It was in the late 1950s, Chuck Berry’s music conquered the world of Rock’n’Roll, cars were pieces of art, men put tons of grease in their hair, women wore petty dresses and then the Spanish miracle began – an unprecedented economic uprise.Just about the same time Juan and his friend Lolis, then in their early 20s and big time into submarine fishing – thus already passionate about the sea – heard about a guy catching waves at Playa Sardinero, the home beach of Santander. The boys were all excited and drove their Seat 600 there. Going down the beach they saw a guy on a longboard catching beautiful, empty waves. They were off their feet.
The guy they observed was an Australian born boy who had brought a surfboard with him to Spain. The following months Juan, Lolis and some other guys were looking for boards to buy – but of course at that time there were no surf shops. One day they saw a sticker on the Australian’s board: it was a sticker of a surfboard brand and underneath the logo was the word “Irun”. They couldn’t believe it – the surfboard brand was located just around the corner, just some kilometers away over the french boarder. Juan drove to France found the shop and bought a gorgeous board, red on top, wooden underneath.
But he was worried the Spanish toll officers wouldn’t allow him to cross the boarder with a brandnew board without high charges. So he parked his car on the side of the road, took dirt, mud, sand – everything that would make the board look old and rotten. He disguised it and crossed the boarder. It marked the beginning of the Spanish surfing culture.
Taking out a massive wooden board into big waves, no leash, just excitement – what a time it must have been. Every beach they found had not been surfed before. Every wave was a discovery.
It sounds weird, but a leash actually was a revolution in surfing then. Before they had leashes every wipe out meant you had to go back to the beach to eventually find your wooden board there, broken from the impact on hard rocks. Juan was the first one – so rumors say – to actually come up with the idea of a device that would keep the surfboard close to the surfer.
To connect a leash directly to the body would have meant to loose a leg or an arm considering the weight of the surfboards then. So he mounted a heavy piece of plumb onto a fishing line and put the “anchor” into his diving suit. Every time he wiped out, the piece of plumb would slip out of his suit, sink to the ground and keep the board at least close to him.
Not yet done
From these earliest days on Juan surfed – until today. That’s almost 60 years of surfing experience. Juan is a legend in Cantabrian and even Spanish surfing. “Although,” he makes clear: “I actually discovered the mountains recently. Just in a couple of weeks I’m going on a hiking trip to Austria. Can’t wait.”