Celebrate: International Dane Reynolds Day

Frolic with obscure dog breeds! Surf with violent intent! Maybe sip on beer!

For six years, from August 2006 until mid-2012, Dane Reynolds was regarded, universally, as the best surfer in the world.

“He’s the face of a new era,” Kelly Slater told Interview magazine in 2008. “He thinks outside of the box and has a unique approach where he sees the wave differently.”

John John Florence holds that title now, of course.

But rather than forget his contribution to the romance of surfing, BeachGrit has gazetted Monday, February 23, as International Dane Reynolds Day.

And what better way to celebrate than to eat up his opinion and ideas. This interview was recorded by the photographer Morgan Maassen over two sittings two years ago. It first appeared in Stab magazine, while I was still editor, under the title Ballad of the Hip Surf God.

Okay, tape rolling. First I want to…

DANE: Oh my god, my dogs are sickos! That’s fucked-up. Boogie!

(Pam and Boogie appear to be 69’ing)

Are they consummating?

DANE: Boogie, that’s your sister!

Cute! We just flew down to Mex for these photos. Something I wanna know is, what’s the pressure like to perform for cameras? 

D: Well, a problem I was having in Salina Cruz these past trips was that I was trying to compare myself to myself two years ago when I went down there for that Lost Interest trip. I was getting in my own head and trying to make sure I was surfing better than I was two years ago. And I was mind-fucking myself and putting too much pressure on myself and, in turn, not going forward and replicating what I had done or something. I over-think shit sometimes… a lot.

Do you hold that surfing you did in Salina Cruz two years ago as the golden standard?

DANE: No, it wasn’t the golden standard but it’s what happened two years ago and I definitely don’t want to… I want to be getting better, but I shouldn’t be worried about accomplishing the same thing. I should be worried about doing different shit.

How much importance do you attach to website, Marine Layer?

DANE: Everything that’s in the media is someone else’s representation of you and how they perceive whatever you say. When I did that interview with Kelly for What Youth, I realised how much you shape somebody else’s words when you interview someone. Because if we printed it verbatim, it’s just a mess of shit so you try to get the big idea of what they’re trying to say and put it in their words. That was eye-opening to see how people fuck-up interviews so bad. Marine Layer is no-bullshit. It’s not skewed by all the filters of magazines and sponsorship and shit like that. It’s just the footage that I like with the music that I like, and I feel like it’s been pretty important for me.

Do you think that it paved the way for other surfers having blogs with their own filmers? Those kids are very in-charge of their stuff…

DANE: I think so, yeah. Definitely when it first started. Dion had already been doing dion.tv for a while but then when I started Marine Layer it seemed like everyone hired a filmer and started a blog. I’m sure Marine Layer doesn’t get the amount of views it could if GrindTV or Transworld or Stab posted it, but I like the idea of a cult following. People that get it and dig that style of stuff want to go there to check it out rather than putting it in everyone’s face. I can’t say it’s that successful but I do get a lot of people that say they dig it. But then, people say they dig everything when they see you.

With Slow Dance finally finished, would you say that it’s more yours or Craig’s voice that comes through in the actual filmic part of it?

DANE: That’s interesting because I had a huge influence in it, but I wanted it to be all Craig’s voice. I just wanted to help him along and make it rad. I wanted to make something he was psyched on… but I think in the process of creating it, Craig wasn’t very outspoken. I know that deep down inside he had strong opinions. He isn’t very outspoken until it gets to a snapping point. So Slow Dance ended up being more my vision than I anticipated going into it.

Dustin Miller (filmer-editor and collaborator on marinelayerproductions) was suppose to direct Slow Dance, but you took the reigns instead…

D: Yeah. Dustin has a family and lots of other jobs so he couldn’t be around all the time, and nothing was happening with the film, so I had to get really involved. I got really consumed with it. I felt that I was the only one that was going to dedicate everything to it so it ended up being a big undertaking. I don’t know if all films are that confusing but it was so confusing. I felt like I was working on a Rubik’s cube for the past year.

How do you feel about surf culture in general right now? 

DANE: I want to be positive and have hope, but a lot of shit I see bugs me.

Do you think commercialisation has been a big problem?

D: I’m probably the problem. Seriously, I’m a big part of the problem because when I quit doing the contest thing I feel like a lot of kids were like oh, okay, we can make it being a freesurfer, we just have to look cool and put out webclips. So now there’s a group of kids that look hip and act cool and don’t even seem to be into surfing… looking cool is rad and all but it seems phoney when you are trying way harder to accomplish that than surfing good. And now all the brands have their token “lifestyle guy” or whatever…

Fifty years ago surfers were just poor dudes. Surfing was unmarketable. There wasn’t single person outside of beach culture that would buy surfing product. But now, everyone’s a marketing vehicle to sell product to as many people as possible. That’s why Red Bull sponsors surfers, that’s why Target has all these action sports…

DANE: Do you really think its profitable for Red Bull to sponsor surfers?


DANE: You do? I don’t really understand the direct link. Is it just getting the logo seen more and more? Just because Mick Fanning has a Red Bull logo on his board doesn’t make me want to drink Red Bull…. although I do like Red Bull, but I cant drink it anymore. Caffeine gives me anxiety.

I think in the sense that in motocross or snowboarding you have these huge stadium venues with Red Bull logos plastered everywhere and the best riders wearing Red Bull stuff. Everyones going to be drinking Red Bull or everyone in the club is going to order Red Bull-vodka, whereas in surfing, it’s so small and premature that they are preemptively sponsoring people. As in, they are sponsoring Mick so Monster doesn’t sponsor Mick…

How does that directly reflect the selling of a toxic, addictive drink?

It’s just name brand recognition. Growing up, my absolute favourite skater was Chad Muska and he could have worn a hat with umbrellas and I would have bought it because I thought he was so cool. So I think its safe to say most of the kids that look up to you and Kelly go for that brand recognition too.

DANE: When I was a kid, pro surfers seemed so distant, so unattainable, but with Facebook and Instagram everyone feels like they know everybody, like everybody’s friends and pro athletes aren’t “icons” anymore.

And surf movies? Media?

DANE: You know, I was thinking about this on the way back from Mexico. How in the Taylor Steele days, he would come out with one movie every two years. And you were expected to have a good part in it. But now, if I don’t come out with a good section every month, people trip out. That’s so gnarly. It’s crazy. When I was competing it was more simple. You know that if you make the quarter-finals of an event, you feel validated in your professional life. And your video parts don’t have to be gnarly cause everyone sees you surf at every event. It seems like it was a lot easier than coming out with a good video part every month. Video parts are fucking hard.

Why are videos harder?

DANE: Because you can’t repeat your surfing over and over like you can in a heat. You can do the same shit every single heat and just kill it. And if you do the same shit every webisode, people lose interest really quick.

Do you think if someone puts out a really good performance surfing clip, is it more valid than someone who puts out a really cool alternative clip, maybe comparing Noa’s clip in the Telos to Dion’s clip in the wave pool?

DANE: I’ve always been about aesthetic, something that generally looks or feels good, or has a good vibe to it, but I’m pretty sick of shit that looks cool but has no substance. There seems to be a lot of that going around. A good video should have both.

With the paradigm shift in rail game to air game, what do you think performance surfing is right now? Is it moving up above the lip, is it still having a well-rounded bag of tricks? And would you say Gabriel Medina is good at performance surfing?

DANE: Yes, obviously, he’s amazing at it. It’s great, he’s really rad. But, for me, it’s like, you can’t define why you like the way someone surfs. It’s like you can’t say I like that Mariah Carey song because of its tempo or that speed, it’s just a sensation or a feeling. It’s cheesy to say, but surfing is art. Once you get to a certain level of surfing, it’s your art. So it’s undeniable to say Gabriel Medina is amazing at progressive surfing but it also doesn’t really resonate with me. Then again, goofyfooters never resonated with me. I just cant relate to them…

Who do you think is the pinnacle of performance surfing right now?

DANE: Definitely John John. Fuck yeah. He’s the sickest. Just the fact that he does what he does and still surfs 20-foot waves and shit, its sick. I don’t know, this performance term is killing me.

What’s a better term for it?

DANE: Just surfing, that’s where surfing has gone, that’s the basic level of surfing.

Guys that only surf big waves, can you bunch them in with regular performance surfers on the same level as you or, as I see it, living on a different planet?

DANE: It’s a different planet. I don’t see it as the same sport or art or whatever you want to call it. It’s not even the same. It’s like bullfighting as opposed to petting puppies (laughs).

Big-wave surfing is so linear.

DANE: …what, linear, like…

The progression in big-wave surfing is linear in the sense that it has so few variables, essentially just the height of the wave. Whereas, with performance surfing Gabriel Medina can do a backflip on a one-ft wave with such precision that it’s groundbreaking. Throw in a bigger wave, stronger wind, and the ground-breaking factor compounds even more rapidly.

DANE: Yeah, totally, they’re both groundbreaking in their own right. But big-wave surfing’s not relatable to me. It’s like playing chicken. It’s all about courage and I’m sure there is probably lot of technique involved but it seems so… you get what’s handed to you from nature and if you’re man enough to take it then you do or die…

Has big-wave surfing ever appealed to you? 

DANE: I like challenging myself, pushing myself, but… no. As far as being one of those guys that are going places for giant death swells, fuck that. That’s why I said progressive surfing is relative to yourself. For me, going out in eight-to-10-foot Pipeline is a personal win. I’m too scared of dying to go surf 30-foot waves.

It is a spooky thing, huh.

DANE: I don’t know how they handle that.

Sion (Milosky, who died surfing Mavs in 2011) was like the John John of big-wave surfing, so badass… then he just… died.

DANE: Done. Yeah its really crazy.

In your surfing, are there any manoeuvres that you love in particular? 

DANE: I really like doing those laybacks. I like to get to the lip and push as hard as I can and seeing where it goes.

Do you ever try to create your own manouevres?


You don’t want to do the Ttruffle Flip (laughs)?

DANE: The Dane-Ger Flip (laughs)… no, I don’t know. I’ve thought about stuff in my head.

That seems like such a literal way to mark your ambitions and progression. When Kerr did the Kerrupt or when Gabriel made the backflip his own thing last winter or when Julian did the sushi roll it kinda became an easy way to make a milestone for yourself.…

DANE: I’ve thought of things in my head that I think will be functional for a wave, then I’ve tried and it doesn’t work, but it’s rad that Josh Kerr and Julian or whatever have been creative enough to do a manoeuvre that is entirely different than what’s been done.

So maybe removing the aspect of creating a trick to brand it as your own trick, have you ever thought…

DANE: …just the world “trick” sounds so dumb. I don’t even think of surfing as tricks, it’s just one motion. It’s not even worth talking about. How funny is it that? We are sitting here talking about surfing when (laughs)… it’s nothing. You stand up and you ride a wave.

It’s crazy to compare it to tennis. 

DANE: I was talking to Craig the other day, we were just about to finish the movie, and I was thinking about how dumb surfing is and how we are all totally obsessed and addicted to going out into the ocean, being uncomfortable in some rubber suit, bobbing around and asking everybody in the water how many waves they have been catching lately. Then a wave comes along and you stop your conversation and you ride it and paddle back out and talk about it. And because Craig and I do tricks we are better than other guys. We get paid for it and make a living off of it. So here we are talking about surfing.

It’s so frickin’ retarded we are sitting here talking about catching a ripple of wind and riding it to the beach…

DANE: You want to know what’s ironic? I always have someone ask me for an autograph on the beach only to have them snake me in the lineup. It’s ironic to me because I’m paid to do whatever I do and people have supported me to do that but then they keep me from doing that at the same time. It’s the weirdest thing. Not that I expect any special treatment or anything, it’s just like, fuck, a lot of the time I trip out. In Mexico, I was tripping out how the entire time I was at the bottom of the pecking order.

I see so many people literally hassle you. 

DANE: Oh all the time, every single day I get dropped in on. It’s super backward compared to other sports. Tom Curren should be able to paddle out at Rincon and get any wave he wants. But he doesn’t get a break from anyone. He grovels around on the inside like a grom while guys that look like they’ve been surfing for four months catch bombs. It’s unbelievable.

I think that surfing is such an equal playing field that truly anyone with any sort of mindset or perception or ability can be sitting right next to you.

DANE: Maybe the problem is that I surf waves that anybody can surf. Because at Pipeline, when someone goes out there and does something stupid, everyone’s, like, “Get the fuck out of here because you’re being dangerous.” I feel like people’s worst qualities come out in the line up too though. It’s like traffic, everybody gets angry.

It’s the complexity of the sport, the nature of a strange beast. What’s been the strangest thing to happen to you since you’ve been a surfer?

DANE: I wish I could think of something.

You’ve told me some pretty surreal stories. 

DANE: Really? I’m spacing out right now. It’s funny when people ask me to hold their babies.

Do you think people hand you their babies hoping you will pass on a little magic?

DANE: No. I just think they want the photo for when they’re older. If I had a photo of Pottz holding me (laughs) when I was a kid, I would be psyched! So I get it, I understand it. I’d be really psyched.

Is it weird having a natural gift that you’ve honed so much and worked on your whole life and having people obsess over it and worship you?

DANE: I feel very fortunate. I obsess over surfing. I’ve gotten to where I am because, fuck, in high school I was obsessed with it and obsessed with improving. It got to the point where I burned out because it was stressful to be obsessed with something like that. But I don’t know what my goal was… it’s just something you get into like video games. There’s no reason to beat the game, you’re not going to get anything at the end. But, for some reason, surfing is what got me, it’s what I was obsessed with and the fact that it has given me anything back is pretty surprising. I’m glad I chose surfing over video games (laughs)… dunno if there’s many career options in that field.

Pro video gamers are sponsored by Red Bull…

DANE: … really?! Well, fuck, maybe I should have been a video gamer.

So, right now, apart from John John what surfers do you like to watch?  

DANE: I keep saying John John… I trip out there aren’t more John Johns out there. It’s obviously difficult to do what he does but I don’t feel like there’s that many people that…

 …have that magic?

DANE: He has the ability and the creativity, he utilises both at the same time. I feel like a lot of people get stuck trying to replicate everybody else’s thing. A lot of people have the talent, but I just don’t feel like people have been able to apply themselves properly or something…

I try to think of what other 27 year olds that are interesting to watch and the closest thing I could think of is Jordy or Julian and they are years younger and have nothing like Marine Layer…

DANE: Well, people are obsessed with the world tour. And I feel like a lot of really talented surfers have stunted their growth by being so driven to win contests. It’s good to be consistent, but it’s also good to experiment.

It’s such a valid way to rank surfing. But what you’re saying is that it homogenises some surfers’ talent?

DANE: …well… I don’t know. It’s possible.

Considering so many of your peers are on the tour and focusing on competing, do you draw more inspiration from the odd moment in the surf contest when the surf is amazing or surf movies in general now?

DANE: Inspiration? Definitely surf movies, like John John’s movie, Done. This is like a full-on John John fan-out! (laughs) It’s heavy. Fuck, no one else is doing that shit. I don’t know who else to talk about.

Everyone else is putting so much effort in the tour that their characters disappear…

DANE: “Done.” I’ll watch that over and over. And down in Salina Cruz, I was thinking over and over about Dusty Payne’s Lost Atlas section shot there and how it was so fucked-up. That’s still one of my favourite video parts ever. And I definitely get a lot of inspiration from that. I watch contests and I’m glued to the screen the whole time and I get why people are obsessed with it, but as far as Dusty’s part in Lost Atlas, I’ve watched it over and over again. Whereas with contests I’ll watch it once and then it’s done. I’m almost relieved its over so I can quit watching cause the heats are fucking long, like, all-day long.

So what’s it like with Kelly? You guys are obviously both the best surfers in the world right now but for such different reasons.

D: People have been saying that shit for years and I never believed it for one second…

What do you believe? 

D: I don’t know. Want a beer?

Yeah, thanks. Do you have a rivalry or a tension between you?  

DANE: I feel like there’s a rivalry but it’s not because of me. He makes me feel like that. When I see him he’ll shows me clips of himself and I know that he’s keeping check on not only me but where people are at, or what people are doing. I feel like he’s got the all-seeing eye of the universe of surfing.

It’s like he strives to be more undefeated than to be a surfer. He wants to know everything, see everything. No one can score more than him. No one can get better waves than him…

DANE: But then I feel like he’s even keeping tabs on everyone. Seriously, everyone! I don’t feel like that validates me, that Kelly feels competitive with me.

So you were on the tour for three, four years?

DANE: Three years full-time then in the last year I did a few events.

Is it weird being off the tour? We discussed earlier how the tour validates the majority of pro surfers as does the QS because it’s such a literal ranking system of surfing. 

DANE: It’s just like concrete.

If someone’s fifth place in the world it’s undeniable that they are a really good surfer, but is it weird being off it and kinda floating in your own existence and defining who you are?

DANE: Yeah, shit’s gotten more complicated (laughs). I didn’t think it was going to be difficult, but it was a big change, definitely. Things were a lot more simple when I was competing. Belly would be, like, “Hey, we need you for this photo shoot next week” and I felt like I could say no to anything because I was like, fuck, I’m making quarter-finals at every event’ or whatever. But now all the lines are blurred and all of sudden it’s, like, wait is it my job to act cool at a photo shoot?’

Do you think you have done a good job at keeping the purity of your interest in surfing intact?

DANE: I’ve tried (laughs). But it gets complicated when you examine what is pure, you know. When I was a kid and surfing before school every morning my motivation was to try to be really good at it. I don’t think that’s ever changed, but you do find yourself surfing with goals in mind, like a really good video part or something, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I don’t even think surfing with a career in mind is a bad thing. But that does tarnish the fun, which is what surfing should be about …

Is it weird being interviewed by a photographer?

DANE: No. That’s what’s funny because when I interviewed Kelly I felt like it was cool to blend those barriers. I don’t feel like you have to be a journalist to have a unique take on things. You don’t have to be a photographer to be able to take a photo. You don’t have to be a pro surfer to be able to ride a wave. And I think it’s rad.

Any final statements?

DANE: No. I’ve said too much already.

Dane Reynolds (outside) and Noa Deane surfing in Mexico.
You want a masterclass in style and good habits? How about Dane Reynolds (outside) and Noa Deane, here? | Photo: Morgan Maassen

Stop screwing around! Surf better now!

Want to up your game? Steal from the best in the world…

If you live in Australia, the greatest show on earth is coming to a town near you. I don’t kid! This ain’t tennis or car racing or whatevs. If you live in Margaret River, Newcastle, the Gold Coast or its putrid surrounds you have the best surfers in the world offering you lessons every time you paddle out.

So, observe. No, no, don’t paddle in front of ’em, don’t drop in, surf behind if you’re lucky, and just… watch.

Here’s what you might learn.

1. The secret to the Jordy Smith’s frontside wrap

Dino Andino is a former pro whose magical DNA created the superstar Kolohe Andino. He knows the tour like few others. And he knows how… difficult… it is to nail a perfect frontside wrap, one of those slightly out on the face frontside cutbacks. “To be honest, to do a proper wrap, and not just a snap, there’s only a few who can do it. Guys do the beginning and then flap through the rest,” says Dino. You want the secret? Straighten that front leg, while keeping the back one bent. It’s what makes Fanning and Parko and Jordy the best in the world. Sounds easy? It ain’t. Practise!

2. Twisted shoulders in the air

All of us can do a throwaway air. Such a habitual and frustrating move! So why not start landing a few? Remember two things: it’s a mid-face turn not a bottom turn and if you twist your shoulder when you exit the lip you’ll centre over your board and… land.

3. Everybody needs a hungry heart

Have you seen how focussed a pro surfer, or even an above-average surfer is in the water? He ain’t talking shop, swapping boards, swapping numbers. He’s always laying down and patrolling the lineup, he’s deeper than you, he’s a step ahead and when he paddles for a wave he doesn’t hesitate and he paddles five strokes more than you. Talk to your bro’s on the beach or on the ride home.

4. Faux paddle big waves

The smartest big-wave surfer I know has a habit of paddling into what I think are unmakeable waves… just to look. He looks for ease of entry, he looks to see if, somehow, it might be makable. Sometimes he goes; most of the time he doesn’t. But he has a catalogue of wave shapes in his head, a filing cabinet of scenarios. Every time he paddles he learns. And if you see this surfer paddle into a bomb you might call it reckless abandon. It’s anything but.

5. Grow with a shaper

John John Florence is Pyzel, Kolohe is Biolos, Reynolds is Channel Islands. And they don’t shift. Find a shaper whose curves and outlines just seem to work for you and stay there. You’ll get boards that work, boards that don’t until they… all seem to work.

Craig Anderson surfing wave garden
The South African-born Craig Anderson is attuned to the rhythm of life like very few others. He is not the man who enters a woman and then pounds at a punk rock pace until he has finished but the sort who will begin slow before building to a wild hair-pulling pace. Surf or sex, it all confirms to the Rhythm of Life.

Revealed: The Rhythm of Life!

Sex and surfing are tied together by one common thread…

The universe has a rhythm and it is fast/slow/fast or slow/fast/slow and those who operate in any other way appear jarring like Scarlett Johansan’s singing career.

Yes, the alternation between slow and fast, fast and slow, in methodical, purposeful, directed ways makes for magic. Let us look, for instance, at the music of Led Zeppelin. Let us look at Stairway to Heaven. There is a lady who knows all that glitters is gold and she’s bu-u-uying a stairway to heaven.

The masterpiece starts slow, a lullaby for the awakened, but somewhere in the middle of its seven-plus minute running time it spikes. Furious strumming of double-necked electric guitars. The pounding of booze-soaked drum heads. Your head is humming and it won’t go, in case you don’t know. The slow comforts us, the furious excites us and when the song ends slow (And she’s bu-u-uying a stairway to hea-e-ven) we have reached auditory orgasm. Stairway to Heaven mirrors the rhythm of the universe.

Let us look at sex. The man who enters and pounds at a punk rock pace until he has finished is the most worthless sort of lover. Sometimes, yes, a woman wants to be manhandled, she wants to be abused, but the man is only abusing himself if he refuses for one instance to change pace. He must let himself breathe. He must feel the enjoyment building. The best lover starts slow, builds to a wild hair-pulling pace, and then, without awkward hiccup, returns to slow. Or he starts recklessly and then slows like he is swaying in a rowboat on a tranquil lake, so peaceful, before returning to his icky thump. She will moan with the truest of pleasures and he will too.

Let us look at film. Al Scarface Pacino does not enter the first frame lighting up the silver screen with bullet and cocaine. No. He enters as a poor Cuban criminal. He enters slow and of humble origin though arrogant. And later he falls in love and later still he lights up the silver screen with swears and angry red eyes. And then he is shot in the back. Slow to rapid fire to dead (slow).

Let us look at marathoners. The gun cracks and they are off! They run quickly to best position themselves and then they slow. They pace themselves properly for the long haul. They move methodically as if in a trance. And then the end is in sight and they move like wobbly lightening in order to finish strong.

And, finally, let us look at surfing. Some ill-breds who are out of touch with nature itself paddle into waves and they peer down the line and they think, “speed!” And so they pump their legs like pistons and they beat the wave. They change neither pace nor direction for theirs is only a straight line of fast and it is painful to witness. Others, usually on longer, thicker boards, set their course and don’t move a muscle. Slow. Only slow. And their stiffness is hardly witness-able.

But the true surfer, the one in touch with God, drops in and does a luscious bottom turn and then creeps back up toward the lip. He then shimmies fast and hits the lip. Pow! And another slow arcing cutback to slow himself and a fresh burst to finish with an air reverse. Or he bends his knees and maxes out the throttle on his first move and wham! into the sky before slamming the breaks in the form of a slidey tail something before picking it up once more with a burst of turbo before stopping entirely with a frontside 360 foam climb.

The best music, sex, film, long distance running and surfing all follow the formula of fast/slow/fast or slow/fast/slow and if the reader is still unclear let him watch softcore porn on late night HBO. He will understand the essence of life and his surfing will greatly improve.

Brandon "Laserwolf" Campbell by Rodney Odgaard.
And this is the photographer himself, Brandon "Laserwolf" Campbell at the heaviest wave in the Mentawai Islands, as captured by Rodney Odgaard. | Photo: @rodney_odgaard_photography

Rare! Meet a photog who wrangles big waves!

You might know this duel citizen as Brandon "Laserwolf" Campbell…

As far as handles go, Laserwolf is one of the more ambitious. Are his tendencies wolf-like; is his stare as forceful as a laser beam?

“It’s my spirit animal,’ says Brandon.

Whatevs, Brandon is one of the more reliable shooters with game on the North Shore. You need some colour for your magazine or website? Give Brandon a hit and let him inflate your electronic mailbox. Water, mostly, ’cause he’s a water baby, shooting for cash and kicks, surfing when necessary.

Brandon Campbell has fixed himself upon the North Shore for the past six years. He’s a Florida transplant, but don’t shoot a man for his non-indigenous background. If you really want f’reals, let me tell it like it is: Brandon’s from Melbourne, that city that was founded by former slaves in the middle of the 19th c. An’t much realer than that. The Hobgoods, Jimbo Morrison and model Kate Upton are from Melbourne, too, although like Brandon ain’t much of that fine chocolate in their DNA. Yeah!

He’s even picked himself up a a single-fin riding, yoga-teaching, non-cow eating “real conscious goddess” too so he’s feeling real attached to the seven-click miracle.

Laserfox and Laserwolf
The photographer Brandon “Laserwolf” Campbell and his yoga-teaching, non-cow eating, single-fin riding goddess. Call her Alexandra or Laserfox. Both work.

I got some questions for Brandon…

(And if you want to see his photos, click here for his BeachGrit gallery.)

When did you first pick up a 10-foot wave? 

I’ll never forget it. I was 14 and Hurricane Floyd came ripping up the Florida coast. There was a mandatory evacuation but my family stuck around and rode it out at our house just a block away from the beach. It was pretty heavy but as soon as the storm started to pass, the winds went offshore and the waves were the biggest I had seen. I grew up on a barrier island and because everyone had evacuated and the bridges to get on and off the island were closed off, I had the lineup all to myself. It took me forever to get out and there were palm trees and boardwalks floating buy  but I caught this bomb right away and I was so spooked that I went to kick out but before I could get to the top of the wave the thing just pitched this massive barrel over me. The whole thing’s on video and you can hear my mom and a few other people gasp but then I got spit out of this thing and they all start hooting and whistling for me. I’ve been hooked ever since.

So tell me about your big-wave game now… 

I just like riding waves brother. Big or small, I’ll take what I can get. Growing up in Florida, we only got overhead surf a few times a year so we were hungry for it. I’d been to Puerto Escondido a few times and some other spots that get pretty solid so I was comfortable in bigger surf by the time I moved to Hawaii. My first winter out here I was towing the outer reefs but kicked that habit a few years ago and got a 10’8″ shaped for paddling in. For a minute I thought it’d be cool to be the first guy from Florida to make the big-wave world tour but, I dunno, most of those guys are on another level and I ain’t down with all the politics. I’m just stoked to surf.

Y’any good? What’s your most profound big-wave experience thus far? 

I’m alright. My mind is good out there and that’s just as important anything else. Maybe I haven’t been sitting deep enough but I had a good track record of making all my waves to the channel up until this winter without any heavy wipeouts. I got smoked a couple times this year and this past swell I took a bomb on the head that completely annihilated me. I had been in the water for about eight hours with a couple breaks in the channel to refuel. It was a tough crowd and the big boys didn’t want to share the bombs so I was only getting the leftovers. I was paddling back out after catching a medium size one when this 18-foot (Hawaiian scale) monster broke right on my head. It close out the whole channel and boats and skis were scattered.The impact was so heavy, it set off two of the air canisters in my inflatable vest, I got the wind knocked out of me and felt like my limbs were being ripped off. I tore some muscles in my back and haven’t been able to surf for a couple weeks now.

Brandon "Laserwolf" Campbell surfing an outer reef.
Here we see the photographer at an outer reef as nibbled on by Doug Falter (@dougfalterphotography). “I was comfortable in bigger surf by the time I moved to Hawaii. My first winter out here I was towing the outer reefs but kicked that habit a few years ago and got a 10’8″ shaped for paddling in. For a minute I thought it’d be cool to be the first guy from Florida to make the big-wave world tour but, I dunno, most of those guys are on another level and I ain’t down with all the politics. I’m just stoked to surf.”

Y’got a dog, I know that. Bitch vicious? 

Bruce The Boss. Half French Bulldog, half American Bulldog. He’s a gentleman and a scholar but don’t get him too excited or he’ll piss all over your feet.

What’s the bravest thing you’ve done? 

What, like that time I ran into a burning orphanage to save a bunch of children, woman and kittens? I kid, I kid. Probably quitting my job to focus full time on surf photography while being a single dad. It was a scary roll of the dice and a lot of people  were pretty discouraging. “It’s too late in the game”, “ You don’t have any connections”, “Surf photography is dead” blah, blah blah. I heard it all but I stuck with it and it all seems to be working out.

Cameras, when did they come into your life? 

My auntie is a photographer and I recently found out that my Quaker ancestors were some of the world’s first photographers. I guess its in my blood. I’ve only been shooting surfing for three years though.

Why? Ain’t no money in that game? 

Yeah you know I hear that a lot, especially from the OG’s who were doing this back when surf photographers were raking it in, but fuck, I mean how much money do you need? I’m not stacking paper but my bills are paid, my kids taken care of and I’m travelling the world doing what I love while calling Hawaii base camp. I wake up every day and do whatever I want. Surf when I wanna surf, shoot when I wanna shoot. No one telling me to shave my face, tuck in my shirt, where and when to be. Life is good brother!

But then y’got some covers, tell me about ‘em.

Yeah I got a few, hopefully more to come. My first cover was with Freesurf which is the local mag here in Hawaii. It’s also the first mag to run one of my shots. I’m really grateful for all the support from them. I’ve got the cover of Stab this month as well. That one is a pretty big deal for me. Stab is the hottest surf mag on the planet right now, but I don’t don’t need to tell you that, you helped build that empire! Ghetto Juice’s slapped one of my shots of Wardo on the cover of this year’s Hawaii issue too. I couldn’t be more stoked with the way 2015 has started off for me.

What’s your money shot?

I got this shot of my friend Marcelo down in Tahiti. I’ve never seen anything like it. My camera was in the lip looking straight down on him. The water is so clear it looks like he’s in a bubble. It’s definitely my one the bests images I’ve captured.

What’s your strength as a photographer?

Barrels, I love shooting barrels! Fisheye, 50mm, Long lens from the channel, whatever.

What’s your weakness?

Motivation to shoot when the conditions are anything but perfect. If its cloudy, I’m going surfing but then I’ll see someone else nailing sick shots and I get all down on myself for slacking.

As far as I know, you’re one of the few photographers who hit a little juice? Why is that? 

Yeah, its weird. I know a lot of surf photogs that don’t even surf. I guess if you’re a surfer, the last thing you wanna do is watch your friend surf while you work. I’m getting barrelled either way, so I’m just stoked to be in the water. I’ve seen Hank Foto tow into some BOMBS though at the outer reefs. I might be the first photog to give Jaws a go but don’t quote me on that. Besides, I was shitting myself out there. That place is heavy! You know who is a closet ripper? Jimmy Wilson a.k.a Jimiicane. I think he won a Volcom contest in Florida one time. Brent Bielman rips too!

Do you believe in Jesus, that he’ll come and save you if you get stuck out there on some outer reef? 

Nah, I’m not into all that. Different strokes for different folks. I respect everyone’s beliefs but I don’t need to deal with the middle man when I can go straight to the source. I’ve got no doubt that there is something out there bigger then me and you and I make sure to keep the line of communication wide open and be grateful for life’s blessing but I wouldn’t feel right putting a label on it and telling everyone who doesn’t share my belief that they are gonna spend eternity in a fiery pit or their next life as a cockroach. I don’t have the answers but I think at the end of the day whether you pray to Jesus, Buddah, Allah or whoever, we’re all acknowledging the same higher power, God, just in a different style. Religion is like surfing, you might bodysurf or ride a boogie board while I’m on a thruster and she’s on a longboard or whatever but we’re all really just riding waves right?

When you lie in bed, at night, alone in the dark, what do you think about?

Before I was 20 I probably had a dozen friends from my neighbourhood die. Now I can’t even count them on all my fingers and toes but I think about them often. Car wrecks, drownings, overdose, murders, suicide, freak accidents, you name it. It’s wild and I can’t help but wonder when I’m next. Life is precious and you really gotta’ live every day like its your last.

What is the key, you believe, to a good life? 

The universe is gonna serve you up some Karma casserole on a silver platter, good or bad. Its a round world and it all comes back. You gotta give everyone a chance but don’t let anyone push you around either. Be kind, be grateful, be respectful, accept the path others chose for themselves, be righteous and be strong. Take care of the earth and it will take care of you. I don’t always get it right but those are the basics I try to live by.

Anything else you wanna holla at me? 

I wanna keep the ball rolling and continue to learn and grow as a photographer. Hopefully get on a hand full of trips this year and maybe even knock the freelance hustle and land and staff gig with a good company.

"Deep down I'm angry all the time," says Mitch Coleborn. | Photo: Courtesy of Little Lion photography/Epokhe

Mitch Coleborn: “Deep Down I’m Angry All the Time!”

A vintage interview that features sickly cameos from Craig Anderson and Jordy Smith… 

The well-known Australian surfer… but perhaps it’s best not say exactly which well-known Australian surfer –  they’re a sensitive breed!

And why would the gentlemen we’re about to surprise be an exception? But what the fuck, Mitch Coleborn, it is Mitch Coleborn, sits on one of the marble steps leading to the top floor of this, his penthouse suite. There are 17 altogether, plus four bedrooms, a dining area, kitchen (with open floorplan) flowing to a large living area flowing to a large deck. The floor is a white marble with grey veins and the ceiling lights are recessed. The bathrooms don’t have doors but opaque pull shades instead. The furniture is white leather. It feels, like, today. Modern, without being well-thought but also without being garish. It is the sort of modern that Balinese specialise in. Unobtrusive. Stainless steel appliances and smoked glass. The large deck overlooks Uluwatu.

Mitch is sitting and smiling broadly because he doesn’t feel the least bit sick. His voice is full of light. His Volcom Hawaiian print shirt pressed and unbuttoned three from the neck. Brixton sailor cap perched, jauntily, on his brown curls.

“So, yeah, last night. We went out for a sniff but kind of got there too early. Waaaaay too many Bintang singlets floating around. I had another shitty session yesterday, so I just fucken felt like a Bintang and then one drink led to another and I thought we’d go out and have a look and a couple more drinks and ummmmm…”

“What time was it Mitch? I didn’t think anyone would be out at all…” Craig Anderson, interrupting, is laying on one of the downstairs bedrooms’ queen beds. We surprise him too and he feels a lot sick. And he looks it, though fully dressed, his normally inquisitive chocolate eyes are dull and flat. His South African-tinged Australian accent weak.

“Ahhh, it was shit but it felt good just to get out of the fucking house,” Mitch continues. “And so we got there and Jordy just ruled. He’d talk to anyone. Anyone in the whole place.” Mitch’s laugh imitates his broad, healthy smile. It is robust.

“I was friendly,” Jordy clarifies. He is not surprised at all and is on another downstairs bedroom queen bed. A different bedroom from Craig, but both heads are pressed against the same interior wall and both doors are open. Craig and Jordy are mirror images of each other (as seen from the author’s perch in the hallway). Jordy is sick too. Sick in the stomach. Like Craig.

“Super friendly,” Mitch adds.

Did Jordy brave the night with sickness already gripping is large intestine or did the wretched curse take him midway?

“Uhhhh, last night it did come on. It was actually pretty weird. I was, like, talking and then the next thing I’d say is, ‘Ahhh, I have to stop talking to you because I have to go to the bathroom’.” Jordy looks disgusted with himself but also a touch amused. His eyes are on fire and he is tucked under his sheets plus baby blue comforter. He must be sicker than Craig.

What is Jordy’s prescription for stomach illness? Does he ride it out? Does he call for a doctor? The way a man handles illness, and especially that of the stomach, intrigues. “Ahhh, if I can get a doctor I get a doctor. One came in this morning.” Craig Anderson looks up, nods his head. He saw the doctor too. Then goes back to studying the casing on his computer. Mitch asks what he is looking at. “My computer. Someone dropped it on the floor.” (It was the author).

Jordy, suddenly animated, lifts up to an elbow, lounging like Cleopatra. “Well, that’s karma. Too much Facebooking. Yah.”

Does Craig do the most Facebooking out of anybody? Mitch doesn’t need to think. “

Yes,” he says.

Jordy too, “Without a doubt.”

Craig jumps to the defensive. “Ahhhhhh, whatever. You are the biggest liar ever.”

Jordy tells him he (Craig) bought three (and holds up his fingers to emphasise. Three. Even though Craig can’t see him) internet cards yesterday.

Craig parries, “Noooo! I bought one and then I lost it then I bought another one. You Skype and Facebook waaaay more than I do.”

Jordy seems shocked by this allegation. “No. That’s a lie.”

Craig presses. “No it’s not.” Jordy gives ground. “I might Skype. Skype yah. But that is talking face to face.”

Craig smugly asks, “Why do you Skype?” And Jordy ends this particular line of questioning with a tautology. “It is face to face.”

Silence. Mitch, looking at both Craig, who is lying on his back now, dark blue shorts scrunched high, and Jordy, who is still lounging like Cleopatra with sheet tight under his armpit, continues his story. “So we get to the bar, Craikey (Ry Craike) went to the bar and ordered…”

Jordy cuts in, “the worst fucking drink ever.”

Mitch laughs. “…these awfucking strawberry drinks but they were voted the best drinks in Bali. That’s what, that’s what pulled him into ‘em. And, they were easily the worst drink I’ve ever had. The whole thing was like pulp. Like red pulp. And you’d have a sip and then turn around, talking to the boys and they’d start laughing at ya and I was like, ‘I’ve got something in my teeth, don’t I?’ It’d be all red. Disgusting.”

Jordy adds the drinks had leaves in the bottom of them.

Craig is listening, not very amused. Would he have gotten that particular drink?

“No.” What would he have had? “A beer.”

Jordy disagrees. “Craig would have had a strawberry milkshake.”

In any case, the awfucking strawberry drinks led to one thing which led to another which led to the boys out at a tranny bar being ogled by beautiful (wo)men with beautiful adams apples. A big night indeed, but not necessarily out of place. These are professional surfers. And Jordy is the most professional. He is so big, even lying in bed, sick, still physically dominant. Wild eyes matched by a wild haircut chopped with dull shears, tousled by salt breezes, colored by sun. A black O’Neil shirt stained with life. If anyone were to be master of his fate, captain of his soul, it’d be Jordy Smith. He is South African. A poster of Afrikaner might.

Photographer Ryan Miller, editing pictures nearby, says, “I was with Jordy for, like, a week or 10 days in South Africa and out every single night and not one person said, ‘Hey are you Jordy Smith’ or  ‘Hey can I get an autograph?’ or ‘Hey can I get a photograph?’ One chick randomly, in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the country, walked up and asked if she could get a photo. Asked where she was from. Newport Beach.”

Jordy says he thinks it’s better than cool to be left alone. “Yah, it’s awesome. It’s really good. It’s super mellow back home and I can just get away from everyone. Home is where you’d think people would want you more but it’s pretty cool to go home and just be able to relax.”

How often does he spend in South Africa every year, relaxing? “Maybe three or four months a year. You don’t get to spend much time anywhere in the world.”

Craig, listening in, says, “Three months is a long time to spend in one place. In a whole year, I haven’t even been home for four weeks this year.”

Mitch contributes a caveat, “That’s by your choice though. You little workhorse you. Comin’ on to the scene. Comin’ in hot. Fucken…  too cool to go on trips with Quiksilver.” Craig tells him to fuck off.

Mitch says, “Him and Dane.” Jordy laughs. Mitch laughs.

What is Mitch doing? “I’ll do the Europe leg of the QS. How fucken fun does that sound? Yeah, just try to get a few results in the bag so I can get into some comps next year. Fuck. I’ve been trying to get results but it hasn’t really happened yet.”

It really hasn’t happened. He has been no good, in competition. Why? “I don’t know. I’m not…  something is wrong. Jordy’s trying to be my mentor.” Does Jordy give tips? Mitch says he doesn’t ask for tips but Jordy gives anyhow. Do they help?

Jordy says, “We’ll all wait and see.”

At Margaret River Mitch didn’t get out of the trials. He is told Craig made it to the main event (as an injury wild card).

“Yeah, I got a 4.7.” Craig says, nonplussed.

In Brazil Mitch didn’t get past the round of 96. Craig asks, “Did you have three Brazzos in your heat?”

Mitch replies, “Two, and where is Arritz from?” Someone says, “France.”

Both Craig and Jordy say, “Spain.”

Jordy laughs, then asks Mitch what ticks him off. Mitch asks for clarification. Jordy clarifies. “What makes you angry? You’re never angry.”

Mitch asks, “I’m never angry?”

And Jordy tells him that he has never seen him angry.

Mitch says, “Deep down inside I’m pretty angry all the time.”

Jordy, intrigued, says, “Really?”

Mitch says, “Nahhh.”

Then Craig speaks up, “Remember at Reunion? You were pretty angry then. I was angry too. We had those meltdown sessions.”

And Mitch remembers. “Ah yeah, yeah, yeah. Bad freesurfing sessions piss me off way more than losing in a connest. Way more.”

Jordy understands this, instinctively. “Yah and if the waves are really good and you can’t surf…”

Mitch says, “Kind of like yesterday.” And Jordy continues, “I guess it’s all different. Sometimes in comps when the waves are really bad you have some of your best sessions.”

Mitch, looking a little bit forlorn, says, “I would way rather do that then when the waves are really good and you have a fucken bad session.”

Does he ever punch his board? “Yes.”

Does Craig, “Nah, not really.”

Does Jordy? “I used to when I was younger. I started hitting the stringer and it hurt so I started punching my grip.”

Craig asks, “Punching the grip?” And Jordy responds, “Yah.” Craig says, “Punching the grip. I’ve done that before and I punched through to the other side. Punch right through it. I’ve done that before.” Clean through? “No, no, not my whole hand but like a ding on the other side.”

Jordy says, “Wow Craig. You must be strong.”

Mitch laughs, free and easy, “Craig probably really has to shit but he has this paranoia. Like, look at the bathroom. There is no wall. You can just lift the blind up. He probably needs to shit so bad right now. Look at him. You should just go shit in the pool.”

Craig says, “I don’t need to shit. I promise.”

Craig keeps his promise. The next day Mitch, Jordy and Craig surf world-class Keramas. The day after too. They return to the penthouse each night before going out and being large. They each live the life you wish you could.

(Editor’s note: This interview was recorded five-ish years ago and first appeared in Stab magazine.)