Chayne Simpson, World Champion

Rob Harwood
Form Guide

Australia has a new surfing world champion.

Last month, just before international travel shut down, Chayne Simpson beat Californian Sam Coyne to win the World Kneeboard Surfing Championship in Dunedin, New Zealand.

Conditions were varied throughout the event with the final surfed in small waves on a high tide that effectively saw competition reduced to a game of strategy and patience. This is particularly ironic: In 1999, when Chayne first entered this event, he was knocked out in controversial circumstances - more on that later.

Chayne's been runner up a number of times, but he's never won. Always the bridesmaid, now at last, the bride.

(All photos by Steen Barnes except where noted)

Chayne’s been riding kneeboards since the age of fifteen. Growing up a mad bodyboarder on the NSW south coast, he recalls after school trips with his brother Troy and Mark Slater, whose dad Rob would ferry them around to surf the pick of the local breaks. Wollongong has a healthy kneelo underground so it was inevitable that Chayne would see the possibilities offered by increased speed and turning power. It wasn’t long before Rob Slater had the boys on kneeboards and surfing regular club competitions with the Wollongong Area Kneeboard Association (WAKA).

This is amateur surfing, the kind where people turn up month after month, year after year, because they’re dedicated to their sport, not because there’s any financial gain down the track. Kneeboard comps are as much about fraternising with the far-flung and sometimes isolated kneelo communities as they are about winning. The bulk of the field tends to be pretty flat, but the top level are as far beyond the ability of the average kneelo as the top 44 footboarders are above the average surfer.

At that level, competition can become intense: a World Title is at stake after all. 

Chayne found that out back in 1999 - before the contest used a priority system - when during the quarter-finals a wave popped up where Chayne and another competitor ("a ruthless American") were sitting. 

"He was sitting inside me," recalls Chayne, "so I asked him if he was gonna go, and he said, 'No, I’m not going, you go.' I went, then I turned around and he was behind me on the wave. I got an interference. One of the dirtiest tricks you’re ever gonna get, I reckon."

Chayne lives less than a kilometre from Albert Munoz, a Puerto Rican transplant now residing in Wollongong, also a two-time kneeboard world champion and one of Chayne’s best mates. The two haven't surfed together much lately because they have young families and wildly different day jobs - Albert holds a PhD and is a university professor, Chayne is a fireman and a qualified signwriter. Chayne reckons he has the pick of the surf because his work allows more flexibility around the forecasts, while Albert’s job dictates when he’s able to surf.

When they do surf together, there’s surprisngly little competition. Says Chayne, "We don’t compete at all when we’re freesurfing. At least I don’t. I like watching what he’s doing, but that old cliché of trying to do better, you know, 'he’s done a turn, I want to do one better', I think we’re getting a bit old for that."

Albert and Chayne first met at the World Titles on the Sunshine Coast in the early 2000s. Chayne remembers Albert as an annoying little bastard in the water who just wanted every single wave that came in.

"He was annoying the hell out of me," admits Chayne. "I think I had a bit of a go at him, told him he can’t have every wave and to just calm down. He just ignored me and paddled away."

After Albert moved to the South Coast and joined the WAKAs, the two ended up mates. It’s a solid friendship that’s endured sixteen years now, with the pair often travelling to competitions together as well as working on Legless.TV.

(Richard Kotch)

Talented on many craft, Chayne focusses on kneeboards because he likes the point of difference it brings to a lineup, as well as the pure camaraderie that pervades this tiny branch of surfing’s family tree. That said, Chayne doesn’t push the contest side of things at all. 

"I’m definitely more into freesurfing," says Chayne. "I could never go in a contest again and I‘d be fine. Some people train for it, study opponents and all that sort of thing. Yeah...I just go surfing."

But why then do the contest at all? Was he motivated by all past close-calls?

"That was my full motivation," admits Chayne. "When Albert asked me if I was going, I was probably 90% not going, but once I was there, and once I got to the quarters, I thought, 'I’m not going to let another one go, I’ve got to get this one.'"

So is the pressure off now that Chayne's won a World Title?

"It will take the pressure off in a way," says Chayne, "but…I don’t know how I’m going to word this without offending people, but I don’t want another fifty-year old to win the title. My motivation going into the next one is to make sure we don’t get someone old. You know, I'd like to see some of the kids go through instead of those really old blokes."

Kneeboarding’s regularly criticised for the age of the people who do it. With a perceived heyday in the late 70s, kneeboarding has produced several world champions over the age of 40. Past winners have expressed a desire to see the world title go to new, younger surfers, but this is a branch of surfing into which few younger surfers care to venture. The event this year was remarkable in that both finalists were under forty. Chayne is as keen as anyone to see new blood in the sport.

"The talent pool in that younger age range isn’t deep," says Chayne, "but there are some guys. Tom Novakov [son of past World Champ Michael Novakov] came through the harder side of the draw and took down a couple of guys...he had me on the ropes in the quarters. There’s a young kid from Dee Why, Charlie Mowbray...he surfs really well. Owen Fairweather from Victoria. His surfing is so much better than any of us were at his age. I wasn’t even kneeboarding at his age - he’s 14, I think. He’s ripping, he’s going to be one to watch, for sure."

Chayne’s now back home in Wollongong and he's keen to get back on the road making videos with the crew from Zion wetsuits. He'd already surfed twice the day we spoke and was pretty pumped. 

“The guys I travel and surf with, I don’t ever get the feeling that they’re like, 'why have we got this kneeboarder with us'. They’re just stoked on what I’m doing, that I’m doing something different. They’re happy to tell me that I got a good wave, or did a good turn."

"When you’ve got people like Taj Burrow or Dane Reynolds commenting on your clip, that sort of blows my mind. That’s pretty big.”

//ROB HARWOOD

Comments

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Tuesday, 28 Apr 2020 at 8:47am

I enjoy watching knee boarding. They centre so perfectly over their boards and get such ridiculous barrels.

Well done to Australia’s newest world champ.

mcglone's picture
mcglone's picture
mcglone commented Tuesday, 28 Apr 2020 at 10:04am

Great to see, keep it up.
It can get lonely being the only one out.
Very nice style.

joeyjojo's picture
joeyjojo's picture
joeyjojo commented Tuesday, 28 Apr 2020 at 11:22am

Onya champ!

Got to admit, I like watching the kneelo vids more so than some of the “Alt Team rider surfing” vids pushed by, say someone like rvca. ( no offence)
More style, better wave knowledge, solid bottom turns and rail game!

joeyjojo's picture
joeyjojo's picture
joeyjojo commented Tuesday, 28 Apr 2020 at 10:48am
Chris Buykx's picture
Chris Buykx's picture
Chris Buykx commented Wednesday, 29 Apr 2020 at 10:57am

That was a good trip Albert, we had some fun sessions - your a frother! Grant's footage is quality too.

JackStance's picture
JackStance's picture
JackStance commented Tuesday, 28 Apr 2020 at 11:14am

Well Done Chayne- very well deserved.

Breathe. Murdoch's empire will one day fail to control our minds.

Blake87's picture
Blake87's picture
Blake87 commented Tuesday, 28 Apr 2020 at 11:20am

It's a pity this guy is a grade-A fuckhead. No doubt he rips but so does his ego

Sprout's picture
Sprout's picture
Sprout commented Tuesday, 28 Apr 2020 at 12:15pm

Care to expound?
Nice to see a kneelo sans flippers.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Tuesday, 28 Apr 2020 at 12:29pm

...or not.

Weak sauce taking an anonymous swipe at someone in an article about their achievement.

Blake87's picture
Blake87's picture
Blake87 commented Tuesday, 28 Apr 2020 at 1:49pm

Hahahaha fair enough. Spend time on the south coast NSW and you'll come across him and feel free to construct your own opinion. As I said, he definitely rips and congrats to on a huge achievement! I will never take from that. For the anonymous part, my name and birth year is my heading and I'm from Kiama. For whatever reason that info is of use. For the record, I still don't retract my last message

geoffrey's picture
geoffrey's picture
geoffrey commented Tuesday, 28 Apr 2020 at 6:39pm

hes a gentleman. i see the irony of calling you a keyboard warrior via the keyboard but mate poor form and your bad judge of character.

nolocal's picture
nolocal's picture
nolocal commented Tuesday, 28 Apr 2020 at 2:39pm

Wow.

I've never spoken to Cheyne on land, but have enjoyed countless surfs with him around the traps. From pumping backbeach, to semi-secret SC ledges, and (more recently) at some of the busier and more localised spots around the Gong. I've always found him happy to share a wave and a laugh in the water.

His section in Fully Ripped 2 is one of the better surfing edits in recent memory.

jacksprat's picture
jacksprat's picture
jacksprat commented Tuesday, 28 Apr 2020 at 12:05pm

It must be lonely in your mother's basement. Type on!

onetimeonly

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Tuesday, 28 Apr 2020 at 12:37pm

Remember when Shane / Cheynne was THE great Aussie surfer name ?

I recall being ten years old and wishing my name was Shane because of my older surfer cousin named Shane, with his long blonde hair , curiously red eyes and wayward reputation for disregarding familial gatherings to go chase waves.

There was a time when Australia bathed in the glorious light of being a nation on the rise and the entire image of Australia with its vigor , youth and glamour was encapsulated by the small army of Shanes who roamed the lineups as if the sun would never shine elsewhere but upon their golden manes.

Not sure about the whole modern twist on the spelling though, seems a bit convoluted. And if you’ve gotten through that last paragraph you’ll agree that I know a thing or two about convoluting.

Toppa's picture
Toppa's picture
Toppa commented Tuesday, 28 Apr 2020 at 10:02pm

Don't forget Shane surfboards either Blowin!

Toppa

rj-davey's picture
rj-davey's picture
rj-davey commented Thursday, 30 Apr 2020 at 5:15am

love it

bipola's picture
bipola's picture
bipola commented Tuesday, 28 Apr 2020 at 1:52pm

i didn't know kneelos were a thing, usually never see them over here.
still the guys a world champion, good on him.

lost's picture
lost's picture
lost commented Tuesday, 28 Apr 2020 at 2:07pm

I laughed at the comment about wanting to see a younger world champion. That is pretty simple really - if the old blokes don't enter, hey presto done.

knB

lost's picture
lost's picture
lost commented Tuesday, 28 Apr 2020 at 2:10pm

Its not that these guys are not really good at knee boarding because they clearly are. Its just that I still don't see the point of kneeling on a wave. Worse still is when you see body boarders and the first thing they do is put a foot up. Ridiculous - you are not lying or standing.

knB

Ben Harding's picture
Ben Harding's picture
Ben Harding commented Tuesday, 28 Apr 2020 at 4:16pm

Pretty sure that it just comes down to personal preference for any crew who surf alternate craft. Mathew Lackey, snapper lifeguard, absolutely tears it up drop knee, and was also out dbah a couple weeks back when it was pumping, catching set waves out the back, off the wall on a 5'11 something twin fin...it's a futile query really, same as thinking about why people do the things they do in general? Fuck nose!

burgo's picture
burgo's picture
burgo commented Tuesday, 28 Apr 2020 at 4:26pm

Yep, personal preference and mine is kneeboarding. Fell to my feet once & didn't like it.
Well deserved Chayne.

steeno's picture
steeno's picture
steeno commented Wednesday, 29 Apr 2020 at 9:13am

I thought it was about who is having the most fun and not so much about judging others

Steen-16images-legless.tv

Optimist's picture
Optimist's picture
Optimist commented Tuesday, 28 Apr 2020 at 2:13pm

Congrats Chayne. There used to be a fun crew of knee boarders that hung out at winkipop at fairybower in Sydney in the early 70's. They were kings of the slabbing barrels and I enjoyed surfing with them. Got my tube riding education there. They certainly pulled a lot less sea urchins out of their bodies than I did. One was John Ware from Friar Tuck who I asked to make me a little standup board to see how it went. I was sick of my big pointy boards. It was unique for its day. Shorter, wider, pulled rounded pin with a sliding kneelo fin box so I could adjust it forward or back depending on the waves. It transformed my surfing and loosened it right up and I loved the thing to death. I saw Larry Bertlemann riding a similar one once in a movie. Gave it to my little brother, wish I still had it as it was an early classic.

lost's picture
lost's picture
lost commented Tuesday, 28 Apr 2020 at 4:50pm

“Fell to my feet once” that’s a award winning line right there ! Cheers and keep doing what you enjoy. Unless you are a SUP of course, then you can fire truck off to a lake somewhere.

knB

Bungan33's picture
Bungan33's picture
Bungan33 commented Tuesday, 28 Apr 2020 at 2:47pm

Can someone enlighten me on the physics and biomechanics of a kneelo landing an air? Bugger me, looks like a short cut to knee reconstruction central. Made me ache just looking at the photo....

steeno's picture
steeno's picture
steeno commented Wednesday, 29 Apr 2020 at 9:16am

its about landing on the down ramp, there is more chance buckling your knee whilst doing an air standing up.

Steen-16images-legless.tv

simba's picture
simba's picture
simba commented Tuesday, 28 Apr 2020 at 2:47pm

Lost ,knee boarding in hollow waves, even small hollow waves is so much fun,waves look bigger kneeling down cause your always looking up at the lip and its amazing how deep you can get and how makeable a tube can be compared to standing up.Also bigger waves look a lot scarier when on your knees.

simba

nolocal's picture
nolocal's picture
nolocal commented Tuesday, 28 Apr 2020 at 2:50pm
CF's picture
CF's picture
CF commented Thursday, 30 Apr 2020 at 9:10am

And that’s on a softboard!

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Tuesday, 28 Apr 2020 at 2:51pm

A world champion in anything is an amazing achievement in my eyes so congratulations to Chayne.

I guess on a kneeboard there's no such thing as a backhand?

1173

pointy's picture
pointy's picture
pointy commented Tuesday, 28 Apr 2020 at 4:05pm

Kneeboarding and Wollongong - it doesn't get much better than that

:)

wax-on-danielson's picture
wax-on-danielson's picture
wax-on-danielson commented Tuesday, 28 Apr 2020 at 4:31pm

I want to see one of these dudes bouncing down a bomb at Jaws or Nazare, that would bring the redbull money

chook's picture
chook's picture
chook commented Tuesday, 28 Apr 2020 at 5:46pm

"I want to see one of these dudes bouncing down a bomb at Jaws or Nazare, that would bring the redbull money"

there's a Kneelo that regularly rides mavericks.

Time traveller's picture
Time traveller's picture
Time traveller commented Tuesday, 28 Apr 2020 at 5:15pm

At least its always overhead!

sandcastle's picture
sandcastle's picture
sandcastle commented Tuesday, 28 Apr 2020 at 5:38pm

No backhand... Do kneeboarders have a preferred direction? Left? Right?

chook's picture
chook's picture
chook commented Tuesday, 28 Apr 2020 at 5:43pm

I prefer lefts...also, you generally have any lefts to yourself

old-dog's picture
old-dog's picture
old-dog commented Tuesday, 28 Apr 2020 at 5:46pm

In the 70s all kneeboarders had beards and drove Kombis.

chook's picture
chook's picture
chook commented Tuesday, 28 Apr 2020 at 5:52pm

Tim Bonython shot footage of those guys that used to kneeboard at winky...amaxing footage. it used to be around on the net, but I haven't been able to find it for years now.

tango's picture
tango's picture
tango commented Wednesday, 29 Apr 2020 at 9:37pm

Chris 'Zaz' Carey surfed Winky til he had a bad accident at a certain hardware store....best kneelo I've ever seen, possibly best surfer I've ever seen at the pop.

Ray Shirlaw's picture
Ray Shirlaw's picture
Ray Shirlaw commented Tuesday, 28 Apr 2020 at 8:12pm

Easy to explain&with several advantages : its a hybrid form of surfing somewhere between bodyboarding&standup surfing

Ray Shirlaw's picture
Ray Shirlaw's picture
Ray Shirlaw commented Tuesday, 28 Apr 2020 at 8:39pm

p.s. I ain't referring to that freaky half kneeling/half standing style

wally's picture
wally's picture
wally commented Tuesday, 28 Apr 2020 at 8:48pm

More importantly, why does Chayne look exactly like Robbie Maddison???

Toppa's picture
Toppa's picture
Toppa commented Tuesday, 28 Apr 2020 at 10:06pm

Chayne's a really nice bloke met him in Merimbula one time and a gun surfer. Well done mate.

Toppa

blackers's picture
blackers's picture
blackers commented Tuesday, 28 Apr 2020 at 10:23pm

and love the photos by Steen Barnes, epic work.

steeno's picture
steeno's picture
steeno commented Wednesday, 29 Apr 2020 at 9:17am

thanks buddy :)

Steen-16images-legless.tv

gingeryeti's picture
gingeryeti's picture
gingeryeti commented Wednesday, 29 Apr 2020 at 7:01am

There’s always a couple in a Gland getting all the bombs

steeno's picture
steeno's picture
steeno commented Wednesday, 29 Apr 2020 at 9:18am

that would be Greg Holzman from Hawaii

Steen-16images-legless.tv

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Wednesday, 29 Apr 2020 at 9:33am

.

gingeryeti's picture
gingeryeti's picture
gingeryeti commented Wednesday, 29 Apr 2020 at 9:35am

Yeah there were 2 or 3 last time. Hadn't seen a kneelo in years.

Sheep go to heaven's picture
Sheep go to heaven's picture
Sheep go to heaven commented Wednesday, 29 Apr 2020 at 7:45am

Top bloke and absolutely rips , a very worthy world champ . Kneeboarding is alive and kicking with or without flippers ! Big shoutout to the NZ crew who ran the world titles , a great comp from start to finish

Optimist's picture
Optimist's picture
Optimist commented Thursday, 30 Apr 2020 at 5:52am

There is a very good kneeboard rider who owns Yamba Fishing Charters. Nice fun fella named Glynn. Make sure you get on board when in Yamba as you will have a great time.

greebs's picture
greebs's picture
greebs commented Friday, 1 May 2020 at 12:28am

@lost: "...Its just that I still don't see the point of kneeling on a wave. Worse still is when you see body boarders and the first thing they do is put a foot up. Ridiculous - you are not lying or standing". and.. "... Cheers and keep doing what you enjoy. Unless you are a SUP of course, then you can fire truck off to a lake somewhere."

Right, so you start by not seeing the point, then denigrate boogers who go the DK, then SUPs can fck off. Hopefully mate one day you'll realise perhaps with age and wisdom or perhaps through injury or older bones that every one of us has a right to enjoy the ocean and riding waves, no matter what craft, no matter whether we carve or whether we just stand there and trim along, doing sweet f.a. enjoying the feeling.

But as one of the above riders it's a bit harder to enjoy that feeling when you get dickheads with a myopic attitude in the lineup, or even having to keep reading such comments online. Doesn't worry me too much actually because I rarely need to surf in crowded lineups, in fact more than 3 is a crowd and best avoided, but it just gets draining seeing this crap. Be good to actually practice your "cheers and keep doing what you enjoy" line in the water an online and everyone will be so much happier, including you.

Anyway to Chayne, don't know you but onya bloke, it's a nice story all round.
Cheers
Pete

Greebs

chook's picture
chook's picture
chook commented Thursday, 30 Apr 2020 at 2:22pm

i met glynn at angourie one day, we both were riding neil luke boards...he certainly is a very good surfer.

steeno....your shots are amazing. your insta feed is the best.

steeno's picture
steeno's picture
steeno commented Friday, 1 May 2020 at 11:32am

cheers legend :)

Steen-16images-legless.tv

curlzbean's picture
curlzbean's picture
curlzbean commented Friday, 1 May 2020 at 11:22am

great pics and good to read a story on a kneelo.
I stand up surf and kneeboard, sometimes taking both boards down and swapping over
mid surf, I always find the type of wave dictates what is the most fun and sometimes not so easy to pre-determine

chook's picture
chook's picture
chook commented Friday, 1 May 2020 at 11:35am

that sounds tricky --- is it hard moving between the boards?

curlzbean's picture
curlzbean's picture
curlzbean commented Friday, 1 May 2020 at 2:00pm

if I am having a shit surf then swapping boards normally turns it around, wave type might be an influence or maybe just a state of mind...I used to think it was something to do with how big or powerful or sucky the waves are, but now think its more to do with the actual board design,
ie if you swap the kneeboard you are riding mid surf then it can change everything (provided the board is a completely different design)

tonks's picture
tonks's picture
tonks commented Friday, 1 May 2020 at 11:55pm

Congratulations to Chayne for becoming World Champion.Great to see that he never gave up even after all those seconds.One of my great mates was a kneelo back in the 70’s,he absolutely ripped.Remember the time we spent days waiting for his San Juan kneeboard to be made at Byron,it was worth the wait,what a beautiful board.Loved those surfing safaries back then,surfing all the places we read about in the magazines.Adios Amigos.

Marty72's picture
Marty72's picture
Marty72 commented Saturday, 2 May 2020 at 9:25am

Hi, I recently broke my leg, dislocated and broke ankle in 3 places and my surgeon says its going to be months before I can get back into surfing. So I was thinking about getting a kneeboard. Just wondering where do I find info and some tips about getting into it?

burgo's picture
burgo's picture
burgo commented Saturday, 2 May 2020 at 6:46pm

Marty72, the Kneeboard Surfing USA website http://www.ksusa.org/ has an active forum worth checking out and where I reckon you will get your questions answered about equipment etc.

Marty72's picture
Marty72's picture
Marty72 commented Sunday, 3 May 2020 at 7:39am

Thanks mate

steeno's picture
steeno's picture
steeno commented Sunday, 3 May 2020 at 10:22am

Search for "Kneeboard Surfing" group on face book would be best by far, check www.legless.tv aswell

Steen-16images-legless.tv

steeno's picture
steeno's picture
steeno commented Sunday, 3 May 2020 at 10:24am
djizzah's picture
djizzah's picture
djizzah commented Sunday, 3 May 2020 at 6:32pm

well done but I cant get my head around kneeling if there's nothing wrong with you and you can stand? hardly ever see kneeboarders anymore

Robo's picture
Robo's picture
Robo commented Tuesday, 5 May 2020 at 6:38am

Saw 4 yesterday morning, get your head checked.

greebs's picture
greebs's picture
greebs commented Tuesday, 5 May 2020 at 1:05pm

Aaaarggghhh!!! Why do you think its only YOUR form of surfing and riding a wave is the only valid form! Surely you don't think you are so superior? I hope not! Is it because you are "too cool" to acknowledge anything other than a shortboard? Jeez, if there's someone out gut riding a goddam plank of wood or a blow-up mat, or a canoe even or a clubby on a paddleboard and they go past you on a wave all smiles and stoked they are having a great surf, right? And of course that applies to kneelos in dredging 6' barrels, mellow 4' faces, whatever.

If you can't understand why these crew are having fun in the surf I honestly think it's because you've lost he simple and pure stoke of riding waves and being in the ocean. Hopefully it comes back to you, I say that will all good wishes. cheers buddy.

Greebs