Late eighties, nineties ripper reported dead at 48…
“We are going to miss your big smile and enthusiasm CB. I really looked up to Chris Brown as a youngster, he was one of the only guys that could beat @kellyslater in the late 80s and early 90s. He went on to charge Mavericks and become a Commercial fishermen… what a legend. Thanks for your friendship over the years Brahda. Ps. I have no details on what happened.”
The world champion Shaun Tomson, who also lives in Santa Babs, tweeted: “Just heard the sad news about the passing of Santa Barbara legend Chris “Wraparound” Brown. The entire surf community sends out prayers to his family and friends. I will always remember his huge smile, magnetic warmth and that beautiful wraparound cutback. RIP.”
Both posts were in response to the discovery of a body at Hendry’s Beach in Santa Babs. A spokesman for the local PD said “where the body was found may not be where the individual was deceased.”
BeachGrit: I got vague memories of a kid with stiff white hair slinging it to Kelly in the late eighties, early nineties.
Warshaw: At 15, which was around 1985, people were calling him the next Tom Curren. Which is a shitty thing to do to a kid. Then a year or two later he was the West Coast Kelly Slater, or whatever. Which is also a curse. He was ridiculously good at that age in small waves, fast and quick, could put his board anywhere, had all the body parts synched up just right. In that respect, he was like Curren. But Kelly and Tom were both killers. Chris never was. He made the CT early, maybe 18, and stepped off two years later, which I thought showed a lot of self-awareness. I only ever met Chris casually, but even from a distance you could tell he didn’t have the temperament to run with the ASP pack. Although I think he went back on for a couple years in the mid-’90s.
Pals with Jesus, yes?
Chris and his whole family, yeah. His dad and Curren’s mom did Bible study classes, and Chris as a kid would be in the house studying the New Testament instead of popping wheelies on his bike or getting into trouble. And he took it hook, line and sinker. Steve Barilotti did a profile on Chris for SURFER in the ’90s, and Chris is so likable and sweet and honest, then all of a sudden here he comes with this End of Days stuff having to do with surgically implanted identity chips. It gives you the creeps to read it, but mostly just makes you feel bad for Chris, having to live with those kinds of thoughts. On the other hand, I remember reading interviews with Chris where he seemed like the happiest man in surfing, so who knows.
Wasn’t there a 1990 PSAA final with Kelly at Trestles?
Chris slayed that contest, out-surfed everybody by a mile – except for Kelly. Chris got 8K for runner-up. Kelly got 30K and all the headlines.
Was that a pattern, getting second to Kelly? Did it affect him?
It wasn’t a pattern. Kelly shot up, Chris never really launched, at least not internationally. But if there had never been a Kelly Slater, and Chris had won at Trestles — it wouldn’t have made any difference. He didn’t like the travel. He didn’t like surfing the North Shore. Didn’t like putting himself out there for the mags, the camera, his sponsors. Everybody liked Chris, he smiled all the time, was kind of goofy, had a great sense of humor. But he didn’t grind. He never had had world tour career ambitions. On the CT he could have knocked out thirds and fifths and a win here and there for a decade or more. But that was never in the cards. He was happiest at home, and again, to his credit, he seemed to know that early. He won the 1994 PSAA title without breaking a sweat as I recall.
I remember seeing pictures of him riding the big stuff.
Yeah. Making himself over as a California big-wave surfer was Chris’ real achievement. That’s where you see how determined he was. It’s funny. He had the talent to be a world-title contender but wasn’t interested. He had zero talent for big surf, at first, but that part of the sport really intrigued him, so he just pegged himself up year after year till he was really good at it.
He got a taste for Mavs, yes?
He paddled out at Mavs the first time that morning Jay Moriarity got his famous wipeout. On the cover of the magazines, you see Jay floating up there like Jesus hammered to the cross, and maybe the 10th time you look at the shot you notice a blond guy sitting on his board down at the bottom of the page. That’s Chris. The story was he paddled out, saw Jay’s wave, turned around and paddled to shore and drove back to Santa Barbara. But the great part is, the next swell, he drove back up to Mavs and did it.