“I like storytelling. I have underdeveloped my craft as a writer, and for my limited talents I said all that I could with my video camera. But this podcast is still storytelling, and it’s a medium that I feel is my best fit. Podcast is where I feel fully actualized as a storyteller.”
That’s David Lee Scales, founder and host of Surf Splendor, a podcast network devoted to conversations about surfing. Intelligent, insightful, a lovely bedside manner, a real gift for getting his subjects to talk, it comes as no surprise that David studied psychology at Cal State Long Beach. I’m a lover of his interviews. I wanted to hear how he got there.
What made you start Surf Splendor?
In 2011 I was working for Quiksilver doing surf videography. I was interested in filming surfing. I loved surf film and I loved photography, so I started filming friends in Huntington Beach—Brett Simpson, Kanoa Igarashi, sometimes Dane Reynolds would come down. While I was standing on the beach I would listen to podcasts; they’d just started. I loved This American Life. So as a guy who loved the medium, and as a guy who was a content creator, I took it upon myself to start a podcast. I was the second person doing it—Scott Bass had started an Internet radio show for Surfer. I took the initiative to have consistent production—I think it was twice a month at the time—and to maintain some standard of audio quality. I launched in 2013. Over the years I’ve learned how to be an interviewer, and also the technical aspects.
What makes for a good interview?
An interesting person who can articulate their thoughts and feelings. It doesn’t have anything to do with surfing really; it has to do with whether or not they’re living an interesting life. And whether or not they’re able to articulate those things.
As a fellow interviewer and profiler I’ve found that often the top high-performance surfers don’t have lots to say, primarily because their offering is what they do on the board. Have you found this to be true?
100%. What I’ve found is that people whose lives are solely devoted to surfing tend to be the least interesting.
How many interviews have you done so far?
223 as of last week.
What have you gleaned? What’s your big takeaway?
That’s a good question. I haven’t thought it about that much, but I’d say that what I’ve gleaned from interviewing all these people is that performance really has nothing to do with the reward of surfing. The first decade of my surfing life was about trying to get better at this thing. Now I’ve learned—personally and through these interviews—that the ritual of going to the beach is actually much more rewarding. The getting up early, the cup of coffee on the way, the humbling of the ocean—all of those things around the experience is where the value comes in.
You’ve interviewed some great people in surfing. Has anyone said anything totally memorable, something that seared into your brain?
I can’t give you an exact quote but I think I can sum it up by saying that I grew up 45 minutes from the beach all through high school, and I always felt like a real outsider in surfing. I just assumed that everybody else in the water was a local and that they deserved to be there and I was just an outsider. I came to learn that almost every single one of those houses that’s on the sand is not occupied by someone that’s surfing five days a week. And so by interviewing all these people I’ve identified that they all feel like outsiders, too. And as much as we surfers feel at home in the sea, you’re never really quite there, you’re always striving to be there. So there’s a commonality, we’re always striving to fit in.
Check out Surf Splendor HERE.