Asher Clark : what surfing means to me
Asher Clark is the Design Director and co-founder at Vivobarefoot, the footwear brand behind the shoes and trainers worn by The Wave team. He’s also a keen amateur surfer, and we recently talked to him about how he got started, what he loves about it, and why surfing de-stresses him.
What do you love about surfing?
It’s that reconnection idea, you and nature connecting at the most powerful level. Wherever you are, you’re paddling out as just an individual in the ocean, and trying to align with it so that you can get that wave, and feel that feeling. The feeling you get riding a wave never fades.
How did you start?
In Bantham in south Devon on a family holiday. I was a skinny little eight year old and I could barely move in the neoprene wetsuit of the day, let alone stand up on my board! I spent many years paddling before I started surfing, and to this day my paddling to surfing ratio is still not where I want it to be.
Who/what inspired you?
I was always into skateboarding as a kid, and taking that to waves when I was by the sea felt like the obvious progression
What was the hardest thing about improving?
I would have benefited from lessons, and from having a bigger board early on. I’d also say you need time in the water, paddle fitness, and ultimately wave time.
What has surfing taught you about life?
Two things. First, you only catch the waves that you paddle for. I think that’s a Laird Hamilton quote. Second, don’t f*** with Mother Nature.
What has it taught you about your body?
That it’s very difficult to train for surfing unless you’re surfing! That being said, doing press ups and swimming will build your upper body fitness and help you catch more waves.
Does it de-stress you, and if so how and why?
Absolutely. Everyone wants to improve their wellbeing and surfing does that in spades. Your brain and body are ancient bits of kit in the big scheme of things, and they’ve spent the majority of their existence surrounded by nature and moving a lot. When you starve them of that, it’s been proven to affect your mental and physical vitality, anxiety, and stress.
What are the greatest myths or misconceptions about it?
I’m not sure, but I’d say there’s a big problem in that when you talk about nature and health it’s considered not scientific, not textbook stuff. Thankfully that’s changing, and the sooner the better for everyone.
What should a newbie do if they feel a bit self conscious?
Wear that self-consciousness with pride, and just be humble. It will take everyone a bit of time to get going.
What’s the best wave you ever surfed?
I would say my first proper little barrels at Bingin beach in Bali. It was a profound experience – I remember getting one after another, with just a few people out on the sea. I’m hoping that the Bristol barrels at The Wave will feel the same…
The Wave is built on the idea that people would benefit mentally and physically from spending more time in natural surroundings, and experiencing natural forces. Is that an idea you share?
100%. I think we are living in an interesting time where we are chronically overstimulated in some areas and massively under stimulated in others….technology has changed exponentially but our physiology has basically been the same for 200,0000 years and we are starting to realise that this disconnection (time we spent indoors and on screens) is absolutely affecting our mental and physical health in ways that we are only just starting to understand… you don’t need a guy in a white coat to tell you that the benefits of getting out the city, off your phone and into nature!
I think technology has a very powerful role to play if it is in line with natural principles. We like to say we don’t make shoes, we make footwear that literally brings you closer to nature! I like to think that the upstream effect of shoes like Vivo and experiences like The Wave will play a big part in not just people’s wellbeing but in people valuing nature which until more of us do the future of our planet is looking pretty grim.
Do you think we tend to neglect the sensation in our feet and legs?
Yes. Your feet have the same amount of nerve endings as your hands and like your hands they are designed to feel. Your feet are perfect bits of kit with a key role being as movement sensors so your brain it getting the information it needs move naturally and skilfully.
There are sports like boxing, gymnastics, martial arts, where this idea of foot dexterity and of ground feel are totally understood and probably nowhere more than in surfing with board feel! That’s why I think there is a powerful connection between surfing and barefoot performance – it’s hard to argue that a strong, wide, natural shape foot that is not bent out of shape by shoes is not going to be better for surfing!
Vivobarefoot make shoes designed wide, thin and flexible and with sustainable materials that let your feet move more naturally, with more stability and feel the ground beneath you, they are worn by the team at The Wave.