Today is the second day of the new year and winter is making no secret of its arrival upon the Central Coast. The rain continues to pile up on the deck outside as the wind exhales another blow on the front window of Brett Roldan’s current residence up in Pismo Heights. Looking over at Brett, his face reveals no sign of relief. “That means luggage deliveries are gonna be off the hook,” he sighs. “Rain means delays, delays mean bags.” Although he’s due back for his second shift at Pismo Fish and Chips in only an hour, Brett’s already stressing on his second job, delivering luggage for the airport. “Ahhh, the life of a bodyboarder,” he quips after some pause. Contrary to his body language though, I get the sense that Brett really doesn’t mind this life. And although a new year has begun, Roldan appears content with living his life on the Central Coast as he has for the past 27 years.
Brett Daniel Roldan was born the youngest of four brothers who all spent time in the waters surrounding Pismo. As a grom Brett took on his first job as a floor wiper at the Cal Poly women’s volleyball games. Not before long he had saved up enough cash for his first Aleeda wetsuit. His first real board followed shortly thereafter. “My first boogie was the Mach 7-7 with the handle on the nose. Just a lot easier to hold on to and kinda cruise. I think [local legend] Heath Erikson is still riding those,” Brett laughs.
Brett grew up surfing the pier at a time when Pismo was not so friendly. The “JG’ers,” an older misfit crew of strung-out resin heads under the influence of shaper Jerry Grantham, ruled the Pismo scene during this time. Under this rather hostile environment a talented outcrop of bodyboarders emerged, especially dropkneers. In pursuit of respect and a spot in the lineup alongside the locals, the bar was raised amongst Pismo spongers. Brett recalls the influence of local talent vividly, especially the dominance of local pro Simon Mason. “There was a lot of old school dkers,” boasts Roldan, his tone revealing pride in his Pismo roots. “Simon though was just always guhhhh,” utters Brett as he flicks his hand in a tail-like motion for emphasis. “Not so much Roach style, but just carves, huge carves.” And then when his older brother Greg transitioned to the knee, Brett followed suit and began carving out a style of his own. Roldan remembers the conversion being addictive, claiming dropknee made him more conscious of the actual “feel” of the wave. His youthful eagerness to perfect the subtle intricacies of this new stance in front of his own heroes made Pismo an ideal arena for crafting his natural abilities. It was not long before Brett’s surfing was creating a statement of its own, attracting the eyes of fellow bodyboarders and local companies alike.
In the meantime Brett’s current sponsor Toobs Bodyboards was busy establishing themselves locally in the town of Morro Bay. Brett’s relationship with Toobs started long before his sponsorship though, in the form of a purchase off of local bodyboarders Ammon and Aaron Walters. The hot-pink- and sea-foam-green-railed, yellow-decked, sticker-plastered, and hot-pink-bottomed board still resides in his brother’s garage to this day. After that little number it was pretty much Toobs there on out, scrapping 40 inch original Roach boards off of the side from then-employee Brian Peterson until he gained full sponsorship. His board size may have changed since those early days, but his lasting relationship with Toobs and owner Buzz hasn’t skipped a beat over all this time, a true rarity in this industry. During our conversation I get the sense that Brett has remained loyal for so long because he and Toobs possess the same family-like presence, mellow vibe, and dedication to the sport. “Toobs is pretty much the roots,” says Brett. “You get all these branches off of Toobs that are associated with Toobs and the Central Coast. It’s pretty trippy.” Tracing these branches of past employees and riders through to the present uncovers many examples of how the Toobs approach has been paying off over the years. There is no doubt that Brett wants to be a part of their rich history and has shown through his riding that he will continue to be a local icon for the company in the future.
Brett’s immediate future appears to be fairly consistent with years past: saving cash for summer trips, entering the occasional contest, and making the most of what California has to offer as far as bodyboarding is concerned. “It’s weird to think that in Australia and Hawaii the scene is completely different than the West Coast. Even the East Coast is different from the West Coast. It’s just like the West Coast kind of hurts.”
Despite the reality of West Coast bodyboarding, Brett remains fairly positive and humble about his own situation. “Coming around here I have a lot of support,” says Brett. “I try to help them out as much as they help me. You know [Esteem owner] Randall’s good at that as well as Toobs. I’ve been fortunate, blessed to travel a lot. For bodyboarding not a lot of people get to travel a lot.” After listing off all the exotic locations he’s been able to travel to, he shakes his head. “I look at people stuck in Central Cal and it’s just shit.” Traveling is obviously Brett’s true passion as it offers an escape from the daily grind of the real world and allows him to come into contact with new people, cultures, and waves. Currently he’s got a late season Hawaii mission on the backburner. These trips fuel his two job fix and keep him sane when the waves aren’t up to par back home.
As we wrap things up I glance over at Roldan who is casually finishing up his 24 ounces of Bud Light before I glance back out the window overlooking an overcast downtown Pismo. The thought of work right now in these conditions doesn’t offer up much solace, but I keep thinking back to our conversation nonetheless. The ability to travel, two flexible and decent jobs, and supportive sponsors – maybe this life as a bodyboarder isn’t so bad after all. As if on cue, Brett then has me examine the mysterious red spots on his arm that appeared after the double shift he pulled at work the day before. Another bout of wind shakes the front window and the pitter-patter of rain on the deck becomes automated once again after having trailed off during our conversation. I can’t help but begin to think in horror about all of the restless valley people that are surely lining up for their bread bowls in the pouring rain down on the main drag in Pismo. “It’s madness,” says Roldan as he buttons up his signature off-color polo shirt for work. “I wish boogieboarding was just one job, shit.” Shit is right I realize, as I snap out of my half-drunken stupor, slightly enchanted by some kind of romanticized picture of boogieboarding there for a sec. For Californians, pro bodyboarding sure ain’t no Easy Street. In fact, it resembles something a little more along the lines of that drab little intersection of Cypress Street and Stimson Avenue in downtown Pismo that Roldan has come to know all too well.