The Growl of the Vanilla Gorilla


Becoming an ocean advocate is an education and a hardcore one at that.

One of South Africa’s elite graduates, Mr Josh Anthony Redman, knows this all too well. The 2 times SA junior champ turned big wave charger is a trojan in heavy water, and a magician with an oven glove. He’s well known around the globe as the Vanilla Gorilla.

Interested yet? Oh stop it, we know you are. So on your behalf and without any further ado; Roll The Bones proudly presents a digital chinwag with the man himself, who gives us an exclusive insight into his aqueous past, floury present and monstrous future.

RTB: Lets take it back to the beginning, how did you start surfing?

J.R: My dad began surfing in his teens so I think it was inevitable that I would be a surfer! My older brother Dan got into it when I was about 3 or 4, so when you’re a grom you get psyched to do what your older brother is doing! We lived in Hermanus for a couple years over this period so that’s where Dan started. We moved back to Durban when I was 6 and that was it. My balie started pushing me into foamies I guess. I can’t recall my first surf ever, but some of my earliest memories are of surfing, first time jumping off the pier and all that!

Where and when did you get a taste for the big stuff?

Well Durban isn’t known for big waves, but there are some really heavy waves on our coast. When you’re 10 years old, a 6ft wave is pretty big! So I think it started early, just trying to surf waves as big as I could handle and as I got older those boundaries grew. When I was 14 I got the chance to go down to Cape Town during the Redbull Big Wave Africa and managed to get out in the water with all the competitors during a practice session at Dungeons. This was a crucial point in my path as a surfer because I realized, shit, its not just 10 foot Newpier that I could push myself to, there’s this! But it was only at the end of my Pro Junior contest career that I really got a chance to explore that side of surfing again. It was always in my mind and I knew I wanted to do it.

How many times have you been to Hawaii?

I’ve done 5 seasons in Hawaii now. The first 2 seasons I spent a month in San Francisco and had the chance to surf Mavericks a bit. Then I would head over and spend a few months on the North Shore. These 2 seasons I never made it over to Maui to surf Jaws. The following season I went straight to the North Shore and surfed Pipe & Backdoor a lot, but again never made it over to Maui for lack of a big enough swell. So it was only my last 2 seasons that I made it over there and I’m so bummed that I never made it my mission to get there earlier, because that wave has changed my life. It is the pinnacle of big wave surfing for a reason because it is hands down the best big wave in the world. At least that has been discovered!

Run us through that giant Peahi bomb and the free-fall…

Well I ended up there on that particular day by a last minute decision of pure luck. I was only planning on heading to Hawaii at the end of January because I had work and personal commitments at home. But there was a big swell on the charts and the long-range forecast predicted another few backed up behind that. These swells are continuously changing and until the day you can never really tell if it’s going to be good or not. Frank (Solomon) actually dropped me a message saying “Hey, there’s a few big swells on the charts, come over now, looks like January is going to be a good month!” So there I was, wrestling with the decision of dropping everything at home, and chasing the swell. With the support from everyone at home assuring me that it was more important than anything I was worried about, I booked my ticket on the Tuesday and left on the Wednesday! I arrived on Oahu on the Thursday, got my boards ready and left for Maui on the Friday to surf the swell on the Saturday. The first swell was crowded and about 15-20ft. It wasn’t ideal because of the crowds but still a good warm up session. After that the swell that was forecasted for the Thursday up and disappeared overnight and then reappeared on the charts a day later, double the size! Just shows how much the charts change and what a risky call it is trying to chase swells. Luckily this swell played out well and ended up being the biggest paddle in day in history and with favorable conditions. My first wave was my biggest one and I just got so lucky. It rolled in a bit wide and underneath the guys that were sitting on the outside peak, so I just swung and went. Perfect chip shot in and I honestly didn’t know it was that big until I saw a photo later on. I was freaking out when I saw! Then about an hour later I had that big over the falls. Albee Layer was committing to a few steep takeoffs that were getting me psyched up. All of a sudden this one jumped up and was swinging pretty wide so really early into my paddle in I decided in my mind that I was going, no matter what. I put my head down and committed and by the time I lifted my head again I almost knew I was going over, but it was too late to pull back because I would have got sucked over anyway! So I just gave it my best shot! *

*Editors note: And subsequently scored the cover of the Zigzag!

Amazing. Tell us about your business, Gosh brownies?

Gosh is my baking business. I’ve been involved for the last 3 and a half years or so. I’m in a partnership with my chick’s aunt and it started in her home kitchen where we used to bake for a couple of coffee shops and home industry stores. We started with a few products but soon realised that our brownies were the top sellers, so we put our focus into that and have turned almost purely into a brownie business. Our customer base grew quite steadily and soon we were at full capacity baking out of our little home ovens. So we looked for our own spot, which took a while, but as soon as we did we were able to expand quite quickly. We are now supplying 15 Spars in the Durban area and have about 25-30 customers from coffee shops to school tuck shops. Its something I hope to have a future with and having a partner that I can depend on, and that understands my passion for surfing, really helps to allow me to pursue my surfing dreams at the same time.

What else does the future hold?

The future is always uncertain but I hope to get onto the Big Wave World Tour in the next few years. Hopefully I can use the momentum gained during the last Hawaii season and follow it through into our winter at home in SA. If we have a good season at home it will hopefully put me in a good position to get a wildcard into my first BWWT event!

Thanks for your time big guy, we’re all right behind you. Any parting words?

Thanks bru. I’d just like to thank everyone at home again for all their support. It’s overwhelming how much everyone has got behind me over the last few years. Really makes me want to achieve something great for South Africa and hopefully use that as a platform to voice other important issues.

Legend. A sterling ambassador for surfing and South Africa. Josh, we salute you!   

  After all the decisions, preparation and a healthy dose of luck Josh came up with pocket aces and snagged the bomb of a lifetime.

The baker man’s commitment and dedication, rightfully rewarded in print.

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