093: Gabe Davies/North East Rising

Gabe Davies, London, July 2019. Photo: Tozer

“Whatever influence we have as individuals, a company, group of friends, community or industry: how can we pull together to change the world? That’s where it’s interesting.”

My guest this week is Gabe Davies, one of the UK’s most legendary surfers. Whether it’s his career as a free surfer with Quiksilver or his pioneering explorations of the heaving waves off the west coast of Ireland, Gabe has helped to redefine British surfing on an international and big wave stage.

He is also synonymous with the none-more-grassroots NE surf scene in the UK, one of the UK’s true surfing heartlands and home to one of the country’s most passionate and hardcore scenes. Gabe has been an integral part of this world since his teens, dedicating his life to mastering the region’s waves and bearing witness to the characters and tales that have done so much to embellish English surfing history.

Photo: Tozer

Not that Gabe’s career was confined to this particular corner of the surfing world. Ambition and drive saw him test himself in the world’s key surfing proving grounds, and led to a pioneering freesurf career with Quiksilver which occupied him for most of his 20s and 30s.

Being the personable lad that he is, Gabe also became great friends with some of the leading figures of the surf world, people like Kelly and the Malloys, who became a massive influence on his future direction. That’s both in and out of the water – the Malloys in particular were a huge influence on Gabe’s approach to Ireland, and his subsequent decision to begin working with Patagonia once his association with Quiksilver came to an end.

Gabe by Owen Tozer

I was keen to speak to him about both of these facets of his surfing life and in July 2019 sat down with him in London to do just that. The result was a brilliant insight into the richness of north east surfing, and a look at one of UK surfing’s most influential careers.Listen to the episode below:

Connect with Gabe

Show Notes

  • Shoes off.
  • “Got a little family happening”.
  • His work at Patagonia.
  • East coast surfing: “waves are intermittent at best. But when the waves are good up there, they’re really good. I‘m there for that moment, even if weeks or months go by”.
  • On the lesser-known North East surf scene being counter-culture spot for the UK.
  • Brought up in Tynemouth.
  • Hand-me-down Beaver Tail wetsuits, Marigold gloves and woolly scarves.
  • Newcastle’s industrial heritage.
  • NE surf town pockets: “It felt like a secret part of the world. It was so offbeat and far away… Newquay felt like going to Las Vegas”.
  • Surfing with brother Jesse.
  • “When you get that nucleus of people – same age, same passion – it creates a lot of positive energy”.
  • The generation above being surf pioneers.
  • Looking up to Veitch and Ted Deerhurst.
  • When the English nationals came to Tynemouth.
  • Beating guys on your home turf.
  • Pressures with competition.
  • Becoming a surf pro for British kids today.
  • Getting a surfing profile.
  • The big break.
  • BBC Video Diaries
  • Working with Quicksilver.
  • From NE England to Hawaii.
  • “The best waves are on the slightly off days where you build your experience up”.
  • Support from the Malloy brothers.
  • Back to back seasons in Hawaii.
  • Following the free surf path.
  • The Scottish and Irish waves just as scary as the Hawaiin: “but there’s no lifeguard, palm trees, anyone to paddle out with, and it’s freezing”.
  • Tow-surfing.
  • Thicker Than Water.
  • Litmus.
  • Big wave safety.
  • Shooting Waveriders.
  • Boom to bust of surfing industry.
  • From Quicksilver to Patagonia.
  • Beginnings of Surfers Against Sewage.
  • Inflatable turd.
  • His work European Surf Manager at Patagonia
  • Fight for the Bight
  • Seeing his son learning to surf.
  • Mentoring the next generation of surfers.
  • Lack of leadership in surf industry.
  • Thinking long-term.
  • His favourite surf spot: it’s in Yorkshire.

People Mentioned

Places Mentioned

  • Tynemouth, England
  • Thurso, Scotland
  • Newquay, England
  • Saltburn, England
  • Scarborough, England
  • North Shore, Hawaii
  • Pupukea, Hawaii
  • Pampa, Ireland
  • Hartlepool, England
  • Newcastle, England
  • Brighton, England
  • Cornwall, England

Companies/Brands/Organisations Mentioned