The Endless Summer, and All that Jazz.
In 1966, a surfing documentary was made that would change the surfing landscape forever. The Endless Summer followed two Californian surfers as they travelled around the world, chasing the sun and searching for the best waves, least crowded surf, and undiscovered beaches.
— By Joanna Fox
— Photography: Kenneth Theysen
— Cover: Art Taylor,
Owner – Lobster Alive
This instant cult classic introduced the sport to a wider audience and also influenced surfers and non-surfers from all over the world to grab a board, get on a plane, embark on an adventure and chase the perfect wave. The film was shown all over the world, and when an Australian surfer from Sydney watched it for the first time it sparked something inside of him. This young man was Art Taylor and little did he know that this movie would change the trajectory of his life forever.
At 76 years young, Taylor is the owner of the very popular Barbados restaurant Lobster Alive And All That Jazz. Specialising in spiny Caribbean lobster that Taylor flies in himself weekly from St. Vincent, the restaurant has been providing only the freshest product, feeding throngs of tourists and locals at this beachside Bridgetown joint since 1998. Not only that, Taylor and his longtime friend, collaborator and often partner in crime, Stuart Jenkins, are part of a seven-piece Dixieland jazz band called VSOP that plays live at the restaurant weekly (Jenkins on trombone, Taylor on piano). Lobster Alive is not only the best place to enjoy fresh lobster in Barbados, Taylor has turned it into a Caribbean institution that celebrates food, music, and all around good times.
But from watching The Endless Summer in 1966 to opening a lobster restaurant in 1998, a lot can happen to a lively Australian with an adventurous spirit and a real lust for life. If you’re lucky enough to catch Taylor at the restaurant and he has time to sit, drink and chat, you’ll discover a larger than life character full of wild stories and fascinating tales. For those who have never had the pleasure of meeting the man, the pilot, and the entrepreneur behind this infamous, beachside spot, here is but a small sliver of Art Taylor’s intricate story.
The surfing movie changed things for Taylor, and as he remembers, it affected a lot of fans of the sport everywhere. “This film just threw surfers off track and everyone wanted to explore beaches all over the world. So there was a big exodus of guys who left Australia, and I guess America too. So yeah, the Americans went to Australia and the Australians went to South Africa, South Africans probably went up into the jungle somewhere,” he explains.
Taylor left Australia, surfboard in tow, and made his way to South Africa with a friend. Once they got there, they surfed to live and worked to survive. Trained as a communications technician, Taylor never had any problems getting work and never really worried about it. Then one day they met a guy who was chartering a yacht and needed a crew. “It was a small, homebuilt yacht and it scared the hell out of the [former] crew because they had to sail from Durban to Cape Town, and as soon as they got to Cape Town, they all ran away. They couldn’t take it. We were the surfers, we’re not supposed to worry about the ocean. So we came along, we put some money in the boat, and off we went.”
From Cape Town, they sailed north and eventually made their way to the Caribbean. They landed in Barbados, liked the people and beaches, and so they decided to make a go of it. Taylor was also a surfing instructor back in Sydney, so he used this to his advantage. “I had my own surfboard school and I showed the minister [in Barbados] the surfboard brochures for the school. He saw it was legitimate and he accepted that I could be an asset to the tourist trade, so he gave me a work permit. I set up on Accra beach building surfboards, teaching surfing, basically everything surfing.”
Taylor saw more opportunity surrounding the growing surf culture and its potential to draw in tourists, so he set up a beach shop that rented anything you could possibly need, including beachwear. From hats to bathing suits, bikinis and boardshorts, it was so popular he began to manufacture his own clothing line, Surf and Sand Beachwear, which was exported all over the world. It was around this time that Taylor learned how to fly, and by 1978 he’d bought his first plane. The plane allowed him to fly all over the Caribbean with samples of clothing and slowly grow his business in the Caribbean market.
By 1990, the world of clothing manufacturing was undergoing a lot of changes and the industry became too expensive for Taylor. Surf and Sand Beachwear folded and all he was left with was his airplane. Taylor always had an entrepreneurial knack for figuring out how to supply consumers’ demands, and so when he looked at his plane, he immediately got an idea. Lobster. Perhaps an odd association if you didn’t know the island, but here’s the thing about Barbados and lobsters: there are none. The shelf in Barbados cuts off too soon and it goes into deep water too quickly for lobsters. There need to be holes and hiding spots for lobsters to survive, otherwise they’ll just get eaten right away.
“I went down to St. Vincent and picked up the lobsters, and we lived on the ocean so we set up a little tank. We experimented with trying to keep them alive, and ended up cooking lobster because they were dying so quickly and we didn’t know anything about keeping them alive. We did wholesale lobster, selling them out the back of a truck at supermarkets - we didn’t have any freezers, we didn’t have anything. We didn’t know what we were doing, really.”
After a lot of trial and error, Taylor finally figured out how to keep the lobsters alive and rented a spot right on the beach where the restaurant exists to this day. It started as takeaway and Taylor and his band mate and friend, Stuart Jenkins, felt their way through it. “None of us were the professional cooks we thought we were, but we knew how to cook lobster and people on the island would come down and bring their cushions and their tablecloths and their fancy cutlery and ask if they could set up on the beach, and we would cook the lobsters and bring the lobster out. The customers actually created the restaurant.”
As quickly as they learned, the business grew and soon more people began to crowd the restaurant, year after year. Taylor bought a bigger plane and began to transport up to 1100 pounds of fresh lobster twice a week to fill the demands. His son, Sam, came on board to help him deal with the business and has become an invaluable part of what makes Lobster Alive a success today. Along with Sam, Taylor wouldn’t be able to do it without Tyronne Farley, his right hand man during the night service. There’s also the bar manager, and all around ‘mama hen’, Cheryl Edwards. “Cheryl’s rum punch is a very famous rum punch - it’s very potent. You can’t have a good rum punch without it being strong,” laughs Taylor. “I do not recommend more than two a night.”
With Jenkins still an integral part of the restaurant’s music scene, as well as the artist whose paintings adorn the restaurant’s walls, Taylor has surrounded himself with friends and family whose dedication to Lobster Alive is reflected in the outgoing, eclectic atmosphere that is unlike anywhere else. And although Taylor might be getting older, there’s no way he’s slowing down. “I’m the age now where I’m supposed to sit down and write my memoirs,” he laughs. Instead, the forever-young-at-heart Aussie just got married this past year. There’s never a dull moment with Art Taylor, and at Lobster Alive it’s never, ever a dull time.
Wesley House, Bay Street
and All that Jazz