DJ on a NAR photoshoot at the Guardian Centers of Georgia…
DJ on a North American Rescue photoshoot… | Photo: DJ Struntz

Surf photog turns to war games!

What's a man going to do once he's done with the surf mags? Find war!

The first time I saw DJ Struntz was in Fiji almost ten years ago. While I was carried by natives of the Mamanuca island chain to the beach (my feet are soft and who knows what is buried in the shallows), DJ was emerging from the deep with great lacerations to his thigh.

Barracuda wounds!

For DJ, real name William, the ocean is his playground, his office and his supermarket. Follow djstruntz on Instagram for a montage of his life from swimming with tiger sharks to shooting Globe teamriders all over the world to spearfishing with his son.

But, time passes, of course, and eventually, all surf photographers must transition out of the surf game. As DJ surmises, “Do you chase the surf mag treadmill until it dies and you get jaded and bitter? I didn’t know what to do with myself. I didn’t have a way out.”

As it transpires, DJ’s home in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, is surrounded by three bases for American special forces, including Delta Force’s Fort Bragg (251 square miles) and the marines’ 246-square mile Camp Lejeune.

While researching for a trip to Yemen many years ago (his first call was to BeachGrit‘s own Chas Smith!) DJ got talking to a special operations guy who’d done undercover work for the US government there. They became pals (how could he refuse!) and new pal gave DJ a fancy military first aid kit made by the company North American Rescue.

Around the traps, DJ got introduced by his new pal as the “crazy guy who went to Yemen without a gun.”

Soon, doors opened to the special forces community. DJ started to shoot photos with ’em.

“I do some crazy photo shoots with crazy guns and live fire,” says DJ. “I’m close to the muzzle of these guns when they’re firing down range. It’s loud…real loud…”

He liked it. Liked the adventure. The camaraderie.

“They appreciate the fact I don’t try to be someone I’m not,” he says. “You’re not going to win a dick measuring contest with bunch of special force guys. So you laugh at yourself and move on.”

One day DJ was looking at his medical kit and it… clicked. These things are perfect for surf travellers. Not ’cause we get belted by guns, but fin chops, car accidents, reef lacerations.

“Bleeding is bleeding, right?” says DJ.

So he cold-calls North American Rescue, the 100-million dollar company that makes the high-end kits. It’s how DJ got into the surf game. He wants to work for ’em. Wants to help ’em… grown.

Call. Call. Call.

The company is intrigued by the noted surf photographer and offers him a job as a consultant, then as full-time manager of their social channels. In one year, DJ grows their Instagram numbers from zero to almost 100k. DJ takes Facebook, with no advertising, from five thousand to twenty-one thousand likes.

How’s he do it? By story.

DJ says he’ll interview a vet and get off the phone bawling his eyes out. Like Mary Dague who lost both her arms when an IED blew up in her arms while serving in Iraq.

“Now she helps veterans who are struggling with depression,” says DJ. “She does everything in her power to show ’em there’s an alternative to eating a bullet.”

I ask DJ if being pally with special forces studs has made him think, or re-think, American foreign policy.

“Do I think our foreign policy is completely fingered?” he says. “You look at the way the (foreign policy) bus has been driven and it’s been fishtailing all over the road at the cost of so many lives. Am I a fan of the US military? Absolutely! Am I a fan of the implementation of the US military? Sometimes. But there is evil in the world. I look at ISIS and the stuff they do, they troll our feeds, and I see stuff on the feeds I follow and it makes me wanna throw up. Does it need to be stopped? Absolutely! Is the US military the best way to solve the problem? I don’t know. Maybe it would be better if it was stopped by the people who live there.”

Is all this talk of war and amputees and foreign policy making you a little blue?

Watch this! A bunch of vets raised a million-and-half dollars via crowdfunding and made this classic apocalyptic zombie movie. It even stars the double-amputee gal Mary Drague!

“She’s a scene stealer,” says DJ.


Adrenaline: Watch Niccolo Porcella fly!

Do you remember Nicollo Porcella's spectacular Teahupo'o crash? Now watch him soar!

Niccolo Porcella’s got the name of an Italian cobbler and the drive of a someone with a serious chemical imbalance.Too much, too gnarly. A handful of joint destroying wipeouts dropped last year. Worst trip over the falls Teahupo’o has ever seen. Fired from a cannon into the flats on another. Kite assisted slingshot into the lip at huge Jaws.

Good thing he trains. Hard. Normal body couldn’t hold up. Don’t understand how his does. Wonder how long he can keep it up.

Cross-over adrenaline junkies are a weird breed. Takes so much time to safely approach a single sport at full bore recklessness. Guys who dip their toes in a ton of ponds don’t make a lot of sense.

Of all his shenanigans the wingsuit’s the worst. Big wave surfing is a you-think-they’re-gonna-die type pursuit. Real ugly, tons of injuries. Not that many deaths.

Flying squirrel men go splat all the time. I can understand the appeal, seems amazingly fun. But finding the drive to turn wanting into doing is beyond me.

Thank god everyone’s always filming. Slick edits deliver a second hand thrill. As close as most of us will get.


Famous: Gab Medina on ESPN!

We have arrived!

Don’t you swoon when you see surfing featured in major media outlets? Can you not help feeling we, as a culture, have finally arrived? That they like us? They really, really like us? I mean, not enough to buy our clothes anymore or anything like that but, you know, at least want us to come hang out? With Scott Eastwood? He’s got a great bod!

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It was a major sporting weekend, anyhow, around the world what with soccer in Europe and the basketball playoffs here in the United States of America. Toronto beat Miami and will face Cleveland in the Eastern Conference Finals. Out west, Oklahoma City will take on a juggernaut from Oakland. Barcelona beat Madrid too, am I right? Not directly, I don’t think but won their Liga. And there was a massive brawl in baseball as the Texas Rangers’ second baseman slugged Toronto Blue Jays’ star Jose Bautista right in the jaw. Clenched fist and everything.

Drake is from Toronto and is very excited about his city’s sporting rise. The “ten best Drake fan moments” made ESPN’s main page, near the bottom. But do you know what was a few stories below that? Our very own Gabriel Medina!

The words read: Surfer backflips for a perfect 10 and there was the video of him launching so high into the sky, grabbing both rails so tightly and spinning spinning landing. Did you love his air? His double grab? I have only met one expert on double grabs in my life and his name is Jimmy Wilson from Surfing magazine. Let’s tuck into one of his older pieces and see how he describes the two-handed two-railed approach:

I come to you today to help bring an end to something that should have ended years ago: the double-grab air. Let’s face it: this is the worst air in surfing. It would be the same in any other sport, too, but no one really does it besides surfers. If a skateboarder even attempted one they’d be immediately laughed out of the park, or wherever the f–k they were when someone saw it happen.

I have many problems with the double grab air, and I know I do not stand alone in this way of thinking. When asking aerial surfing phenomenon Dion Agius his opinion of the double grab, he replied with a simple “They suck.” Let’s discuss…

1. They’re ugly. Period. You can’t tell me they aren’t. I won’t believe you, and you won’t believe yourself if you’re being honest. Do me a favor. Drop what you are doing and take a stance on the ground somewhere in the vicinity of a mirror. Now reach down and grab at the ground with both hands in the form of how you’d grab your surfboard to go for a double grab. Now look at yourself in the mirror. You look like hell. You hate yourself no matter how you move around or where the mirror lies. It’s just basic logic. Grabbing ahold of a surfboard with two hands while standing on it looks awkward, horrible, death sentence, the worst, etc.

2. They’re easy. Now this is where I can accept someone doing a double-grab air: when learning how to do airs, and for learning purposes only. It helps you learn to keep your body above your board, and even when launching into oblivion, you can kind of keep control of what you’re doing. Now that you learned how to do airs and you’ve already landed maybe 5 or 10, it’s time for you to end your hideousness and try something else. It would be pointless to try and get better at doing double grabs because no body on earth will ever think you did a good one. You’ll just be ignored as if you don’t even exist in the lineup. People should probably start burning you on every wave.

He goes further and you can/should read it here but what do you think? Did you love Gabs air or find it ugly and easy? If Drake surfed what sort of airs would he do?

Mason, Coco and Michael Ho (vintage!)

10 Things I’ll teach my kid about surf!

Shoot longboarders. Don’t ride a fish.

Sooner or later, you’ll breed. Throw a gallon of sperm into someone and it’ll stick eventually, often sooner.

And along will come a kid. And because you surf, he, she, will surf.

And they’ll be so into it you’ll watch hours of heats (answering every question about boards, waves, sponsors), every web clip, and they’ll ask you to read every vaguely surf-related story to ’em.

Before you realise it you’ll be the daddy sitting on the beach pointing his phone camera at the surf, hearing… Dad!… before the kid paddles into a wave.


You can’t miss a thing! Oh, and if you do, the tears, the gloom!

And this kid will progress, maybe he’ll do contests, get sponsors, maybe he’ll tap out and keep it in his pocket as an occasional recreation. But, you will be required, as his icon, as surf god to this kid, to create the foundation upon which is surfing experience will grow.

I’m laying the bricks with a kid, eight, and a kid, eleven. The more I tell ‘em the more I realise what a lying, hypocritical son-of-a-bitch I am…but I never did suggest perfection.

Gives the kid another lesson in a dozen years. (Daddy ain’t perfect.)

1. Longboarders should not be shot, despite all evidence to the contrary: A little two-foot swell, a peak, and it gets owned by a longboard enthusiast. Kid can’t buy a wave. Longboarder swings on the peak, fades right, kid pulls off, goes left. Fades left, goes right. Takes off on every set, goodish enough to get enough speed to render a drop-in a collision.

In the real world, you’d push it. Confront the guy. Make it uncomfortable. Paddle under him. Deliberately collide. Grab his leash. With a kid? Who’s never seen a fight? You cut the session short. Those are the breaks etc.

2. No wave is worth fighting for: Multiple drop-ins, collisions, everything that gets you and me fantasising about smearing a nose with one beautiful head-butt or forcing another man’s head underwater until the struggle stops, don’t mean a thing, kid. Laugh about it. There’s plenty of waves etc.

3. Don’t get caught riding fishes every day: Fun? Of course. But you really want to grow into a surfer whose back foot never touches the tail-pad? Who finds quads…stiff? Whose whole game is race to the shoulder, nurse cutback to the pocket, race, nurse, repeat? Give yourself a little rocker, always.

4. Anyone can be a pro surfer, but do you really want to? Become a good surfer, sure. Nothing, at least so I’m told, comes close to the feeling of owning a wave, of being so in control of your board and the moment, you’re able to do precisely what you want.

But who wants to turn their fun into a job? Who wants to travel the world, sitting in hotel rooms looking at Facebook or stabbing your phone with your finger all day building your “social” following, in between frantic, ultra-high pressure heats in front of judges who still have a crush on floaters and “full-rail wraps”?

5. Old boards go just as good as new boards: Kid, you don’t need a new CI. You don’t need a damn thing except a board that floats you. Ride it. Master it. Move on.

6. There’s only three things you need: A board, a leash and a wetsuit/trunks. All those accessories? Wax, yeah. The rest? Forget about ‘em. You don’t need to look or act like a “surfer”. You ride, you are. Don’t make “surfer” your identity.

7. Y’ain’t curing cancer. Surfing is as pointless as football, as basketball as everything. So don’t think of yourself as some kind of elevated species because you like catching waves. As surfing’s only Pulitzer winner, Bill Finnegan, put it: “You could argue that it teaches its devotees a few things about self-reliance and the grandeur of Nature – maybe even a little humility – and I guess I wouldn’t argue with that. But in the end surfing, in my opinion, does little or nothing to build or improve character. As we all know, a lot of assholes surf, and some of them surf well.”

8. There’s a lineage. Know Kelly. Appreciate his overwhelming influence on modern surfing. But also know Simon Anderson, Tom Curren, Tom Carroll, Shaun Tomson, Rabbit Bartholomew, Michael Peterson, Steve Lis, Miki Dora and everyone else all the way back to damn Rabbit Kekai, may god rest his beautiful soul.

9. Wear zinc on your face and a tee or wetsuit on your back. I ain’t real sure about rubbing chemicals into the skin of your body but who wants a piebald face when you’re forty? Who wants to look like your daddy?

10. Just…surf. Don’t say it’s shit and you want to wait for the tide, or you want to check somewhere else, or whatever. It is what it is, son. Ride it.

Film: An Icelandic adventure!

The Accord promises thrills, spills and a drunken North Wind!

I grew up, as everyone by now knows, surfing Oregon’s brutal central coast. Rain, wind, cold, etc. But don’t I feel like a sissy now because look at this gorgeous trailer for a new Icelandic adventure named The Accord.

And I know what you are thinking. Booooooooooooooooooring. Because, maybe coincidence maybe not, that is exactly what I was thinking. But I dare you to watch the trailer and then think the same thing. That North Wind? How fun is that? Gorgeous high def footage of one of the most beautiful places on earth? Yes please? And that barrel at the 1:05 minute mark (pictured)? If you don’t want to be locked into that thing then you are not a surfer but a turd. A floating turd.

The film’s synopsis reads:

The reality of growing up a surfer in Iceland is different from anywhere else in the world. It’s a harsh place. There are no surf shops, guidebooks or webcams. Icelandic surfers are seriously on their own both in and out of the water. But being so far removed from the hustle and bustle of the known surf world hardens Iceland’s surfers to confront the issue they all must face: the North Atlantic wind.

This wind is like a drunkard 10 minutes before closing time; you never know what the bastard’s up to. He can be in the throes of a calm alcohol stupor one minute, fly into a fit of rage the next, and then, in a moment of pure brilliance and drunken unpredictability, the North Atlantic wind can be the most magnificent man in the room.

Heiðar Logi Elíasson has dealt with the North Atlantic wind his entire life and although Iceland isn’t a “surfer’s paradise,” growing up on a tiny Island in the middle of the North Atlantic has taught Heidar a few tricks in dealing with adverse conditions. First amongst them, that dangerous dance with the North Atlantic wind.

Follow Heiðar Logi on his journey through Iceland searching for that rare, yet significant, compromise that brings both Icelandic surfers and that bastard wind to the table. Starring Gudmundur Thorain as the North Atlantic wind, The Accord’s world premiere will be at the Telluride Mountainfilm Festival May 28.

Do you live in Telluride? Go and watch! If not I’m sure it will be available exclusively here soon. Or not exclusively but you know what I’m getting at.

The Accord Trailer from 66°NORTH on Vimeo.

Are you a floating turd?