Brock Crouch, The First-Ever USA Surf and Snow Athlete
Brock Crouch is a chill legend. And by that, we mean nothing phases him. The trait is a must have for the first ever dual Team USA athlete in snow and surf. With our limited research, there may have been crossovers before, but never at the same time. It is quite the feat for the SoCal native, but you wouldn’t know by talking to him. And as an 18-year-old budding phenom, why would another “first” in history phase him? He has bigger things to think about. Crouch goes from testing out massive hits at Superpark to paddling into double overhead waves all in the same week, and frankly, we were just shocked he was at home for a quick catch up.
Alright Brock, give us the basic facts.
B: 17-years-old. Carlsbad, California. Oh, I'm not 17 anymore… just became an adult. Snowboarding, surfing, and everything else I can do.
Why do you have an Oakland Raiders hat on?
B: Because I found it in a gas station a few days ago for 5$ and Oakland Raiders are way better than Chargers, so I guess I gotta rep someone from California.
Have you ever done the California Trifecta?
B: Yeah, I have actually. I've done the Bear trip a few times. Pretty sick. Pretty mellow. I wish I could get more into it. Like sicker skateparks, because you always just get to Bear and you just start skating in this sketchy little skatepark at Bear. It would be sick to go surf, go to Bear, and then drive to Lake Forest or something, just a dope skatepark.
What'd you do for your 18th birthday?
B: Since we travel so much, my parents surprised me like a month early and said ‘this is going to be your present.’ Red, Judd, Chandler and a bunch of the boys, like Gabe Ferg and everybody, went to Nicaragua and surfed and just cruised with all the boys.
Are you the best surfer in that crew?
B: Well, I had like three of my surf friends come, too. So there was a couple super good surfers down there.
Who is the best surfer out of the snow crew that went down there?
B: Chandler, for sure. Chandler was raised in Newport. Out of Red and Gabe, they couldn't surf. They just swam the whole time. Actually wait, Judd was down there. Judd is pretty good at surfing, for sure. Take that all back.
So how's the surf been in Southern California?
B: Pretty shwee. It's been pretty bad. I've gotten a few good south swells.
What does ‘shwee’ mean?
B: Just super bad. Small. You can always go up to Lowers in the summer and find a few good waves, but I haven't really had a good day yet this summer. Actually, there was like three days in a row where I went out on my jet ski and was towing in all my friends. It was firing so good. Just at Del Mar Jetty, it's a little bit north of Oceanside.
We thought they only did that for huge waves.
B: Yeah, it's for huge waves. Or it's called step-offs. You just sit on the side of the jet ski and you just jump into like a barrel. They were only like 6-7 foot waves. But it was so good. Those were a few good days for sure.
Does that feel anything like riding a snowmobile up and down for runs?
B: Yeah. It actually is. You're like, “Oh, I wanna go over there,” when a waves coming in and you just drive over there so fast. With snowmobiles you're just riding down the backcountry and you're like, “Oh, that line is sick. Let's try to go up there and do that.” So it's pretty similar actually.
What about contests this year for surfing? How did you do?
B: This summer, I did alright. I got second at NSSA Nationals in Huntington. But I'm going to Japan tomorrow, so that should be fun. I'm on the Under 18 Team and there's an Under 18, Under 16, and Under 14 team I think, and we just go over to Japan and it's like every other country in the world. It's like a two week surf contest. It's pretty sick.
Have you surfed in Japan before?
B: No. I went there last summer and I was trying to find a surfboard because it was so good.
But you've snowboarded there before?
B: No. But I want to go sooo bad.
Anything style-wise that you could talk on between surfing and snowboarding?
B: I don't know, I just gotta stay loose. Definitely on a good pow day or I don't know, quarter pipes or anything like that, it definitely feels like surfing a lot. It feels pretty cool.
What's scarier--overshooting a kicker like you did for the Grand Prix or getting held down by a wave?
B: I don't know. I feel like I'm so comfortable now with holding my breath and doing that and I also knew that I was fine overshooting that jump. I told everybody that I was going to go that big because I knew that I didn't have that good of a run, so I was like, alright, if I go big enough, maybe the judges will like it, but they still didn't really like it.
Is there a parallel to overshooting a jump in surfing?
B: Yeah. If you try and air and you clipped it wrong, you're way out in front into the flats. Like, my knees are about to blow up and you kind of just got to bail.
Do you know of anybody blowing out their knees on a surfboard?
B: No, but a lot of ankle breakage. Actually, what am I talking about? My friend, two weeks ago, blew out his knee for the second time. He surfed for two weeks and then blew it out again.
Have you ever been injured surfing?
B: Yeah. My ankle, I messed my ankle up really bad one time.
Which one have you been doing longer?
B: Snowboarding. I've been snowboarding since I could stand up. Surfing I started when I was 5 but I started competing like four years ago.
What got you into surfing?
B: Well, my house is exactly a mile away from the beach and I live in California, so you kind of just have to surf.
Who do you look up to in the surfing world?
B: Rob Machado, Dane Reynolds, those guys are pretty sick. I don't know, that's kind of where I want to go in surfing. More filming because it's going to be so, I mean it's possible, but it's going to be pretty hard to do contests in surfing and snowboarding. It would be sick just to snowboard all winter and do some contests and hopefully do good and just go on a boat trip for a few months on the off season. That would be pretty sick.
So you don't want to compete in both?
B: Yeah, I know so many people in surfing and just watching them go through the comp circuit and all that stuff is so much gnarlier than snowboarding. Snowboarding, you do good in two or three contests and then you're like, oh sick. Let's get into Grand Prix's and if you do good in the Grand Prix, you'll get into the US Open, and then if you do good there, you're pretty much set. It's pretty cool to see that snowboarding is really starting to care about style again. I've noticed that. A lot of people, like if they don't have that good of a style in contests, they're not really getting judged that well. You don't really see them doing stuff and it's cool that style is really starting to come back.
Do you think surfing judges style a lot more then?
B: Oh yeah, for sure. You saw a triple cork and then give it a year and a half, everybody is doing triple corks. Four years ago you saw Kelly Slater do a 540. This last winter in Hawaii, Matt Meola did like the second ever 540. Obviously, I don't know, you could probably surf a bigger wave, but I don't know how much of a bigger wave you could surf. Style is pretty important. The ocean is only going to be so big.
What about coming up in the competition format in surfing? Why is that harder than snowboarding?
B: I think that it's harder because surfing, you have to go through seven rounds and then you're in the semi-finals, then the final, and you have to stay consistent. Snowboarding is like practice for three days. Let's take two runs today, make the final, get three runs tomorrow. Done.
What about the fact that a snowboarding course, once you get used to it, is not going to change for the most part?
B: Yeah, to a point for sure. We're all going against Mother Nature in the sports we do. Snowboarding, hopefully the weather is good for your run. I've seen it with my own eyes when you're at a contest sitting at the top and it's snowing and so windy, and then the next person that drops, it's just dumping snow and not that windy, so they technically get a better run. Surf and snow both rely on Mother Nature a heavy amount.
How did you get to know Rob Machado?
B: My dad has always lived, well since he was 25, he moved out to more of the coast. He's from Escondido, but he moved out here to Cardiff and he just grew up surfing Seaside and all around Cardiff and he met a few people and then they were super good friends with Rob and then my Dad became pretty good friends with Rob. I have just always have seen Rob surfing Seaside from when I was first ever surfing. You just know when he's out there because his style. He just stands out so much above everybody else.
And you've surfed with him a bunch?
B: Yeah. Yeah, Rob's sick. It's sick to think that you're just sitting out there, Rob is talking to you like anybody else. He's like, “Oh, it's pretty fun out here,” and I'm like, "Yeah, sick, you're insane!"
Who do you look up to in the snowboarding world?
B: I think it would be Terje, Nicolas Muller, I just got home from New Zealand and went on a heli trip with Danny and Red and all the Burton crew and I got to spend the whole day with Ben Ferg, just because we were in the same groups, and it was so insane watching Ben. It's crazy, he takes the style that you see him in the pipe doing those insane carves and doing it all out there too, and just has so much style. It's so sick. I ride with Ben all the time but it was my first ever heli trip and it was just cool to see him in the backcountry just ripping. I don't get how he's not so good at surfing. His style looks the exact same.
Is it hard to balance both?
B: No, not really. I got home from New Zealand like four or five days ago and I feel like I've been surfing for like a month or two. I've been doing it for a while now so I know what it feels like.
And you don't favor either one of them?
B: Nah, they are just both so fun.
Is there a different mindset going into competing for a surf contest compared to competing for a snow contest?
B: Not really. I just try and have fun. I've kind of seemed to figure it out a little bit.
How did you figure it out?
B: I just try to be confident, I guess.
In the middle of the snow season, do you get to surf at all?
B: Yeah. We travel so much mid-snow season that there's always a two week break or so before we have a contest. I just try and go home to Carlsbad for at least four days and then go ride Mammoth for a few days before I leave again. It’s cool because most of the time when I come home the waves are firing.
What's it like being on Team USA for both sports?
B: Team USA Snowboarding, I don't know, it's pretty fun. There's a bunch of kids on it and we've all been with eachother for so long, so we all just rag on eachother and hang out. Same with surf.
Do you feel like an outsider at all on USA Surf?
B: Not really, because I've been surfing competitively for the last like three or four years and some of my best friends are on the team and we're going to Japan with them tomorrow. No matter where I get to travel, I'm always with a best friend, so it's pretty sick.
When did you start competing for snowboarding?
B: When I was 7.
Favorite place to snowboard?
B: Laax is pretty sick, I like Laax a lot. However you say it. That place is pretty sick because a few years ago I was there for the Laax Open and they got the course all dialed in in the morning and it was just snowing so hard that we were still saying we were practicing but we were pretty much just straight airing the jumps, and then you get the most insane pow run down to the chair. It was so sick.
M: What about favorite place to surf?
B: I don't know. I know Jamie O'Brien pretty well, so he calls me when the waves are good at the North Shore, so that's pretty fun.
You get called into waves with Jamie O’Brien? How did that happen?
B: Peter Morning, a few years ago, they were up there filming a Who Is JOB episode at Mammoth and he was like, "Brock, can we use some of your athlete tickets to hook up Jamie O'Brien? He'll give you waves at Pipe." I was like, "Dad, Jamie O'Brien needs tickets, can we give him some?" My dad was like, "Of course.”
How many times have you gone to North Shore?
B: I try and go every year in October before the whole European season starts. Like Saas Fe and Stubai and all that stuff. It's pretty sick. Last year it was insane. We were sitting out there, I was with some of my friends, and then Jamie paddles out and then Mason Ho paddled out, then Derek Ho, Mason's dad, paddled out. And then Kalani Chapman was there. Jamie was like, "Brock, come here," and I paddled out past everybody because second reef was capping and Jamie’s like, "Yo Derek, Mason, this is our boy Brock. He'll give you guys tickets whenever you want at Mammoth if we give him a few waves right now." And that's pretty much how every winter goes for me.
When did you ride your first pipe there?
B: I was 13. I was so scared. But last year was the first real year that I started surfing backdoor, which is so gnarly. It's way gnarlier than pipe.
What's your plans coming up this season for snowboarding?
B: Do some contests. Probably hit some pretty big hips at Superpark. Hopefully do some contests and that would be cool to go to the Olympics but if not, I'll try in four years, I guess.
You've got time. What about upcoming stuff for surfing?
B: Japan tomorrow. And yeah.
Is there going to be any overlap this winter, especially with getting ready for the Olympics?
B: No. After Japan, I get home and then I'm pretty much tying up the surfboards for a few months until after the Olympics hopefully.
Finally, how'd you feel about testing everything at Superpark this past year?
B: It was pretty mellow. It was pretty fun.