We sat down with family-man, gifted aquatic shredder, and Surftech Test Pilot Colin McPhillips for a quick chat. Colin discusses the differences between performance and traditional longboarding, why he refuses to limit himself to one type of equipment, and shares his favorite board of the moment.
Ok, Colin, let’s jump right into the hard questions. Do you like riding shortboards or longboards more and why shortboards?
I’ll be honest, I DO like to ride shortboards more than longboards for only one reason. If I’m on a shortboard that means I’m surfing some really dam good waves!!! I’ve always, my whole life chosen the board strictly on the conditions. There are times all I want to do is ride my longboard, SUP, or foil….. Because the waves call for it…… I think I really love to ride any type of wave because I’m good at choosing the right equipment for the job!!
Built for good waves the Lopez Pocket Rocket is a favorite of Colin's when the waves turn on.
I don’t know much about how you learned to surf. Did you come from a surf family? What/who introduced you to surfing and made you want to get into competitive surfing?
I came from a surfing family. My mom surfed when she was younger, but my dad was a surfer. He pushed surfing on me but not in a crazy way. He had me play all the sports growing up, but about 6th grade that was it. All I wanted to do was surf and my parents backed me 100%. Up and down the coast chasing contests, traveling and everything that went with it. I owe them, they made it possible for me to get to where I did.
Funny thing about my surfing when I first started. I was 6 years old and my dad was pushing me into waves. When I stood up I went regular and goofy. Full switch stance. My dad did not want me to be a goofy foot, he was a right point break guy….. So he made me surf regular foot and here I am. Thank god, cause all I want to do is ride right points!! But funny thing is, I can only skateboard goofy foot, he never did anything about that…. Hah, who knows I could have been the San Clemente Occy!!
Wow. I’ve often wondered about the science behind a dominant foot. I mean if you are open-minded, patient, and willing to put in the work why couldn’t you be good as both a regular and goody foot….But that’s a question for another time. I’m actually interested to hear if you think there are any similarities between your switch stanch abilities and your ability to transition between different surf crafts. Do you have any tips for those stuck on one board and looking to ride new styles of boards?
I think my ability to transition between different surf crafts goes all the way back to the beginning. Back when I was surfing only regular foot, but skateboarding goofy. It goes back to being open-minded from day one. Listening to people, then going out there and applying it the way you think is right for you. That has transitioned into me giving different boards the time and making the needed adjustments to make all the different crafts work. I’m also lucky enough from day one to literally jump on all types of equipment and truly love riding that wave. Thank god!! My advice to people who are stuck on one board and want to try new styles, get after it…. stay open-minded and give it time, next thing you know you will be riding a knee-high wave solo somewhere having the time of your life, all because of the right equipment choice!!!
When you were winning your back-to-back world titles you were branded as a high-performance longboarder by the media and some of your fellow competitors. Can you explain the two camps in the longboard world, where you think the divisiveness comes from, and your thoughts on merging the two styles?
There was a good 10-year span in competitive longboarding that I was 100% branded a high-performance longboarder by the media and my peers…. Absolutely, I loved to surf that way. Go fast, do full carving rail turns, and nose ride. Was I perching 10 forever like guys do on logs at Malibu, for sure not, but I was kicking everyone’s ass. That’s the funny thing about back then, everyone was riding high-performance boards and trying to adjust as much as they could because that was the criteria, if you wanted to win you better. I respect all the old-school loggers 100%, I would kill to be able to surf like Joel or Harrison; shit the list goes long!! They’re the best in the business. Just like for years when high-pro style was winning I’m sure lots wished they could do what I did.
That’s what is so rad about surfing. A real surfer can appreciate all types of wave riding. Yes, you can have your favorite, but if you’re so jaded as having to choose camps you’re a want-a-be….. The best guys can appreciate it all because at one time or another they were trying their best to surf a certain way that might not exactly be the way there riding waves in the current moment in time….
As I hear it you are pretty exceptional on a SUP and a foil as well. Talk to me about learning new water sports and your thoughts on being well-rounded in the ocean.
I have this theory, there is no way to not have fun riding a wave. I don’t care if I’m on a SUP, foil, LB, shortboard, shit the front door off my house. Riding a wave is pretty much the raddest thing in the world!!
So yes, to answer the question I do really like to ride a SUP and a foil. For many years I went SUP crazy. When it first got introduced to the world, I was hooked. All I wanted to do was get good at it….. I remember so well, it was like being a kid again. Waking up every day in the dark ready to go, excited beyond belief to get after it and conquer it. When I’m not good at something I pretty much go crazy to get good at it, SUP was a crazy breath of fresh air for me in wave riding, and I thank god because it was some of the best memories in my surfing!!
Foiling is the exact same thing. It’s one of the hardest things I have ever learned and at moments one of the biggest rewards in the way it made me feel on a wave!! Foiling brings everyone to a certain level, I don’t care how good of a surfer you are, when you start out it’s completely foreign and we’ll all on the same program as starting from scratch and learning all over…… It’s actually really cool and humbling. Gives you the fire to get past the wipeouts and terrible frustrating sessions…… Because you want to conquer another way to ride a wave!! The raddest thing in the world…. At least that’s how it is for me….
Long, short and everything in between if you give Colin a board he will rip it. Pictured here on the Egg from Takayama.
I’ve actually learned a lot from watching your approach to riding new boards. As a test pilot for Surftech you are often, in the same day at times, jumping from riding a sub 6ft groveler to an 11ft glider. Do you have any tips for feeling out new boards or transitioning between boards that require different styles of surfing?
It’s so rad being a Surftech test pilot. I get to jump on sub 6’0 boards to an 11’1 glider all in one session. It's been my dream since day one. My goal in wave riding from a young age was to be good on everything. But I really enjoy it, best days ever are when you can ride every aspect of a surfboard and the way it performs on a wave. Do certain boards work better on certain waves, Absolutely!! But if you can make everything look good that is the ultimate goal. And SurfTech’s deep line of product to ride waves is unmatchable. Anyway you can dream it, Surftech can provide it!!
If you had to pick one board in the Surftech line to ride for the next year what would it be and why?
If I had to pick 1 board in the Surftech line it would for sure be the new Takayama “ Prince Kahio” 11’1. I’ve been riding it like crazy for the last 6 months and I don’t know what I would do without it. I’ve had some of my most memorable sessions to date on it, from small trestles to my favorite longboard spot in the world Old Man’s, to solo sessions at my favorite Baja points. It is one of those boards that when you stand up on a wave, it immediately puts a smile on your face. And that’s what I’m after!! So simple answer, everyone needs the 11’1 in their life, it will make you way happier!!
A favorite for now, the Prince Kuhio from Takayama is getting a lot of water time with Colin.
Where are you now in your professional career? Are you still competing? I understand you do a little educational guiding in Fiji and Mexico?
I’m at a really fun time in my professional career. I get to surf all crafts. Basically, whatever I’m feeling, or better yet what conditions are calling for is what I play on. I’ve had some great longtime supporters of me, Salt Life and Rainbow Sandals. Along with Surftech providing me with the best tools in the trade. I’m still traveling a lot shooting photos and video content for my sponsors, doing promotional events, and basically being wherever I need to be. I’m still throwing on a jersey here and there when I can. It’s funny, after all these years I still get fired up like it was day one when I throw that jersey on….. That competitive surfer will always be in my blood!
Some years ago I was lucky enough to start working with Dave Kalama at his KalamaKamps on the island of Namotu in Fiji. It’s such a rad thing being a surf coach, helping people go from super beginner to a very accomplished water athlete is awesome. I’ve been lucky enough to get to also take my coaching to Mexico and Costa Rica. It’s really the best job ever when you get to share your love and passion for wave riding with someone else and really see them light up with the same feelings!!
As your kids get older it seems like they have transitioned from little groms tagging along to frothed out surf junkies stealing your van for Mex trips. Are you still the best surfer in the family?
It’s been a pretty awesome thing for me to watch my kids go from little frothing groms tagging along to very accomplished wave riders. They all share the same passion as me, really love the ocean. And they have all transformed into their own style and approach. I also love how open-minded they are, they will ride anything. And ride anything quite well!!. Unfortunately, I came to the realization some time ago that I am not the best surfer in the family anymore!! But I will tell you, they can ride whatever they want, compete or not, I just so love that they want to go ride waves with me!!! It’s the raddest thing in the world to be out with all of them trading waves, hooting, and hollering…..I find myself these days just loving to watch them surf, it’s truly magic!!
What kind of advice in regards to surfing and competing do you give your kids?
These days when it comes to surfing and competing with my kids I really try and keep all the advice fun. If you’re really having fun and loving what you are doing your best surfing is going to shine through. Whether you’re in a contest jersey or just free surfing. Keep it loose and fun!! Go out there and put on a show for people. If your competing, bi-dazzle the judges!!
Colin rides the Longhaul from Gerry Lopez surfboards with classic style. Shop all Gerry Lopez surfboards from Surftech.
Ok, last question. Is it the surfer, the wave, or the board?
Is it the surfer, the wave, or the board? I’ll go with the surfer every time. The surfer can adapt to waves, good or bad you are riding a moving object in the ocean created by mother nature, how freaking cool is that!! And the board, a surfer should be able to ride anything. Be open-minded enough that anything can ride a wave. Don’t get jaded and too far one way or another with people’s surfboard choices. Of course, everyone will have their favorite board and what they think should be ridden, but it’s all surfing!! The surfer having the most fun will win every time!!
What happens when a surfer, wave, and board all peak at the same time. Shop the Squirty from Gerry Lopez.