Teale Vanner on Keeping Calm Under Pressure

Photos by Zac Heath

Teale Vanner’s not one to shy away from a challenge.

Being raised on a hearty diet of cold, southern slabs on Kangaroo Island (a not-so-small piece of land off the coast of South Australia), gave Teale a kind of raw tenacity that saw him mastering one of the country’s most elusive and intimidating stretches of coastline at a young age. His skills in the water saw him qualifying for the WQS tour, before opting for the free surfing life in warmer waters north of Sydney. We spent a morning in the surf with Teale recently thanks to G-Shock and quizzed him on pressure-cooker moments in and out of the water, living with Craig Ando and the hidden gems of his birthplace, below.

You’ve got a van and one month off to go road tripping anywhere in Aus. Where are you headed and why?

I’m feeling a trip north is my pick at the moment. Maybe straight up to Foster way and then check out the countryside, find some long point breaks. I’ve travelled between Sydney and Noosa multiple times but always just shooting up or down, so I’d love to explore it more and maybe even cruise inland.

Who’s riding shotgun?

Easy—my girlfriend is great company and is keen to get some surfing practice in. We like camping together and enjoy the outdoors style of living.

You’re originally from Kangaroo Island but you’re currently living with Craig Ando and Lewie Dunn up in Newcastle. What do you love about the Steel City? 

The Steel City is the best. It’s definitely all about the company you keep; everyone I hang with here are super tight, always surfing and having a good time. Growing up where I did makes me appreciate the country but I really love the happy medium of what Newcastle has to offer, with its beachside town vibes, working-class ethic and tight-knit community.

If you had to evict one of the boys, who would it be and why?

Nah, no one’s going anywhere! We’re all in this together. It’s been so great to live with both these guys. I grew up surfing around Australia with Craig when we both rode for Quiky and so we go way back, but it’s been sick to live and grow close these last few years. Lewie and I just were naturally drawn to one another from seeing each other in the water every day, and he’s such a daily motivator I couldn’t imagine the house without him these days.

What’s something about Kangaroo Island first-timers might be surprised to find out?

I guess the size is one thing that blows people away. It’s a hidden gem in my eyes. The landscape changes so dramatically and it has so many natural wonders located on the south-west tip of the island in the Flinders Chase National Park.

You and photographer/filmer Zac Heath have teamed up for a few edits etc. in the past. What’s the best thing about having Zac behind the lens?

Zac’s a great guy to do a trip and film with. He’s easy going, keen to get shit done and willing to be experimental and creative.

G-Shock watches are built to be put through the wringer and can handle just about anything. What’s been your biggest pressure-cooker situation in the surf?

A recent wringer situation that comes to mind is surfing a slab in the Great Australian Bight about a year ago. The tide was low in the morning and so we sat on the cliff and watched it until it had kinda settled down. By the time I paddled out, there were still 8ft sets. I surfed for about an hour and paddled into a couple but was struggling to come out of these death slabs. I was getting frustrated, so I swung the next biggest wave I’d gone all morning, I was paddling my hardest and a bodyboarder was backing me up and could see that I wanted it but was maybe not going to make it, so he gave me a push! It fully worked and I got catapulted down this wave. I locked into it and the thing just blasted me off the board and I went flying over the front of my board.

I remember going calm and assumed the body position you’d imagine a cat taking when falling, with my arms poised to hit the bottom. Instead, I got wrapped around this rock pillar and remember the wave surging me against it, and my leggie was completely stretched. Once the water had stopped pulling me against the rock I swum up and was in completely blue water, whereas usually your swimming up in the foamy white water. I was so happy to be alive. I got a few more waves that session but didn’t make a single barrel. I need to go back and redeem myself.

And biggest pressure-cooker situation out of the surf?

Shit… I dunno. I’m a pretty relaxed guy so I try not to let stuff phase me. I’m always pretty stressed when uni exams roll around I guess. Or when my car doesn’t start because I’ve run out of fuel.

When you’re not surfing, what would we find you doing? 

I usually start the day with a short ride down the beach to check the waves, coffee and a swim. I’ve been studying teaching the last few years at uni so if there’s no waves I’m usually trying to be studious.

Teale wears the G-Shock DW5600-1, available online here.

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