A surfer and paddleboarder, Brunswick resident Jason Latham learned the value of making do with what you have in the Golden Isles.
The ocean in the Brunswick area isn’t great for surfing or paddleboarding, Latham’s specialities, but he found slapping a hydrofoil on the bottom of his paddleboard made a world of difference.
“That’s something that’s been getting popular around the world, and it’s perfect for the water here, for the waves,” Latham said. “Now I don’t have to go to Florida all the time for higher waves.”
Originally from Samoa, Latham spent most of his early life in Georgia.
“I grew up in Brantley County, but I was born in Samoa,” Latham said. “A lot of my roots is I’m half-Samoan. In a lot of things I do I’m influenced by my roots.”
Striking out on his own, Latham moved around. He lived in American Samoa and later Hawaii, where he taught surfing and picked up paddleboarding.
“I started competing because it was something new. Paddleboarding fit me pretty well, so I started entering contests on the East Coast,” Latham said.
Some years back, he came to Brunswick to be closer to home, he said.
He continued competing in paddleboarding competitions, working his way up to the Association of Paddle Boarding Professional’s World Tour.
A few years into his competitive career, he picked up hydrofoil.
It wasn’t something he was interested enough to try on his own, but luckily one of his sponsors had started manufacturing hydrofoils and asked him to give it a try.
“In the beginning, I wasn’t sure if it was something I was interested in. It wasn’t like surfing,” Latham said.
Transitioning from surfing and paddleboarding was something of a challenge, he said, but he’s glad he stuck with it.
“You’re kind of breaking the habit a bit from your normal surfing. There’s a lot of good guys I know who are good surfers who were like ‘I don’t know,’ because it’s so different,” Latham said. “I think what makes it harder is when you have a lot of surfing experience, the basics are different from what you’re used to.
“The hydrofoil is a separate part that attaches to the board. It goes on like the trucks of a skateboard, it goes on with four screws. It’s like an airplane wing underwater, it creates this lift.”
That lift carries the board over the top of the water, he said. Even the relatively calm seas in the Golden Isles are more than adequate for Latham’s purposes.
“You really just need breaking waves. It doesn’t have to be a wave that breaks very hard, a crumbling wave,” Latham said. “That’s what hydrofoilers look for. They looking for what we called, when I was surfing, called the junky wave.”
Locally, it’s hard to find better conditions for the hydrofoil than Gould’s Inlet at high tide, he said. In fact, Latham said he’s hoping to get some more equipment from his sponsor so he can start teaching newcomers in the area.
“That is the future really,” Latham said. “People are going to start doing them more and more, like anything else as it gets popular.”
One of the reasons Latham’s been working on his hydrofoil technique is because he’s on a bit of a break. In 2019, he pulled out of the international paddleboarding competition he was competing in to spend time with his newborn daughter.
At the time, he was ranked 28th in the world out of 80 competitors but said he’s since sunk into the 40s.
“Which is fine, it was worth being here,” Latham said.
For more information on Latham and his paddleboarding and hydrofoil escapades, visit jlaysup912.com.
Coastal People appears Tuesdays. Contact Taylor Cooper at tcooper @thebrunswicknews.com or at 912-265-8320, ext. 324 to suggest a person for a column.