Surfer Colin Greenhalgh
Growing up south of Boston in Marshfield, MA, Colin Greenhalgh is an East Coast surfer to the core. Starting as just a kid, Colin understands the true grit that takes to endure the cold winter waters for the pure joy of the ride and the sense of community that is created among those surfers. Currently residing in Boston, Colin embodies the Fair Harbor lifestyle of keeping it clean while mixing in some good old fashion barbecue.
What inspired you to start surfing? What continues to inspire you in and out of the water?
I inherited my love for the ocean from my Dad who spent his life sailing and fishing any second he could. I remember my brother teaching me to body surf shore break at 5 or 6. This felt intuitive and I remember always being bummed at the beach if there were no waves after that.
I started surfing at 12 or so bc my friend Russ was VERY into it and I wasn’t just going to sit on the beach and watch him. I remember aimlessly following him into the lineup, getting worked and pretending I loved it, but actually being sort of bummed that (a) I couldn’t get myself into a wave and (b) that my entire body was rashed and sore from paddling. I have never been naturally gifted as a surfer and once I got over my rash and actually caught a wave, I realized I really did love it, but was definitely aware of my shortcomings rwlative to natural ability.
Surfing has afforded me some of the greatest experiences of my life, but also some of the most humbling. Just when you think you have a board, a new destination, a wave, or yourself figured out, inevitably something changes and you need to adjust. The dynamic nature of the sport and the medium (water) will continue to inspire if you keep showing up.
Who has had the strongest influence in your surfing career?
Bob helped me get into the water, Mike taught me later in life to always be smiling in and out of it, and my friends continue to hoot me into waves I shouldn’t take off on.
Do you have any pre/post surfing rituals?
My wife is awesome about my love for surfing. She knows I’m happier and mellow after I get out of the water and she continues to make sacrifices to afford me that luxury, but the one thing she asks is that I give her “proof of life” when I get out of the water after every surf session. Not really a ritual, but I always start my car and text her “proof” before doing anything else just to give her that peace of mind.
What are some of your favorite East Coast surf spots?
Nothing better than waves at home. I’ll leave it at that.
What do you think makes the New England surfing culture unique?
Nothing makes me happier than paddling out and hearing some older dude with a thick Boston accent giving one of their buddies a hard time and joking around. I think the less than ideal conditions work to bond folks that may otherwise be at odds in a tropical paradise with perfect waves. Obviously has its limits, but you undoubtedly have a better chance of getting a smile and a head nod when paddling out at a break in the Northeast relative to anywhere else I have surfed. Something to embracing “the shit” implicit in surfing in the Northeast that creates a little more community maybe?
Have you ever surfed on the West Coast? What is the main difference in waves and surf cultures?
Yup! Have surfed as far North as Fort Point (Golden Gate Bridge) and as far south as San Diego / La Jolla and most places in between. Friends and I are planning a trip to Tofino, BC which should be fun!
Waves – We do not get long period swell the way the west coast does. Nor’Easters and Hurricanes may have comparable buoy readings at times, but long period swell in the West Coast is so perfect, so raw and SO powerful. Just coming from a lot farther away and effectively untouched before it hits Cali.
Cultures – Every little enclave has its unique culture and vibe, but generally the farther north you go, the easier it is to find non-crowded waves, and the friendlier people seem to be in the lineup. One of my best friends lives right on Ocean Beach in SF and that is the only surf break in the world where I have actively found myself paddling towards other surfers to say “hi” and let them know how scared shitless I am.
What are some of the best travel destinations your surfing has taken you?
I have been all over the Caribean & Central America, but Fiji was by far the most awe inspiring trip I have taken to date. A friend and I went and stayed on Tavarua for a week. Having watched Endless Summer II 7,000 times as a kid, to surf Cloudbreak & Restauraunts, drink Cava with the Chief, and dive and fish on all of the reefs around the island was completely surreal.
Tavvy is a bit of a family destination for Aussies and Kiwis , but there’s also a solid collection of pretty infamous folks from the surf world hanging around. I was drinking a cup of coffee watching the surf one AM and thought nothing of the helicopter landing on other side of the island (daily occurrence). 10 minutes later, a guy puts a boardbag down next to me and sits down with a cup of coffee:
“Hey man, I’m Bob”
“Bob” was Bob Hurley casually popping by for the day to surf Cloudbreak. He was a super nice guy, fun to surf with, and loved the fact that I was from Boston.
A very special place with a very important part to play in the surfing world, but the raw beauty of the place and its people (inside and out) was like nothing I had ever experienced before.
How do you practice a clean lifestyle?
Pretty conscious about what I put in my body, but definitely see a need (for me personally) for balance. Something to be said for allowing yourself and your diet to be imperfect intermittently. A “cheat” day or weekend will always re-focus me and dial my diet and excersize back in.
At some point as an early adult I started getting super anxious and jittery at times. I had played sports my entire life all the way through college and my doctor figured out pretty quickly that I just needed to be more active. What I was ID-ing as anxiety was really just kinetic energy I had been used to expending my whole life. My ability to do that or, I guess, make it a priority when entering the professional world was limited. It just needed to be recalibrated. I know I am happier, a better husband, and better at my job when I am eating right, sleeping well, and exercising.
What would your favorite barbecue spread consist of? Who would you invite to it?
My god. What an amazing question. Sweet Cheeks is my favorite BBQ joint in Boston. Literally need a little bit of everything from SC so better to go with a bunch of people (or just my wife) and order the whole menu to share.
As far as invites, imaginary v. real life:
Imaginary: My Dad, Murphy Brown (my beloved chocolate lab that passed a few years ago), Bob Marley, Eddie Akaui, Big L, & John Wick (Yes, a fictional character). If nothing else, it would be hilarious to see my Dad try to relate to the balance of the group. “Big fan of your Greatist Hits Album, Bob”
Real life: My wife. She really knows how to order BBQ, she knows what I like, and she loves and always deserves a good date night.
If you could eat one food for the rest of your life what would it be?
My Achilles heels: Bagel with Cream Cheese, Big Cheez Its & Red Gatorade
What are some of your favorite food spots to hit up after a surf session?
Maria’s Sub Shop in Scituate,MAeven though they inexplicably do not have lettuce? Seems like an integral part of a sandwhich no?
Poopsies Pizza in Marshfield, MA. Name could probably use a refresh, but unbelievable pizza and has an old school Pac Man arcade game to play while you wait for your order.
Sea's the Day!
Interviewed by: Caroline Danehy