It Ain’t Easy Being Ian
Ian Walsh Pro Spotlight Behind The Scenes Video
video edited by Carl Steindler.
Ian Walsh has a split personality. One side of him is meticulous, organized, and downright professional; the other side likes to party, and party hard. Many people have failed the balancing act of business and partying, but lucky for surf fans and ladies around the globe, Ian has, and he actually does it quite well. He is a man of obligations: one being to ride the biggest waves humanly possible, the other is to put himself out there and represent his sponsors to the fullest—sometimes that involves the occasional promotional event (a.k.a. wonderfully decadent parties in some of the world’s most opulent locations).
The life Ian leads is wonderful, and an appreciation for what he’s been given shows—truth be told, he works hard, and hard work deserves a good payoff. With endless flights, terrifying wipeouts, crazy video parts, and many many women ahead of him, Ian’s dance card is full. It ain’t easy being the most well rounded surfer on Earth. We’ll let him explain.—Chris Coté
TransWorld SURF: You’re a hard man to track down. Now, where are you and what are you doing?
Ian Walsh: I’m in San Francisco filming, and I went to surf some slab up north.
Is it weird being home because you’re never there?
Kinda, but I just finished my house and I wanna go home and be a normal person and move in.
But you’re not normal.
Yeah, I’m not.
Let’s split those personalities two up, what’s the business side of what you do surfing-wise?
The business side of what I do is basically creating and having a career—everything has to be organized and set up. You’ve gotta take care of your sponsors, you’re traveling and organizing trips that lead into the next trips, figuring out what you wanna do and what projects you wanna work on.
It seems like your trip cycle lately has been serious surf trip, back somewhere to like L.A., San Diego, or Vegas, and then onto another trip. What’s your program like?
I was in California for the U.S. Open, went to the X Games and hung out there for a bit [in L.A.]. Then I flew to the Mentawais, did a TransWorld SURF trip, went home for one day, and then flew to Cabo with Andy for Red Bull. Then I came to ASR in California for two days. I then flew straight to Africa to get pretty good swell at some new spot with Cory Lopez. From there I flew to Peru to meet up and film for Ride the movie. Then from Peru I flew back to California and did this shoot with you guys. The next morning I ended up flying to Vegas for a few days. From there, I flew back to California and up to San Francisco and I’m still hanging. And then I leave for Ireland tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m.
Whew. It seems like you’re busier than even the average WQS guy?
Maybe. I like to be busy, though. I don’t like to sit around and wait for swells, I like to keep moving.
Yeah, it seems like Red Bull has really helped get you out there and into situations where you’re like, “What the f—k am I doing here?” What’s the raddest shit that Red Bull has done for you?
Right before the U.S. Open, I flew up to Monterey for one night and went to the Laguna Seca, the Moto GP Race, and they put me in the pace car. I got sent around the track going super fast, some guy was driving and talking to me about surfing the whole time.
Another time, they took me up in one of the only two helicopters in the world that goes upside down, and they put me in that thing. I went upside down and flew all weird kinds of ways, and then they let me jump out of it. They do all kinds of sick stuff.
Who usually calls you? How do you find out about these swells?
A lot of it is friends. Either I’m watching a spot that I want to get, or someone else is; like Cory [Lopez] organized that whole project to Africa. Sometimes people just call me and are like, “You wanna go here?” And it’s just up to you. You can do your own research, and if it sounds good, just hop on a plane. That’s good, too, because you’re not going somewhere and waiting, or possibly getting skunked. You’re flying right into a swell. It makes it stressful because there’s always options to go different places. It seems like I’m always juggling the question, “Should I go here or there?”
What percentage of trips do you go on that are planned versus “Oh shit, there’s swell, let’s go there”?
Probably half almost. Maybe less. It always seems like every day is like a shotgun of something going on. “Oh, something happened, let’s go set it up.” I like it sometimes, though, because it always seems like when you have something planned, the day you’re about to leave something else comes up that might be better.
You know, obviously, that you have a reputation of being a big-wave guy. And you probably see a lot of photos in the magazines of big waves, but do you ever feel like you’re pigeonholed, like, “Look I can do airs, too”?
I definitely don’t want to be pigeonholed to any one category at all. I grew up surfing smaller waves, and big waves happened to be there, too, right by my house. Naturally, I kind of got pulled into surfing them, and the media just created that whole category.
Your Stranger Than Fiction section had airs and big waves. I remember Shane Dorian’s last part in Campaign 2, and your part kind of mirrored that. That was kind of like, “Hey everybody, I can do airs and shit, too.”
That’s definitely a good feeling to have a good video part. You’re just gonna surf and hopefully people like it. To have a variety of everything is important to me. When I saw Shane’s part in that movie, I thought it was a crazy section, and I wanted to make a section like that.
What’s the craziest last-minute trip situation you’ve had?
I’ve had a few. That Africa one was pretty last minute. Probably that Teahupoo one that Shane and me went on. I was literally having someone book the tickets for me while I was on my way to the airport. Driving to the airport packed up with a backpack and tow-board. I had decided not to go and was doing a contest in Hawaii, just hanging around waiting for the event to run. And then at the last minute the swell got substantially bigger, and I’d rather go and not get it than not go and see it get big. I’d rather fly all the way somewhere and get skunked than not go and wonder if it got good.
We were having this debate here with progression about a guy doing a flip or getting a crazy barrel. What do you think is the progression of surfing, whether it be big moves on big waves, or the 100-foot wave, what to you is the future of surfing?
I think the kids are obviously so talented right now that it’s ridiculous how good they are at such a young age. All the kids seem to charge pretty hard to. I think the natural progression is kids doing turns that we’re doing now on four- to six-foot waves, and they’ll be doing them on big waves, like ten foot plus—really big turns on really big waves, and super comfortable doing it.