2x Scottish Champion and surf coach, Mark Boyd, is a man who needs little introduction within the UK surf scene. Working offshore during the Summer months, Boydie then spends his winters dominating Thurso East’s competitive line-up. When his home break isn’t firing he’s keeping an eye on the charts in more tropical climes, ready to swap his hooded 6/4 for boardshorts in Costa Rica, Indo and beyond.
Whilst developing as a surfer in the far north of Scotland has its challenges, it’s proved the perfect training ground for Mark to hone his pigdog technique. Now, he’s arguably one of the best backside tube-riders in Europe with an unmistakable style, allowing all 6’4 of him to squeeze into even the tightest barrels.
We caught up with Mark to talk about his beloved Thurso, surfing in the Olympics, and his borderline, perhaps justifiable obsession with Wavepools.
How did you first get into surfing?
I got into surfing through skateboarding as we used to hang about in the local skate/snowboard/surf shop, E.S.P. It was Mike MacWatt, the owner of the shop who brought to my attention that I lived on a beach that was good for surfing, so I got a board and an Alder wetsuit and never stopped.
What are your proudest surfing achievements to date?
Having the Scottish National title since 2018 is my proudest achievement. But also making a final of a UK Pro Surf Tour event, 4x consecutive Scottish Longboard titles and representing Scotland at the Euros and Worlds have also been highlights. My cover-shot on Carve magazine was pretty special for me too.
How long have you been a surf coach?
I have been coaching in some way or another since E.S.P put me through my instructor course back when I was still at school. I then became a surf coach part-time through uni, and then full time in Lanzarote. Since then I have been working as a surf coach with the Scottish Surfing Federation at both junior and senior level. So about 17 years in total!
How do you balance your dedication to surfing with your work offshore?
These days I try and do as little of the latter as possible so that I can go surfing as much as possible! haha. This wasn’t always the case though – through my 20’s I surfed very little due to being a trainee and having to work away A LOT. In the long run it’s paid off though as I’m now self employed so it’s much easier to strike the right balance.
Favourite wave in the UK other than Thurso East?
Its probably got to be the Bristol wavepool at the moment! haha
Who’s done the best surfing you’ve ever seen at Thurso East?
I’ve seen all the big names surf Thurso East for the WQS event that we used to have here – Jordy, John John, Sunny… they all came, but some of the most inspiring surfing I have seen done out there was by Aussie come Irish transplant, Noah Lane. It was one of the first times I had seen a goofy footer link the very tight first tube section with the more open second section – that really influenced me and helped me realise that was possible. I was also blown away by Royden Bryson’s surfing the year he won the QS – yes I might be biased towards the goofy footers but they’re who I can learn the most from.
As the surf coach for the Scottish junior team, is there anyone coming up that you’re really impressed with?
There are three kids who really stand out at the moment; Craig McLachlan from Caithness, Ben Larg from Tiree and Ben Kobedza from Moray. There are some younger girls now starting to become really dedicated too, so I’m really excited to see how they push each other over the next few years too.
Do you think the UK has a shot at getting another surfer on the CT anytime soon? If so, who? If not, what do you believe is the main barrier to this?
It has happened before and there’s no reason it can’t happen again, so ‘barriers’ may just be excuses? English champion and good friend, Luke Dillon, is currently the UK’s best hope and is the only person giving it a good crack on the Qualifying Series. He’s had some great performances competing at the QS level so it would be great to see him go all the way.
I really think the next generation are going to benefit from the wavepools that are springing up – we now have one in Wales, one in England, one due to be completed in Scotland in 2022 and plenty more in the pipeline. I really think these facilities will give the UK an edge over other places not as fortunate to have them. The cold and daylight hours are definitely a barrier for us in Scotland but facilities such as the new North Shore Surf Club hut in Thurso make a big difference too.
Thoughts on surfing being an Olympic sport?
I have mixed feelings about it. We used to compete at the ISA Worlds as Home Nations/Scotland, but now on Olympic qualification years only a GB team can attend. This gives less athletes from the UK the opportunity to compete at that level and experience representing their country on the world stage, which is a bit of a shame. Unfortunately, It’s also had a negative impact on funding for the Scottish team. On the other hand, UK Sport are now invested in surfing, so it will be exciting to see how the development of the sport goes with that support. Without a doubt, I believe the sport will become more professional and progression will come on leaps and bounds. As a fan of competitive surfing, it will also be very exciting to have another major surfing competition in the calendar.
Those that know you, know you froth on man-made waves… Would you rather only surf Thurso East for the rest of your life, or only surf chlorinated waves?
If I could only surf Thurso-East then I would be limiting myself massively as it can go flat for months every year through the summer! So I will actually have to say man-made waves, as much as I would cry about never being able to surf my favourite wave ever again. No salty water to deal with though, so that’s a bonus!
How many trips have you taken to the Maldives?
I’ve been to the Maldives 3 times now.
What’s your favourite wave there? Tell us about your best session.
I had a really fun session at Honkys this year – the best I’ve had it. It was the middle of the day and everyone seemed to go in for lunch. The swell direction and tide were perfect, and it was just super rippable. I pretty much had it to myself for a couple of hours! All of the waves over there are so fun though. I had a really good, long tube at Chickens last year which was also a highlight. I spend so much time going right at home that I love surfing the lefts over there. Perks of being a surf coach!
Chlorinated or saltwater tubes?
Saltwater. Pool tubes are amazing too but nothing will ever beat the raw power of the ocean. Chlorinated air sections however…
Lefts or Rights?
Turns or Tubes?
New WSL format or old?
Old. As a spectator I will definitely be frothing on the new finals day. On the other hand, I think it defeats the purpose of a tour a little bit and could potentially devalue the world title. Time will tell…
Tropical or cold water?
Haggis or battered Mars bar?
Haggis. Whats for dessert though? Can I have a battered Mars bar?
Airs or power surfing?
Thanks so much for your time Mark. Here’s to more good times and tropical living in the Maldives!
Follow him on Instagram here: @Markboydsurf