The global spread of the coronavirus is disrupting travel. Stay up to date on the science behind the outbreak>>

Meet the adventurer: Ben Larg, Scotland's 16-year-old surfing champion

Scotland’s under-18 surfing champion is no stranger to breaking world records. Now, he’s the subject of an award-winning documentary, Ride the Wave.

Ben Larg at Balevullin Beach near his home on the Isle of Tiree, in Scotland's Inner Hebrides.

Photograph by Dutch Engels
Published 11 Dec 2021, 06:09 GMT, Updated 13 Dec 2021, 17:53 GMT

How old were you when you first started surfing?

The first time I ever surfed, I was about two years old. I was on the front of my Uncle Sam’s board, and he held my hands and stood me up. I was seven when I started to surf every day — my dad helped me become the surfer I am today. Eventually I started competing, and I loved it and entered more and more competitions.

What’s the surf scene like in Scotland?

Where we live, on the Isle of Tiree in the Inner Hebrides, is really lovely. There’s excellent surf in the summer but winter is brilliant, too, as we get great west swells. Tiree has become a popular spot for surfers now that we’ve opened a surf school, Blackhouse Watersports — more and more people come every year. Aside from the surf, it’s just a beautiful place to visit, with white sand beaches and crystal-clear water. More advanced surfers head to the north of Scotland, near Thurso. There are super nice waves up there.

You’ve gained international recognition for your sport. What’s been your biggest achievement?

Definitely surfing Mullaghmore in Ireland, one of the world’s best places for enormous waves. I surfed a 30ft wave there when I was 14 years old, and was the youngest person ever to do that. It was by far the best moment of my life. When I came off the wave, everybody was cheering for me. I feel I have a special connection to Ireland now. I just love surfing there — the coastal scenery is incredible.

Ben Larg surfing the 'monster' waves of Nazaré, Portugal.

Photograph by Kenneth Kemp

What’s been your most challenging moment?

I injured myself last year, in October — I broke my foot and dislocated the metatarsals. I missed a whole winter of training and surfing. I was gutted. But it just meant I had to train harder this year for a comeback.

Tell us about your new documentary.

We started the filming for Ride the Wave four years ago — I was 15 when we finished. It’s quite funny watching myself grow up and seeing how my surfing has progressed and how much I've changed, especially as I got into bigger waves and started out in competitions. The film’s really helped me to get recognised by good surfers — I never would have had the opportunity to go and surf waves like Mullaghmore without the support of the director. I hope something comes out of the project — a good sponsor or something like that — once it’s finished at the festivals.

How do you prepare for big day of surfing?

If there’s going to be a big swell, I’ll get all my vests and my wetsuits prepared the day before, make sure they’re all dry and organised. And I have to make sure I get a good night’s sleep, have a good breakfast and then try to stay calm. If you’re nervous about something and overthink it, in my experience something bad’s probably going to happen. That’s pretty normal with every sport. You don’t want to be scared of a big wipeout.

Billed as 'a story about boyhood and adventure', the documentary Ride the Wave (2021) follows Ben Larg's journey into professional surfing.

Photograph by Marti Larg

Which are your favourite surfing destinations around the world?

I love France — there’s a place called Hossegor which has amazing surf and beautiful beaches — and there are incredible, big waves in Lanzarote. I went on a trip to Japan one year for the World Championships. It was amazing there and so different to what I was used to. 

You’re inspiring a new generation of surfers. Who inspired you when you were first starting out?

My dad for sure. And a Scottish surfer called Mark Boyd [two-time Scottish National Surfing Champion]. He got me into big wave surfing. He’s a real pioneer. 

What’s next for you? 

I was in the north of Scotland recently, surfing this big ‘slabby’ wave with a professional big wave surfer, and I’m keen to head out to Nazaré in Portugal soon. I’d love to surf one of those really massive monster waves — that’s something I’m looking forward to in the future. 

Ben Larg, now aged 16, is the subject of the feature-length documentary Ride the Wave (2021), directed by Martyn Robertson and available online. Follow Ben on Instagram @benlargsurf04

Published in the Jan/Feb 2022 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

Read more from our Meet the Adventurer series

Follow us on social media

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Read More

You might also like

Travel
11 action-packed Caribbean islands — and how to pick the right one for you
Travel
Winter sports: Editors' picks
Travel
Morocco: Surf school
Travel
How to hike to Dominica's famous and fearsome Boiling Lake
Travel
The inside guide to Salvador, the cradle of Brazil's Afro-Brazilian heritage

Explore Nat Geo

  • Animals
  • Environment
  • History & Culture
  • Science
  • Travel
  • Photography
  • Space
  • Adventure
  • Video

About us

Subscribe

  • Magazines
  • Newsletter
  • Disney+

Follow us

Copyright © 1996-2015 National Geographic Society. Copyright © 2015-2021 National Geographic Partners, LLC. All rights reserved