Meet the pro surfers who deliver such esoteric verbal husks!
Long ago, I lusted to talk to the pro surfers. What a thrill it would be to penetrate their secretive little world and liberate those solid kernels of truths. What secrets would unfurl before me?
The truth, as I would later discover, is that interviewing professional surfers is a frustrating exercise. I still dine on the story of interviewing one of the best in the game and after a handful of futile questions, I retreated to a standard to at least get some keystrokes happening.
I asked, “What boards are you riding?”
He replied, “Whoa, these questions are heavy.”
I vowed never to interview the surfer again and never have. Finding truth and insight while interviewing what we call “athletes” is a rare and infrequent experience.
But, sometimes, a surfer will come along and reveal the most volatile elements of his soul. Below I list my five favourite surfers to interview.
1. Andy Irons
Oh, he was the most dynamic of motherfuckers. The expression “wear your heart on your sleeve” was constructed to explain the glory of Andy Irons. If he was bummed, he’d tell you; maybe he’d wanna fight you. But, mostly, if you called, if you shoved a recorder near his mouth, he lit up. No one was more accessible or more honest. Paradoxically, Andy’s insecurity about his surfing and an obsession with money, fuelled his interview energy. I interviewed Andy from age 17, when we both went on our first big magazine trip together, until a couple of weeks before he died in 2010. The tension between love and hate, between success and failure, between life and death was forever apparent.
What childhood dreams have stuck with you?
“It’s usually, I’m on top of a mountain and I’m trying to stand on the pinnacle without falling off. The wind gets really strong and it turns into this radical Wizard of Oz trip with the wind coming up and with lightning bolts appearing around. It starts to rain and the mountain starts getting real slippery. What does it mean? Probably, that I’m trying to hold on.”
2. Mason Ho
Where did this kid come from? Sunset Beach, North Shore? Son of Michael Ho? Bro of Coco? Nephew of the world champ Dez Ho? I always clear the decks for a least an hour when I get Mason on the line. Everything from his accent to his vision on surfing, life, girls, sex, is an audacious madness that leaves me spellbound. Mason was never shackled with a serious sponsor that’d ever demand he retract his more startling comments. Mason is alive, he’s with us and, right now, he reigns supreme.
“I’ve had a few good fights. I’ve never really gotten too beaten up, though. I like to talk it out and do it nicely, like what just happened recently at Deserts (Desert Point, Lombok, Indonesia). I don’t want no problems after. I like to be respectful. I’ll say, “I’m sorry you’re pissed, and I respect you big time, but you look down to fight and I’m down to fight, so let’s go in, fight, then shake hands and have a beer afterwards.” That’s my theory. If you’re going to fight, respect ’em and they’ll respect you back and maybe not tag you so bad if they catch you good. If they call me a bitch, at least I tried. I’ll come in and… bang… dynamite! When I was a kid, an Aussie guy cracked me really good. We made friends ’cause I elbowed him in the face and he was all stoked. That was on the Gold Coast.”
3. Noa Deane
Another surfer with a superb touch when it comes to interviews. The almost-20-year-old from Coolangatta on the Gold Coast might’ve floundered on stage at the Surfer Poll but, for Noa, surfing is not just a dumb jock sport but the sacred vehicle of life. He takes it more seriously than you’d think. Dane Reynolds recognises his uniqueness, as he does Craig Anderson’s. And talk? Noa embraces interviews and he hits the spot.
“Hey, I’ve got a good story for ya! We went to this place called Ifrane, an alpine snow town in the Atlas mountains. The day before we were online picking a house to stay out. There was this one that was real sweet but it was 200 euros and I was, like, fuck that, that sounds too expensive for one night. It would’ve been sweet once we’d split it up but, then, fuck, we went to this other joint. It looked sick. Old school. It fucking had a garden. Snow out the front. We turned the fireplace on and everything started going downhill from there. Why are the window’s boarded up? Jay goes to the toilet downstairs and sees all these lipstick kisses on the back of the door. On the terrace there was graffiti that said, you died tonight! And in the backyard there was this creepy dude cutting up wood. All the mirrors were smashed. One bed had all these weird stains. It was so sketchy. The lady who rented us the house kept asking us if we wanted hookers. Are you sure you don’t want hookers? And the lady pointed at one door and said, don’t go in this door. It was wigging me out that we were obviously staying at a haunted hookers house. I slept with my fucking shoes on and shit and tried to green out but I totally kooked it. But I got to sleep for one second and felt this thing poke me in the back. Are you fucking kidding me? I started stressing out for hours, trying to put alarm clocks on to wake everybody up. By the time we got out, it was, fuck yeah, we survived that. Fucking hell, that was the heaviest thing that’s ever happened to me. I was so tripped out the next day but psyched that it happened, just cause you got that story to tell.”
4. Mitch Crews
I had no idea that the recently de-boned rookie could string a sharp sentence together. And, then, on a winter’s night on a rooftop at a mutual pal I found myself enthralled by how well he harnessed his meagre education into a whirlwind sweep of life. “I have to interview you!” I winked. And I haven’t stopped!
“I felt very awkward in the competition area because I’m really social and felt like I had to go through the charade of putting my headphones on and then staring at the camera all strong. I lost interest during the year because, straight up, I’m not ready to sacrifice all the cool things in life to go for those big competitive goals. I’ve gotta wait until that kicks in. I’m only 24. I like being 24 and a normal dude and getting to have fun and meet people and drink coffees and go out in clubs and do that sorta shit. And, truthfully, I’m not good enough at surfing yet. I need to put in a hard year of getting better.”
5. Jeremy Flores
Very much like Andy. Sometimes eggy, often ready to blow his chains. The time of the sham is over for Jeremy and, although he risks turning into a serial complainer, when he’s on, he’s on.
“I’ve always been honest, always said it like it is. A lot of people respect that. A lot of people don’t. So there’s always going to be people talking shit. I’ve always been true to myself and the people in my entourage and the people that believe in me. The rest, to tell you the truth, I don’t give a… I don’t really care. As long as I’m not fake. In surfing, nowadays, there’s a lot of fake-ness. So much fake. People are so fake. Most of the guys are so fake. I know it because I know all of ‘em and they’re all such legends and such cool guys but then through the media you see a different person. That’s something that scares me and something I never want to do. I want to stay true. People like me and people don’t. But people see the real me.”