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Silent Warrior: The Josh Mulcoy Interview

Oct 23, 2005

Author: Yassine Ouilihal

Like his infamous father, Harbour Bill, Josh Mulcoy is another pioneering and influential individual. One of the first professional surfers to fully embrace the power that a kite can give to a surfboard, Mulcoy isn’t concerned about what the surf media may say. When the wind is up, he kites; when the waves are good, he surfs. It’s not about classifications. It’s about being on the water. And there’s a good chance he’s out there twice as much as any surfer.
    The kite has opened up a whole new realm of waveriding for Mulcoy. And as the popularity of kiting in the waves continues to grow, he is there at the forefront of the movement. Whether other surfers choose to follow in his wake remains to be seen. What is certain is that Mulcoy will be tearing up the waves for years to come—with and without a kite.

First things first: Why do people call you Homer?
When I was a kid, I started calling my dad Homer because I thought it was a funny name. But then it backfired, and everyone started calling me Homer. At the time I didn’t go out much. It was basically school and surf, and that was all I wanted to do. If I wasn’t doing either one of those, I would be at home usually sleeping. Then as I got older, if I wasn’t traveling, I liked spending a lot of time at my house. Therefore the nickname Homer.

You are known as the son of Santa Cruz, California, surf legend “Harbour” Bill Mulcoy. What’s it been like growing up surfing with your dad?
I feel very fortunate to have him as my dad. Besides being just a good dad, he has introduced me to the ocean. He has been my best friend since I can remember. He taught me to enjoy what I’m doing and to surf and kite for the enjoyment of it all, not for the hype. There has been some interesting times growing up surfing with him. He is so passionate about surfing. He is 56, living in Hawaii, up early every morning and still surfing on a 6’2”. He usually surfs longer than I do. I don’t think I’ve met anyone that loves the ocean more than him. He is a huge inspiration.
    He got in trouble for surfing the harbour in Santa Cruz. He became like a folk hero. The harbour patrol couldn’t catch him because they could never figure out his last name until Surfer magazine wrote his last name in the magazine. Then the police showed up at the door looking for him, and he had to deal with that. I have this newspaper clipping that says, “Harbour Bill: Arrested” on the front page. And below it, in a smaller article, it says, “President Reagan was shot today.” My dad took the charges all the way to the end and beat them in court. The harbour patrol would give out tickets for surfing out there when there wasn’t even a law against it.

How did you pick up a kite?
Stretch had this video of Peter Trow kiting in Baja, and it looked like tow-surfing. He was ripping these waves to pieces. There is a surf spot just up from Waddell [California], and I would drive by and watch those guys kite, and it looked super fun. It turned the lineup into a big water park. Then I talked with Dave Broome, and he hooked me up with some kites and gave me a lot of advice. The rest is history.

You kite and travel with Peter Trow. Being the wave master he is, has it helped you?
I feel very fortunate Peter took me under his wing along with Flexifoil. He has helped me get out of Waddell and travel and kite many other locations. He pushes me when I ride with him. He’s been so focused on waves, he does unreal things with a kite and pushes it to a whole other level. He has been of great help with my boards. Him and Stretch have been working on the directional boards for years. When people only rode twin-tips, they were making directionals, so I walked right into getting insane boards.

Did you get a lot of shit from surfers for kiteboarding? Does your image suffer because you’re a surfer-kiteboarder?
The surf-kite thing is pretty funny to me. I hear so many different opinions on it. Most surfers don’t ever see it, so they figure you’re out there dangling from these lines. I was asked about kiting in a recent surf mag; I explained how stoked I was on it, all the new approaches it gives me to riding waves. Then the article came out and it said, “So we hear you are into kiteboarding. Isn’t that kind of like getting caught with a fat chick?” I got a good laugh out of it. The other question a lot of surfers love to ask is, why I wear shorts over my wetsuit. Surfers think that is the funniest thing ever. Lately, when I’ve been on surf trips, I bring a copy of Soul Fly and get to show my friends why I kiteboard and ride waves. When they see the video they are super psyched. It seems that surfers want to ride waves, and when they see what you actually can do with a kite in the surf, they are stoked. I think kiting has a ways to go to be accepted in the surf world, but all in all, that is what we are doing in the surf: surfing. So hopefully there will be more input from the mags and videos to capture what people are doing in the surf. That will hopefully bring some of the surf money into the sport to help it grow more. My surf sponsors now are really stoked on the fact that I kite. Hopefully it will open new doors for them to crossover to a new sport.

How do kiteboarding and surfing complement each other?
Surfing and kiting are a perfect balance. If it gets windy, I’m kiting; and if it isn’t, I’m surfing. I get a lot of the same feelings kiting waves as I get from surfing. If the surf hasn’t been good for surfing but good for kiting, when I do finally get back on my surfboard, I don’t feel rusty because I still have been riding waves and getting a lot of time standing on a board.

Do you always bring your kite with you on surf trips?
I always bring my kite stuff on my surf trips. That is the best thing, when the wind comes up and everyone surfing is bummed, then I’m stoked while everyone is bored, and I still get water time. I’ve had some good sessions on my trips at places where there aren’t any kiters and I’m the only one out because these are more of surf destinations than wind destinations. It also goes the other way: If I go on a kite trip and there isn’t any wind, then I’m surfing the whole time. I’ve been places on kite trips and had perfect waves without any surfers because they are kite destinations.

When you are out kiting, do you consider that you’re surfing with your kite or that you kiting with your surfboard?
When I’m kiting I use a directional or my surfboard. The best for me is to be slightly underpowered and to use the power of the wave. I hate being yanked around by the kite. I don’t ride well like that. If I can use the power of the wave and the board, it seems more like surfing to me, and to use the kite to make sections of the wave. The kite is an incredible tool for riding waves. There is so much you can do with a kite and a lot of different approaches to every changing wave. I don’t like to go to the flats of waves; I really want to ride it like I’m surfing.

Following in your footsteps, will more surfers crossover to kiteboarding?
Hopefully more surfers will get into it. I think it would be really good for the sport. It would be great to see the approaches people would come up with riding waves. Every time I get something written about me in a surf mag, they’re talking about kiteboarding. In the latest Surfer mag, in an article from a trip I was on, they were talking about how Josh Angulo and myself were going back and forth about him and windsurfing and me and kiting. It was the nonstop heckle: I would call him the “Windboarder.” Hopefully surfers will read about kiting and want to get into it.

What do you see as the future of kiteboarding?
The future of kiteboarding is in the waves. There is so much possibility with a kite in the surf. The sport is so new, and people are just starting to really figure out waveriding. I think people will be doing things with the help of a kite that on just a surfboard would be impossible.

Will we see the tubemeister getting fully tubed with a kite?
Hopefully this year I will get to travel to some places where there are some good barrels with wind. I still haven’t found a place that is real hollow with wind, but it definitely is out there. I really enjoy riding hollow waves when I’m surfing. So if I got to ride a hollow wave on a kite, I would be super stoked. It would be insane, really, to ride the barrel on a kite. It would be like tow-surfing, flying through the barrel with all that speed. Yeah, I really hope this year I get to go to a place that is super hollow and get tubed with a kite.

“Then the article came out, and it said, ‘So we hear you are into kiteboarding. Isn’t that kind of like getting caught with a fat chick?’ ”

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