Youth – Keiran Riches

Sixteen, from Coffs, saver of lives.
Above: The flip that landed Kieran in Riptide’s issue 202 Youth pages. All images: Ben Jackson

RIPTIDE: When and how’d you get into bodyboarding?
KEIRAN: Growing up on the coast has allowed me to grow a passion for the ocean. My grandparents taking me down at such a little age, mucking about in the shories on the boog probably lit a spark. I then started to actually take it up a bit more seriously and get a decent board. Ever since I haven’t had second thoughts on picking it up so thanks to them for starting me off young! Being around the beach and watching the locals tear it up made me keen to go for it more too.

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What’s Coffs Harbour like to grow up as a booger?
I’m pretty lucky growing up in Coffs. I have a couple of older friends who have their licences so I haven’t been stuck with no waves all the time. When I was younger the comp scene was pretty much nonexistent until about a year or two ago when a couple of us got together and got it up and running again (Coffs Harbour Bodyboarding Association). Coffs is still so good in the way of having no waves because there’s still a lot of fun had, whether it be fishing, diving around the islands, playing sport or going for a skate. The setups in Coffs are pretty good when it’s on. We have a couple of really fun wedges and a couple of reefs, as well as a short travel north to a well-known wedge. It’s not very consistent, but when there are waves it can get really fun. I spend most of my time at Gallows – a wedgy beachbreak that can pump. If all else fails you know you’ll probably get an onshore wedge there. I love living in Coffs, but I do hope to move away and experience other places and waves around the world.

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What’s the local boog scene like there?
When I got into the scene a bit more I started surfing with a group of guys. After about year or so they drifted off into other scenes which I didn’t follow and I surfed with whoever was out or up for one. Now I mainly surf with Locky Miller which is good as he has heaps of knowledge of the sport and waves. Surfing with him and an older fellow Dion Myers has been so helpful for my surfing. The highlighters in Coffs would have to definitely be Bosley McGee, Oliver Brearley, Locky Miller, Zafiro Chiossoni, Max Phillips, Dion Myers and Glen Baker who sadly had tragic accident and won’t be surfing again. I am lucky to be growing up surfing around these riders as it makes me want to push my surfing and surf better than them.

Who are your favourite riders in general you love to watch surf and why?
My favourite riders probably be Tom Rigby and Pierre Louis Costes for their super clean styles and how they tear it up, especially with Pierre’s airs! Mitch Rawlins too for his powerful surfing and charging like a madman. They’re the main riders I want to grow up surfing like.

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What effects did the passing of Zac Young in 2013 [in a shark attack] have on the booging scene and local community there?
It’s a tight little bodyboard community around Coffs and the Zac’s passing hit home hard with the reality that things out of our control can make such a huge impact. The scene’s still strong, but there’s always that thought in the back of your head that it could happen again. With all the recent attacks it’s more of a reality. That particular break has been surfed again by a few, but there’s an eerie feeling out there and even when you’re near the place. Local trawlers are always cruising and dumping fresh baited crab pots, which makes it even spookier, especially when you see schools of fish and large tuna jumping metres from the lineup. A life lost at a break will always have a deep impact on the local community. It’s not something that should happen to anyone and my thoughts are with Zac and the people that were a part of his life.

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Looked like you really narrowly missed out on first place in the Jeff Wilcox Juniors final last year – is comp surfing something you’re into a fair bit, or do you prefer your freesurfing?
Yeah, that was a very close final! The comp was heaps fun though. I’m happy with my result. I prefer to freesurf more, chasing swells around and not being so pressured under time constraints and with a specified amount of waves. I do enjoy the comp scene though as you get to travel to different places and find new waves you can come back to further down the track. Last year was my first year in the comp scene outside of the local club ones so it was different. I met new riders and saw what the level was like at different areas, which is heaps good to see and experience. I just missed out on making the finals at Nationals. I was bummed about that, but still happy with my result.

What are your plans with bodyboarding – just taking it as it comes and having fun or are you keen to chase images/video, do bigger comps etc.?
My plan is to just go along with it, have fun all the time in the water and take whatever comes my way, making the most of it. Chasing images is heaps fun for sure! When the swell’s up, capturing moments just makes it better to look back on and to try the mag run or whatnot. With filming… eh. It’s such a struggle. It’s hard to get things how you want because of the unpredictable conditions here. Good consistent waves is what’s needed [for footage], which Coffs doesn’t always have. To have a taste of some bigger comps would be rad – maybe the Pipe comp next year? I’m not too sure yet. I haven’t planned anything, but something could come up.

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Are you still at school? What do you wanna do when you “grow up”?
I just started Year 11. When I’m not schooling or surfing I’ll be working down at the surf club being a dishy [dishwasher]. It’s a tough question for everyone when it comes to what you want to be when you “grow up”. I haven’t figured it out at all really.

Have you travelled much chasing waves?
I haven’t really travelled much for waves. I mainly surf around Coffs, few hours north or south near Forster. I want to finish high school and travel to the world’s best waves though, for sure! Next week, however, I’m actually heading to Hawaii with a group of mates. I’m super amped to go as I’ve not left Oz yet, and seeing the waves that have been pulsing over there recently, it should be a big eye opener and a hell of an experience!

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I saw that a few years ago when you were a hell grommet [12 years old] you rescued a couple of older kids from a rip and got in the local paper!
Well, I’d just returned home from a surf club competition and wanted to go catch a few waves. There was the tail-end of a swell so I made the most of it late in the afternoon Two brothers, about three or four years older than me, had paddled out and I instantly saw they weren’t that confident in the ocean. About 10 minutes later both had lost their boards on the rocks and found themselves in the belly of a rip heading out. Being several metres away I paddled over and gave them both my board to help them stay afloat, and I started to swim to shore. Man, that was a workout and a half! It was a good experience to take on, but scary thinking what could’ve happened if I hadn’t been there at the time.

Any last shout-outs?
Thanks to all my mates that have helped make unforgettable surfs and thanks for driving me places. Thanks to Ben Jackson for being a legend in taking shots of me and getting the shot in Riptide run for me. Shout-outs to the legends from Zion Wetsuits and Pride Bodyboards for having my back! Also to the team down at Coffs Bodyboarding Supplies and anyone else that has helped have fun along the way. Yew!

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