Gary Linden has built an entire life around surfing with extraordinary results. From the early days of shaping surfboards to the recent organization of the Big Wave World Tour, his career has been nothing short of legendary. He has been an avid Baja traveler for nearly five decades and a standout at the big wave spot known as Killers off the coast of Ensenada since 1985. His love for surfing is unparalleled, and now in his sixties he is still paddling into waves that guys half his age try to avoid. Recently we caught up with Gary at his surf shop/shaping factory in Oceanside to talk about his surfing history, traveling to Baja and riding big waves.
BajaBound: When did you first start traveling and surfing in Baja?
Gary Linden: I first started surfing Baja in 1964 with my surf club Las Olas. We would have inter-club contests with the Baja surf Club from Ensenada and compete and hang out together at San Miguel.
BB: What got you into shaping surfboards, and at what point did it become a full-time career?
GL: I started shaping after riding an 8' V bottom surfboard shaped by Bob McTavish that was a foot shorter than anything we were riding at the time. You could not buy one anywhere, so I got a blank and gave it a shot. Next thing you know my friends wanted boards too, so I started making a few. It wasn't until a few years later that I was in Brazil with no money and not many surfboard shapers around, so at that point I started doing it as a career.
BB: When did you start surfing big waves out at Todos Santos, and how did you prepare for it?
GL: I started surfing Todos in about 1985...it may have been a few years sooner, but I always liked to sit outside and catch the biggest waves no matter where or what size waves I was surfing. I think that is the only way to prepare, just having the desire to do it.
BB: Besides shaping and running Linden Surfboards, you have had many roles in the surfing industry over the years. Talk a little about your experience with the ASP and your involvement with some of the big wave events over the years.
GL: I began shaping as a career eventually because it was the only way to stay connected professionally to the sport I loved. There was no pro circuit at the time so I made a promise to try to change that for the next generation. I started judging some the pro contests in this area and when the ASP formed I was on the original Board of Directors representing the Stubbies event. I stayed on the Board for 18 years, the last two as President. The next project was realizing Big Wave surfing as a sport and the first event was held at Todos Santos in 1998. The waves were some of the biggest that had ever been surfed in competition and we have just kept going from there.
BB: How did the Big Wave World Tour come about?
GL: After ten years of having the plan in place it came to me....it would be a lot easier to rate the few contests that existed rather than create an entirely new tour. Fortunately this new strategy worked and we have gotten to where are at today, about to take it to the next level.
BB: What is your favorite Baja memory?
GL: There are so many...this is the hardest question of all! I guess catching the biggest wave of my life at Todos Santos in 2002 is something I will never forget!
Related Links and Photo Credits:
Todos Santos photo by S. Sullivan