Log Chats Vol. 3 | Andy Nieblas
Andy Nieblas’ surfing is as refreshing as that first sip of beer after a hellacious 5-day work week.
With a style that is as timeless as it is unique, Andy has caught the eyes of more than just the longboarding community. This is evidenced by his increasingly growing relationship with Quiksilver of which he is far and away the company’s marquee “alternative” craft pilot. And that makes sense, right? In a sea of 12-year-olds doing grab railed air reverses Andy stands out in the best possible way. With a mustache that you can spy from a mile away and a penchant for putting his signature Almond Surfboards in the darndest of places; no one is doing it quite like Andy.
In the lead-up to this week’s Vans Duct Tape Invitational/Mexi Log Fest we sat down with Mr. Nieblas and asked the hard-hitting questions, including whether he could go longer without surfing or sex, his take on horses, and if he ever plans on hacking it on tour amongst the “worlds best”.
Whether he decides to don a singlet or simply dice waves at San-O until the world comes crashing down … we’ll be watching all the same.
Jumping right into it I have to ask… how long has the mustache been going at this point?
(Laughs) I’ve had that since the senior year of high school, so 2014. I don’t even know what prompted it, I just wanted a little stache. It was coming in so I was like “fuck it, I’m just gonna do it”.
Do people ever compare you to a 70’s porn star? Ron Jeremy would be proud.
All the time. I get this musician… fuck what was his name? We go to bars and people will shout out “nice stache” and my girlfriend will just say “oh god not again”.
Comes with the territory. On to surfboards, your ‘walks on water board’ has a rather wide nose as well as a wide, square tail to boot. What draws you to that outline?
California has slow waves for around half the year. I wanted something that’s more buoyant, wider and cruisier. The sharp edge, knifey boards don’t really work in slower conditions and then when the waves do get good I just want to shortboard so I figured I’d get something wide/thick that floats on top of the water more.
Did you have to go through and evolution of riding knifey boards to get to that understanding of what works for you?
I tried out everything. I went through an old 60’s phase… boards with D fins and really heavy logs. In 6th and 7th grade I went through a 2 + 1 high pro phase as well. I was doing that for a little bit and then went through the natural progression of “why would I ride this when I could just shortboard”. I met some people who were board making in my area like Bob Howard and Max Dexter before I ultimately wound up with Almond.
When it comes to nose riding, how many steps are too many?
I guess that depends on how long the board is.
(Laughs) I have a 14-footer and that thing is probably six or eight steps! The 9’8 I’m riding now is probably three to four.
Uhhhh we’ll just leave this one here. Photo by Sam Schafer
Long hang-ten or mach-11 turn?
I’d say a locked in nose ride just cause it feels good. I mean a nice turn feels good too, but when you really get locked in to a nose ride and you know you’re locked in you just go “oooooh this is it”.
I know you like to ride some different stuff. Any boards outside of your model you’ve been riding recently?
I’ve been spending a lot of time on the Almond Arrowheads. It’s a template off a mid-70’s board. Single fin, super flat with a little bit of nose rocker. Super heavy down railer. It reminds me of one of my first boards which my Mom found in a dumpster actually. I’ve been riding boards like that for so long that I’ve gotten used to them so I know how they feel. I’ve also been on a lot of fishes too. I’ll take fins out of my shortboards and ride them finless too, it’s kinda cliche but there really are endless possibilities in the water.
Photo by Surfing With Ben
Imagine bluebird, perfect conditions: what’s Andy Nieblas’ favorite wave in California?
That’s a tough one. I’ve had a couple mysto evenings at Lowers during late south swell season. It really is one of the best logging waves around but the crowd nowadays is so compact it kind of ruins the mood of surfing. I also have a special place for Doheny when it’s pumping and you can take off next to the rock and get that left to yourself. San-O is a good time as well, so I guess between those.
That was three but I’ll let you slide. Would you rather surf in the snow in boardies or paddle out to a shark-infested lineup?
I’d take the sharks for sure. I’m not really good in the cold, I’m kind of a wuss in that sense. I give props to those guys that surf the Great Lakes with frozen beards and all that, but I can see myself in shark-infested waters just cruising, catching a bunch of waves while not going all the way out in the line-up.
I’m sure you're sick of reverse takeoff questions but here’s another one. Is there ever a wave too big to take off backwards?
The seven-to-eight foot range probably. It gets too bouncy and you’re on the nose trying to keep your fin out of the water, then when you’re too far back and you’re coming down the face your board just wants to flop around and it becomes hard to hold your stability. You can do it on a five to six foot wave, but anything bigger than that I’m just like “na I’ll just go regular”.
Why haven’t you tried your hand on tour? You would probably crush…
I don’t really follow the WSL that much in either short boarding or longboarding, at least not to the extent of most people. I thought about giving it a try this year… The Duct Tapes always felt more aligned with my surfing with heavy logs, proper positioning and fluid motions.
Favorite surfer to watch right now?
Hmmm. I guess just all my friends down at San-O. Nick Melanson, Kyle Perez, Ben, Noah Cardoza. Then all the legends I grew up surfing with. There’s also this kid Rex who reminds me of myself. I gave him one of my boards and he’s doing fins first now and cheater fiving, getting little head dips at San-O. He’ll be out there for four hours, come in and then go straight back out spending all day in the wetsuit. He’s one of my favorites for sure.
Are Duct Tapes the pinnacle of competitive longboarding?
I would say so. The best longboarders in the world are there and the vibe is totally different. It harkens back to the coalition contests and it feels like everyone is more of a family. You get dinners with everyone, everybody’s stoked. We don’t get to see each other as much as we should so it’s an opportunity to come together, appreciate surfing and recognize how lucky we are to be doing this.
Photo by Andrea Coleman
When you enter a comp do you care if you win or not? Or is more about how you surf.
It’s definitely more about how I surf and having a good time with my buddies. Some people take it a little more aggressively, which is inevitable. People tell me to play it safe but I’d much rather get weird and have fun. For me it’s just another day doing what I love.
You and Quiksilver came out with an edit called Spam that killed it on Youtube. Whats your go to Spam recipe?
I didn’t really eat Spam until I was in Hawaii. Jack Coleman and myself would wake wake up and I’d shout to him I’m making breakfast and he told me “dude you gotta make a Spam one”. The clips in that were from Indo when it was empty in 2020 and then Hawaii the next year, it was a nice change of scenery. Spam’s easy: chop it up, bacon grease and ready to serve.
Quik definetly switched gears singing you as you don’t generally fit the high-performance, stretch board short model that is a big part of their business. Do you think the big players in the industry place enough emphasis on this “alternative” vein of surfing or whatever the fuck that means?
I’m definitely in my own little section with Quik being the first longboarder, long-haired mustached guy which is a good thing. I was really grateful to join up with them and were only going up in terms of new projects and ways to I can work within the brand. Hopefully, this makes other companies and even them see that it’s not all rippers and that people with their own personalities can provide value as well.
Gun to your head, year without surf or year without sex?
Year without sex. **Promptly shouts to girlfriend in next room “sorry babe”.
I saw you rode a horse for the first time recently. What was that like?
So bitchin. I went up to El Capitan with some of my buddies for the first time. I had high expectations cause the plan was to ride a horse to the top of the mountain and see the Channel Islands. The experience definitely lived up to it. It was a pretty surreal throwback to the way we used to get around before cars and all that. It’s kind of like surfing in the sense you’re just riding nature, going back to the roots.
What’s next for Andy Nieblas?
I’m definitely looking to get back to Indo this year. I’m working on a couple fins with Captain Fin co. for both shorties and a longboard fin as well. I’m hitting Mexi Log Fest this week which is always a blast and then going to Cabo with my friend who just got some land down there. I’ve never been so hopefully get some waves. New spots, new adventures and I’ll just keep doing that until I can’t walk anymore.