SURFING, Blog Posts

The World Champ Surfs the Pier

I can’t remember the first time I met Justin Quintal, it’s possible we never formally introduced ourselves, but after repeatedly trading waves at surf spots around northeast Florida we just started recognizing each other. Remembering each other’s name was easy. We share the same first name. As time went on I recognized a bunch of other similarities. Both goofy footed, rode longboards, had the same zip code, frequented the same surf spots, religiously ate at the same sub shop, graduated from the same college, worked in the surf industry, and founded small businesses. The similarities stop there, I run a creative agency, and Quintal a surfboard company. He is the current world champ on the World Surf League’s professional longboard tour. I haven’t surfed in over six months.

Work and  family have taken priority over my surfing, but my love for the activity has not wavered. I picked up a longboard for the first time in between classes at UNF after growing tired of trying to ride shortboards on small mushy waves. I blame the waves, but it’s not their fault that I struggled on them. Longboarding would prove to be a much better vehicle for me to enjoy Florida’s waves. I vividly remember the first time I saw someone cross stepping gracefully to the nose of their longboard (taking shoulder width steps by placing your back foot in front of your front foot while your surfboard is in trim). I wanted to learn how. Shuffling would have no place on any of my boards over 9 feet. In my opinion, there was and is no one better in the state of Florida than Mr. Quintal at cross stepping his way to the nose and hanging toes (usually 10) and sometimes heels. He’s 10 years my junior, but light years beyond my abilities.  I admired his talents and wanted to emulate his surfing. I can honestly say that watching Justin ride the nose helped my surfing. While I’ll never be world champ, I’m a better surfer for having the opportunity to share waves with the guy. Justin and I have drifted apart over the years, but every time we see each other in the water, we both say in unison, “What’s up Justin?”

Fast forward to 2021, and the reason for this article. A mutually good friend, Carl Rosen, proposed that we ask Quintal to come over and surf the Gulf. My company hired Carl to create films for the launch of this very website. Justin obliged and packed up his Subaru Outback to make the 375 mile trek across the state. We hoped that he’d catch the cleanup from a late season cold front. The timing proved to be perfect, the sandbar on the west side of the pier was working, and a light north wind groomed the waist to chest high swell into playful longboard waves. Justin wasted no time cross stepping his way to the nose for our cameras. Wave after wave, Quintal effortlessly walked back and forth across his board, sometimes hanging 5, others 10. A combination of hard work, determination, talent and tenacity propelled Justin to the highest level in professional competitive longboarding, but he’d tell you nothing beats the feeling of gliding over crystal clear water without the pressure of a contest.

The Gulf of Mexico is a special place to surf, and it only graces its residents with excellent waves every so often. Gulf Coasters slog it out in less than ideal conditions more often than not, so sharing these conditions with the champ and memorializing the day in photos and ultra high def clips cements this tiny blip on the radar of time as something more than just another day in the surf. Catching perfect longboard waves on the Gulf Coast is something we recommend for every traveling surfer, not just world champs. Keep an eye on the cold fronts and you may just find yourself perched on the nose in Pensacola Beach.