When an international community gets wind of a place they didn't realise have waves, it has a tendency to set comment sections on fire. Take for example, a recent post on Reddit, which showed a pumping, meaty A-frame out of Jersey, part of the channel Islands off the coast of the UK. Jaws suddenly hit digital tiles, fingers ham fisted 'where is this' into a keyboard as quick as they could. The reality is, yes, there're waves in most places surrounded by open ocean and Jersey's actually responsible for churning out some of the more prominent movers and shakers in the Euro surf scene.
Perhaps most well-known is 11 x European longboard champ, Ben Skinner who hails from Jersey but now calls Cornwall home. Jersey's also responsible for one of the longest-running surf clubs in Europe (hell, maybe even the longest), which opened doors in 1959. So it's no wonder that this rich heritage is passed down through generations. Now, hoping to fly the Jersey flag, is 21-year-old Charlie Rio, who is aiming to grind it out on the QS and put Jersey back on the map. His latest edit is below, from the land of never-ending rights, aka, Morocco.
Spot guide: Jersey
As any aspiring surfer will tell you, getting noticed in the age of social media and influencers is hard. Being a young gun on an island most people wouldn't associate with waves, is hard. But let's not pick the meat from the bones just yet. We caught up with Charlie to talk the Jersey scene, his hopes, waves during the winter and going all in on the QS.
Hey Charlie, tell us a bit about yourself
Hey, yeah, I’m 21-years-old. I grew up on the Island of Jersey which has always had a strong surf scene. Growing up in such a small island, you have a limited number of hobbies. Being surrounded by water and only living a 5-minute drive to the beach, learning to surf was going to happen sooner or later.
When I was seven, I surfed my first wave which was at my local surf spot The Watersplash. Between the ages of seven and 12 I was in and out of surfing and surfed when I could get a lift down from my mum. I was 12 when I competed in my first competition and after that I was hooked, surfing as much as I could, for as long as I could. Which still hasn’t changed.
A life based around surfing, is that something you've wanted to do for a long time?
Since I started competing at a young age, I’ve always wanted to do the international route, travelling the world on the QS circuit. I’ve been lucky enough to have already visited some amazing places and surfed world class waves like Pipeline, Trestles, Moroccan points and so many more.
There’s still so much of the world I haven’t been to. Being able to compete as an athlete, travelling across the globe is mine, and I’m sure a lot of other young surfers’, dreams.
It's got to be tough, there's not a lot of infrastructure around in Jersey, right? What made you want to commit to that?
Jersey has a large surf scene for a small population of just over 100,000 people. Our most popular surf beach, which as five miles long, and has a handful of spots that work best an hour after low or high tide, if you know where to look. Being an island and surrounded by corners of coastline, we have a small number of spots which come alive when the Channels getting battered by a strong storm.
Tell us a bit about the surf scene in Jersey?
Although the infrastructure of Jersey’s surf scene isn’t much, our local surf club (Jersey Surfboard Club) is the oldest in Europe and was created in 1959. Since then, we’ve been the location for some several national events and a fair amount of international back in the day.
Sadly, due to the economic infrastructure of sport not thriving like it used to, Jersey’s surf scene doesn’t give young surfers the opportunities that it used to. Which makes being a competitive surfer harder, much more expensive and the need to take risks due to having to leave the island on a regular basis to pursue a competitive career.
How hard is it to get recognition from global surf media?
Growing up anywhere as a surfer and wanting to make a life out of it is a lot harder than it used to be. Companies don’t have as much money and media coverage isn’t as unique due to the blow up of social media platforms.
For me, living on a small island in the Channel Islands has made it even harder to get recognised from global surf media as Jersey isn’t exactly as exciting a tour-based location like, say, Hawaii, Brazil, Australia... The only way I can see getting global recognition would be through grinding it out year after year on the QS until everything goes right.
Obviously, Ben Skinner, one of the greatest longboarders in Europe who originated from Jersey, how do you think that came about?
Ben’s an inspiration to the world in terms of any board sport. He grew up in Jersey then moved to the mainland. Fortunately, he kept to his roots in many international competitions by flying the Jersey flag high and proud.
Ben coming from Jersey and growing up surfing our waves, it really shows how good are waves are for longboarding, especially in summer when the waves are small and offshore a lot of the time.
Tell us about some of the waves there, what’s it like in the winter?
For how small our island is, we’ve got so many different types of waves. This is because of our tidal range nearly reaching the size of 12 metres on our huge spring tides. The best time to surf in Jersey is in Autumn or Spring as is most of Europe.
Although, in winter when you get large offshore swell you can clock up to six hours of surfing with three or four surfs being at completely different spots. In winter, Jersey gives you the opportunity from barrels to leg burners. Sadly, like most of the UK we get battered by westerly swells and winds, but every now and again when the wind decides to turn around, it pumps.
How does it compare to anywhere else in the world?
Jersey to me doesn’t compare with many places in the world. No matter where you are and it’s pumping at home, there’s not many places you’d rather be. Although, the waves we’ve got in Spring and Autumn can relate to the south of France (a much weaker version) and on its day, you can surf hollow low-tide waves, drive a couple hundred metres up the road to score leg burning rights, then another couple hundred metres to hollow, shore-break high tide spots.
No matter where you are and it’s pumping at home, there’s not many places you’d rather be
On its day, you can really be spoilt for waves over here, if you know here to look. There are not many places in the world that compare to Jersey which makes it unique.
Would you move somewhere like France, to be closer to the Euro QS?
France is only an hour on the ferry then a 7-hour drive to Hossegor. I’m lucky to live so close to France, it makes a surf trip to warmer places a driving distance away. When competing on the Euro QS air-travel is an easier but more expensive option as there’s a good amount of competitions in a short space of time.
The best and cheapest way would be to get a van and make it ready for sleeping as well as storing all the equipment. This way, you can stop-off in between contests and find new places which you’ve never heard of. That’s what I’m planning on doing once the WSL have got thing rolling again.
Good luck with your mission Charlie!