Kelly Slater, Shane Herring, Kalani Robb and rest of Momentum Generation portrait
"I shot the defining New School photo on the North Shore 1993 that showed who was in the movement," says Mike Balzer. | Photo: Mike Balzer

Just in: Surf photog Mike Balzer’s fatal strike!

Photographic proof, compelling argument, in ongoing IG battle with Steve Sherman… 

“What a cruel thing war is. To fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors.” 

The great confederate commander Robert E Lee’s words still ring true, even 150 years after the south’s capitulation. Yesterday BeachGrit reported on the ongoing Instagram feud between surf photographers Steve Sherman and Mike Balzer, both Californians, over who shot the cover of Focus (it was Balzer).

(Read it here)

Mike Balzer was keen to clarify the record today, and included photographic evidence of his claims.

From Mike: 

“Not really wanting to continue the social media pissing match but let me lend some facts to this fire. The reason I call “Fraud” on this is the quote by Steve himself see below. “He then used it for his Focus video cover”.

Steve Sherman's not-Focus cover
“Is that a true statement?” asks the Hermosa Beach photographer Mike Balzer. “Is this photo the actual photo used on the Focus video cover? No is the answer to both. So why is Steve lying about this? Is it because he wants his T-shirts to sell at any cost? Will he say anything to sell those T-shirts? It appears so. Why else would this start off with “Decisive moments in T-Sherms history #8”. It’s bullshit. “

Is that a true statement? Is this photo the actual photo used on the Focus video cover?  No is the answer to both.  So why is Steve lying about this?  Is it because he wants his T-shirts to sell at any cost?  Will he say anything to sell those T-shirts?  It appears so.  Why else would this start off with “Decisive moments in T-Sherms history #8”.  It’s bullshit.

The real Cover of FOCUS has a photo of Shane Dorian @ Puerto Escondido, Mexico doing a backside air.  Did Steve shoot that photo?

Focus cover
“The real Cover of FOCUS has a photo of Shane Dorian @ Puerto Escondido, Mexico doing a backside air,” says Mike Balzer. “Did Steve shoot that photo? No. All I am doing is calling bullshit on him with facts and proof. Go ask Steve yourself about this and ask him if he was on any of the New School trips. He wasn’t.”

No. All I am doing is calling bullshit on him with facts and proof. Go ask Steve yourself about this and ask him if he was on any of the New School trips. He wasn’t. And by the way Taylor never employed me I gave him the photos to use back then. So if you want to find out any more truthful info about those times let me know. I am not hard to find.

And for more proof that I was there to document the New School/Momentum crew my photo of Slater on the Cover of MOMENTUM.

Kelly Slater on cover of Momentum
“And for more proof that I was there to document the New School/Momentum crew,” says Mike Balzer, “here’s my photo of Slater on the Cover of MOMENTUM.”


I also shot the defining New School photo on the North Shore 1993 that showed who was in the movement. (Front page shot.)

As with all things like this the Editor, YOU, have the last word and can make a person out to be a jackass. I hope you can see that my attempt here is to suss out Sherman and make him tell the truth and not bullshit at the cost of his integrity to sell some T-shirts.

Hope you understand.

Mike Balzer the less sexier human than Steve as you like to put it.”


mason ho at snapper rocks
Mason Ho? He's the best! Look! Here! Snapper Rocks! | Photo: Craig Bessant @foamballs

Mason Ho Vs Kirra!

Mason talks MP, gals and maybe the roundest Kirra tub ever! Even Mick Fanning said so!

The Hawaiian surfer Mason Ho, 26, recently concluded his 24th trip to Australia. Although he failed to win either WQS event he entered, indeed, the first time he hasn’t stepped on a podium in months, his days were filled with love, laughter and tubes. Mason Ho is a supplicant to good times and Australia fulfils his most profound needs.

“I first came there when I was 14,” says Mason, adding it was a solo trip after his Dad, the famous surfer Michael Ho, “had this huge, gnarly… ah… it’s an R-rated story… but he could’t make it. I was crushed, I was traumatised. I’d been wanting to go my whole life.”

Fate stepped in when Dino Andino, father of Kolohe, told his old pal Mike he’d look after the kid. That was a dozen years ago and Mason has visited Australia twice a year since.

“Frick, Australia’s like the closest place to me besides Hawaii,” says Mason. “I love every single thing about it.”

BeachGrit: … let’s talk specifics, what turns you on about Australia?

Mason: I love it how all the people are so funny, so polite, but they’re bad-ass and screw with you and help you at the same time. It’s funny and it’s… weird. Everyone’s weirdly nice even when they get mad. Over here in Hawaii, when someone gets mad… whoa, that’s evil. But in Australia, everyone’s a comedian. I also like how you can order a healthy juice anywhere, how you have the best waves in the world along with Indo and Hawaii. And then there’s the leniency on the whole fun thing. In Bali, you can get killed if you get caught with a mushroom. Australias the coolest place ever.

What’s your favourite place to visit? 

I’ve always said, West Oz my whole life but after this last trip to Snapper, that’s right there too. Right under West Oz. West Oz ’cause it’s a little less people, you can go get your slabs and the do what you want on the beach… I loooove that place. West Oz, still, by a hair. But that Kirra thing blew my mind just now.

What’s your favourite wave and why? 

Oh! Snap! Damn! I can give you four waves. Yeah! Okay! F’sure! The Box, North Point, Snapper Rocks, Kirra. Boom! I haven’t done too much adventuring, like, deep adventures, haven’t been to the mysto ones, only the commercial ones. I love ’em! Oh my god, I love The Box. My Dad gets bummed on how much I love The Box. One year, (Chris) Ward was out there at dark every morning. I didn’t have my own car and I was a little scared of The Box and Ward being out there every mounting was the coolest thing I’d seen in my life. So as soon as I was able to rent my own car, I was the guy out there in the dark. Two feet or 10-feet, there at dark.

Tell me about the best wave you’ve ever caught in Australia

Oh my god! This latest wave! But I’ve had a lot of waves in Australia that I dream about. Australia has these weird little sparkles to the waves. But my latest one, this one wave at Kirra, this crazy double up… okay… let me say something about Kirra. I’d always heard stories about Kirra from my Dad. I’d always heard stories from other people about Kirra. And I’ve surfed solid Kirra before, but this was nuts. Mick had his ski and he dropped me off and then I got swept down and this wave doubled up. A weird double-up. I got to the bottom and I could see the sand. I was telling Nathan (Fletcher) that I don’t know if I’ve ever had a barrel at Backdoor that was as round. It was the biggest barrel I’ve pulled into, no back, and there was a two-foot barrel on top of the wave. I want to say that it was over a 10-foot face… easy. Twelve-foot face! Thirteen feet! No back! And there was that two-foot barrel on top of the back of the wave trying to crawl into my barrel to screw me up. I pushed through the whitewater, this 10-to-15-foot chandelier, punched through it, got into the clean spot, maybe one or two pumps, no more speed from the chandelier, the wave sucked up, I did a barrel roll, ate shit and got slammed. The part that tripped me out was all the groms and Mick told me, ‘Brah, that was the thickest wave we’ve ever seen go through here!’ I’ve had a few at The Box that I got blown out of but I remember this Kirra one because I was, like, thinking a million things at once. I was getting flashes of MP (Michael Peterson) in my head.

MP’s your favourite Australian surfer, yeah?

Oh yeah! F’sure my favourite Australian. I think of that guy all the time. Anytime I drive on that road going up to Kirra or Snapper I remember when I went with my Dad for the first time. Kirra was gone (because of the sand-pumping that created the Super Bank) and my Dad was freaking out about it, just snapping. I was, like, almost scared, saying, ‘C’mon Dad, it’s okay.’ He was, ‘No it’s not!’ Now he just loves Greenmount. Now he’s forgotten about how mad he was. Anyway, my Dad used tell me all these stories about MP, always these cool funny stories, stuff that I admired when I was little, about how competitive he was, how he did his own thing. Somehow he’d hang out with Dad so he felt like an uncle I didn’t get to hang out with. I read a lot, just not books, but I was reading his book (MP: The Life of Michael Peterson… click here… ) when I won a little contest at Bells with Wilko and Jordy in the final.

What perplexes you about Australia? 

Everything makes sense there! The car thing, sometimes. I’ll go on the right side of the road and I’ll hear, ‘You little punk!’ and I’m, ‘I’m so sorry! I’m so sorry!’ You don’t seem to have Tylenol or ibuprofen easily available either. I was looking for ibuprofen everywhere in the whole town. But, then, I like that you can’t buy it everywhere.

What sucks about Australia? 

I hate to say it but there’s nothing! It’s like a huuuuuge Haewaiian island. I love it how everyone lives on the coast. And everyone’s so cool. I even burned a bunch of guys this trip and they were psyched… psyched! I got burned a bunch too, of course. But I was, like, pleading with them, ‘I’m so sorry!’ And they’re, ‘No, I’m psyched!’ You don’t get that anywhere.

Where would you find the cutest girls in Australia and how would you describe them? 

Oh the cutest girls! that’s another thing! I like the Australian girl because they’re a little bit like us, actually not like us guys ’cause we’re pretty bad, but they have more of a guy’s confidence. They just put it out. Everywhere else girls are conservative. No girls make me laugh more than Australian girls. Those girls crack me. I’d marry an Australian girl but none like me.

I’m reasonably positive y’might’ve sourced a couple…

Oh, I met one or two.

The Momentum Generation
The photograph that so infuriated the photographer Mike Balzer. When it appeared on Red Bull's Instagram feed, @balzerphoto wrote: "Fraud: An act of deceiving or misrepresenting. The FOCUS Cover was shot by Mike Balzer in Puerto Escondido of Shane Dorian doing a backside air. Steve was not even there to shoot any of the action that went down. Someone needs to tell the truth hear. What other make believe stories will go on his gallery? Bullshit!" | Photo: Steve Sherman

Top surf photogs in online fight to death!

Americans Mike Balzer and Steve Sherman draw swords in pitiless Instagram duel… 

The surf photographer is un paradoxe éternel. All have the faith of poets, working for nothing, but doing what they love in the hope that, one day, their work will be acknowledged as markers in the culture of surfing. But, and here’s the paradox, inside their hearts is a dark dank land. A chemical cesspit where praise of others is impossible; a carbonic plague of hate. You awaken this side at your peril.

Personally, I have fielded threats from Steve Sherman and Dustin Humphrey, although both fuses were snuffed out with email diplomacy and now we all laugh at our immaturity and fiery spirit.

But to the matter at hand.

Steve Sherman is a favourite photographer of mine, maybe the favourite. His work around surfing events catalogues, with subtlety, love, and expertise, the icons of a sport I regard as great. If you wanted to create a top-shelf book on Kelly Slater, of whom Sherman counts as a dear friend, you would call Sherman first. All those photos of Kelly holding his fingers up to indicate the number of world titles (four, five, six, seven etc) are, generally, by Steve Sherman. As I said, he is the best in the game.

Mike Balzer, I used to be aware of, as the surf photographer who shot stills around Taylor Steele’s early movies. His recent work appears sporadic according to the internet although it says he has a studio in Hermosa Beach, California.

This week, the energy soda company from Austria, Red Bull, ran a story on a photo that Sherman had taken, ostensibly,  for the cover of Taylor Steele’s 1992 surf film Focus. The surfers included Kelly Slater, Shane Dorian, Rob Machado, Donavon Frankenreiter and Ross Williams.

“I shot this for @taylorsteele in 1992, for the cover of his video Focus. My idea was to make it look like a band photo so I had all the boys come to an alleyway in Solana Beach, California. I was blown away how they all showed up right on time and gave their all,” said Steve Sherman.

You can’t beat it, right? Ain’t no controversy!

But after the photo and a quote from Sherman appeared on Instagram, Mr Balzer withdrew his sword from its scabbard and lost his fucking shit.

Steve Sherman and Mike Balzer
Steve Sherman (left) and Mike Balzer (v for victory!). If it was a game of who’s sexier, it’d be a Sherman whitewash.

The following exchange ensued:

@balzerphoto wrote:

Fraud: An act of deceiving or misrepresenting. The FOCUS Cover was shot by Mike Balzer in Puerto Escondido of Shane Dorian doing a backside air. Steve was not even there to shoot any of the action that went down. Someone needs to tell the truth hear. What other make believe stories will go on his gallery? Bullshit!

@tsherms replied: 

It was FOR the cover , but it didn’t make it to it Kaipo( I mean @balzerphoto ) Why in the hell get so petty Mike? I would never claim your precious video cover. “Fraud” really ? I guess your blogger alias Kaipo Gomes must know a lawyer!! He tagged @shanedorian @taylorsteele for good measure.


Read your own quote Sherwank and retract it. How am I in the wrong?!


I did shoot it for the cover Kaipo.. Just ask @taylorsteele but your brilliant , cutting edge surf photo made it.. How else would Taylor get me , or all those guys together down here.? Why do u hate me soooo much Mike? I’ve done nothing bad to hurt your career ( unlike u with your alter ego Kaipo Gomes blogger crap) You really hurt my feelings with all the shit you said under the Kaipo veil. This will be last time I respond to you . I’m off to Oz hard feelings… @balzerphoto @taylorsteele @taylor_knox @shanedorian @kellyslater @rosswilliamshawaii @thebarn808 @rob_machado @petertaras


Your ego is sooooooo big you can’t see what you have done. You insinuated that you shot the group photo “for” the Cover of Focus without saying that your photo was not the actual Cover. As Kaipo and many others pointed out to you it is not about You. You need to check your ego at the door if you don’t get that then perhaps you never will.

The fight was only hosed down when Taylor Steele, who briefly employed both men almost 25 years ago, wrote:

@balzerphoto @tsherms I’m thankful for all your contributions over the years. It’s been an amazing journey. Thanks @redbull_surfing for posting.

See it here! 

The original story is here! 

No it is not Scientology. It is the W.S.L.!
No it is not Scientology. It is the W.S.L.!

Official: WSL bigger than NFL says New York Times!

Maybe the smartest business on earth. Ever.

Sunday’s edition of the New York Times is the Paris Fashion Week of print and guess who was swathed in couture? The W.S.L! A feature titled World Surf League Takes Web-First Approach to Drawing Viewers highlights that, “An average of 6.2 million people tuned in live to watch the Billabong Pipe Masters, where Mr. Medina won his first title.” That is more people than watch the Stanley Cup Finals on TV. Moreover, 35-40% of the viewers streamed mobile.

Sport leagues around the world are trying to tap into an online market with varying degrees of success (you can read the full article here) but surfing is particularly awesome because, to quote CEO Paul Speaker, “Our strategy has been, since the beginning, let’s remove all stop signs and turn them into welcome mats.”

Ummmmmmmmmm? Wouldn’t it still say stop? Just on the ground? And wouldn’t wiping feet etc. pose difficult on a smooth metal surface?


In any case, the W.S.L. has solid growth in the 25-44 demo and gets as many likes, comments, shares as the N.F.L. (according to the W.S.L.). Furthermore, surfing’s governing body is opening a 6000-square foot production studio in Santa Monica to create programming between sets, lulls, heats, during Bede Durbidge’s heats etc. because the 25-44 demo needs a Pat Parnell sit-com. They crave. They want a 60 Minutes style news magazine show where Occy interviews world leaders.

Lastly, the World Surf League would not disclose its revenues but CEO Paul Speaker said, “…live streaming is our bread and butter. I think many people will be looking at us and say, ‘How’d they figure it out?’”

Ummmmmmmmmm? Do you think that’s true? Do you think many people look at the W.S.L. and try to copy its business model?

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 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.