The surfing legend
DOB: 2 November 1951
Place of Birth: Torquay, Devon, UK
Occupation: SUP, Surf
Meet Andre – surf guru and living legend that has been surfing for over 50 years and practices everything that involves water. As well as becoming one of the world's best windsurfers in the 1980s, Andre surfed the coastlines of Europe and was the first Englishman to surf the waves of the notorious Portuguese ocean. Living on the beaches of Portugal for six years, he has surfed more than most people do in whole a lifetime. Andre has always been at the forefront of new sports, from surfing, skateboarding and windsurfing to power kiting, kite buggying, kitesurfing and stand up paddle boarding. Together with his wife, he opened the first kiteboard school in Britain and was given the title "Doctor Kite" by several magazines due to his expertise in repairing kites. Later he opened a surf shop that specialised in custom repairs. Today Andre is 66 and still sets himself free on his stand up paddle board every day.
"There are 2 brilliant things in life - sunrise and sunset. They are free and make you feel really good."
How was your first time surfing and was it love at first sight?
I started surfing when I was a teenager on a very big surfboard. It took 2 of us to carry it down the beach. We didn't have proper wetsuits either, no protection to the cold. So we used to go out with a group of 3 or 4 and we had one board between all of us. One person would paddle out and would go first. When that person fell off and lost the board, he came in and it was the next person's turn. When I did it for the first time I just wanted to do more of it. It's a very strange feeling with the sea and there is something about it when you are on the water that makes you want to do it more.
"It's like I'm surfing to music."
How do you feel when you are on the water?
I have heard talk about endorphins and stuff and you do get a sort of high off it. I know if I have 4 or 5 days of very good surfing, whether stand up paddle boarding (SUP) or other sports, you feel very good from doing it. Afterwards you are really buzzing. But then It goes and I do get a bit down after a bit and I need to do something again. When I'm surfing I'm not thinking about anything – not even about the waves – I just become part of it and often I will have music going through my head.
"It's like I'm surfing to music."
How long does the good feeling last?
Very short! It's a lot better now with SUP as I can go and have a paddle anytime. If I hadn't been seeing you today I would have been in the water at 5 o'clock this morning. Early in the morning is the best time. The sea is like a mirror and it's very beautiful. Two weeks ago we paddled to Bantham. It's 45 minutes away and the first light was only at 4.05am. So you get down there, get your suit on and you go into the water in the dark and you feel brilliant, absolutely buzzing. I can do this more now because I don't have the shop and this is how I used to surf back in the days. I got up early and I would surf till my legs fell off, jump out, eat and go back in to do the same again, that's what I do and these mornings were beautiful. The reasons I was getting up so early were that the tide was right, the wind was right and the waves were 1 to 2 metres and absolutely perfect. You paddle out and there is a special taste and smell early in the morning on the sea. It's a weird feeling to go out there and be the only person. There are 2 brilliant things in life; sunrise and sunset. They are free and make you feel really good.
Does it do something to your heart and soul?
Yeah it must do, I feel very good afterwards. The people I have taken out this week are people who work in the cities. The guy said, "I have forgotten everything about work." There is no phone or nothing and he said, "I am just balancing on this board looking at fish." You might get a seal, a dolphin or you might see some jelly fish. You can take all that stuff in and I have gone out and have seals coming with me on a wave.
"I got up early and I would surf till my legs fell off, jump out, eat and go back in to do the same again."
What has the water and surfing taught you in all these years?
If you want to get better, you have got to work at it. Some of the problems these days is people expect everything on a plate. In the beginning it's really important to get a bit of instruction. When I started, we were the first school that started teaching kite surfing in the county. We had people coming form all over the world because there was nobody else doing it. But It's all about fun and enjoying it. You might be a really big heavy person who is not fit but you could go out on a big board and just paddle align and chill out and have as much buzz as the young teenager who is blasting on a board, does an aerial and lands it. It's exactly the same feeling.
What do you enjoy, the teaching or the surfing more now?
I love surfing. If you offered me today to go teaching or to go surfing then I would go surfing. But that's selfish and you are only here once. I do get a buzz when the people I have taught over the years can get a part of the fun I have had over the years. I never really wanted to be indoors, I knew that a long time ago. I did an apprenticeship with Rolce Royce and soon found out I did not want to be there. I spent a lot of time doing nothing. I was getting paid but a lot of the time I thought "I would rather be surfing and not have the money." I have never wanted a lot of stuff. I would rather be out, especially this time of the year.
You have been called 'Doctor Kite'. How did that name come about?
I did repair kites and also did some tests for the magazines and wrote some articles and things. People who had a problem could write to me so I could help them and then the magazines decided to give me that name. It grew from that really, it was good fun. It just sort of happened. It started up a bit before back in the windsurf days; I used to test windsurf equipment as well so I was lucky enough to get hold of the gear and try it out. It wasn't only that, it was equipment like go-pro cameras and all that stuff way before it came out.
What is the most inspiring thing that Surfing has given to you?
Appreciate the little things. I was living at the beach in Portugal for 6 years and I got married out there. I taught the children of the people who owned the house on the beach English. I taught the father who was a businessman English and helped him with his company. In exchange I got a free place to live. I used to get up in the morning and look straight across the ocean. I lived there on my own, with no other surfer and I surfed there every day. I am quite happy on my own, I don't like crowds.
How is your relationship with water?
I don't know, there are days everything seems to work and there are days you get smashed. I nearly drowned several times and it is a very good feeling because we are made mostly of water. The sea is out there and it is very under used, it is difficult to put it into words really. I love to be in the sea but I could actually be in the country side with trees, fields and animals and I feel the same happiness. It is a nature thing.
What is your secret to staying fit?
I eat a lot of cereals and god knows how many bananas. Before you came I just went out to buy some and I eat a hell of a lot. When you are traveling for surfing or something, you can always find bananas. And you can always find some sort of bread and if you stuff bananas in bread they are brilliant. Surfing works all your body, all your core strength. I read something about endorphins and pain; if you exercise, the endorphins help reduce the pain.