Sandy is one of the North East’s most prominent surfers from recent years; he’s an all-round nice guy who spends his time scoring at his home break, lifeguarding around the country and hot footing over to Ireland in the winter months in search of giants. He’s been riding for us for just over 2 years, and it’s been epic to watch him navigate the North Sea and beyond on his Cord quiver. We caught up with Sandy about the tight-knit Tyneside surf community, his day job and why the waves of the North East are the best in the world.
The cold water and heavy waves make for a small, core community in your neck of the woods. Can you tell us a bit about the surf community in the NE and what makes it so special?
We have such a core community, especially around the winter months. In the summer we have a lot of surf schools and it’s really busy, but the winter really draws it back to that proper core crew. It’s a community I’m lucky enough to have grown up in. Me dad owned the first surf shop up in the North East, and he brought me up around some of the really good surfers of the time, such as the Davies brothers [Gabe and Jesse] and Sam Lamiroy. I was pretty lucky like that. It’s still the same now. I surf with the same people every day that I surfed with when I was 10. It’s amazing. Once you have that core group it sticks around for a long time, and it’s wicked seeing new people come into the community too.
What are the waves like on the NE coast?
In short, we have amazing waves in the North East. We have some amazing slabs, points and reefs. Primarily the winds are offshore in the winter and the swell is from the north. It’s ideal. However, in the winter it can easily go flat for 3 weeks. You’ve got to take the bitter with the sweet. Often in the summer the waves go completely dead-pan flat, then in the winter the water is absolutely freezing cold, around 6 degrees, and below zero air temperature with snow on the ground.
How do you keep the stoke alive during the summer and lack of surf?
It’s a hard one to keep the stoke alive, especially in the summer! It can easily be flat for up to a month, and it can go shitty and onshore. Keeping motivation is pretty hard but I just see it as taking it whilst you can get it, and the good times will come eventually. If you don’t surf those shitty days then when the good days come you’ll be a dreadful surfer anyway.
Do you have a fitness regime when it comes to big wave surfing?
That’s a pretty interesting one, especially for me. I see loads of people following a rigorous breath holding regime and doing loads of stuff centered around surfing, but generally I just keep very fit. Lots of running, lots of time in the gym, stuff like that. I’m fortunate to be generally pretty fit and I rely on that, especially when it comes to bigger waves. I feel like if I’ve got the stamina and the strength and the ability I think that’s going to help us out more than following a structured regime for surfing. All round fitness is going to help with surf fitness.
How does your quiver reflect the waves you ride through the seasons? Can you talk us through your collection of Cord boards?
My collection of Cord boards at the minute, from small to large are… A little twin fin, maybe 5’2”ish, that I picked up second hand off a friend in Ireland. It’s honestly what started my love affair with twin fins. I love surfing it in anything clean up to shoulder high. It just flies. A traditional fish outline but pretty narrow and high performance-y. I’ve also just had a quad made, watch this space for more of the quad! It’s going really well. I’ve only surfed it for 2 weeks now or so, but I’ve got a few little videos on that thing so I’m sure you’ll see them pop up soon. Past that I’ve got a 2 + 1 that just seems to work in everything. I remember surfing it in Thurso when it was 6ft+ and it was like snowboarding down the faces. It just went wherever I wanted, which was great, and with big twin fins and a little trailer fin it means you can push pretty hard through it. I’ve also got a couple of Arks and them Arks are what I tend to use when the waves are really good on the reef just down the coast from us. It’s a really fast left hand barrel. I’ve surfed the wave me whole life but I’ve never had a board fit so well in them waves like what the Ark does. It speeds up when I want it to, slows down when I want it to, and it’s really easy to adjust your line but with loads of hold. It’s probably the best board I’ve ever had for that wave and that wave is probably the best wave in the country, so it’s a match made in heaven.
Photo by Ian Sproat
How’s the excitement factor now that summer’s ended and winter swells are on the horizon?
Yep - excitement factors are through the roof! We went from having a really good winter to an absolutely terrible summer. I think I’ve surfed a dozen times since May. We’ve just had our first swell on a little point break and that was amazing. It’s just filled us with excitement for the winter and I’m buzzing for it.
Can you tell us a bit about your work with the RNLI? Do you guard in the NE or move around?
I’m just coming to the end of my 16th season as a lifeguard. I’ve done the job me whole life. It’s pretty much been me only job. I’ve done it since I was 16 and I’ve worked on pretty much every beach in the North East. I’m now a lifeguard supervisor, so I’m more organising it than patrolling the red and yellows. I’ve worked in New Zealand, done a lot of water safety bits and pieces all over, and last season I was in Cornwall working in the Padstow area as a lifeguard which was amazing. The job just seems to fit us really well. Summer months you’re going to lifeguard, especially when the waves go flat which is ideal, and then it frees you up for the wintertime. It’s how I keep motivation through the summer as well, I can just get me head down and work, and then the end is always in sight with this line of work. You know you’re going to be off work in a few months, and you know you’re always going to have a good chunk of time off. I think lifeguarding and surfing really compliment each other well.
Do you have any surfing trips planned for this winter or is it all about home? And do you seek out particular sorts of waves when you travel?
I want to be on all the swells I can be at home. Last year we had an amazing winter so I find it really hard not being on the North East when you know it’s pumping. But also I might go to Portugal for a month or so in January or February, as I’ve spent a few winters down there before. I just think the variation and consistency of the waves out there is amazing. Ireland too - I haven’t been there for a good few years now with all the travel restrictions and I’ve got a lot of good friends there and the waves are incredible, so I definitely want to be out there for a month or two, not just a few swells. So home, Portugal and Ireland are on my radar this winter. I’ll probably bail on that and just go to Indo when I get too cold though!
Photo by Coldsurfer Bartlett
Check out the Ark, which Sandy claims is "probably the best board I’ve ever had" by clicking here.