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Interviews, Originals March 24, 2022April 5th, 2022

In Conversation with Jai Glindman

Interview by James Royce | Photography by Duncan Macfarlane

We should briefly confront the reality of surfing. If you are 15 years old, please don’t read this bit… 

It’s quite hard to actually crack this chestnut. There are about 2.7 million of us putting fibreglass beneath our feet worldwide. And of that number, only about 100 or so became a name-brand star.

There are currently thirty-four men and seventeen women on the World Championship Tour and a handful of others fighting it out for a spot in the Qualifying Series or on your Vimeo feed or on the rare six-page spread. That’s tough. Need some perspective? Well, there are an estimated 2.05 million people that play some form of football in England. After school practice. Sunday five-a-side with the lads from accounting. A lone teenager rifling an Adidas Tango into their nan’s geraniums. Of those individuals, 523 could technically go on to play in the English Premier League. That’s 100 out of 2.7 million compared to 523 out of 2.05 million. We’ll let you work out the exact math, but let’s just say you have a higher chance of slipping while taking a corner for Liverpool in front of an international audience than taking an all-expenses-paid trip to the Mentawais.

But to discredit surfers because they don’t base their realities in actual numbers is like blasting ballet dancers for not being swans. It’s zooming out too objectively from the centre of the beauty of it all. It’s ignoring the high art of someone slicing their way around a swell that was created by a storm that killed two or three fishermen on the other side of the world, before travelling thousands of miles across the sea just to close out on a particular stretch of sand you’ve lazily paddled out to one hungover Saturday. 

It’s for this very reason that we have to continue to celebrate the young talent that manages to enter our collective periphery. We have to congratulate them for breaking into the proverbial stratosphere. So in comes Jai Glindeman. It probably seems like everywhere you look, there’s been a feature, end-of-year ranking list, or clip feat. Jai. As a bright, new Australian talent that’s already become a Billabong staple and is now a recent addition to the Globe team, it makes sense. That’s how these things work. He’s a 18-year-old wunderkind, and that’s just good marketing. But Jai is so much more than just another face to sell you some board-shorts. The terracotta-steady head, low centre of gravity, and constant speed and power through turns. You only need to watch Jai once to know he is le mec. The Joel Parkinson and Andy Irons comparisons may be low-hanging fruit…but then again, those are always the easiest ones to pick. We caught up with him to discuss his influences, how your hometown dictates your style, just how it feels to be included alongside such gilded company, and more.

Jai, whats up! You hear me alright?

Yeah mate, I got ‘yah. 

Good to chat finally, sorry for all the chasing down.

Yeah it’s been pretty hard to get the right times going. Australia timezone is a tricky one, hah. 

And then the WiFi calling thing…I talked Connor OLeary the other day and realised I was just on my network only by the end of it. That was a cool $120 chat.

Fuck! No way. That’s heavy. 

You live and learn. Anyway, whats happening? 

Oh, just had a long surf out at the point at Lennox. It’s pretty cooking and the water’s been clean. 

So youre in Lennox then. You grew up there, yeah?

No, technically I grew up on the northern beaches, in North Narrabeen. I moved up to Lennox at the end of 2015…I was just turning eleven. 

Is there much of a noticeable difference between North Narrabeen and Lennox? Especially in terms of growing up. 

It’s a bit of a skitz scene at North Narabeen if you’re not a local. Up here it’s pretty sweet…they tend to leave me alone, hah. 

Walk me through a typical day in Lennox. 

Like a Saturday? Probably just cruising, going for a surf. It’s normally pretty crowded if there’re waves so I just surf a couple times real quick in the right windows. And then during the week I try to have longer sessions, and more of them. Outside of surfing there’s not much to do, hah. I go fishing quite a bit when it’s howling northerly. But, yeah, there’s not much happening up here when there’re no waves. 

Fishings good!

Yeah, fishing’s sweet! Especially when the waves are terrible.  

Whats biting up there?

In freshwater I’ll go catch freshwater bass…just inland from my house. And then there’re obviously creeks around Lennox and Ballina where you can catch flathead. 

Talk to me about the scene in Lennox. When I was living in Australia I would only really venture up that way if I was with locals, so I avoided any beatings and was just about given the royal treatment. But its not really that way for the regular punter is it? 

I mean if you’re heading out to the point it’s pretty intimidating. And then if you do get out there everyone surfs real good, so, it’s hard to get a wave. But there’re heaps of other beaches too, so it’s pretty mellow. People are pretty dialled in around here, though, I’d say so. 

Have you been able to run around Australia much, or, I guess, New South Wales with the border closures over the past couple of months? Seems like everyone in Australia has been using the time to go around the country!

I mean I’ve mostly been cruising at home lately, what with all the COVID stuff. Been getting pretty over it, though. Really keen to start travelling around again and trying to get whatever little swell I can, I guess. 

So whats the deal there now, then? Because whenever I check the news out of Australia it seems like what was once open is now closed and what was closed is now open… like it changes every time I hit ‘refresh’. 

Yeah, it’s getting there. It’s definitely better than it was a couple months ago…a bit freer. I went up to Queensland for the first time in about, I don’t know…? Nearly a year? And it’s like a different country up there. They’re pretty much back to normal. No masks, no nothing. But once you get over the border here you still need masks, it’s pretty weird. 

And guessing you went up there to surf? Any luck? 

Yeah we went up there to find waves and it was…honestly, pretty terrible, hah. No luck.

Im sure itll feel nice to finally be able to fly out of the continent then, hah. Eventually. Anywhere youre planning on coming to out this way soon?

Yeah, that’d be awesome. But nothing planned yet! Hopefully at the start of next year, though, I’ll get something going there. That’d be epic. 

You recently got on Globe. Howd all that come about? 

Yeah, so, I actually went over to Western Australia with Billabong and was staying at Taj’s house. And he’s on Globe, obviously. But I was surfing with him and came home and actually got an Instagram direct message from him asking, well, saying that he’d be real keen to get me on Globe, hah! I was of course in to it at the time, but it took a few months and I think Taj got in contact with Beren (Hall) and told him to hit me up and it happened and worked out! It kinda took a while, though. As these things do. 

Im guessing you knew some of the shared Billa/Globe guys like Creed from beforehand, but had you been around Taj before or was that your first time getting acquainted?

Yeah, that was the first full-on meet and greet! I’d surfed with Creed a bit around home because he lives real close and the same with Dakota (Walters), who’s on Globe as well. Noa Deane’s around here as well.

Not the worst crew to be around!

Yeah, it’s epic surfing with all those guys.

So, I’m guessing you gravitate towards them on the team-side a bit more than others? 

Yeah, yeah. And then Shaun (Manners) was here for a bit so we surfed with Shaun for quite a while and he ended up getting on Globe as well, hah. 

I was having a chat with another Australian friend the other day and he was going on about how strong the youth scene is in Australia right now. Just with how everyone is so dialled in and theres a bit more camaraderie and pride thats come out of the, well, kinda shared misery of being locked down in the country for so long. Would you agree with that?

Yeah, well when all that COVID stuff hit, all the schools shut and everybody was surfing and got tapped in from there. And everyone’s got noticeably heaps better because all everyone does is surf, come in and eat and then go back out surfing. There’s nothing else to do besides that if you’re a surfer. And especially during winter, there’re so many waves. Summer is pretty bad just because it’s howling northerly but other than that, yeah, it’s pretty much every day. You’ll always find a wave! 

I know everyone goes on and on and on about your style, but Im curious, is that something that just came about naturally? Or did you ever catch yourself, like, watching footage and readjusting or have someone else tell you to do whatever? Coaching it, I guess. You werent ever, like, standing up and checking out your back leg to make sure your knee was bent enough or anything, right?

Yeah I think it just came naturally! After surfing beach breaks in Sydney I moved up here and went almost exclusively to point breaks. I haven’t really thought my style. It just kind of fell into place. And I never really thought about having the best style…over the years I’ve just been surfing and then, I don’t know, seemed to get cleaner and sharper on things. It just happened, I guess. I’m never looking back over my shoulder or anything, hah. 

Im sure youre loving all the AI and Parko comparisons, too. Sure those certainly arent getting annoying yet!

Hah, yeah those are pretty funny. 

Is there anyone whose style particularly impresses you? Someone you watch that makes you go, Wow, now if I didnt surf the way I did, I wish I could do it like that.

I love watching bloody Dane Reynolds. I reckoned he’s got such a solid style and I also love watching a bit of Craig Anderson. He’s got one of the best styles in surfing I reckon. 

How would you say someone like Dane surfs different from you, then? 

I don’t know…it’s hard to explain his style. I reckon there’s the difference between the beach breaks and points and the waves in California and his upbringing. Yeah, that stuff  just makes a difference. 

So with your boards, are you going with something that complements your particular way of surfing? Rounded tails instead of the boxier stuff and fuller rails to draw out turns and whatnot…? Or are you just going down the regular route and picking up whatevers going to be best for whatever the days conditions are?

So I was riding twinnies for a bit and I loved cruising on them. Like, trying to not go too ballistic on them. And then I get back on my shortboard and tried to do the same. Moving from one to the other, I like the way that feels on just your normal shortboard. I like grabbing any board really. 

I know when I talk to Creed hes always going on about how he switches up his boards all the time. Usually its some full 90s situation thats like a 66” with a massive rocker but it keeps things interesting for him and clearly really works. Switching it up definitely does some favours. 

Yeah, that’s funny. I’ll always see him out at the point riding some, like, a bloody seven foot Dahlberg and just ripping on it. And then he gets on to his shortboard and surfs so good as well. Pretty much he can ride everything. 

Similar to you it sounds, though. Except youre going from the twin fins to a stickier thruster.

For sure, 100%. I got so stuck riding twinnies for ages and couldn’t ride my normal shortboard because I was just hating it and felt like I was going slow. But then I realised I just had to keep trying them out and, of course, now I’m loving them and how they go. Which is good, hah. 

You did that video where you were riding all of Steph Gilmores experimental twinnies too. Howd that go? 

That was fun! Yeah, I rode a couple twinnies and there was one board in there, I think it was an Al Merrick or whatever. It was, like, a little bit of a step-up for me but it went so, so, so good. 

There was a Shawn Stussy board in there too, no? How was that? Those are pretty tricky to get your hands on because he only makes so many but they always just look dreamy to ride. 

Yeah that thing was crazy! It was so wild. The first surf on it as ridiculous. I was, like, “How is this thing even meant to go?” It took me literally a full surf just to get the hang of it. Coming off the bottom it’d skip out but I think that was from riding too heavy on it. But then I got used to it and was going so, so sick. You could go so fast on it but also, I don’t know…nurse it? Just go through turns so well.

And what are you normally grabbing off the rack these days? 

Oh, just my normal shortboard. Some Pyzel. 

Whatre the conditions looking like out front right now?

Pretty much perfect for the point. Like three-foot and good direction—south, southeast—and perfect winds. And there’s a very sick bank out there at the moment. Not too crowded either because the rock jump’s been probably the hardest I’ve seen it. 

Should we be looking forward to seeing you in any projects soon? 

Well…I’d love to get a good clip going here soon. But I reckon I won’t make one until next year because the waves are so hard to get good around here at this time of year. But next year I’d certainly be keen to get something good going. 

Any filmers or guys youd be keen to work with in particular?

Actually, one of my best mates is a filmer and he and I have been doing heaps of stuff together lately—George Grigor. I’d love to get something going with him and Noa and Taj. Taj would be sick to do a trip with…there’re so many, though. Bloody Creed obviously is so good too and that’d be epic. It’d be rad to go somewhere on a boat with that crew. 

A full Young Guns II classic!

Yeah that’d be sick! 

Usually Id ask someone here what advice theyd like to impart on the youth reading this, but seeing as you are that very youth…what advice would you want to hear right now? 

Oh, I don’t really know. There’re a lot of things… 

Go out there, surf, have fun with it, and itll work itself out in the end?

Yeah! Don’t get too frustrated with things and enjoy it. 

Reassuring words for everyone, for sure, right there.

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