Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Tyler Fox: Spear-fishing,Training for Mavericks, and Santa Cruz Waves..

Tyler Fox getting ready to teach a surf lesson

I met up with Tyler Fox for our interview during an irregularly long flat spell in Santa Cruz. For the man behind Santa Cruz Waves you might think this poses a problem. Not so. Fox has been busy sailing, spear-fishing and cross-training. He also stays busy leading a team of creative individuals to produce their burgeoning web site.

How did you get into spear-fishing?

I'd been wanting to get into it for a while. I know that it's great big-wave training as well as just really neat being underwater, not to mention that you can catch your dinner or lunch. I'm a novice, but I've got some buddies who are pretty good so I'm going out with them to learn the ropes.

What's your first memory of the water?

I would say that my very first memory would be my dad taking me out on a boogie board when I was probably like five or six years old and going out over the reef and catching some little waves. Looking down in the water, the water was so clear that I was just watching the reef go underneath me and thinking "whoa this is the most exciting/ scary thing" I'd ever done at that time. And ever since then, I love the ocean, I love the water. From a really early age, I was hooked.

Do you remember where that was?

I think it was in Lahaina in Maui. Or it might have been Napili.... One of those spots in Maui. My dad went to high school, he graduated from high school at Lahainaluna.

So, do you have a pretty strong connection to the islands as well?

Yeah. Not a ton. It's a majestic place. Beautiful. I've probably been there a total of eight times. I mean I was born in Lake Tahoe, so… I love the islands, I just don't know if I'd say I have a real connection with them.

So, you were born in Lake Tahoe.

Yeah. Little mountain baby.

When did you get to this part of California?

My parents moved here when I was 2 1/2 or three years old. We moved to Watsonville when I was two and stayed there for about six months and then they got a house in Seascape.

Did you go to Rio Del Mar Elementary?

I did. I used to skateboard to school in the morning. Before school my buddies would meet at my house and we'd run down we called it the jungle trail to get some waves while it was still dark.

At what point did you sign with O'Neill Surf Shop?

I remember doing the Helgi-fest. Those were contests that they put on and I was lucky enough to do well and get noticed.

Let's jump to the chase. Let's talk about Maverick's. How is your training going?

Training's going well. I'm off to a pretty good start. I've been working out with Joey Wolfe over at Rocky's Gym. I've also been spearfishing more which is good for breath-holding-training, as well as some balance circuit-training at my house.

Are you doing anything different this year?

Not a ton different. Since it is flat, I'm trying to be on it a little more. I definitely get three solid training sessions in a week.

Kombucha in hand, Kale in background, Tyler Fox is getting ready for Mavericks

Who've you been surfing with these days?

My roommates when there's waves: Kyle Thierman, Tighe Melville, Chris Curtis… It's been so flat, though, I've actually been doing more training than surfing these last couple of weeks.

What other surfing events do you have on the horizon?

I'm taking a trip down to Nicaragua in October. I haven't been in a couple of years and they've got great waves down there, so I'm really looking forward to that.

Back to Mavericks, when was the first time you surfed that break?

I think that the first time was in 2001, so twelve years ago. It actually ended up being what they called 100 ft. Wednesday. It started out being only about 15 ft, but it progressively got bigger and bigger every half-hour. Carlos Burle actually ended up winning the XXL award for biggest tow-in wave later that afternoon. And, Barney got a cover pulling into this massive pit. It was a pretty memorable day.

How is surfing Mavericks different than the Lane or other spots? Is it the sound, the amount of water moving?

Mavericks is on a whole other level of waves. Guys can surf big Scotts Creek or big Steamer Lane but when they paddle out at Mavericks it's a whole other arena. It's louder, the wave's more violent, it's moving with so much more energy. It definitely ups it a whole other level.

Let's talk about Santa Cruz Waves. Three years into the website things seem to be moving along nicely. From a simple idea to leading a team of creatives, how's it going and where do you see the future leading?

It's growing, for sure. Ever since the first year we've had about a 75-100% growth in traffic, which is great for any business. It's really constantly evolving. We really try to listen to our viewers, what they want, what they're liking and we adapt the site around our fans.

What are some of the best parts of running a team of photographers, videographers, writers and artists?

It's inspiring. Everyone's got their own set of unique talents that they bring to the table. It inspires me to go and try different styles of photography or to team up with our other photographers or videographers to really get creative with what we're doing. It's a fun melting pot of talent and a chance for us to express ourselves.

Is it true that there's a Santa Cruz Waves surf team, as well?

Yeah. We sponsor a couple of the younger kids around here. It's mainly a media sponsor, so we hook them up with stickers in exchange for showcasing their surfing and we give them hats and stuff.

That's a pretty great opportunity for a young person.

Yeah, if they aspire to become professional surfers it's definitely a good outlet for exposure.

As well as being a professional surfer, you're also a great photographer. What are some of your proudest moments in both fields: as a surfer and as a photographer.

As a photographer, some of my proudest moments are in the feedback I get on the site. Whether it inspires people, or they write things like "this makes me miss home" or "this photo made my day" and little things like that go a long way to make the photographs rewarding. With surfing, I'm constantly trying to evolve and to get better, but getting into Mavericks last year was a huge accomplishment for me. Making a heat and riding the wave, getting some good ones and having the announcers say that it was one of the best waves of the heat. Things like that really boosted my confidence.

As Santa Cruz Waves gets bigger and extends its reach it's cool to see that the organization continues to be committed to its core. As the CEO, how do you view the responsibility of Santa Cruz Waves as a media outlet?

I think that since this is something that is kinda new, this online media source, I think it's really important to be responsible for letting people express what's going on and being a positive influence in the community and not shining light on the crime and the problems. There's enough of that already out there. We want to showcase the positive things that are going on and to inspire people to do better in the community.
Tyler Fox (deep) and Ken "Skindog" Collins share a wave last season at Mavericks. Photo: @chachfiles