Jan 12

Kale Brock

Man Of Many

Surfing often lends itself to many branching passions. That’s why we endeavour to explore everything we can in Smorgasboarder, from travel, photography, health and journalism to coaching, film, nutrition and art.

Words: Amber O’Dell

Most surfers pick up one or two of these pastimes and run with them, but Kale Brock is not most people – he does it all. On the surface, he travels the world surfing while telling stories about surfing, but there’s a lot more to his vibrant, multifaceted career than that. Before his days of television, film and social media stardom, Kale grew up in Adelaide, which, as he pointed out, has a lot of ocean but not a lot of waves.

“Adelaide is a good place to grow up, but it’s tough as a surfer. You’ve really got to put time in the car to go and find waves. I first interacted with the ocean on a regular basis through Surf Life Saving, which I started when I was really young, maybe six or seven. Through that I got introduced to some surfers and caught my first wave when I was about ten on someone else’s longboard, just a little whitewater.

“I remember catching that wave and getting that feeling of the glide and going, okay, I think this is pretty serious. I said to Mum afterwards,‘Oh, there’s something pretty special about this sport.’

“I didn’t really start surfing regularly until I was maybe 15 when my brother got his licence so we could drive. Then it became more of an obsession. I ended up giving up Aussie Rules football, which was going to be my career at that point. But I just didn’t love it as much as surfing, so I thought, nah, I need to just commit to surfing.”

We know as well as anybody else that it takes a long time for a surfing beginner to go from falling off and stumbling on surfboards to carving through waves with ease (although, wipeouts are still half the fun, even for such talented surfers as ourselves, Mark excluded).

Learning to surf is hard, and yet, despite growing up on a waveless coastline and being unable to surf properly until his mid-teens, Kale’s surfing progression could be best described as meteoric. Kale informed us that a part of the reason why he developed his surfing skills so quickly was due to the surfing trips he often took with his older brother and friends.

“Naturally, they were a lot better. You sort of catch up very quickly when you surf with people who are better than you. My second rapid progression I would say happened when I actually started coaching people, funnily enough.

“I had to reverse engineer surf techniques, so once I started doing that, I started looking at my own technique and going, ‘Oh hang on, what am I doing there? Why isn’t that working?’ I would see the footage and reprogram. That was a really big help to start developing some better habits.

“I think that those two major milestones are where my surfing progressed most. I mean, obviously there are much better surfers than me around the world, but I think I’m quite capable, especially for someone who grew up in Adelaide.”

Remarkably, Kale started coaching surfers when he was only in his mid-twenties. Over the years, he has perfected the intricate art of helping surfers access their peak performance by producing a myriad of content, including courses, tailor-made surfing experiences, video analyses and surfing retreats.

Kale let us know that, when it comes to coaching, he focuses predominately on high-performance shortboarding.

“I can coach people who ride longboards, and I can coach them in the basics of fundamental surf techniques like bottom turns, catching waves, positioning, angle take-offs and whatnot, but when it comes to actually cross-stepping, it’s not my forte, so I can’t really coach it.

“But, you know, you can achieve high-performance shortboard style surfing on performance mid-lengths, which I think is an expanding category and one that deserves more interest and use throughout surfing demographics.”

No matter how many years you’ve been surfing for, and no matter how much of a pro-surfer you think you might be, there will always be that lingering curiosity that drives you to find new ways to improve your form, or at least shake it up a little bit.

When we asked what kind of go-to learning resources Kale takes advantage of to help other surfers evolve their skills, he said one of the primary tools he uses is SmoothStar – a skateboard designed to simulate the feeling of riding a wave that allows people to practice outside of the water.

“I’ve worked with them from the start because they reached out and said they would love me to try out their boards. I instantly thought that wow, these are amazing. They’re really good at getting people to iron out their technique, as it’s high repetition without the need to actually catch a wave. That’s why they’re so effective.

“They have really good crossover too, and need the same movements that are required to get a board moving. They’ve been a really good tool for my students and myself as well, particularly on my back end, as it really cleans up some technique issues. It can come across as a little bit kooky and even at face value, you know, ostensibly it kind of is kooky, but it’s just such a helpful training tool that I can’t not use or recommend. It’s really good.”

Of course, when you are lucky enough to come across a renowned surf coach as detail-oriented as Kale, you have just got to ask about their boards. If you couldn’t tell already, he is definitely a shortboard kind of guy. However, when it comes to the rest of his quiver, Kale said he rides anything that is appropriate for the conditions, which he thinks is a big lesson that many people should try to abide by.

“A lot of people just ride the same board all the time, regardless of the surf. As I’ve progressed in my own surfing, I’ve started to have a broader quiver and I’ll have boards for different conditions, which puts me in a good stead to travel the world and extract as much joy from each session as possible.

“I must say, it totally depends on the conditions. I think I get the most joy out of catching tubes. So whatever board is appropriate for the tubes, be it an everyday shortboard or a bit of a high-performance shortboard, those are generally the sessions that I like most.”

As a creative storyteller who documents some of the best waves that this planet has to offer, Kale has been fortunate to surf an unbelievable number of breaks. Most recently, his trips have led him to the beaches of Morocco, Spain, Portugal, Central America, Bali and the Maldives, in addition to a surf resort in Texas – just to name a few.

So, you can imagine our surprise when, after drawing upon his worldwide surfing experiences, Kale said his favourite place to surf is at home.

“There’s some really good waves at home. It’s quiet, there aren’t too many people and I know the spots very intimately. It will always have a special place in my heart.

“At the same time, my work tends to take me all around the world. I was just in Nicaragua and had an incredible experience there. I’m in France right now and it’s been pumping and the weather’s amazing. It’s been absolutely incredible.

“I also love the northern New South Wales coast. It’s such a beautiful part of the world. Australia in general is just the best I think for surfing anywhere, so that’s always been my preference.”

Our chat with Kale soon gravitated towards the topic of big, heavy and intimidating waves – you know, the ones that send chills up your spine and adrenalin coursing through your veins. Yet again, Kale said that out of everywhere he has travelled, nothing compares to South Australia.

“It’s the best. It’s the heaviest. It’s the scariest. Of all of the glory waves that I’ve had in my life, the best waves have all happened back home.

“The only place I haven’t been that I would probably expect to be on that list is Hawaii, and I haven’t been there because the crowd situation kind of scares me. Growing up in South Oz, I’m very allergic to crowds.

“There are a few breaks at home that make me very nervous. Not just because of the waves, but also because of what’s potentially underneath the waves, but I won’t share the names of those…”

Naturally, as with all Smorgasboarder interviews, sharks creeped their way into the conversation. While Kale mentioned that he’s had a scare or two from sharks across his twenty-odd years of surfing (again, mostly at his home in South Australia), he also said that he’s dealt with his fair share of something else that strikes fear into the hearts of surfers – localism.

“Spain was actually the worst experience I’ve ever had surfing in terms of localism. It was just absolute chaos and unjustified hierarchy where kooks were ruining the lineup and it was just a bizarre experience. I probably won’t go back to Spain for that reason, at least for surfing.

“Otherwise, most people are super chill. I get approached all the time when I’m in a surf location by people who watch the videos and who have an in with the local crowd. Then all of a sudden I’m paddling out with the King of Anchor Point in Morocco and getting called into eight-foot bombs ahead of everyone else because I’ve just met this wonderful human.

“So, you know, there’s good and bad examples of that. I would say most of my experiences are very positive in that respect.”

There’s this common snippet of trivia about the true meaning of passion. The word comes from the Latin root for suffer, and generally means a willingness to sacrifice for what you love. Not only has Kale had to juggle a lot while pursuing his many passions, but has also had to travel an insane amount while doing so. When asked if being constantly on the move ever gets draining for him, without hesitation, Kale simply said yes.

“I love the travel, and I’m really grateful that I get to do it, but as time has gone on, I wane. I’ve travelled now for probably ten years for at least three months of every year, if not six to nine months. I’m just a little bit tired and feeling quite fatigued, so I’ve been looking at buying a house, settling down in Australia and being more tight around my schedule if it involves travel.

“It’s important to build a good team too. I have a wonderful assistant, and I’m about to get a second assistant. I have a manager who manages all of my collaborations, and my mum is also my accountant. So I have some really big help, which is great. That’s how I do it, but it’s not easy and I find myself requiring more and more meditation as time goes on.

One of the first spheres of work Kale was enticed into was wellbeing and inner health, which was actually initiated by an unfortunate heart condition he had when he was 16 called supraventricular tachycardia.

At the time, Kale said he was offered an ablation, which is a procedure aimed at burning away the sinoatrial node, the electrical conductor of the heart that manages the electrical currents across the four different chambers, as it just wasn’t working properly.

“I thought, hang on, this is really illogical. Why are they burning the thing that’s not working properly? I’m 16 – I don’t want to have heart surgery. That just shot me off in a different direction. Long story short, I was able to turn that condition around within about a year and then manage it consistently up until now, just with a good diet and supplementation.

“There’s obviously a lot more to it than that, but that sparked not just a personal journey, but also a career. The health and wellbeing side of things was definitely a past occupation and not something I really focus on now outside of my own personal pursuits in those spaces. But I was in that space for eight or nine years and it was really fun. I learned a lot, but I just ran out of gas from a professional standpoint.

“Plus, as if I would choose that over surfing. I think surfing offers a juncture at which all those different points cross – spirituality, well-being, health, mind and body. That in itself enables me to juggle so many different aspects of the business, because I feel looked after and refuelled every day because I’m surfing every day. So I think that’s one of the most important things.”

It was Kale’s expertise in all things nutrition paired with his knack for words, creativity and storytelling that led him to publish The Gut Healing Protocol: An 8 Week, Holistic Guide to Rebalancing Your Gut, The Art of Probiotic Nutrition: Mastering Fermented Foods For Better Digestion, Weight Control, Immunity & Longevity and Mandy Microbe’s Big Gut Adventure, a book aimed at teaching gut health lessons to children.

As an incredibly healthy guy and renowned surf coach, we couldn’t help but pick Kale’s brain for the magic ingredients to a healthy diet. Kale said he normally sticks to seasonal, local, organic, whole food in addition to lots of vegetables, some animal protein and a little bit of fruit.

“If I’m within that, then I feel pretty comfortable. Nothing beats the feeling of having a healthy routine. I find that when I’m travelling it’s a little bit hard to stick to those routines, so I always feel the best and healthiest at home for sure.


“I’m in France, so I’m having a lot more bread than I normally do. I don’t eat any bread at all unless it’s gluten-free sourdough, but they make such good sourdough over here that I’ve been having bread with a lot of my meals. I’m not too pedantic about it anymore, but I definitely like feeling really alive, electric and healthy, and I think that comes from a clean dietary approach.

“Supplement-wise, I take a few things. I’ll generally take a green powder, and I take a little bit of herbal extracts. At the moment I’ve got elk antler, which is a pretty interesting one. I don’t take it all the time, but I tend to rotate between some pretty high-potency herbal extracts.

“There’s only so much you can take, and you don’t want to overdo it because then you don’t know what’s working too. But nothing feels as good as walking out of a good surf – so that’s really probably the most important factor there.”

Throughout his many ventures, Kale is probably best known for writing, directing and starring in The Gut Movie (2018) – a film that investigates the human microbiome through a scientific, quirky and fun journey where Kale travels to Namibia to live with the San Tribe.

And because he seemed incapable of slowing down, it was only a year later that Kale released The Longevity Film, where he is featured travelling to the world’s ‘blue zones’ to investigate the dietary and lifestyle factors that cause their extraordinary health and longevity.

While still generally focused on mental and physical wellbeing, Kale’s online presence has since shifted, with his social media, videos and documentaries being centred completely around coaching and surfing content. In relation to his current film schedule, Kale said he is constantly travelling with the team members he mentioned previously in addition to his filmmaker and editor.

“We’re looking at sort of shifting into more tight schedules where I’ll film in like two to four-week blocks instead of extended trips, just because it does get a little bit draining having to feel like you’re on that content treadmill.

“In the past, it’s been very ad hoc. It’s been very creative and very whimsical. What’s the surf doing? What sort of message haven’t I shared? Let’s shoot that. Whereas now, because everything’s grown so much and it’s getting pretty chaotic, I actually just find I need to be more structured in that approach.

“So working with those people that I mentioned before, we’re starting to develop a content schedule that spans out three months, six months, 12 months and 24 months, and then working towards that. I hope that comes into play in the next couple of months, because right now everything’s in my head, which is not that fun.”

Before his life became so crazy, and prior to his films, books and social media fame, Kale’s career actually began in television on the well-known children’s show, Totally Wild. After working at Channel Ten for two years, he put his articulate nature to good use by doing a lot of podcasting and speaking

on stage.

In addition to his work in overlapping industries, Kale chalks a majority of his reach up to his approach to surf coaching, as it helped him amass a large following relatively quickly.

“I think, in surfing, there was such a big gap between core surf culture and this huge influx of people we’ve seen getting into the sport. There was no roadmap as to how to become ‘a surfer’, particularly when it came to technique.

“I just had to reverse engineer a lot of the technique stuff that I’ve talked about because, in my opinion, there was just nothing out there. Nothing was effective, relatable or comprehensive. So I think the main driver and goal for everything that I was doing was, ‘Hey, how can I help people move from wherever they are on that roadmap further along their journey so that they can get closer to achieving those peak experiences on a regular basis?’

“I think it would also be remiss of me not to acknowledge my past media experience. I think with that, I’ve been able to fall back on a large skill set. It’s this cross-section of thinking I’m great at editing, there are better editors than me, but I’m great at it. There are better surfers than me, but I’m good at it. There are better storytellers and presenters than me, but I’m good at it.

“I think it’s the combination of having those three fundamental skills that have enabled me to build a good media catalogue that is comprehensive and relatable for people.”

Needless to say, Kale has carved out a niche for himself in surfing media. The engaging storytelling, creative coaching methods and intuitive perspective that he delivers through social media is certainly unique in the fact that it can be enjoyed by everyone.

With that said, given that he is not a former professional surfer, his modern approach to surf coaching has created quite a stir in the industry, particularly within certain sections of surf media that seem to unfairly contest the ability of social media surfers against professional surfers.

In response to this, Kale said he has had both positive and negative experiences when it comes to the core surfing community.

“Most of the time it’s been really positive. Just getting begrudgingly endorsed by them has been kind of satisfying in a way, even though I’m not looking for validation from them anymore like I was when I was 16. I’ve sort of created my own lane here, and I’m very comfortable doing what I’m doing without worrying about what’s going on in the core surf community.

“I think the core surfing media represent such a tiny portion of the actual total surfing demographic, so it’s just irrelevant what they think of me and what they say about me. Most of the time, as far as I know, they’re not really talking about me.

“To be honest, and it sounds a bit arrogant, but I surf better than most of them anyway, so I mean, fair enough. If there’s a pro-surfer who doesn’t like what I’m doing, whatever, I’m not going to change their mind anyway. But most of the people I’ve found who criticise me are not that good of surfers, and they would actually benefit from the information and the coaching that I have. So yeah, I don’t really care.”

All of this, and we still haven’t mentioned perhaps the magnum opus of Kale’s coaching legacy, The Surfers Roadmap – a structured follow-along series of programs fit for surfers wanting to progress their surfing journey, and the ultimate expression of Kale’s surfing knowledge combined with the passion he has for the industry.

Out of everything he has done throughout his colourful career, Kale said the most rewarding experiences have been simply interacting and living alongside other surfers – which is something a lot of us can look up to and relate with.

“We obviously put out a lot of free content on YouTube, and a lot of that drives people to The Surfer’s Roadmap because it is a structured, step-by-step approach to improving your surfing. From there, people tend to join me on a retreat and that’s where I feel most fulfilled.

“Working with people one-on-one or in a small group, depending on the retreat, is my jam. Sitting down for dinner with people, getting to know them for over a week and just learning about them is such a pleasure in addition to helping advance them on their journey towards more peak experiences through surfing. It is just such a wonderful job. I couldn’t ask for anything more.

“I don’t know where my fulfilment would come from if I was just focusing on myself and my surfing. I’m a lot more interested in hanging out with interesting people who surf rather than surfers. A lot of my students have become friends, investors or advisors. It’s such a wonderful experience.

“I think that’s really what I’m focused on from a professional standpoint and obviously from a personal standpoint. I’m just looking at growing and becoming a better human every day. I feel like my work is a reflection of where I’m at personally. So yeah, if I keep myself in good stead, then I’m offering the best service that I can to the world, and I think that’s a good place to be.”