Dion Agius is a wonderful man and he brought us a wonderful gift.
Patient Zero, or the index case, is the name given to the initial carrier of disease, or exemplifier of a syndrome, in a population. Mabalo Lokela, a school teacher from Zaire, was the first recorded victim of the Ebola virus. Liu Jianlun, a doctor from China, was the first to transmit SARS. Edgar Enrique Hernandez, a young boy from La Gloria, Mexico, was one of the earliest recorded victims of Swine Flu and Dion Agius, a surfer from Tasmania, brought Hipsterism from distant shores to the living rooms of Newport Beach.
Dion, quite famously, started his public life as a Boogie star but soon transitioned to surf and professional contest surf at that. When he was young, Body Glove sticker on the nose, he didn’t know anything but three to the beach. “I guess I have a jockey contest stage for sure,” he says while drinking a small batch Manhattan touched with house made vanilla bitters. “I definitely wasn’t playing football on the side or anything like that but I was definitely into contests, that’s for sure. My dad used to drive me around to do a shit load of them. I have a really bad temper and I used to loose all the time, I used to fucking hate it.” And maybe the hate shook something loose because in his genes a powerful force lay waiting. Hipsterism.
The Miriam-Webster dictionary defines “Hipster” as, “a person unusually aware of and interested in new and unconventional patterns.” And certainly “hip” surfers existed before Dion, Dave Rastovich and Ozzie Wrong and Ozzie Wright and Miki Dora to name a few, but nobody put the elements together quite like Dion. Nobody became the essence of “Hipster.”
And the powerful force bubbled in his insides. He felt like he wanted to do something different than chase points in contests. He felt there was something out there but he didn’t know exactly what because no one in his generation was really doing anything different. And then he went to Vietnam with Taylor Steel.
“I was on the trip with him and I was telling him how much I loved the drive through movies and how intriguing it was to see the guys on the road and all the behind the scenes stuff…” He says between bites of an artisanal grilled cheese sandwich featuring aged Gouda. “You see the best of the best and even everything in between was so interesting. I told him about this idea I had about doing this website thing with a mini drive thru series. I thought it would really show my style. I went home and I had a meeting with Globe. The president of Australia at the time said, ‘You can ride for us and we don’t want you doing another competition.’ That sounded awesome. I didn’t want to do another competition. He said, ‘Yeah we’ve got this idea I want to start. This little website thing I want to start with you. We could mix your interesting film and start documenting your travels.’ It was the weirdest thing ever because it was pretty much the idea I wanted to try. I told Steve and I was just tripping, I couldn’t believe it. That’s where it as born from. He told me, ‘I don’t want you to do any more contests. We want to put you on. We want to market the shit out of you and put all this money into it. We don’t want you competing against guys and getting beaten and looking like an idiot. Why don’t we just send you out on the road, have an amazing time, and we’ll capture it all on video? That’s what we want you to do.’ To me, that sounded like a dream. From that point on I actually went and did a QS because it was still engrained in me and we hadn’t figured out how it was all going to work. I remember getting called from him the next day after I had lost. I got smoked by probably Hedgy or someone. He called me and said, ‘Dude, what did I tell you?’ and I said, ‘I don’t know.’ And he said, ‘What the fuck did I tell you? I don’t want you doing another contest.’ I just said, ‘Yeah, ok I get it.’ I never did another contest after that because he actually got mad at me.”
The blog that grew on Globe.tv starring Dion Agius was groundbreaking because it was the first of its kind. There was no Marinelayer.com. There was no Instagram. There was no Dane Reynold’s girlfriend on Instagram. There was nothing but a tabula rasa and then there was Dion, traveling, filming, getting artsy with skinny models, living in New York and setting it to a moody soundtrack. It was “Hipsterism” par excellence. And it was how Dion did it that made it par excellence. He took an active roll in crafting all the elements. He surfed, sure, but he also took the photos, filmed some, doodled lots and today is filming more. He is starving for knowledge, starving for a hands-on approach to his art. He says, while lighting an American Spirit cigarette, “Yeah. I think for me I’ve just been so lucky throughout my career. I’ve been able to travel and meet some of my idols like Taylor and Dustin and guys like that. When I was a kid I was looking up to them and absolutely mesmerized by their work. When I got to do a trip with them I took it as an opportunity to hassle the shit out of them. They were probably so annoyed, like, ‘who the fuck is this little kid? Leave me alone.’ I just wanted to learn, because I could. Joe G. is one of the most amazing dudes ever who loves teaching you stuff, so I took advantage of that. I still do to this day. I’m still learning from him every single trip we do. He’s been a freaking amazing mentor for me. I’d say at one point or another I was probably annoying the shit out of him with a million questions.”
Love or hate hipsterism, in general, and surf hipsterism, specifically, it cannot be denied that hipsters actually make things. Hipsters like knowing things. Hipsters try. And Dion Agius’s humble blog gave birth to hundreds of people who actually make things, know things and try. Certainly it can seem empty or, at the very least, redundant but even at its most contrived it is still better than completely manufactured. Take the fascination with motorcycles for instance. Yes, it is super “trendy” but still. Those hipsters caught up in it get grease under their fingernails. They get weird with gaskets and Bondo. They do something. Take the fascination with old cameras. Those hipsters caught up in it spend time in the darkroom. They get weird with printing tongs and processing trays. They do something. Take the fascination with alternative surf craft. Those hipsters caught up in it are actively involved in what they ride and that is more valuable and more important than simply buying a factory shaped board from China and factory designed trunks from China.
The children who have grown walking down the trail Dion Agius blazed take their many options for granted. They start sunglass companies, write, dance, sing, play guitar, draw, doodle, paint and Instagram everything. They get their hands dirty and all the crafty business extends, even, to surfers it theoretically should not. John John Florence, born and bred on the North Shore, is, on the surface, the antithesis of the hipster surfer. Yet, look at what he does. He has made and released very progressive unbranded movies on his own dime. Certainly, he is currently working on a big budget Brainfarm piece of awesome but he has brought along filmmaker Blake Kueny and Blake Kueny is a hipster.
Yes, the trail Dion Agius blazed is smashed flat with many canvas shoe soles. And, again, love or hate, the trail leads to many more interesting places than three to the beach. What will follow surf hipsterism? Who knows, but one of the canvas shoe wearers is mutating Dion’s strain right now and that will be the future. Whoever that is, Jack Robinson or Leo Fioravanti or an unknown from Jacksonville, Florida, will be the new Patient Zero.