Barton Lynch

Former World Champion Barton Lynch is on a mission to "share the stoke". Literally. Since contests worldwide got canceled, Lynch started the BL Blast Off Global Video Challenge to encourage grommets from all over the world to share their skill and stoke for surfing. "We're giving these kids something to focus on and something to be a part of. Something to put their heart into and not get affected by the fear that's permeating their world." 
Barton Lynch has worked with an impressive list of renowned surf athletes including Sally Fitzgibbons, Kolohe Andino, Ella Williams, Koa Smith, Laura Enever, Wade Carmichael, Soli Bailey.

 


Barton and I met in a glory Zoom meeting whilst he was quarantining in Hawaii and I was sitting in his hometown, the northern Beaches of Sydney, shortly after being released from hotel quarantine myself. Besides collective blow-ups about the new normal of border closures and bureaucratic forces, we talked about the Blast Off challenge, changes in the World Surf League and the massive progress of female surfers.

Barton Lynche Smile
Barton Lynch sharing the stoke!


When did you start coaching groms?

I suppose my coaching started with myself. It was the first grom I coached. I was pretty conscientious about the way I trained, prepared, and studied for what I did. Then when I retired in '97, that's when I started coaching others, so it's been over 20 years. I've coached absolutely every level, from beginners to world champions. I really enjoy that learning curve of trying to work with different people and share information with all the different types of people.

Are you still coaching professional surfers at the moment, even though the tour has been canceled?

I do. I currently work with some aspiring surfers for the tour, such as Mahina Maeda and Vahine Fierro. It's been interesting the way people have responded to that - a whole year off. Some people have stayed on the job and just kept focused and kept working, then others have had a bit of a holiday.

How do you feel about Pipeline as a single World Tour event?

I personally don't like it. I think pipeline's where you finish. Pipeline is where the history is, it's where the tradition is. It's provided this amazing platform for so many great world title showdowns over the years that I feel like sometimes tradition is more valuable.
I just like the idea of things being decided over 12 months in all types of conditions. I don’t see anything wrong with the traditional way of running a tour. Perhaps it is the commerciality of it. Maybe it's not a profitable business model. Is it meant to be a business model? Is it meant to satisfy those objectives? It's a big philosophical question, I suppose.

Barton Lnynche Wsl
Photo: WSL


Talking about a profitable business model, do you think we will have to pay to watch surfing in the future?

I would be open to it. I don't mind the idea of subscribing to it and paying to watch. If that was a part of a business model that helped the sport survive, then why not. It doesn't get by without money.

When you look at the progressive surfing of young girls, do you think women surfing will change because they get more support in the modern world?

You already see it. I think it's fair to say that if you go back in time, the world wasn't as fair a place. People and the community weren’t as respectful. Women had those challenges, and people from socio-economic groups who were down the food chain had those problems. People of color had those problems. There's like a ruling class that's telling everyone else what to do. In a sense, surfing was a microcosm of the real world. It wasn't as nice. It wasn't as considerate. It wasn't as respectful. Women certainly, weren't treated in a fair way.

 

They were put in the water when the waves were crap. They were like the sideshow.


I think you could look at what the marketability of a person was, and the marketability of that surfer would directly impact their sponsorship, would directly impact their- as a byproduct of everything, just their results. It was harder for people that didn't fit the blond hair, blue eyes, whatever that sexy image was. That is happening, and I suppose the wave pools and the consistent learning environment of not having to challenge other people for waves, a turn, or an opportunity, has helped girl surfing on its own.

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Do you feel like females get the same attention as male surfers?

It's always evolving. The positive is the fact that at least there's consciousness around it. Females are actually winning awards like Maya Gabeira and Justine Dupont in Big Wave Surfing. The only thing is they might not be talking about it, but if they keep winning, they will.
I suppose what happened was, all of a sudden, they put them in good waves and went, "Well, they surf pretty good, eh?". You're giving them a chance finally.

Does the WSL encourage this progress?

I think they are, and WSL has taken the lead. They've been fantastic, and they've done things they weren't commercially or politically pushed to do. For me, one of the signs for this development was that they respect the surfers – Back when I was on the ASP tour, they didn't really respect us. We were just something they used. If it wasn't you, it'd be someone else, so shut up. 


The Blast Off was found as an event hold in Australia, when did it become international?

There was this physical expansion or glow of the idea starting to happen naturally. After we have done 15 years in Sydney, we took the Blast Off to Bali in 2019, which was really successful. For 2021 we were looking at taking it to the Maldives, and there still might be a chance to run it. We're talking to Kandooma Resort about that and they're keen.

 Blast Off Poster

How did the video challenge get started?

I'd had this idea in my head to do a video challenge for a while, and when we had to cancel those physical events, it just seemed like the perfect time to do it. We took it on, we changed track and created something new.

At first, we just looked at it primarily as a proof of concept and to see if the idea was viable or valuable to the kids. The physical events have got a very different energy, a different vibe. It's not like any other surfing event or the coaching programs.

Since all the physical events got canceled, we're giving these kids something to focus on and something to be a part of. Something to put their heart into and not get affected by the fear that's permeating their world. For the kids, it seems important to have something in surfing that connects them with each other and fills them with stoke. They are meeting kids from all around the world and talking about coming and surf their waves together one day.
It’s about building that community of stoke. It's special work in that sense. It's awesome!

Who can join the challenge?

People think about surfing contests as being for the good surfers. The Blast Off is for anyone who wants to be a part of it. We have people who are going in their first surfing event ever as well as the best kids in the country, and they're all in there together. There's no bias or no looking down on people, no judgment and weirdness because everyone's getting the same coaching and the same attention and support, whether you're a good surfer or an average surfer, doesn't matter.

We wondered if that would translate in an online virtual form of event, and it did. People started sending us videos that were just full of stoke. They're not great surfers, they're just recreational surfers who just want to be a part of it.

Bl Sydney
BL Blast Off in Sydney 2019. Photo: Jack Barripp

Who gets rewards?

Of the six weeks, we give stuff away every day. We have that general rewarding, where we give stuff to kids who put smiles on our faces. They can be the best surfers, have the gnarliest wipeouts, or just frothing and spreading their stoke to be a part of the community.

Then we have an expert’s choice vote decided by Jack Robinson, Vahine Fierro, Kyuss King, Mahina Maeda, Eli Hanneman, and me. They're five of the best young surfers in the world… and this old fella. The winners will get a coaching boat trip with me to the Maldives.

And then we'll have public vote winners for the most likes, who will get a coaching trip to the Surf Lakes facility in North Queensland.


Coaching, a frothing community and big prices - Go out there and share some stoke groms!

 

Anyone who is 14 years and under as of the 31st of October can join the BL Blast Off Video Challenge HERE. Good luck and keep frothing! 

 

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Credits 

BL Blast Off 
Jack Barripp
WSL