip and then out to sea.
So I’m floating in the middle of the Pacific with just the back section of my board left on my leash, clinging to that thing like it’s a belly board. No boat, can’t check the other surfers, in the middle of the Pacific. I can’t even CHECK land, and the kids are only coming back in three hours time. Lost at sea, ekse. I totally thought I was ganna die. Paddled my arse off against the current for hours just to stay vaguely in the area, and luckily the lighties did come back and find me. Not to even mention the vibe of “coulda been chowed by sharks”, I was pretty sure I was gonna die!
You’ve written 2 classic books of surfing short stories, tell us ‘bout that.
I’ve actually written five books and they’re all about surfing in some way. The first two are more fully about surfing, though. First one was called “Life’s A Beach” and the second “Water Features”. Visit www.hagenshouse.co.za to check em out and order my books. (Ed – I got em both as Christmas pressies back in the day. They’re certainly worth a read, flippin’ funny surf stories with a definite East Cape flavor. If you’re looking for a cool Christmas pressie that the surfer in your life will appreciate, can’t go wrong with one of these).
You still write a damn funny column in the Weekend Post, what’s up with that?
Ag, it’s not that hard. I been doing it for almost 17-odd years now. I started doing a surfing column for the Algoa Sun, then I moved across to the Herald and now the Weekend Post. At the moment it’s a bit like anecdotes. Stories you’d probably tell a mate over a couple of ales at a dingy bar. Like that one in Walmer, there near the first-avenue KwikSpar.
Do you still get to surf much now that you’re Ed of a huge monthly mag? And live in Joeys!
Dude, it’ll be like three spells a year. Say, Christmas, Easter and one other time. Like whenever I get back to the Bay to check the folks or whatever. And then maybe a surprise bonus surf, like when I was in Reunion shooting the FHM Calendar 2010. This oke Laurent took me for a surf, which was pretty sweet. Not at St Leu, though, and I surfed like a chop.
So how’d you land one of the most coveted jobs in SA?
K, let’s take it from the beginning. Did okay at English at school, good at essays etc. Then I went to Rhodes, where I did a B.Journ. Came back to PE after graduating and grafted at Algoa Sun for a year and a bit. Then overseas, the round the world jaunt. Came back, worked at a PE magazine called Directions.
Then joined The Herald for lank years, Onwards to the Weekend Post, where I was a sub-editor by that stage, running the spellchecker, cutting and rewriting stuff. Then off to You magazine in Cape Town for a bit and finally to FHM. I started there as a copy editor/writer and worked my way up to editor, which is still middle management because the publishers tell me what to do! Sweet place to work, though. Awesome people and classic content and fans that really believe in our brand.
Have you ever managed to use your position as Ed to scam any cool surf stuff or trips?
I remember once being put up at the Halyards in Port Alfred to come watch a surf compo. And once Roxy Louw lent me her board so I could surf this little peak opposite where we were shooting in Madagascar. Also, the okes at Nixon seem to like me. They keep sending me their awesome gear, and I keep wearing it. Sweet deal, don’t you scheme?
What’s the craziest thing you’ve had to do as editor?
Dude! You have now idea what you have to do sometimes. But I’d say streaking around the block would be one of them. I also once had to strip to my jocks and light my farts. Then one time I snogged one oke’s girlfriend for a story. Then, THEN! Like a doos the one time we doing this karaoke story and we were all pissed and Hlubi Mboya from Isidingo tries to snog me and I get all ethical and like “no, it wouldn’t be right”. I so should have gone for it, don’t you scheme?
Do you ever suffer from ‘Hot Chick” overload cos you’re just surrounded by so many of them!?
Seriously, the FHM code of ethics has one line in it: “Don’t pomp the models!” Once you accept that, you’re free to perve them swak because some of the most gorgeous woman on planet earth agree to work with us. And we’re actually all professionals working on a production. Like, on one shoot there’ll be: model, photographer, photographer’s assistant, art director, make-up artist, hairstylist, stylist, videographer, project co-ordinator and me. And we’re all working together to create a sexy shoot for the magazine.
I’m so lucky to be working with beautiful women, I would never dream of taking it for granted. Millions of ou’s would die to do this job, so you gotta be grateful and at least do it as well as you possibly can, you know what I’m saying?
Anything interesting bout you peeps might not know?
I stopped drinking for five years because I was bored of drinking. Then I got bored of not drinking and started again. I’m drunk as I type this. (Can you tell?)
Surfing is a metaphor for life and the lessons I’ve learnt surfing have surfed, er, served me well ever since. The main one is basically to live in the moment. Ride the wave, forget about what happened earlier, don’t over-anticipate what’s coming up. Adjust your trim as the wave pitches, bro. Go with the flow isn’t kak advice!
f you were at school or varsity during the '80's you definitely want to read "Hagen Engler was there in the Eighties" - your youth'll come flashing back to you in an embarrassing haze! Remember lumo, kuifs and raybans were in...
Then there's a short classic about owning a kak wetsuit but thinking you're styling cos you got it sponsored in "The first team thing I ever got was a wetsuit."
CLICK HERE TO WIN A COPY OF ONE OF HAGEN'S SURFING SHORT STORY COLLECTIONS - LIFE'S A BEACH AND WATER FEATURES
CLICK HERE TO ORDER A COPY OF ONE OF HIS BOOKS (R100) FROM HIS MOM, WHO'S BASED IN PE - THEY MAKE KIFF CHRISTMAS PRESSIES