第1回 ミッチ・アブシャー Style for miles ~西海岸サーフカルチャーの伝道師

Part 1: Mitch Absher Style for miles ~ Missionary of West Coast surf culture

Mitch Abshire, a renaissance man in the modern longboard scene and known as one of the most important figures in West Coast surf culture, came to Japan for the first time in three years to promote his brand BEACHED DAYS.

He has launched CAPTAIN FIN CO. and served as Joel Tudor's sidekick and contest director at the recent VANS duct tape event. While working on CAPTAINS HELM in Oceanside, in his private life he has moved to Tennessee with his family and is living an ideal dual life. This time, we will bring you an interview that explores his past and private life, which has not been talked about much until now.

First of all, please introduce yourself.

Mitch Abshire, 45 years old. Currently residing in Columbia, Tennessee. CAPTAINS HELM's shop is in Oceanside, California, so I go back and forth to my home. I am also involved in work at VANS and product production for BEACHED DAYS.

Do you remember when you started surfing?

of course. Actually, the first thing I got was a boogie board. In the summer, my mom and I went to T Street in San Clemente, California, left our bags on the beach, and went to the kiosk to buy some snacks. Then I went back to the beach and someone stole my boogie board.

After a while, I think I started surfing seriously when I was about 9 or 10 years old. All your cousins ​​surf and you want to surf too? That's right. I started with short boards, but there was an old guy in my neighborhood who had an 8-foot board, so I borrowed one from him and started riding longer boards. It was easy to catch waves. At the time, I was living in Mission Viejo in Orange County, so they would take me to nearby places like Doheny and San Onofre.

We go to the beach at 7am and pick up at 6 or 7pm when the sun sets. Days spent surfing all day and hanging out with friends on the beach. I was probably at the beach four or five days a week. This is the beginning of my own beach experience, BEACHED DAYS.

I think that's when your career as a longboarder started, but how did you meet the late Donald Takayama?

It all started when I saw Joel [Tudor] riding his longboard in San Onofre. Of course, Joel was extremely good back then. At 12 years old, I was better than anyone else on the beach.

And Corey Schumacher, a guy my age who I made friends with on the beach, the whole family was riding Donald's boards. I started riding his board after being introduced to him by the Schumacher family. Later, when I was 13 or 14, my family moved south to Carlsbad, San Diego, and I started working at Donald [Takayama]'s factory in Oceanside.

Around 6 or 7 a.m., I had my parents drop me off at the factory, then I cleaned the floor and started packing the surfboards. So, from 11am to 2pm, I just watched him shape. I was just standing in the shape room, but I heard a lot of good things. It was fun just hanging out together. Of course, I didn't fully understand his ideas and work methods at the time, so I just watched him, but it was not just an old story, but a very valuable time where I learned about culture and history from my predecessors. There is no doubt about it. The best part was being able to work for Donald. Looking back on it now that I'm older, it was a great time.

He was known as Goofy's Joel Tudor and regular Mitch Absher as the kids he supported. Back then, kids riding longboards were pretty rare, right?

At first it was Joel, supported by Schumacher, Eric Summer and myself as kids, and then Devon Howard, Darren Ledingham and Mikey DeTemple joined in.

Back then, unlike now, only old men rode longboards. It didn't have a cool image at all, and was treated like rollerblading (lol). The contest in California always had the same look, and there were only about 10 kids in total.

Didn't you go on to become a competitor from there?

I'm not the type who likes contests at all. It was fun surfing with kids my age in tournaments, but my opponents on the PSAA (Amateur Tour) are usually 30-40 year olds and aggressive types. I started when I was 14 years old, but the vibe was so different that I quit after two years. Meanwhile, Joel continued to win contests against adults.

I think the idea of ​​the contest itself is good, but personally I didn't enjoy it at all. Back then, I was all about partying, sleeping on friends' couches, and anything else was fine as long as I had fun at the time.

If you were good at surfing, you could become a professional surfer, and it was normal for professionals to participate in contests.

Local friends Benji Weatherly and Taylor Steele's Momentum Crew weren't contest-oriented surfers either. I think watching them gave me a broader perspective on surfing. I later joined Takuji (Masuda)'s TYPHOON project because, in the same way, I didn't see surfing in terms of a contest. I've always thought that if I tried to pursue only competitions, I'd get bored, so I should move in a different direction.

Same thing with duct tape. The concept is anti-contest. It's completely different from the WSL surf contest format.

I've been involved with Duct Tape as a director since the first event, but please tell me more about it.

Duct Tape was Joel's idea and first started as part of a Vans contest in Virginia in 2010. The next time we started in New York, we became self-sufficient, and everyone stayed in the same lodge, hung out, and surfed. Even now, during contests, we stay in the same area and work together.

There are no interference calls, the venue is invitation-only, the venue changes every time, and the faces of non-finalists also change, which is something that has never been done before in a contest. Everyone shares ideas with an open mind, and you never know what will happen next time. I think it's a big difference from when I was participating in the competition in that we include men, women, and young people on the platform and showcase them. I've had people my age like Tyler Hadzikian and CJ Nelson appear, but basically one of the concepts is to bring in a new generation.

I can't say yet what will happen in 2023, but we are planning contests in two or three locations. It will probably be held in the Asian region next year.

What did you think of Japan's Duct Tape held at Kugenuma Kaigan in the fall of 2019?

It was great. Everyone was having fun, including the audience, and the guys that were out were having so much fun. The smile said it all. Of course, I wish the waves were a little bigger, but that's not the point. Since it's a contest, the waves may be small no matter where you go in the world.

Has the longboarding scene changed since duct tape?

There's no doubt that Joel has changed the current longboarding scene in a big way. Previously, 2+1 longboards with side fins were the mainstream, but thanks to him I suddenly shifted towards single fins. Even though they are collectively referred to as single fins, they are different from what they used to be, and the styles from Robin Kegal to Tyler Hadzikian are completely different. Longboarding has a progressive side to it, but it also has a strong traditional side.

If there's one thing that's changed, it's that the younger generation is shaping longboards. Back in my day, kids didn't make their own longboards. At Duct Tape, we bring our boards to the contest and then drop them off at local shops for everyone to try out.


WSL, what do you think about the current longboard competition scene?

It's nice that Devon got involved. We pushed for a more traditional direction and succeeded. Now that he's no longer in the WSL, I hope the new director will continue his direction. I'm keeping a close eye on what happens next. I like the duct tape format, but not everyone likes it. There are currently three or four WSL events where the world championship is decided, and I think it's good for the longboarding world to have a place where they can excel.

Who has influenced you the most in shaping your style?

Probably Donald Takayama and Harvey Fletcher. In the 1970s, longboards became obsolete in board design, and the 80s and 90s were a dark period, when no one paid much attention to longboards. Without them, longboarding as we know it today might not even exist. Donald continued to make longboards during the heyday of shortboards, and Harvey was pushing the limits of longboard surfing with his progressive style. And he kept releasing longboard movies that no one else had made.

That's amazing. It doesn't matter what other people think! At a time when the mainstream didn't care about longboards, I pushed my way and went for it. For me, longboarding was punk rock, but that's because Herbie's existence itself was punk rock. I was with both of them and I think they had a huge influence on me.

A lot of kids in California are introduced to surfing in their early teens, and they get hooked, but by the time they're 20, they tend to feel burnout. When I met Mitch about 25 years ago, it was in LA, not San Diego, and he didn't even have his own board or wetsuit, right?

Yeah, back then it was like you only surfed a few times a year. You can also borrow boards and wetsuits from other people. I think the same thing happens in any sport, but I was in a state of burnout. Just like the great surfers Greg Noll and Phil Edwards left surfing. Of course I'm not the same level of surfer as them, but I was partying hard, drinking all night, and everything seemed like it didn't matter.

After becoming a Christian, I changed my lifestyle, started to appreciate everything, and was able to get back into surfing. I enjoy surfing from a different perspective now than I did when I was a teenager, and I have a family, so I cherish my daily life.

You moved from California to Tennessee a few years ago and are living a dual life. But why Tennessee?

Many people have moved to California's coastline, and it is now clearly overcrowded. I wanted a large piece of land for my family, but it's difficult unless you're rich. If you're looking for a reasonably spacious place, you'll end up inland, about two hours away from the ocean. Then I thought, what about other places, other states? Go somewhere quiet and peaceful without crowds.

I live in Tennessee and the ocean is 6 hours away. He has a completely different lifestyle than before, living on a small farm and raising cows, horses, goats, and birds. However, I also have CAPTAINS HELM and work for Vans, so I'm in California for one to two weeks out of the month. Nowadays, I'm living a nice life with the contrast between the country and the beach. I also like surfing, but that's not all. I'm getting old, but it's not a bad idea to spend time in the countryside, raising cows and spending time with my family.

This time I went to Miyazaki, but I think it's a similar idea to live in Tokyo and Miyazaki. The two have completely different lifestyles; Miyazaki has a beach and time flows more slowly. But I also like cities, so it's nice to have both. So my current lifestyle is happy.

How was this Japan tour?

After going to Tokyo and Osaka, I went to the local area of ​​Miyazaki, and the waves were really good. The country style was relaxing and made me feel like I was in a hometown. The OCEANSIDE RANCH we stayed at was also really wonderful. The location was great, and although it was a short stay, I was able to enjoy an outdoor vacation style. In fact, I've been to Japan countless times, but this is my first time in three years. It is true that there was something deeply moving about it.

About the previous BEACHED DAYS magazine. What was the concept?

I used to work with Takuji and was really influenced by what he was doing with SUPER X MEDIA magazine. What we were doing at that time was very inclusive, not just surfing, but everything from skating and snow to street art. Personally, I love print media, and I thought it would be interesting to express that worldview in BEACHED DAYS.

My lifestyle has been around the beach since I was a kid, and the mixed culture of surfing and skating also originated from the beach. Surfing culture has a long history, with Bruce Brown movies featuring dirt bikes and Harvey skateboarding in pools since the 1960s. And surfing is also connected to the world of art.

How involved were you with magazines? If you were to republish BEACHED DAYS, what would you do?

The production was done by three people: the designer, the writer, and myself. I was responsible for the layout ideas, interview selection, and setup. Nowadays, it would be ideal to publish it once a year in the form of a magazine or book. In recent years, print media and magazine culture have become obsolete, and no one buys paper magazines anymore, so I think it's difficult.

About the BEACHED DAYS brand.

BEACHED DAYS is a magazine-based company that creates products related to everyday lifestyle, from surfing to camping. From beach chairs to blankets, the concept is not just for surfing, but for things that are useful for trips and other outdoor activities. We will continue to provide products that are fun, easy to use, and allow you to easily experience adventure.

What is the future development of BEACHED DAYS?

In the future, I plan to go on a surf trip with JJ Wessels and make a short movie. The theme is an adventurous lifestyle. I'd like to finish it by next summer and go on tour in the fall. I'm looking forward to it.

Tell me about the surfboards you usually ride.

I use three Christenson boards as my main boards. The base is Bonneville, and the length varies from 9'8" to 9'10". The big board Chris Craft is a 10'6" thruster (tri-fin) with grass on. This is the style that Skip Frye likes. And an 11'2" single fin. The short board is a Huntsman 7'10" single fin. I also have a flat tracker tri fin, 7'6" to 8'2". I'm 6'2" (188cm) tall, so a longer board is perfect for me. come.

During your visit to Japan, you tried out the new MITCH OG MODEL at a beach break in Miyazaki.

The board I rode this time is an updated version of the previous Mitch model. It is characterized by a moontail and uses a so-called classic rocker. Later, the model Bonneville had a reverse rocker and a square tail, but the dimensions were almost the same. Reverse rocker keeps the nose in place for easier control, while Mitch Model's rocker is better suited for thicker, less powerful waves, allowing you to turn with more drive. Moontail makes it easy to sink the tail and creates an opportunity for a turn.

During your visit to Japan this time, you created some distinctive signature drawings, right? Where does that unique style come from?

I guess I look at the style and art of Ed Templeton, Barry McGee, and Thomas Campbell and express myself in my own way. Of course they're great artists and I just enjoy writing them.

Lastly, a message to everyone in Japan.

I hope everyone can have more fun at the beach. BEACHED DAYS' slogan is HAVE FUN! I think sometimes people can take surfing and other things too seriously, but it's important to enjoy going to the beach, having adventures, camping, whatever you do. If you're not having fun, you're doing it wrong. You only live once, so you better enjoy it!

Interview/Mio Kawazoe ● Born and residing in Kamakura City, Kanagawa Prefecture. Graduated from California State University, San Diego, surfing club. The son of a 1st generation Japanese surfer, he encountered foreign culture from an early age. For 10 years starting in the early 1990s, he lived between San Diego and Malibu, California, experiencing the longboard revival. After returning to Japan, he became the editor-in-chief of ON THE BOARD and worked on GLIDE and other magazine media. Until now, we have introduced real California log and alternative surf scenes to Japan through our own network.

Portrait and Water shots: by u-skee

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