Surfer’s Voice is an exploration of Canadian surf culture through the lens of the real individuals who make up surf communities from coast to coast with every lake and river in between.
For our latest installment we caught up with surfer and instructor Tyler Megarry to learn about his surf journey in Eastern Canada, and to hear some of his thoughts regarding LGBTQ2S+ representation in surfing.
Tyler heading out for a spring session in Montreal.
Where are you from? Where do you live?
I grew up in Winnipeg. I then moved to Montreal and lived there twelve years. Now I live in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Have been here for three years now.
Favourite local break?
Said break shall remain nameless, but it’s a fun right with a beautiful view and always chill vibes.
Favourite break in the world?
To be determined. I’ve only surfed once outside of Canada so I can’t really say. I’m looking forward to being able to surf and travel more after I wrap up my studies this spring.
How did you first get into surfing?
When I was living in Montreal a friend’s brother who surfed came for a visit. He wanted to check out surfing in the river, which I didn’t even know was a thing at the time. I’d always wanted to try surfing so I tagged along. I was instantly hooked. I bought a punch-card at the rental shop and surfed 2-3 times a week all summer at Vague à Guy. That fall I bought a used board, built a board rack for my bike and started going to Habitat 67. The rest is history.
Tyler’s rig below the Montreal skyline.
How would you describe the surf scene in Montreal?
Montreal has a surprisingly big surf scene for somewhere not on the ocean. There’s local shapers, an annual board swap, film screenings, the usual surf community type of things. The lineup was pretty friendly. I had a great schedule and could surf weekdays all morning long, so I avoided the crowds. We were usually the same people going at that time and it was a great vibe; laid-back, friendly and people just having fun. That’s what I like in a lineup.
An early morning session at Montreal’s Habitat ‘67.
Was surfing part of the motivation behind the move to Nova Scotia?
Big time. I was looking at programs around Canada for school and when I saw that I could study in Nova Scotia and surf, it was a done deal. Honestly though, even if I hadn’t been looking at schools, I probably would have moved here to be able to surf more. I’ve loved living here so far and plan to stick around after I graduate this spring.
How does the surf scene in Nova Scotia compare to Montreal ? Do you see any consistencies among the scenes? Are there any specific Canadian traits that you can pinpoint in or around the water?
There are definitely lots of similarities. Both have very active scenes and great people doing interesting things. I did notice one difference though. Seeing as Montreal had a couple river waves that run pretty consistently from spring until fall, compared to Nova Scotia where it can be flat for a while between swells, it creates a different dynamic. In Montreal I knew some surfers but we never cross paths at the wave because we would go at different times depending on our schedules. When it’s working, you can kind of just go when you want. Here when there’s waves, people make it happen to be out there. There’s a different excitement in the air. I find that dynamic creates a different bond with the surf community that I like. As far as Canadian traits, I haven’t really surfed outside of Canada so I couldn’t say.
Tyler sliding down a perfect cold Atlantic right-hander. Photo by Karl Funk
Have you changed your quiver up moving from river to coastal surf?
Well, I’m not really much of a quiver queen. I had one board on the go at a time in Montreal. I came here and made the switch from a short board to a longboard in the first year. So I guess more of a size queen? I’ve been mostly riding that since. There’s some awesome local shapers here and I’m dreaming up a new board that’s a bit shorter than my current 9’8. Now that I’ve been surfing here a few years I have a better idea of what I’d like.
You mention meeting our friend (and Surf the Greats founder) Antonio online prior to your first ocean surf in California, can you tell us a little bit about how that came to be? Can you recall that session?
We met through the website Gaysurfers.net, which I had learnt about from the surf documentary Out In the Lineup. There is a group for Canadian surfers and myself and Antonio connected there. We began messaging about meeting up for a surf, either in the lakes or in the river. At the time, I was in California to visit some family and mentioned off-hand that I was planning to try surfing in the ocean for the first time. Antonio wrote back saying he was going to be flying into California in a couple days. Total coincidence that we both were going to be in California at the same time. So when he got in we met up and went surfing!
Tyler's dawn patrol in Oceanside with Antonio and Cory. Photo by Cory Patterson.
I’ll never forget that first session. We met up at San Onofre. I was so excited and nervous. There was a pretty decent swell that day. As we paddled out, fog started rolling in. We surfed till dark in a huge blanket of fog. I couldn’t see the shore, big waves were rolling at me out of the fog, you’d catch glimpses of other surfers from time to time, the whole experience was surreal. I remember lying in bed that night and I could still feel myself bobbing in the ocean. I barely slept because I was so excited to surf again the next day. Antonio picked me up the next morning bright and early and we were back in the water at Oceanside for first light. I also got to tag along with him as he met up with some other surfers, shapers and photographers. It was my first real exposure to surf culture and my first real surf bud! Plus I got to repay the favour that following spring when Antonio came up to Montreal and I took him out to H67 for his first time river surfing.
What was the impetuous behind using a website like gaysurfers.net, as opposed to a mainstream surf website? Was it because of stigma in the lineups or was it more of a way to connect over a shared cultural experience?
I’ve never hid who I am surfing and am lucky to have never felt any direct discrimination, but I know lots of queer surfers still do. I’ve heard people throw around some derogatory words amongst themselves, which never feels good to overhear, but those have really been few and far between. I can only speak from my experience, but I wouldn’t say those experiences are representative of the scenes in either Montreal or Nova Scotia, rather a few ignorant individuals. Both scenes have been very open and I’ve felt not just welcomed, but appreciated for being who I am out in the line-up. That’s a great feeling.
Even though I feel welcomed I still like to use sites like gaysurfers.net. Being a surfer and being queer are both important parts of my identity and it’s been important for me to have spaces where they intersect. Sometimes they feel separate because I am either in one community or the other, which sometimes feels a bit isolating. Site’s like gaysurfers.net offer me that opportunity to connect with queer people over a shared love of surfing. It offers a space for that particular part of my identity where surfing and being queer overlap to just exist and be expressed with others who have that shared experience. There’s something really special in that. I’m finishing up a three year stint of school pretty soon and am stoked to travel and surf more and hopefully meet some amazing queer surfers along the way!
Can you tell us about your experiences as a surf instructor? How did the LGBTQ2S+ session come about? What was the response like?
The idea for a lesson came before I began instructing. Over the years I’d met many queer people who expressed an interest in trying surfing but had some hesitation. I thought it would be fun to organize a lesson during Halifax Pride and try to encourage more queer people to give surfing a try. I wasn’t sure where to start, but the Surfing Association of Nova Scotia helped me get it off the ground and put me in touch with East Coast Surf School. Everyone was super stoked about the idea and helped me pull it together. It was a neat experience because we had to think about what are some of the barriers that members from the queer community face when it comes to surfing and figure out how to break those down. For example, the beach having no gender-neutral change area or someone being misgendered when getting their wetsuit. Myself and the ECSS team worked together to find solutions to do our best to create a safe and non-intimidating space for people. I also got funding through Halifax Pride for ASL/English interpretation so the lesson would be accessible to Deaf and Hard of Hearing members of the Queer community.
In the end, the lesson was a huge success! We had 23 people come out. There were great waves to learn on, people were having a blast and I got awesome feedback from both the participants and the instructors! I really could not have pulled it off without the amazing team at ECSS. They put in their all and were open to whatever was needed to make this a success and I could not be more grateful. I also had so much support and encouragement from SANS (Surfing Association of Nova Scotia) the larger surf community. There was so much genuine stoke and support for what I was doing. Those interactions really solidified my trust with the surf community here as a queer person. I have a lot of love and respect for the surf community in Nova Scotia.
And regarding instructing, while organizing the lesson with ECSS, they offered me a job with them over the summer. It was something new for me. I had a total blast! I loved helping people catch their first wave. Surfing can be intimidating for anyone to start, so I was happy I got to be a part of a positive first experience for so many people.
Do you notice any changes in your own surfing, since you have started instructing?
Definitely! It helped me better understand what I was doing on a technical level, plus notice where I had some bad habits to break. Also, spending time with the other staff who have such a wealth of knowledge, I learned so much more about surfing.
Do you have any surfing mentors or heroes?
I could rattle off some names of pro surfers who have a style I like, but at the end of the day I wouldn’t call any one person a mentor or a hero. There are some amazing local surfers here who I have gotten to know over the past few years. They have great style and lots of knowledge. They give me tips and feedback on my surfing, and are always open to answer my questions. No one has to take time out of their session to do that, but they do, so I am very grateful for that.
What is it about surfing that appeals to you?
So many things, it’s hard to narrow it down. One main thing would be the positive impact it has on my mental health. When I started surfing I was dealing with a lot of anxiety and I was in a rut. Surfing was new and sparked an excitement in me that I needed at that time. It was something to look forward to, it helped me gain confidence and it gave me the push to make those changes I wanted for myself. Now surfing is just part of the overall care I do for myself. I'm an anxious person, but when I surf I can usually leave that all behind. It gets me out of my head and into the moment. I get to focus my energy on the ocean and the elements around me. On a lighter note, surfing is just plain fun! I love the adventure of driving around checking out spots, bumping into friends at breaks, hanging out in nature, running into the freezing ocean in February. All of it is just a blast.
Does your life as a surfer have any impact on your life out of the water?
Definitely. Surfing feels like a break from the world when I paddle out and get to leave everything else behind. I know having these moments helps me feel more grounded and calm in my life outside of the water. Plus, I now hate making plans too far in advance in case a good swell rolls through. So, more wishy-washy? Commitment issues?
Can you tell us about the Polaroid project you have been working on?
I don’t know if I would call it a project, just something fun I like to do. I carry around a Polaroid camera and offer to take photos of surfers with their boards then give them the picture. Some are strangers, some are people I know. I don’t post the pictures myself or keep them. I just do it to share the stoke and create good vibes in the community. Lots of times I don’t ever see how the picture turns out. But it’s nice to think they’re out there somewhere on a fridge or on someone’s dash. And people are pretty happy when I offer, which is always a good feeling.
Lastly do you have any other words you would like to share with our readers in the wider surf world?
I think we still have a long way to go in regards to representation and diversity in surfing. In regards to queer representation, there is a new generation of queer kids coming up right now who are pushing to change the current heteronormative structures we have in place. I find it really inspiring! A lot of these queer kids are also the next generation of surfers and will be pushing back against these structures that are in place in the surf world too. I hope we can all be open, supportive and embrace what they have to offer. I'm excited to see what they bring to surfing and where we go from here!
Queer surfers worldwide and anyone who wants to connect with Tyler can contact him on his facebook profile.
We're all roomies on this ball of water and dirt.. Find him on Instagram.