Words: Jay Vilarrubi-Smith | Header Image: Luke Gartside
Alan Stokes is well known for being one of the UK’s top surfers.
But in his latest video, My Canvas, Stokesy gives us an incredibly honest insight into his personality and his views on surfing and what it means to him.
Following the amazing response his video has received, we felt it was only right to speak to the man himself and dig a little deeper:
Firstly, congratulations on ‘My Canvas’. It’s had such a great reception, you must feel really proud…
AS: Yeah for sure it was nice to finally get it out there and see such a positive response and hear people’s opinions – we caused some pretty interesting debates on some websites that have featured the film.
The project saw you team up with Mr B, someone you have collaborated with a lot in the past. What is it that works so well in your relationship together?
AS: We’re just really good mates first and foremost so that’s more important to us than the work – this gives us a really nice laid back working vibe and I think if you don’t try to push things to happen with surf film making, or surfing in general, things start to take shape really naturally with the rhythms of the ocean and waves. Surfing is a way of life for us so we were really just documenting a few months of wave riding as it naturally unfolded from one day to another.
How much did you get involved with the actual production and editing of the video? Is this something which is important to you, or do you prefer to just focus on the surfing?
AS: I like to come up with ideas, messages or stories that can be told through my passion of surfing, so we started with a feeling that I’ve had for as long as I can remember and went from there. I think B will tell you that it probably all sounds quite far fetched in the first instance, me trying to describe to B what it is that I would like to translate – but that’s where B’s passion and talent for making films and story telling kicks in and he kind of sees the final product and guides it from there. This one, we were both on the same page from the get go so we were both coming up with similar, if not the same, shot or idea to transition from one scene to another so that felt great – we knew we were working with something that was happening very organically so we could really enjoy the filming process.
Surfing is deeply rooted in me, it’s all I have done from age 6, so I hold some very strong spiritual values in the simple pleasure of catching a wave or just being in the energy of the sea.
Do you get nervous on the eve of a release of a video such as this? Or were you pretty confident that the video was going to be a success?
AS: Well I’m pretty out-spoken in this one so yeah to be honest I was a little nervous when it played on the big screen at the International film Festival. When you release a film online you can kind of just hit the button and then just hide behind your computer, but when you’re sitting there with everyone that’s a different thing because its you up there and you definitely start wondering what to make of it all. But I knew at the end of the day this is a true representation of who I am and what I feel when I surf, so I’m happy to shout about it and connect with people who feel the same – or even better turn people on to the notion that maybe there is more out there than just what is visible to us.
Your message in the video is that “it doesn’t matter you’re riding”, it’s about how what you’re riding on any given day, helps you to connect with the waves. Do you think in today’s surf culture there’s too much emphasis on finding the ultimate high performance board?
AS: No not at all – in fact I think we have moved away a little from that, well not moved away, but I think now more than ever you can just surf on anything and no one’s gonna judge you. As a whole we’re definitely not pigeon holing certain surfer’s crafts as much as we used to. Anything goes, ride anything and feel everything – that’s how it should be.
One of the most eye-catching moments of the video is that full rotation air reverse you stick on the twin-fin, is riding different boards something which helps to keep things fresh and keep you motivated?
AS: Yes I think one knock on affect is that is does keep it all fresh, and that’s fun, but the main reason is just to find that board that’s right for you and that will align you well with that connection. It’s a way for me to lose myself in the art of riding waves – kind of like a mindless or thoughtless act where you can just dissolve and let the energy or the wave depict your next subtle movement.
I knew at the end of the day this is a true representation of who I am and what I feel when I surf, so I’m happy to shout about it and connect with people who feel the same – or even better turn people on to the notion that maybe there is more out there than just what is visible to us.
You talk a lot in the video about the spiritual nature of surfing and what it means to you. How easy then is it for you to switch into the Alan Stokes we see at competitions?
AS: I see them as quite different things, surfing in a competition for me is like playing this big game with a bunch of mates – there are rules and times and all this stuff, it’s fun and I enjoy it. But free surfing there are no rules, no times, just what you want it to be, what you want it all to mean – it’s your take on this thing we call reality and I like to explore that feeling. Surfing is deeply rooted in me, it’s all I have done from age 6, so I hold some very strong spiritual values in the simple pleasure of catching a wave or just being in the energy of the sea.
Is there any way you can compare achieving success with a video such as this, with say, getting a good contest result? Is there one that you take more satisfaction with than another?
AS: Well I never feel like I do my best surfing in a comp, but they are so different and like I said before, I’ve separated the two I think consciously to protect the bigger picture for me and that’s having this amazing gift of surfing and how that has created this happy energising life.
It’s a way for me to lose myself in the art of riding waves – kind of like a mindless or thoughtless act where you can just dissolve and let the energy or the wave depict your next subtle movement.
Are there any other projects you have in the pipe-line, which you are looking forward to working on?
AS: Yeah we have a couple of film projects we’re working on and I’m super excited to start filming – but it’s all top secret so you will have to wait until they drop!
Finally, is there anyone you would like to give a shout-out to?
Ah just all the amazing people that make my life what it is, my family and my beautiful fiancée Philly – I love you all. And then Animal and Fourth and my other sponsors for all the support and who believe in what I do. You all rock. And then last but not least B just for the amazing positive passionate energy he brings to all of these projects – the man is an absolute beauty.
Anything goes, ride anything and feel everything – that’s how it should be.
In case you missed it, you can see ‘My Canvas’ here: