26 November, 2013 26 November, 2013

Talking Baboons with Brendon Gibbens

The surf industry is a beast of flux. The people and brands that are succeeding are those who look at things a bit differently. Brendon Gibbens has a refreshingly alternative take on the whole thing. Born in Germany, bred in Cape Town, hanging out at the best surf spots in the world on sponsor’s plastic…

Interview by: Craig Jarvis

Brendon Gibbens has been going hard in 2013. Wintery swoop on the KZN south coast.

Dude. You’ve got The Life Of Riley!
What do you mean?

Riley was a generic Irishman who had an easy and pleasant life! Friendly with a guy called Paddy, apparently. Tell us about your new sponsor?
Vissla. Pretty stoked about that. I’m heading over to California to meet up with the crew and sort it all out, but I’m really amped on the whole thing. It’s quite exciting to be with a new brand from inception. I’m hoping for good things but I need to meet up with the crew and take it from there.

What’s your deal? You don’t have to start doing any contests and shit do you?
No, that’s not part of my deal. I’m going to carry on doing what I do, just be myself you know.

We need to know – how the heck do you do it? You do put out some crazy video clips but the situation amongst your fellow South African surfers isn’t that rosy right now. Surfers are still getting dropped way too often, top surfers are suffering big pay cuts and the industry itself is streamlining and correcting itself, yet you seem immune to this.
I’m just really lucky I guess. Seriously, I have been fortunate to work with the Globe crew – Joe Guglielmino and all the top team surfers – and that really did seem to springboard me. Working with Kai Neville has also been amazing. These guys are so into it, you know, they’re so passionate about their work despite what might be going on in the industry or whatever. They put their head down and produce some epic work and I’ve just been lucky to be on their program.

In terms of a South African surfer, apart from the likes of Jordy and Trav, you keep on stepping it up. First Globe and Now Vissla. You’re already on Monster.
Yeah. I don’t really have an answer, but I do know how lucky I am. I just keep on reading online about this surfer who got fired and this guy who got cut, so I totally get it.

BG was on the Gold Coast in March to hook up with new sponsors Monster and Globe.

These international marketing managers, on the whole, aren’t stupid. They’re obviously seeing great value in you. Do you think you need to have a wide stance to be totally in control while going for crazy airs?
(long silence) Let me think about that. Every surfer has his or her own style. Some people do huge air turns and they don’t necessarily stand that wide. I stand wide sometimes. It’s probably more about the actual wave you know, the situation.

Martin Potter, arguably the first accomplished aerial surfer, used to stand with his feet fairly close together.

Yeah. He was world champion in 1989. You would have been three.
That’s pretty cool.

What are your plans for 2014?
I guess my short-term goals are to keep on getting good footage for the Globe movies, to keep at it. I’ve got a few other projects on the side and I’m going to see how that all pans out, but I’m going to continue to work on my surfing. One of my other goals was to get sponsored again, and it happened so that’s like, a job done.

Were you without a sponsor for a long time?
I parted with Quiksilver back in February, and I felt pretty lonely and isolated.

Shame man. How long did you sit it out?
About 5 days, then Globe came along.

Must have been terrible.
(laughs) Yeah, I know and I’ve said it, I’m very fortunate.

Watch ‘Amber’ a clip of Brendon shredding some ramps and pits near home earlier this year.

Where do you think you’ll live in the future?
Probably going to be bouncing between Cape Town and California, for now it is good to be near the centre of the surf industry in Cali, to be around those people.

You’re always stamping that passport. What stamps did you get this year?
This year I did my first Mentawais trip. It was pretty amazing. It’s a bit clichéd to call it my best ever, but it was a good trip. I’ve also been to France a few times this year, Portugal, a trip to Australia, and I went to Fernando de Noronha in Brazil. The waves were average there but it was such a fun trip. It’s good to go with the Globe crew, and to be around talented surfers. They really push your surfing, and that’s what I need.

Are you a stickler with your board dimensions or do you let your shaper look after it?
My shaper, Dave Van Ginkel, has me pretty covered. My boards are about 5’11 or 6’0. Three fins. I haven’t really tried quads much. The last time I rode a quad was when I was a teenager and I wasn’t a very good surfer at all then.

Who do you look up to the most in the world?
My parents. They’re hard working and humble people.

Who do you frown upon?
That’s a good question. I don’t know. I don’t really go around frowning on people.

How about that Huntress lady who shot that lion in South Africa and then claimed it by posting a photo online? Melissa Bachman.
I saw that. That wasn’t very good. I just saw the pictures and didn’t go into it, but it didn’t look very good. What was she doing?

Canned hunting. She shot that lion to have a trophy.
That’s not good. At all. I frown upon her.

Pitching tents on the weskus.

In the big picture, how important is competitive surfing?
It’s definitely important. If you didn’t have competitive surfing then you wouldn’t have people like Craig Anderson and Dane Reynolds. Well, you’d have them but they would have little relevance. There would be no comparisons.

Where have you surfed the best waves in the world?
Around Cape Town. Around home. Apart from the good waves, there’s something about having a really good session, with your mates, when there are barrels and stuff, and knowing in the back of your head that home’s just around the corner.

I just want to get a few things straight. You’ve been hanging with a few overseas friends in Cape Town recently on an extended trip. Good surfers, from around the world. Here are some spot questions about this trip:

Apparently South Africa has loads of sharks. Did you see any sharks?
No. Last time I saw a shark was last year.

Apparently the hijacking scenario is gnarly. Did you get hijacked?

Apparently break-ins and robberies are rife? Did you get broken into or robbed?
No. one night we were out in Cape Town and I saw afterwards that someone might have tampered with my car door.

Brendon dips into his bag of tricks at Long Beach.

Apparently everyone carries weapons in South Africa. Did you have any guns or knives pulled on you?

What about muggings? They’re rife as shit. Did you get mugged?
No. One night we decided to walk back from where we were, and we were walking through a gnarly section of town really late. It’s by The Gardens and we shouldn’t have been there. It was a bit stupid. Two guys emerged and came at us to mug us, but we just ran away. There were three of us and two of them, and we’re pretty fit, so we just ran away and they couldn’t catch us.

Did you see any wild animals roaming freely in South Africa?
You know, I do nearly all of my surfing at this one spot, and it’s a low-key spot, and every single time I surf there a massive troop of baboons comes down from the mountain and chills around my car and watches me surf. Baboons as you know can get pretty aggressive but these ones are relaxed. They are always there for me when I go surf. So I told my mates from overseas about it and they were blown away by the very idea. We went surfing there a day or two later and for the first time my baboons didn’t arrive and no one believed me

We believe you.


  1. loop
    26 November, 2013 at 12:20 pm · Reply

    Cool kid. Hard working too. Not lucky. Just got the right attitude.Nice one.

  2. Foamball
    26 November, 2013 at 6:52 pm · Reply

    BG, there are still waves for you back home at my local spot. Cross-shore ramps and offshore barrels. Fly high my son

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