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By Jake Howard

A lot has changed since the halcyon days when Matt “Archy” Archbold, Christian Fletcher and Dino Andino ruled Trestles and T-Street some 30 years ago.

“It’s definitely different,” explained Archy when I caught up with him for an interview for The Surfer’s Journal a while back. “I don’t know what it is, but you go out at Lowers and there’s a hundred little groms out there. They’re ripping and stuff—but they say it’s hard to get a wave. They’ve definitely got a lot of energy. I guess I used to do the same thing when I was a kid, and in that sense not much has changed, but I think it just gets more and more crowded every year. And with the electric bikes, everybody’s going down there.”

Perhaps part of the issue is that, for better or worse, surfing has evolved into a more “respectable” youth sport akin to soccer or baseball. Organizations like the National Scholastic Surfing Association and the Western Surfing Association are competitive and talent-rich. This area also happens to be the premier hotbed for surf talent in the country. Parents who see potential career paths for their kids may opt to homeschool them so they can hit the beach during the optimum tides and swells.

“When I was growing up, my mom was at work, my dad was at work, and I don’t think they ever saw me surf until I was way older, but now you see the whole family down there,” Archy continued. “Dads down filming every single session. These kids got coaches and mentors. We didn’t have any of that stuff. Everybody had their own style. Now all the kids just watch each other and it’s all the same.”

Matt ‘Archy’ Archbold has been recognized for his unique style in surfing, crafting it on the waves in San Clemente, but he’s also noticed the sport evolve over time. Photo: Courtesy of San Clemente Boardriders
Matt ‘Archy’ Archbold has been recognized for his unique style in surfing, crafting it on the waves in San Clemente, but he’s also noticed the sport evolve over time. Photo: Courtesy of San Clemente Boardriders

When it comes to style, Archy’s is often idolized but never replicated. A decade ago, I was working on SURFER Magazine’s guest editor issue with Andy and Bruce Irons. Andy, who passed away in 2010, was matter-of-fact that Archy was his favorite surfer and made sure that the magazine ran his favorite photo of him (a Jeff Divine image of Archy smashing a close-out section at Off The Wall in Hawaii). Andy saw Archy as the punk rock, “built for speed” stylist who could do it all and always somehow appeared in complete control.

“Sometimes people have their own style and then someone else says, ‘Oh, you gotta fix this.’ And that’s kind of taking away from their style,” Archy said. “Look at MR’s (Mark Richards) style, they called him the Wounded Gull. He wouldn’t have been allowed to develop like that today. Or Rabbit’s (Wayne Bartholomew) style. They surfed different. And that’s what I’m trying to say: everybody needs to have their own style. They need to be themselves. If something is awkward, it’s going to stick out, and people might be like, ‘Wow, that’s pretty cool, man.’ That’s one thing I see in surfing these days, everyone is trying to focus on just doing the same kind of thing. They don’t venture out and be themselves. That’s what I’m always trying to do. I let people influence my surfing, but I’ve tried to retain my own style.”

Just the other day, a photo of Archy splayed out in one of his timeless, layback, forehand gaffs was making the rounds on social media. Shot during the last run of swell, it was as relevant a surf image as any on Instagram.

“Just going down the line and telegraphing airs, that has to change,” Archy said. “It needs to get back to rail surfing, fast and carvey. That’s surfing. Doing a cutback, like a tight roundhouse cutback, that’s part of surfing. You have to know how to do a roundhouse cutback, how to get barreled, a bottom turn, just having a good bottom turn that sets you up for the lip is so important and so overlooked today. I just think those are the fundamentals. You have to have a good bottom turn if you want to get to the top of the wave.

“I want to see power surfing,” answered Archy when asked what he’d like to see more of in the water. “When I was growing up, that’s what I was looking up to—just pure power surfing. Speed and style, I just love that. That’s what I love about surfing. You can do whatever you want to do on the wave, not what someone else wants you to do. That’s why I’m still surfing today.”

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