August 26, 2022 10 min read
We’re delighted to announce that Jacob Mellish is joining our growing ambassador team! Originally from Cape Town, South Africa, Jacob now lives in Edinburgh and is one of Scotland’s top surfers. In his early 20s, Jacob got introduced to the world of yoga to cope with the competitive surfing he was doing at the time and found that yoga hugely complemented his surfing. Practising and sharing yoga is his passion and he now teaches yoga classes, workshops, and retreats internationally and spends his free time skating, snowboarding and surfing. We caught up with Jacob to hear all about his adventures and his life passions and we’re looking forward to sharing more of these together.
You grew up in South Africa - was surfing a big part of growing up there?
Yes, my whole family is involved with surfing. So my dad started surfing when he was really young, like 18ish. And my mom was the president of the local bodyboarding association, which is like surfing but laying down. My sister was also involved in surfing and so was my brother. I’m the youngest. I got exposed to it from a very young age, since I remember walking, I remember being at the beach, and trying to surf waves.
Many people know you more for your yoga. Could you tell us a little bit more about where your love of yoga came from?
I was surfing professionally at the time I got into yoga. I was always the tightest, stiffest kid in my school and I actually used to get made fun of for being so inflexible. My girlfriend at the time got me into yoga. I was so embarrassed to be in front of people being so stiff and tight. And after a few classes of like just gritting my teeth with embarrassment and just thinking that everyone was watching me and looking at how inflexible I was, I started to feel such a difference in my surfing. And I just became so obsessed where I would have to do yoga every time before I went surfing because I knew I'd surf so much better. And then it just became like this constant urge to get better and better because I could feel how much it was helping me improve. And then after a few months, the same thing happened with my life. The way I thought about things, my empathy levels, my ability to see the bigger picture, and not just be stuck in my own ways. I remember the big turning point for me was when I did the best yoga class of my life. I just ended up feeling so good after the class and I was driving home after the class and this guy just randomly walks in the middle of the road with a trolley completely out of nowhere. I'd usually get quite upset, but I could see he was struggling to push the trolley as it was stuck. I got out of my car and I helped him to push it, and I was like well that's a different response to what I usually would have done. That's a small metaphor for how everything started to turn and just looking again at the bigger picture. I knew in that situation if I just helped him it would make the situation better rather than me getting angry. I would get him off the road faster, make new friends and just share positive good vibes.
You embarked on an epic ‘Surfers Against Sewage’ paddle against pollution, where you paddle boarded from Edinburgh to England to raise awareness about how polluted UK coastlines are, with the goal of raising £10,000 towards Surfers Against Sewage. Could you tell us a little bit more about this amazing achievement?
I believe that not a lot of people from Scotland really enjoy and appreciate the water. One because it's cold and a harsh climate. Unless you're really into the ocean and riding waves, it's not the most inviting place to go to. And I felt that after surfing many times and getting very, very, very sick from the water, I felt it was my obligation and my duty to kind of show people that have no idea how bad the water is, by doing something out of the ordinary and trying to spread word about a big problem that not a lot of people know about. So for me, my main intention was to spread the word that we need to look and do something about the water quality here because there's something seriously messed up and in a first world country, you shouldn't have to worry about going in the ocean and being extremely sick. I felt like I was in a unique position to share that message to the people that I share yoga to and the people that followed me for yoga because all the people from the surfing community already know this but there's a lot of people that could potentially make a difference within my yoga circle and I felt again that it was just my kind of obligation to go for it, put myself in the firing line and do something a little bit ballsy and paddleboard a big distance. I feel really kind of blessed to be a part of this change, that something as small as me paddling has become a much bigger thing.
This sounds like such a tough physical and mental challenge - how did you prepare physically and mentally for something like this?
Physically, I surfed as much as I could to be honest with you, paddleboarding long distances can be quite a monotonous boring task. So my training wasn't paddling long distance but it was to go surfing with my paddleboard. I was also doing a lot of yoga, making sure that I was staying fit and healthy and also then going surfing with my paddleboard. When you're having fun, it's just a great way of staying fit without feeling like you having to work too hard.
Mentally, I feel like there was this really strong urge to overcome a big challenge. So just the idea of accomplishing this task was quite a lot of fuel for me to go and do it. Also, I believe what got me through it was just this idea of really experiencing a new terrain, in a sense, you know, when you're travelling along the coastline, you're getting this opportunity to explore completely new areas that haven't been much explored. You can get really close to the coastline when you’re on a paddleboard. I got to see so much beautiful and unique scenery, and because the paddleboard is so small you can navigate through the rocks and caves. It's really amazing, you think it would be hard, but there's always a completely new horizon, you know, you come around a corner, and then it's like, Oh, I wonder what's behind the next corner. And then as soon as you start to get stuck in your head, then there'll be like a puffin, who will come and join you. And then there'll be a seal who will come and join you. So I feel like it's that openness to being really present and that bliss that comes with being present. That is such a great driving force to keep going because you’re always wondering what’s around the next corner. There's always this excitement of doing what you're doing. And at the same time, obviously, it was really impactful for me to try to accomplish this so I could prove a point and I could say hey, look, this is how much this bothers me. I want everyone to kind of see this so maybe someone else can help make a difference. And that was also a big driving factor, knowing that I’m doing this for a cause that's a lot bigger than me.
Did you paddle board before this? Will you do it again?
I bought a paddleboard just for the trip. It cost me £1000, and I couldn't really afford it at the time. I was meant to sell it straight after, but I couldn't sell it. So I still have the paddleboard and I'm looking for different little trips which is exciting.
There are some misconceptions that yoga is typically for the elderly, and for women. How have you managed to overcome this stereotype?
One of my first yoga experiences I remember being in a class with quite a lot of older ladies. I remember being in a regular seated position with my legs out in front of me for a seated forward bend, but I was pretty much falling backwards. Every part of my body was shaking and twitching because it was so challenging just to sit up straight. And at that moment, I was like, man, this is what I need to do. This is way more challenging than anything I've done. So many people are training with heavy weights and external objects and stuff. But I feel like there's such a great practice in just learning how to use your own body properly, and really focussing on how you can move your body. I’m also really into the spiritual aspects of yoga and all the unique different layers. But at a really simple point, people just want to move their body and not be in pain. I feel like me just sharing that is really cool and resonates with a lot of people, and I really believe in what I share.
Credit: Andrew Macdonald
You travelled and surfed all around Scotland and the world, is there a particular location that you’re drawn to the most?
I love surfing in Scotland. I think it's such a cool, unique experience. And it always leaves you wanting a little bit more. It's very rare for all the elements to come together perfectly. But when it does, there's no better place in the world to be but Scotland.
What sort of wildlife have you encountered while out surfing?
I've had some really beautiful animal encounters that just leave you feeling in complete awe with nature. One time I was surfing in South Africa by myself. There was no one else around and it’s an area with a lot of sharks. Obviously surfing by yourself in a very sharky location with no other people around is pretty scary and intimidating. I remember being out on the backline and see a fin pass by me and it was so scary. But then a moment later, I realised that it was just a pod of dolphins. They then disappeared and I was still scared because usually the sharks linger behind dolphins, and sometimes the dolphins are known to protect you from sharks nearby, which I think was the case. I was just in such awe to see these dolphins and what happened was as the best wave would come, the dolphins would take off on that wave maybe 20, 30 metres further out to sea and then I would know is the best wave because the dolphins are on. It was like they were playing with me and swimming around on the same wave and under my board and jumping out just in front of me and almost giving me these high fives when my hand was out. I never felt so connected to a wild animal ever. So as I would pull off the wave because the wave was finished, the dolphins would immediately pull off the wave too. And then the whole way to get back out they would all be swimming around me, jumping over me, and swimming under me.
I knew that the dolphins knew which waves were the biggest ones. So for maybe about 10 to 15 waves, I had this experience of this beautiful connection and surfing with dolphins not just once but it was like every single wave. I didn’t know if they were protecting me or communicating with me or just sharing the waves and that was that was one of my favourite wildlife encounters, but I have many, many cool ones.
It's a quiet Sunday afternoon and you have a couple of hours to spare - would you be surfing, doing yoga or something else?
If there are waves, I'm definitely going to be surfing. And then if there's waves, I really feel like I need to do yoga afterwards. Otherwise, my muscles get super tight. One of my flaws is that I sometimes just drop everything to go surfing when there’s good waves.
That doesn’t sound like the worst of flaws. What other interests do you have outside of surfing and yoga?
I like music a lot. And I love my friends and family are huge to me. I love cooking, it makes me super happy. I also like skating and acro-yoga. Just feeling a part of a community is pretty cool. You know, going somewhere and seeing people that you know. I feel like Edinburgh is really great for that. You just have to walk down the streets and you’re bound to see certain people that you know, it's such a small little place. There is even a pretty big surfing community within Edinburgh, and I think it’s going to explode in the next few years because of the infrastructure that's being built in Scotland like the wave garden. It’s growing at an exponential rate.
Do you have any tips or advice for someone wanting to get involved in more outdoor activities?
My advice is to get the right gear, if you're in the cold and go for it. Don't let the weather stop you. Scotland can have such harsh weather. But you'll find that when you go out there's always this opportunity for the unknown. And the moment when the wind stops and the clouds move away, it might not be a long moment but those moments make you appreciate the full spectrum of the weather and being a part of everything, whether that’s sunshine or rain. So don't let don't let the weather stop you. Go outside and have the right equipment. And use your energy. I feel like we get so cold inside the house because we’re not moving. But as soon as you're outside and you're moving, it doesn't matter really what the weather is just move. Go outside.
What’s next for you? Do you have any goals/a bucket list of things you would love to achieve?
I believe that right now I'm in Scotland for a reason. And that is to share my unique expertise of have a lifetime of surf knowledge with a growing surfing industry. And I believe everything I've been doing in my life up to this point has kind of led me to that. I have a great understanding of surfing and what's necessary to make it on the larger international scale. I also have a very strong background of movement. So I feel like with the application of both, I'm in an awesome position to really share surfing at its highest potential.
Thank you so much Jacob, we’re delighted to have you on board! You can follow Jacob on his Instagram here.
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