Youth – Tristan Roberts

One of the world’s brightest groms talks life in South Africa.
Above: Tristan Roberts carving it up at home. Photo: Susanne Joubert

Interview by Sophie Leathers

Tristan, 17, had a massive 2013, winning the Tand Invitational event and being nominated in the top five of Riptide’s Grom of the Year award. This shredder is one to look out for and he has a bright future ahead of him. Check out more in the Youth section of Riptide #198 and our last online interview with Aussie grom Reece Fowler here.

susanne-joubert tristan-portrait
Tristan. Photo: Susanne Joubert

Living in South Africa can be great. I live in a little town – let’s say in the middle of nowhere. South Africa has great potential with waves. You do have to travel quite a bit though, especially if you’re travelling up to the West Coast. The waves can get really good, but can also be terrible for a long period of time! [The bodyboarding scene] is like a little bodyboarding community with a maximum of 10 guys out. Almost everyone out has great potential. South Africa can be pretty hectic. You do have to be a little more careful here than in other countries. There are certain areas you don’t really want to enter and some things you just don’t do. Once when I was younger, a guy threatened my brother and I with a sword, which was pretty intense. It left me scared for a while. Let’s just say you need to be more aware when walking around here in South Africa.

Reaching for the sun. Photo: Morne Laubscher

It’s pretty difficult to “make it” [bodyboarding] living in South Africa. We don’t have big companies that get financially involved in sponsoring guys to go overseas. It’s hard to make a name for yourself. It’s not as though we can just work and travel as we’re all young, and the currency rate from Rands, to Dollars or Euros is pretty ridiculous. The media doesn’t really focus much on the up-and-coming bodyboarders from our side and this is why I do thank Riptide for this opportunity.

When people think bodyboarding, most people think Australia. Simply because the sport is so massive that side, [whereas] here, well, it’s more like if you’re a rugby player, you’re winning! So why should companies get involved in a sport here in South Africa, when they don’t gain anything from it? They’d rather get involved in developed sports where they know for sure they’ll be gaining. Guys here simply cannot get the backing to continue riding: they have to make the decision of giving up on bodyboarding and starting to work for a living to develop their future. I think this really scares the up-and-coming too. If you manage to get overseas you simply cannot afford to blow your chance.

Outside looking in. Photo: Morne Laubscher

The guys I look up to are of course Jared, Mark [McCarthy] and Spex [Sacha Specker]. They had an influence on my way of thinking and riding, and they guided the way by showing me that it is possible through hard work and determination. I’d always snatch any opportunity to ride with them as I’d be always learning in the process. Andre Botha is also one of the guys you cannot look past, as he was the youngest World Champ! He will forever be one of the most respected riders in South Africa and most probably internationally too.

Dylan Le Roux is a local guy from my town that pushes my surfing. We’ve grown up together since we were eight years old. He’s an underdog that really deserves to be recognised. Lewy Finnegan kills and represents Pride and Zion [also Tristan’s sponsors] so he pushes me a lot. Tanner McDaniel is young and the clips he’s throwing down are really sick! That really motivates the youth for their next clip to be the best.

Jared Houston does not only kill in the surf, but he’s one of the most humble guys you’ll ever meet. He’s a good friend of mine and I always ask him questions if need be as I know I can rely on his answers. Jared and I both have the same sponsors so that also opens up more doors for me. Jared has style and is incredibly talented. Winning the Tand Invitational [2013] was cool, but it really wasn’t all about winning for me. It was the fact that I got to spend 20 minutes with Jared in fun Tand, exchanging waves and really getting the crowd going. A few guys sitting in the channel were going nuts. The experience is worth well more than the title to me.

Morning glory. Photo: Morne Laubscher

After winning the contest I signed up with Redbull South Africa and they really wants to push the sport to new levels. I am really stoked to be a part of what they do for the sport. I know this year’s Tand event will be bigger and better and I really just want to satisfy myself with the way I ride. That’s all I want out of each contest. Satisfaction. If I feel that I did what was possible, then yeah, that’s good enough for me! I really like the style of Pierre Louis Costes. I think style’s the important key I’m going to be working on from now to improve my surfing.

I was so stoked when I was nominated in Riptide’s top five Groms of the Year [last year]. I love comparing myself to other young riders and learning from them. All the nominated riders (Lewy, Tanner, Lachlan Cramsie and George Humphreys) were the big names being spoken about. For me to be involved in that really just gave me more motivation. I’d like to thank Riptide again for that oppurtunity.

When I’m not surfing I’m busy with school. I still have two years [left] and education is very important to me. So if I’m not surfing and not doing homework I hang with mates and play soccer.

Practice makes perfect. Tristan takes advantage of all conditions. Photo: Morne Laubscher

I do believe it’s important for your riding to expose yourself [internationally] – doing something like moving to Australia as Jared did. I still have two years to decide if I’ll make any major changes, but I most definitely am going to do something similar.

Bodyboarding is my life and I’d love to do it for as long as possible. If I don’t make it as a pro I do have a backup plan. I love business and that is most definitely the field I’m going to go in while bodyboarding. I probably inherited my mums’ business mind. Well, at least that’s what I hope.

IBA Super Groms – Tristan Roberts