South To Sian: An Interview With Harrison Roach

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posted by James Willmott

After 6 months of travelling, surfing, riding and shooting, 2 months of sorting through footage and editing, and a 1 month world tour through 12 countries – South To Sian is now finally available to watch digitally, exclusively on Garage Entertainment.

It’s been quite the ride for Harrison Roach, Zye Norris and Director Dustin Humphrey. The trio have spent plenty of down time on the production of Deus Ex Machina’s latest masterpiece. We wanted to find out more about their adventure, get down to the nitty gritty – the high moments, the low moments and everything in between.

Our pals at Garage Entertainment caught up with Harrison Roach to discuss all things South To Sian, here’s what the man of the hour had to say.

Thanks for catching up with us Harrison, what an adventure! There are few people in the world lucky enough to get this opportunity. How did South To Sian come about for yourself and Zye?
I think Dustin and I were a little surprised at the success of I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night and we were sitting around at the Temple Of Enthusiasm in Bali wondering how we should back it up. He had always dreamt of road tripping through Indonesia when he was younger, and I loved the idea of experiencing the country that way, so we decided to have a crack at it. We thought it would be interesting to bring Zye along because he was so green. I guess we wanted to throw him in the deep end and watch how well he swam. He’s the kind of guy who is always willing to have a go, so we knew it would be interesting to see him push himself. We called Zye up and he was just as keen as we were. 

Dustin Humphrey seems to have Indonesia dialled, how long had he been planning this epic road trip, did you give input or have full trust in Dustin?
Dustin has been in Indonesia for something like 18 years. It’s crazy. He travelled almost everywhere in the islands during his career as a photographer and his knowledge of the surf spots is solid. He’s got the archipelago tattooed on his arm, and I guess one day while he was staring at it he had the idea for us to drive from Sumbawa to Nias. In saying that, this was a new experience for everyone. Our planning only consisted of organising a good car, a couple of motorbikes, the surfboards and the camera gear. We had our start and end point and the rest we’d figure out as we went. 

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What went into the planning of South To Sian? 6 months on the Indonesian road is a long time. Did you wing it or map out the best breaks and places to travel?
Like I said there wasn’t a lot of planning. With Dustin’s, Anthony Dodd’s and my knowledge of Indonesia we had a good idea of what we might come across. There are an innumerable amount of waves between East Nusa Tengerra and Nias and we hoped to surf some of the classic ones as well as the lesser known ones. And as for riding motorbikes, those opportunities came up as we were travelling. 

Tell us about your quiver, it seems you rode every board imaginable in all types of waves with multiple fin setups.
My quiver is the result of the shapers in residency program that the Deus Temple Of Enthusiasm runs. I get the opportunity to work with a crazy array of shapers. Guys like Bob Mctavish, Rich Pavel, Neal Purchase Jnr, Thomas Bexon… its one of the best things about working with Deus. I’ve got some weird complex too where I can’t ride the same boards all the time. Almost every time I surf I ride something different. It’s how I stay inspired. Longboards, thrusters, bonzers… it doesn’t matter. 

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You ride just about anything that floats and all extremely well – is there a particular board and fin combination you prefer or favour?
No, I can’t stick to anything. The dream is to always have the right board for the conditions. Everything works in its own way. Luckily for this trip we had a huge roof rack on the car. I took almost every board I owned and really attempted to ride them all.

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The waves! I doubt I’ve seen such perfection in my life, you absolutely scored. Any particular sessions / breaks that stood out for you?
Yeah we did. Indonesia is the best country in the world to score waves, in my opinion. There are so many highlights, but a session we had in Java with no one around stands a little above the rest. Just because it was in the middle of nowhere and very few people have surfed it before. It was a short, punchy slab and I rode a standard shortboard. Lewie Buddons was there. We got tubed and we got slammed. It was everything we could have hoped for. 

 Nias, that last section in the movie is ridiculous, not a drop of water out of place – best session of your life would you say?
I’m not sure whether it was the session of my life. It was definitely one I’ll never forget. Nias is probably my favourite wave and I’ve been lucky enough to score it a couple of times now. What was really special was that we’d made it to the end of the road. We sat in the lineup with this weird sense of pride that can only be felt after you’ve done what you’ve set out to do. 

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Was it good to experience it with your buddy Zye?
It was epic sharing it with Zye and watching him freak out about the quality of the surf. He’s usually a pretty level and understated guy, but in Nias he was so animated and excited. 

Surely you’re rich with incredible stories from this adventure, tell us your best experience and worst during your travels.
The best experience I had was at a kind of secret spot. We were with Lewie in the middle of nowhere. A long way from the nearest paved road, a long way from any well known surf breaks and even further from a surf camp. It was just the three of us in the water and the surf was absolutely pumping. I remember looking at the shore and realising that there was near to no chance of anyone with a surfboard appearing. That was a really special, memorable experience. 

The worst experience… I’ll tell it over campfires and beers for years to come.   

You’re living the dream Harrison – travelling and surfing perfect waves all year round, do you have to stop and pinch yourself sometimes?
If you had have told ten year old Harrison that he would be doing what I’m doing through his mid twenties he’d have freaked. 

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You’ve been North To Noosa, Had Too Much To Dream Last Night and caught the last flight to Agadir – How does South To Sian compare to these trips and films for you?South To Sian was on a much bigger scale. 

I found the moto scenes just as exciting and stunning as the surf scenes, you’ve got skills! How long have you been riding for?
I’ve ridden my whole life but never too seriously. I grew up spending holidays on properties and riding was always a part of it. 

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Is this a passion you and Zye grew up doing or did Deus influence it?
I remember Zye on the day he got his first motorbike. He was probably seven or eight and went straight into the trees. We’ve always done it. 

What bike do you have in your Garage?
I’ve got a DR650. 

You surfed when there were waves and rode moto when it was flat (and needed a break from surfing) What else did you boys do to pass the time during this trip?
We drove and drove and drove and drove and played guitar and cards and squirted out our assholes and got staph and broke down on the sides of roads and in the middle of cites and got drunk and smoked Gudang Guram and other strong Indonesian cigarettes and of course, we ate Pop Mie and drank kopi hitam. 

The cinematography is a big star in South To Sian – Is it Dustin’s fine eye or the landscapes & backdrops of Indo?
It’s definitely both. Indonesia is an incredibly beautiful place but it takes a very fine eye to capture as beautifully as the guys did. 

What adventure next for Harrison Roach?
Only time will tell… 

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Photo credits: Woody G & Anthony Dodds