Long Board, Short-Circuited

Dargan Thompson

By Dargan Thompson, Staff Writer

Justin Quintal compares surfing on his longboard to flying.

The UNF business management and marketing senior said there are times when the nose of his board comes out of the water, causing him to hover a few feet over the ocean while he’s hanging ten.

“It feels like you’re just gliding on air, pretty much,” Quintal said. “It’s a really weightless feeling.”

Quintal said he thinks surfing is an art — especially longboarding.

“You really gotta feel the wave,” he said. “It’s kind of like a dance, almost.”

It’s an art form at which Quintal excels. The 21-year-old has won almost every contest he’s competed in the last three years.

Jay Dodson, the contest director of Seven Tiki Pro, an annual shortboard pro surf contest held in Jacksonville Beach, said Quintal is one of the best longboard surfers in the world. Dodson used to work at Sunrise Surf Shop in Jacksonville Beach, which has sponsored Quintal since he was 15.

“He definitely has a special talent,” Dodson said.

He said Quintal excels at both longboarding and shortboarding, and his style sets the bar for other surfers.

In August, Quintal won second place to Joel Tudor in the pro longboard category of the US Open of Surfing. Quintal, who has been surfing competitively since he was 11, said the contest was his biggest. More than a million people showed up to watch the week-long contest in Huntington Beach, Calif.

However, Quintal said the Joel Tudor Duct Tape Invitational, a contest series specifically for longboarders, meant more to him. He got into the first event in the series, which took place last fall in Virginia Beach, as an uninvited wild card entry.

He said Tudor, the longboarding legend who organized the contest, and the representatives of Vans, who sponsored it, weren’t too happy to see him. They had never heard of Quintal and didn’t know whether he’d be any good.

He won the contest, showing the skeptics some surfing skills they wouldn’t soon forget.

Quintal said the contest was one of his best experiences. He said Tudor, who announced the contest, is one of his biggest influences. When Quintal surfed a nearly perfect second heat,
Tudor expressed his surprise that the kid he hadn’t even known existed two days before was blowing everyone else out of the water.

“It was pretty cool to get such major props from my hero,” Quintal said.

After so much contest experience, Quintal said he no longer gets nervous. He said he knows he has what it takes to win but tries not to go in overly confident.

“Once you think you won something before you even have done it, you’re not going to win,” he said. “I go into each heat expecting to get last so that I really do my best.”

In the surfing world, longboarding gets less attention than shortboarding. Dodson said not as many people longboard. Quintal said the general opinion is that shortboarding is better. He said he wants to see a change in the way longboarding is viewed.

Quintal said no one is really doing anything to help the sport, so he feels pressure to be a figurehead for it.

“I feel like I’m going to have to be the one who has to make that change,” Quintal said. “I’m going to have to get the ball rolling.”

Dane Jeffreys, team manager at Sunrise Surf Shop, said he thinks Quintal can help revive longboarding. Quintal has a humility and good attitude that rubs off on people, Jeffreys said, so he’s a good image for the sport.

Hailing from the East Coast also makes it harder to succeed as a pro surfer, Quintal said. The surf industry is largely based out of Southern California, he said, and surfers joke about how terrible the waves are in Florida.

“Instantly, when you say you’re from the East Coast, people don’t expect that much out of you,” Quintal said.

Dodson said a few people from the East Coast make it as professional surfers, but most surfers move out to California or Hawaii to succeed in the sport.

Despite his long involvement in competitive surfing, Quintal said he’s glad he has stuck with school. His parents always encouraged him to pursue his education, he said, so college was part of the plan.

Lately, though, Quintal said, school has been a bit of a double-edged sword. He took a semester off in the spring to do some traveling and said coming back has been difficult.

He said he loves learning, but sometimes when there isn’t much going on in class, he feels surfing would be more productive. He really has to work on maintaining both an academic and surfing career, he said, but his degree is a good fallback plan if surfing doesn’t work out.

Ideally, Quintal said he wants to get a contract with a sponsor who would give him a salary and budget to travel to surf competitions. Quintal said he loves traveling and meeting new people, and wants to continue doing so for as long as possible.

“I’d rather be poor and get to do that than be rich and live in America and get a 9-to-5 job,” he said.

Email Dargan Thompson [email protected]