Harley Ingleby is the reason, like many other kids, I wanted to become a professional longboarder. Every edit he puts out into the world leaves me in complete awe. When I was a 10-year-old chubby faced, snotty kid, I was hooked on finding any clip I could of Harley and I would study it.
They say “you should never meet your heroes.” Well, I didn’t meet my hero, Harley met me. It was at a World Tour contest in Taiwan when he came up to shake my hand in the competitors’ area. “You’re the Irish guy! It’s great to meet you,” he said. I was completely taken aback because not only was the guy I had looked up to my whole surfing life standing right in front of me but here he was acknowledging me. A lot of interactions at World Tour events consist of a lot of competitors giving you the stink eye and ignoring you from the safety of their clique. It can be a lonely place, trying to make friends while traveling but being made to feel like a complete outsider and a loner. I’m not mentioning names but you guys know who you are. Meanwhile, Harley was more than happy to take the time to talk to me. And it was something that truly shocked me. I’d traveled the other side of the world for this contest, made a couple of heats, and got knocked out, but I that encounter is what stuck with me. A simple introduction says more about Harley Ingelby, a World Champion longboarder, than anything he has said in the interview below.
Harley’s an incredibly humble guy who would give you the shirt off his back — a true legend of the sport.
For your fans here in Ireland and around the world, can you talk us through what you do and what you have done?
I was very lucky to have grown up in a small country area of NSW North Coast(Australia) with lots of surf and not too many people in the water. I’ve always been such a frothing surfer and will ride whatever the day calls for. Since finishing high school, I started traveling when I could compete on any pro longboard events that were on and I’ve been lucky enough to have a good work and professional balance to keep that going.
You are one of the most accomplished longboarders in the world, In 2009 you finally won your first world title. Can you walk us through it?
Yeah, it was such an insane feeling. Pretty hard to describe accurately if I’m honest but there was a decent amount of relief. It was obviously a dream of mine to become a world longboard champion but I wanted it extra badly because the year before I’d led the tour into the final stop and lost it. Then in 2009, I was in the same situation again, leading the tour with the final event in the Maldives. I really didn’t want to blow another good chance. Also, before that event, my lower back went out and I spent 6-8 weeks on my arse. It was my first surf in two months was when I arrived in the Maldives. I actually think it worked in my favor. I was so excited to be surfing again and feeling good. At one point I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to compete. My second world title just felt like more of an all-around appreciation for the sport and all the guys on tour and how lucky I am.
After traveling with the tour for all these years do you get bored of being in the one place for too long?
One of the main reasons I got into the competition side of longboarding was all the awesome people I met as a grom. I was competing on the shorty (WQS) a lot too but hated the egos. Everyone at the LB events were so much more fun to be around. I mean, I still have a lot of desire to win but mostly its to meet new people and go to new places and experience new things. I also really want to help longboarding grow for the next generation. I’d love to see it become a real career for pro longboarders in the future. I think I’m one of the very lucky few that have made a semi-living out of the sport I love.
Do you feel much pressure to perform coming into a competition? I know I find it hard to sleep for up to a week before by over thinking things and in turn blowing it.
Very rarely. I think once you have competed at anything for over 20 years you realize you’re going to lose a whole lot more than you win and you need to be totally ok with that. I was never too hard on myself from the start though. As long as you go hard and try your best and if the ocean plays ball sometimes you win and it feels great. Like I said before, it’s as much about having a good time away with cool, like-minded people. I do like the feeling of pressure in heats but you have to know when to let go of it.
What does the 2018 season have in store for you? I would love to see you clinch another title. You seem like one of the few guys on the LQS who are happy to take the time to talk to people, which is a fantastic quality to have within someone who is at the top of their game and for a person people look up to.
Thanks, mate. Appreciate it. Yeah, a third title would be incredible and definitely a goal of mine. 2018 is flying by right now. I plan to do both the Surf Relik tour event at Malibu at Lowers then the two WSL title events back to back in Papa New Guinea and Taiwan again. Other than that I’d like to just chase some quality waves somewhere.. Probably Indonesia.
Has sadness ever been a factor in your life?
As a whole, I’d say no. But in late 2016 I went through a breakup with my then wife which was super left field at the time. So that was a very crazy part of my life going through the whole separation thing with family, assets, dogs etc involved but I came through it as well as I could and probably quite quickly given the circumstances. I was really lucky to have an incredible support network around me. It was defiantly an eye opener to the level of emotions and feelings people must go through daily.
Who was your biggest inspiration growing up?
I guess I’ve drawn inspiration from all kinds of people in my life. A lot of them just people in my community. But from a surfing side, I’d say the biggest two would be Kelly Slater and Bonga Perkins How could you have not been inspired by those guys in the time I grew up! Both incredibly well-rounded surfers that have done a lot for their respective sports. But seriously, I could still name dozens of other Australian and international longboarders and shortboarders but it might take some time and I am not sure how long you have.
Do you prefer modern or classic?
Haha yeah modern but mate, I have such an appreciation for the classic. I grew up with my dad’s old board collection of boards from the 1930s onward. I super enjoy riding an old mal or my noserider when it’s small, fast, and peeling, but if the break around the corner is overhead and hollow I’d be over there 99% of the time. Surfing committed and fast on more consequential waves gets me way more excited than cruising on logging waves but that’s just me. I’ll ride whatever the day calls for.
Talk us through your line of surfboards at Tolhurst and your relationship with them? I spend my days drooling over some of the shapes you guys are putting out there.
I guess that range is the result of working with master craftsman Billy Tolhurst for 20 years. I am really proud of it. Billy’s knowledge and ability as a surfer and shaper are incredible. He is really a perfectionist and only worked by himself for the most part, so when I was approached by Thunderbolt Technologies in Japan that was the step to allow us to take our shapes to the world. Thunderbolt Technologies have been incredible too. They’ve let me be the decider of how the boards are laminated, look, weights and flex patterns. I don’t really want to bore everyone going into detail about them all but the “the HiHp” and “Minion” model have been my faves up until this point.
Have you ever hit the Emerald Isle or have any plans on doing so?
I’d really really love to. I planned a trip there a few years back with Ben Skinner and a couple of other mates. We were all set to hit Ireland but the swell we were chasing took off northeast super fast and the only part of Europe that was going to have any surf was up in Scotland and the islands north of that so we changed our plans on the go and drove there instead. I’ll be back, though. Hopefully, I can make it to Ireland sooner than later and have a creamy pint of Guinness and surf with you. Your country looks incredible and some of those slabs and waves look next level.