A legend for a father, a brace of world titles, a diverse music career and enough travel time under his belt for his passport collection to put the Encyclopaedia Brittanica to shame. Beau Young is proof-perfect that history maketh not the man.
Born the son of one of the greatest surfers of all time, Nat Young, Beau’s future seemed to be predictable. A fanatical passion for surfing was, of course, bred into him from a young age and sure enough, at the age of 26, he won his first of two ASP World Longboarding Championship titles.
And so the whirlwind began, sponsorships, signature board models, media saturation et al. Championships over the next few years were close-fought, but it wasn’t until 2003 that Beau made the double-up. A superb feat, but it created an aspect of disillusionment in him.
“When I was doing the tour, with the whole celebrity thing, the only option I was given was to compete,” he reflects of his pro surfing days. “I definitely found it a little bit irksome and, with that, I didn’t want to compete. The last couple of years [of my career] I made that clear to my sponsors and they were cool with that. A couple of years after that I even dropped the ball on my sponsorship commitments – wearing the clothes and so on – and I guess that was a knee jerk reaction to the years and years and years of it.”
Although surfing was, and will forever be, intrinsic to Beau’s life, on a career-based, commercial level he found himself withdrawing completely, embracing and immersing himself in his other love: music.
Beau’s first album, ‘Waves of Change’, was released in 2005 and the oceanic influence that permeated the sound, style and lyrics of almost every song was undeniable. But in making the album, it gave him the opportunity to retreat, from the limelight, the commitments and the commercialism. He reconnected with himself, the ocean and nature, breathing a sigh of relief and a newfound passion into his life.
There is a beautiful gentleness in Beau, in his surfing, his music and his mannerisms, an underlying compassion for all that is around him, from the people he meets in his simple, verging on reclusive, life, to the nature that surrounds him every day in the ocean and on his farm north of Byron Bay.
His years of travelling and this compassion and acute awareness of the environment gave rise to a curious shift in Beau’s musical direction. Surrounded by kookaburras, kangaroos and the abundant flora and fauna of his home, he became inspired to share a message of ecology through his music, not to his existing fan base but with the next generation.
“I wanted to make children happy,” he says of this paradigm shift in his musical career, “to educate them on the natural world through song and to understand the animals and their habitat.”
He began visiting and performing at local schools, conveying his message through simple melodies and fun lyrics that called for his diminutive audience’s participation and was elated at the response, both in his listeners and within himself.
“If you’re in a room with 50 two-to-five year olds and they’re all singing ‘we love animals,’ it’s amazing. I try to learn from them, I try to live my life happy and care-free. If I can live with a child-like innocence like my dad has I’ll be a happy man.”
Of course, with all of your music inspired by the creatures of the world, it would be impossible to not infuse songs with an ethical message reflecting some of their plight. With pre-schoolers this is no easy task, but Beau sees them as the future of the planet that they truly are and hopes for his songs to provide influence for a better tomorrow.
“At the time of writing the songs, I wasn’t fully aware of where I was heading. I’ve always loved animals, but it really only occurred to me when I’d written maybe 30 songs that I realised…lot of these animals are in serious shit. The songs are all happy and fun but there’s definitely a line or two in there. With my orang-utan song for example, there’s a line in there saying, ‘they’re cutting down our forests and taking our babies too’, and the kids will realise that too.”
But, just like the ebb and flow of the tide, the draw of the ocean is omnipresent in Beau’s life and a need to return to surfing, beyond his daily sessions, has arisen.
“The underlying reason for establishing Beau Young Surfboards in all honesty is just to stay in touch with surfing I guess. I’ve always been relatively hermit-like, living on a farm, just me and my dog. But even when I was doing surfing competitions or travelling, as soon as it was over I’d go back to the farm.
“There are so many amazing shapers out there. I think, through my time and knowledge, I’ve just developed boards for what I like out of a particular style of board.”
Beau’s education in surfboard design has been exceptional. His father, Nat, was instrumental in the development of board shapes at the most evolutionary period of the sport. Beau has made a point of exploring and scrutinising this mid-’60s to mid-’70s period, revisiting the designs and redeveloping them with personal preference and modern knowledge and techniques. Beau Young Surfboards isn’t about recreating the boards of yesteryear, it is no bandwagon jumper of the retro movement and his shapes are as modern and functional as any. But the past is a fundamental aspect of his design approach, and it is his father’s influence that has facilitated this so abundantly.
“I like what my dad has given to surfing. He’s always been about the environment, and yes, there’s that side that people don’t like, which I have been firsthand witness to as well. But I tell you, he has always been there for the planet and his done incredible things for surfing. Design-wise, he has been ahead of the fray for sure.
“He and Wayne [Lynch] are always quick to shit can all the things they did in the past, but I think it’s pretty special for people like you and I. I’ve never really wanted to study my dad’s evolution phases as much as I have now and try to learn. I want to create boards like that!”
Beau makes what he likes, what he has found through his surf-saturated life that other people like and what designs truly work. He isn’t following fads or fashions, he isn’t dogmatically recreating the same thing in a different colour. His boards allow the rider to explore a myriad of styles, inspired and influenced by the past but given the contemporary treatment, utilising all that has been learned over the past four or five decades of surfboard progression.
It’s also a primo excuse to spend time on his farm, crafting boards in solitude, and to paddle out for a little spot of research and development.
You can view Beau’s quiver of designs, as well as some fantastic imagery, at: www.beauyoungsurfboards.com
– This article first appeared on Common Ground Australia on Jan 31, 2014