VW recently approached Canadian surfer Noah Cohen and asked him what his perfect road trip would be. The answer? Right in his backyard on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.
Noah Cohen is a homegrown Tofitian who now resides in Victoria and has become one of Canada’s top surfers through traveling the globe, shooting for various films, brands, and magazines. “#TheSearch” is the marketing tagline of his primary sponsor, Ripcurl, and it is also a perfect description of Noah’s Career. Though spending the better part of his year on the road in search of pumping waves, what he enjoys most is coming home, visiting old friends, and scoring waves at local spots up and down the coast. We sat down with Noah and tossed him some questions about the past year, including his recent #VWadventure with Shannon Brown and Ryan Cameron, coupled with new photos from his fall at home.
First off, how’s it going? Where have you been and what have you been up to of late?
I’ve been on a nice little run lately! I had a sweet little mission out east to Nova Scotia and stayed with my friend Dean Petty for two weeks. Following that, Chippa Wilson was visiting, and he, Peter Devries and I filmed around Vancouver Island for a week with Ben Gulliver for his project, “The Seawolf” and got a couple of sick days of waves. Then from there, I went straight to California for an insane stretch of weather and waves! My friend Dane said that it was hands down the best week of the year. And after that, I came straight to over France, which is where I am currently.
Who are you with? How has it been thus far?
I’m in France with Peter Devries, Adam Chilton (cinematographer), and Marcus Paladino (photographer). It has been a little bit comme ci comme ca. We battled crowds and weather and closeouts through the initial stages, but the final few days have provided for us. It’s hard to be sour here, though, the lifestyle is too good. And to top it off, we are living in a house nestled right on the sand at La Graviere.
Any suggestions on the best French wine?
I tend to hover in the €2-4 range, so I’m definitely not drinking the cream of the crop, but then again, I’m not really a wine guy, so the good stuff would probably be lost on me regardless.
Sounds epic! Any other happenings or trips planned?
The swell looks pretty good for my arrival days at home, so I’ll probably try to get a few days of shooting in there, and then I head up to Haida Gwaii to trek around there to look for some surf and film for another project.
Well let’s get into the subject at hand; how did this whole #VWadventure come about? What drew you to it?
Well, I was approached by Volkswagen with the opportunity and was handed the reigns regarding what we wanted to do for the week and who I wanted to bring along. I would say I was drawn to the freedom it allowed, especially in terms of the objective and the location.
Fill us in on the trip. Who, what, where, and when?
The idea for the trip was: what would I want to do if I’m handed the keys to a Tiguan with a week of spare time to head out on a road trip, a VW adventure. A surfing and camping excursion in the area surrounding my home, with a couple of childhood friends in tow, was exactly what I’d choose. Ryan Cameron, a born and raised Tofino local, and Shannon Brown, an Australian expat of eight years were the perfect guys to come along. I had invited another Tofino local, Adrien Mullin, as well, but he, unfortunately, couldn’t get the time off work.The location was a tricky one, but in the end, we decided upon Bamfield. It offered some crazy driving terrain and when the road ended, a hidden beach with waves that were in close proximity to Ucluelet, so Ryan and Shannon could boat over and meet us. It was completely uncharted territory for myself, which was also a large part of what encompassed the premise of the trip.
Why did you choose Shannon & Ryan, and what does it means to spend some time away from everything with them?
They were just such obvious choices for many reasons. Firstly, I love hanging out with them, and we don’t spend nearly as much time going on road trips & stuff like this as we did when we were in our teens and early twenties, so it certainly was a perfect opportunity to change that. Also, they both surf well, which is, of course, an essential ingredient when hunting for waves. And finally, they are pure comedy! We pretty much laughed non-stop for a week. I woke up with a sore abdomen a couple of times just from so much laughter throughout the course of the previous day.
What was it like to drive to where the road ended and then spend a few days with zero reception / shut off from outside world?
It was so refreshing putting our phones down for the trip. It is funny that that is the typical response to that question, yet we can’t seem to accomplish the feat when we know that we are within range of a cell tower. It is depressing. And I’m the worst for it. But it was perfect for the story – it was about us escaping and hanging out together without any outside influence.
You grew up north of Bamfield and now live south of Bamfield. Have you ever surfed in that area?
I had never even been there before this trip. I had seen photos of good waves in the area but never made an effort to get there, so it was pretty rad to see it finally.
Summer time is usually pretty slow for surf, did you find any peaks during the voyage?
We didn’t get a ton of surf, but it almost became an afterthought once we arrived. Everyone was so stoked to be hanging out and shooting the shit for the first time in so long, that spirits stayed high regardless.
The roads to Bamfield are pothole ridden logging roads in every direction, how did the Tiguan perform getting to and from your destination?
Yeah, I wasn’t expecting roads that rough. I knew it was a long way but was surprised by the washboard sections for sure. The Tiguan ripped it. We had a Ford Edge or something following, and the group in the Tiguan kept having to pull over and wait for them to catch up. It was fitting considering the circumstance, haha.
A good chunk of your days was spent driving from campsite to campsite – what impressed you with the ride?
It was so powerful! We were destroying other cars off the line too. It handled much more like a sportier car than an SUV for the highway driving. And my car is kind of loud inside at higher speed, so the silence was also a welcome change.
Would you say it has enough space for all your needs on day-to-day surf trips?
Yeah, definitely. I drive a hatchback normally, which hadn’t felt small in the past, so this was a significant upgrade to that regarding cargo space for all of the surf and camping gear.
It seems you spent a lot of time in front of the lens on this trip, have you ever done any modeling outside of surfing?
Haha yeah, there was a lot more camera time and audio that was needed, which was a bit different than what I’m used to. Most surf trips require you to shoot a lifestyle element as well, so it wasn’t anything too outside of my comfort zones, but it did take a few little adjustments at times, for sure.
If an opportunity ever arose, would you be inclined to posing in front of the lens without your board?
Well, I can’t imagine that too many people would want to see that! But that being said, I’m sure it could happen for the right campaign. And dollar amount 😉
A commonly asked question in professional sports is: what will they do after their careers reach an end? What are your top three careers choices after surfing? (not that you need to worry anytime soon!)
I get asked this question constantly. And I continually fail to provide an answer. I love to write, but that is a pretty tricky avenue financially. I know a lot of guys within the surf and action sports industry who do sales and marketing for an array of different brands, and I’ve always felt that the social aspect of that would mesh well with my personality. Plus, it allows you to continue to be around the sports and people that you love.
You have written many articles for surf magazines including Later, Surfer, and SBC Surf. What got you into writing?
I’ve honestly always just been fascinated by our language. That sounds so dorky, but even back in elementary school, I enjoyed making sense of words with two meanings or two spellings or learning different grammatical rules. It seemed to come a lot more naturally to me than numbers did. One of my high school English teachers even referred to me solely as “the grammar king” during eighth or ninth grade, I remember taking great pride in that, haha.
Let’s change up the subject. You suffered a knee injury over a year ago, how did that go down?
I had a laundry list of injuries to my left knee, all suffered in one wipeout while I was in Iceland in February of 2015. I was on a filming trip, and it was the last session on the last day, and it likely would have been my last wave even if I hadn’t been injured, as we were heading to the airport that afternoon. I pulled into a long, running barrel and tried to escape through the doggy door when it closed out, but I wasn’t quite quick enough and ended up taking the lip on the head awkwardly. It compressed me down into my board so hard, then blew my whole body forward in front of the whitewater and fully scorpioned me at the same time. It was probably about as bad a way you can wipeout on a wave that was barely sniffing at double overhead.
Was this your first major injury? What kind of surgery did you have done?
I’ve had some broken bones and some ligament damage to ankles before, but this was far worse than those, yes. I had a repair of the ACL and LCL, as well as the popliteus tendon and stitching of torn meniscus. There was a grade two tear of the PCL too, but I opted not to fix that because of recovery time, and a fracture to the head of my fibula that healed on its own as well.
How did you cope with your time away from surfing, and what kept you motivated under the knife and through rehab?
In hindsight, I look back on it all as such a positive experience. It came at a time that was ideal, and I had so many things work in my favor regarding my speedy MRI and surgery wait, that it just kind of set the tone for a good recovery. It made me grateful for what I had in my life and forced me to realize how quickly it could all be gone if I took it for granted and didn’t work hard. The time off surfing was excellent for thinking, and focusing on things that I had probably neglected previously because of all the time I spent in the ocean. I even managed to squeeze in my first real relationship too!
Did you see any specialist during rehab? If so who and how did you find them?
I had a couple of amazing people in my corner. I was already working with an athletic therapist named Katie Olsen at the clinic at Camosun, so she was hugely instrumental in everything going so well. It’s funny when you spend that much time in a room one on one with another person; they become somewhat of a confidant as well. So she was my athletic therapist, but also my therapist too, ha. Secondly, there was Jim Diehl (Compound Conditioning, Vancouver). He reached out to me through a mutual friend at Monster Energy and offered to help me through the process in the gym. He’s an absolute beast of a human, about 5’8’’ and 210LBS. A bulldog that works out somewhere between 8-12 times a week. He is so hard working from a business and personal standpoint as well, so he was an inspiring guy to be around through the process, and He is insanely knowledgeable when it comes to the body and movement as well. And thirdly, There was Arlen Osbourne, who at the time was a personal trainer at Synergy Health Centre in Victoria and a high-level surfer as well. He too reached out and offered to train with me a couple of times a week, so between him and Jim, I was pretty much doing some sort of workout every single day.
Do you have any secrets or suggestions for those enduring similar injuries?
I put a ton of emphasis on workouts, diet, and sleep. I did my best to figure out absolutely everything that the body needs at a time like that, then did my best to give those things to my body. It is a relatively simple formula, but the hard part is sticking to your guns. I was very thankful to be in a position where I didn’t have other work to focus on and was able to solely think about what needed to be done to ensure the best and speediest recovery possible. My goal from day one post-op was to keep pace with a standard ACL reconstruction timetable, even though I had so much more repaired. That may have been a somewhat lofty goal, but it made me work damn hard for it, and there were a ton of early mornings when I dragged my ass into the gym at 8 am when I sure didn’t feel like doing it, haha.
Now, two years later, do you feel you are 100%?
Well, it has only been about 16 or 17 months since surgery, but I feel pretty close to it, yes. As far as surfing goes, I have been riding without a knee brace for a couple of months now, and my approach to aerials and high-performance surfing has returned to where it was before.
How does surfing south island differ to what you grew up with in Tofino?
The wave quantity is significantly lower, but the wave quality is just so much higher, so when it is breaking, the amount of actual surfing you do is far greater. And the style of waves there lend themselves a lot more to carving and on the face type surfing, which I have always felt is a weak point for me, so moving south has helped me leaps and bounds already in that department.
What role did moving to Victoria do for your surfing career?
Like I just mentioned, definitely helped certain aspects of my surfing. It is also really nice to have an international airport twenty minutes from your house when you travel a lot. The five-hour drive home after thirty plus hours in transit can suck, so it has been a treat not to do that anymore!
You’ve been filming for the past couple years with Ben for his much-anticipated film The Seawolf. Fill everyone in on the project and where you have traveled throughout the process?
Yeah, it has been a bit of a long time coming, and it is getting close to completion. It’s been an absolute dream to get to trot around with guys like Ben Gulliver and Peter while working on the film. I’ve always thought that both of them house the talent in their respective fields that rival the best in the world, but I respect them immensely as genuine people as well. Both are salt-of-the-earth amazing individuals, and I couldn’t think of two better guys to travel the globe and film a movie project with.
With his talent and the talented cast of surfers, do you feel the SeaWolf will compete with big budget films such as View from a Blue Moon, Cluster, Psychic Migrations, etc.?
Well, that is a tricky one, because as soon as John John is thrown into the mix, the surfing ability gets pretty hard to match. That said, alongside Pete’s performance, there is also some crazy stuff from Chip, (Noah) Waggy and Cam Richards, so I’m sure it’ll be pretty damn good too. And regarding cinematography and scenic beauty, a lot of the destinations are mind blowing, and Ben has such a unique eye and ability to capture those types of places, so I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t expecting it to come out right.
Any more trips planned before the film premieres?
I’m honestly not sure. I’m also not sure when it is going to premiere. Hopefully, we can squeeze one more strike mission in, but with other plans, holidays and family obligations approaching, that might be tricky.
Besides local comps do you ever have the itch to try your luck in heats?
I sometimes feel like I want to, but then I watch the WQS online, and that quickly disappears. The waves always look so bad, the guys all surf so fucking good, that it just seems a bit overwhelming when you think about it., especially if world tour qualification isn’t the reason that you’re out spending thousands of dollars on it when you could be making other more productive trips.
What’s your ultimate goal in your surfing career? Making your next movie, surfing contests, pulling chicks, doing airs?
Hahaha, maybe all of those things? But perhaps not always in that order 😉
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Interview/Surf Photography: Kyler Vos Photography
Video Produced by Rooftop
A Rooftop Agency Production
Director – Matthew Parrish
Producer – David Videka
Written By – David Videka and Noah Cohen
Cinematographer – Brent Kore
Editor – Peter Guzda
Sound Design – Thomas D’Arcy Music