Surfing legend Ruby Naish: ‘I gave my life to a stranger’

AZ Interview with Robby Naish: Hawaiian surfing legend is a multi-world champion and still competing at the age of 57.

AZ: Aloha, Mr. Naish, how are you? What does life look like for a surfing symbol in the US now?
Ruby Naish: Okay. Aside from the fact that he’s a little crazy everywhere these days. But if you have to get past that nonsense, Hawaii is a good place to do it.

Over the decades of your career, you’ve earned as many flying miles as few people on the planet. For a while now, the navigation has ended more or less. How do you deal with that?
I miss it, which is strange: I’ve been traveling from one trip to the next, across the world, for nearly all of my adult life. And now at home for so long! My schedule was full, I had to cancel several appointments – it was kind of a fun experience. Luckily we had really good conditions for all kinds of watersports here all summer and relatively few restrictions due to Corona. We were allowed to go on the water, almost nothing, much less traffic, almost no tourists at all.

“The movie took nearly five years to finish.”

A new “longest wave”, a documentary about you that should have been in the cinema by now.
There is probably no worse time to make a movie than it was in 2020. It took nearly five years for the movie to finish – and then something like that! I would be in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland all September promoting the film – all postponed until 2021.

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Do you want to buy a sunshine? She didn’t want a classic action movie about surfing.
Certainly not what people expect. It is not “look, am I amazing ?!” I really don’t want that. When Red Bull came up with the idea a few years ago, I said, “No, I’m not ready to look back.” Over time, I became friendly with the idea – as long as the movie might be a little different Joe Berlinger joined the board as director.

. . Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker.
He has a very different background, and has never made a sports movie, but documentaries on Metallica and completely different deep subjects such as the indigenous legal battle of the Ecuadorian Amazon against Texaco. Then I knew: He was going to make a completely different movie.

“There were some challenges, but in the end I’m very happy.”

How did the collaboration go?
I gave him the car keys, so to speak. It’s his movie, and I have nothing to do with the structure of the movie. Everything evolved over time. At first, we didn’t even know what sports to revolve around: surfing, kite flying, and standing kayaking. Let the idea grow organically. There were some challenges, but in the end I am very happy. The movie presents a very difficult period in my life. It’s a movie about our relationship with time: What happens when we get old? How do we deal with that? It’s an amazing movie – exactly what I wanted.

How was it seeing the final movie for the first time?
Scary. I was never in the editorial room, did not know which music was chosen, and I knew nothing. My life was practically given to a stranger. Even if it was someone I knew who was very good at what he did.

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Shortly before filming began, you had this horrible pelvis open fracture on the blackboard during a photo session in May 2016, which you almost bled to death?
We were about to go on a trip to Namibia with the film crew when that happened. Trauma Handling, Rehabilitation: It’s All In The Film. It was the first injury in my entire career – interesting to see it again in the movie. Then another injury: a broken foot, exactly one year later. I couldn’t go into the water for seven months! Longer than after a pelvic fracture.

As a businessman, you didn’t feel well during this time either, as was the divorce from your second wife – as if a mean screenwriter wanted to make life difficult for you.
Oh man, something was really going on at the time! And it will surprise many that we shot the movie during this time! But this is life, this is my life: not always perfect. I didn’t mean to hide the dark side. The movie shows how she got hit so badly – and how she got out of it again, one hundred percent, in and out of the water.

“The water is forgiving. Down, get up and try again.”

How was it going back to the water after a pool break? Weren’t you a little pissed off your favorite item?
The water is very tolerant, very tolerant. If you cut yourself, do it yourself, you’ve been incredibly lucky for a very, very long time. If I had chosen any other sport, my body would have been completely ruined long ago. Fall on ice, snow, concrete or ground! Even Tennis or Golf: It ended up in the shoulders and elbows at some point! Water, on the other hand, is tolerant. Drop by, get up, and try again.

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Not thinking at least letting the competitions stay?
In my head, I’ve always been competing against myself. My sport is not about hitting another man. It’s like coming back from an injury: ?? I can do it! I am back to my level! “It’s not that I long for my retirement to have time for something else – go fishing or become a gardener. There is no hidden passion that pushes out. I still want to be on the water.

There is no age limit on the blackboard?
My friends on board at the age of 70 or 80 are still enjoying the wind and the waves.

However, you’re spoiled for choice every morning: kiteboard, windsurfing, or SUP.
It always depends on the circumstances – on the development schedule and the product cycle. I am constantly testing. It’s a non-stop mix. And always applies the following sentence: You never get too old to have fun!

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