It was after his family relocated from Aldershot to Newquay in search of a better work-life balance that Alan Stokes fell in love with surfing.
He was six when he received his first lesson from Fistral Beach Surf School and it was not long before a growing passion turned into a competitive sport and career.
“I guess it was seeing other people surf and being other kids in my street who did it that inspired me to give it a go,” the 39-year-old said. “I used to skateboard a lot and hung out with the older kids in our street.
“I guess like a lot of families who move down here we spent a lot of time on the beach. I did a bit of bodyboarding then progressed to stand up surfing and never really looked back.”
The ever changing environment, being in the ocean and doing something that is good for both the mind and body is what saw Alan compete a national and Europe level from a young age then finally turn pro.
“With all the other sports I tried the environment doesn’t change. If you play tennis the court is always the same. There is a certain amount of repetition which I found boring after a while,” Alan said. “The ocean is always changing. No two days are the same. You can always find a better wave. There is an element of fear and thrill. It’s exciting. It becomes addictive almost.”
Being in the right place at the right time when the surfing industry was changing and becoming more democratic, led to Alan being noticed.
He was 11 when he competed in his first junior UK competition and by the time he was 16, he was a regular on the UK circuit and soon progressed to the European scene.
Encouragement from his parents and his first sponsors saw Alan being ranked second in Europe at junior level and third in the men’s category. He also won three UK titles.
Through surfing Alan travelled the world, not only competing but taking part in events and sponsor photoshoots in idyllic locations but after going round the world so many times, Alan decided competing was not all there was and free style surfing could also be good for him and for sponsors.
“It’s ironic, you train to be the best in some of the most difficult conditions but you always end up competing in waves that are not very good. While with advent to the internet, growing acceptability and a surf fashion, brands were suddenly becoming interesting in providing great online content and videos.
“For brands there was mo visibility to be had with free surfing than in competitions. It fitted in well with what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to compete any more I wanted to surf more. I was lucky that my sponsor was happy with that. Now I was being paid to go and surf great waves and all I had to do was wear this brand’s short or wetsuit or ride their boards.
“It was a lot less pressure but I remain very competitive with myself as there is always something you can improve.”
Alan, who lists his home spot of Fistral in Newquay which he can see from his own house, Papua New Guinea and the Gold Coast in Australia as his favourite spots, has now been teaching and coaching for a decade.
The appeal is in the diversity it offers. From teaching beginners on holiday, intermediate surfers wanting to improve their technique or shooting a video for a brand, there won’t be any two days the same.
The pro-surfer is also a regular guest speaker and coach with Newquay-based Women+Waves, a collective which encourages more women to get into the sport and also teaches at the Headland Hotel’s Surf Sanctuary surf school.
Contrary to what some might think, the lockdown has been one of the busiest times for him as a surf coach.
“It was quiet at the beginning when nobody knew what was allowed and what wasn’t but as soon as it started warming up a bit everyone wanted some coaching lessons to improve.”
As for Cornwall’s chances of producing the next world champion or surfing Olympian, the county is home to bags of talented surfers coming through the ranks.
“Lukas, Ben Skinner’s son is definitely one to watch,” he said. “You can see his dad’s style of surfing in him. He’s really good. There is also a good group of groms at Fistral. I like competing with them. They certainly keep me sharp.
“Surfing has changed so much in my time already. There are so many more opportunities.
“There is no easy path to a world title or gold medal at the Olympics. It all depends on individuals with the drive, talent and the will to get there. But there is no reason Cornwall can’t produce the next Kelly Slater. We already have some of the best all years consistent surfing conditions in the world. So why not.”
To contact Alan visit