Josh Mulcoy // Chasing Solitude.

 

Josh Mulcoy: Chasing Solitude.

Words: Noah Cohen

Photo’s: Jeremy Koreski, Kyler Vos, Mark Prefontaine

“Goddamnit Junior, it’s no wonder you’ve got such bad knees. Keep your board in the water!” Josh had just made his way out into the lineup, the morning sky aglow in tones of vibrant mandarin and violet as the sun made its ascent over the horizon. Ever since he uprooted from his native California and made Tofino, Canada home, he has affectionately referred to me as “Junior”. It is a reference, I assume, to both my diminutive stature and the baby face I’ve held onto well into my mid-twenties. In turn, I dubbed him “Senior”, a moniker that has stuck surprisingly well, at least within our circle of friends at home.

Senior doesn’t do spinners (air reverses). His fins spend much more time displacing water than dancing above the lip line, which is a rarity these days, especially in the professional surfing realm. Everyone wants to do airs right now. And wear cool clothes. And take cool photos and post said cool photos on Instagram. But Mulcoy has never been the showy type, neither with his fashion nor in the social media world. In this day and age, a pro surfer who is anti-self-promotion is somewhat of an oxymoron, likely because he or she probably won’t be a pro surfer for very long. But Josh has found his path, mainly by way of staying off the beaten one, and formulating his career on different, more self-fulfilling terms. He has an obvious love for the natural world and the flora and fauna that it is made up of. He also seems to be just as content getting skunked in scenic solitude as he is following the masses to the world’s marquee and more densely populated breaks.

“I just returned a text saying ‘ I’m really happy that you guys are scoring, but while you were running from the harbour patrol and surfing in polluted water, I just surfed good waves while staring at snow-covered mountains and bald eagles up in the trees. You can have your harbour.” This year’s El Nino-fuelled run of nonstop swell meant that it was quite an exciting time to be a surfer in California. Many of the spots that regularly lay dormant were lit up for days on end, with “the harbour” being at the top of the list.

For those who don’t know Josh Mulcoy, it must be said that his affinity with the harbour is as deep as they come, and hearing him speak like that (though maybe injected with a shred of sarcasm) should be noted as a testament to his feeling for his newly settled home in the great white north.

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© Jeremy Koreski

When Josh first set foot in the town of Tofino some 14 years ago, he was by no means looking to relocate from his beloved Midtown in Santa Cruz, CA. In fact, there is likely no place on earth that could hold his heart as the “MT”, and more specifically, the harbour does. It is a mystical wave that detonates thunderously against the concrete jacks that make up the break wall, churning out incredible barrels for those who dare attempt to tame it. But being smashed up onto the jacks is only half of its consequence, as it is also unlawful to surf at the mouth of the seaway, so running from the harbour authority and their impending tickets has long been a part of the experience of riding waves there. But, like his father before him, Josh assumes all of these risks every time it rears its sand sucking head, knowing that the rewards it offers far outweigh the potential for injury or financial penalty. He has told me a couple amazing stories about his father, known simply as “Harbour Bill”, one of which resulted in him paddling all the way from the tip of the jetty to Steamer Lane on Santa Cruz’s westside, braving darkness and shark infested central Californian waters to escape the pesky patrolmen some decades ago.

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© Mark Prefontaine

These days, Mulcoy tends to spend more time running from hoards of surfers, as Tofino’s new found popularity has resulted in an explosion of the local surf community over the last few years. “Things have changed here since my first visit for sure,” He recalls, “but the one thing is that you can still always get away from the crowds and find that feeling I search for.” For a man spawned in a surf mecca such as Santa Cruz, it’s interesting to see how Josh transforms in a crowded Canadian lineup. His usually laid back temperament and wry smile seem to evaporate, and he begins to acquire a guilty conscience whenever he rides a wave that another Tofino local had made any kind of motion to catch.

And for this reason, it has become a common sight to see him on his beach cruiser, peddling along the water’s edge with his Aftanas blade (the telltale sign of a Tofino surfer ) under his arm, searching for a virgin sandbar yet to be tainted by the froth-filled masses, eager to earn their stripes and inflate wave tallies.

Though the aforementioned crowds can become tedious at times, especially in the summer months, Tofino, and Canada, still maintain their hold on Josh. “It felt like Alaska here when I first saw it, with all the mountains and the remote places you could reach by boat. And Alaska has always been one of my favorite places to visit, so it was easy to feel at home in Canada.”

 

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© Kyler Vos

Though the aforementioned crowds can become tedious at times, especially in the summer months, Tofino, and Canada, still maintain their hold on Josh. “It felt like Alaska here when I first saw it, with all the mountains and the remote places you could reach by boat. And Alaska has always been one of my favorite places to visit, so it was easy to feel at home in Canada.”

But the towering cedars and the tranquil labyrinth of sounds and watersheds that litter Vancouver Island’s west coast would never have been enough to keep him from drifting back to the Midtown, and if it wasn’t for his lovely Canadian wife, Kate, it’s hard to imagine a scenario that doesn’t see him staying put in California. Kate is a local Tofino jewelry manufacturer (katekoreski.com) and the sister of renowned Canadian Surf photographer Jeremy Koreski. Together, along with their loyal Mcnab Radar, they have managed to happily carve out a living by making their passions their professions, a feat often wished for but rarely realized.

With that, coupled as well with the recent purchase of a new home in Tofino, it appears that Josh will remain Canada’s adopted son for many more years to come. And I’m sure I can speak on behalf of the entire community of Tofino in saying that that makes us all very happy, as he is a joy to have around and an incredible role model for the younger generation of surfers emerging locally, eager to make their own mark on a global scale, as Senior has done before them.

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