All Photos and Video by Andrew Schoener
Most Santa Barbara and Central Coast surfers are accustomed to racking up extra driving time to score good waves on our fickle coastline. Any surfer who has a little patience (and a lot of gas money) can find waves to surf almost every day of the year throughout the Tri-County area. However, few have mastered the ability to detect when and where will be best like Kilian Garland. If you’ve been to Rincon any time it’s good in the last ten years, chances are you have seen Kilian Garland ripping the bag out of the peeling rights that grace the “Queen of the Coast.” And it’s not just Rincon. Whether it’s mysto-spots up north, urban breaks around Santa Barbara, or hollow beachbreaks in Ventura County, Kilian is on it.
Part of the reason for Kilian’s success of knowing which break will be best is the fact that he has been at it almost all of his life. At only 25 years of age Kilian has managed to post two solid decades of searching for surf. At first, it wasn’t easy. Growing up in the small rural town of Orcutt, Kilian had to travel at least 20 minutes just to see the surf. Since Orcutt doesn’t have a huge surf scene Kilian admits that “it was a challenge to actually get a ride to the beach at times. When I was younger I would beg people to take me surfing. I knew sometimes that the waves would be horrible, but I would still just want to go see the waves.” For the last few years Kilian has made Santa Barbara his home base for constant surf exploration. Located between a vast coastline to the north, and the well-known beachbreaks to the south, Santa Barbara made logistical sense to Kilian. “It’s different (living in Orcutt) because you’re using more coastline to find waves up in Central Cal. In Santa Barbara you are centered around just a few breaks. That’s not to say that SB only has a few waves. It’s just a different journey to the spot. For me it feels like town and country. SB is the perfect place to start off and venture throughout the region.”
And venture he has. Kilian has scored contest wins up and down the coast for years. The VQS Championships in Newport, 6-time Rincon Classic winner, airshows in SoCal, good results in ASP Star and Prime events from Trestles to Santa Cruz, and a stellar NSSA career has given Kilian the opportunity to surf the entire California coast and make countless friends in the competitive surf scene. He attributes some of his success to watching the best in the area. “Dane Reynolds was always on another level and watching him progress was amazing. Bobby Martinez was really fun to watch in the amateur comps and on tour. There has been a lot of progression put into surfing in this area. I’m stoked to have been given the opportunity to surf with these guys!”
Nevertheless, Kilian agrees that a surfer needs to be well rounded nowadays to gain an edge in a highly competitive market. “I think it depends on your desire. Sometimes surfers really want competitive success. I know I do, but at the same time I would like to be on sick trips getting great waves. Either way, in this day and age (where a ton of guys want to be pro) you have to be working nonstop to get results in both free surfing and contest surfing.” By “this day and age,” he means the recession. It has become increasingly harder for surf industry brands to sponsor the same amount of team riders as they had in the past. For many California pros, this means no sponsors.
“A lot of my friends have lost sponsors. It’s a bummer to see so many guys with nothing on their board. So many guys are just barely surviving contest to contest. I know at least it’s been tough for me. Since the economy tanked it has been a struggle to hang on.”
When it’s tough to hang on, you have to get tougher, and Kilian utilizes every opportunity he can to stay on top of the game. Whether it’s riding the best equipment, using the best training techniques, or surfing amongst the best of his peers, Kilian makes good use of all his resources. “I’m riding Channel Islands Fred Rubble’s and The Semi Pro’s. I really enjoy riding these boards and I’m stoked the brand is local.”
I have been surfing with Yadin Nicol a bit lately which is really cool. He surfs so good, it’s really inspirational. I’m also having Chris (Keets) do some surf coaching for me. Chris will either film, or surf with me during sessions. And yeah, fitness is huge. I surf and train with Andy (Schmeiss) from P3. He trains most of the pros in the area. The training really makes it so you can do turns or tricks in the water with full strength. Also, it makes it possible to surf for way longer before getting too tired. I am really stoked on what they have to offer at P3 and I have seen a significant difference in my surfing.” And with the momentum Kilian is building, it is just a matter of time until contest judges and the surf media see the differences too.
Interview and Words by Ryan Richardson.