INTERVIEW BY JEFF HO
INTRODUCTION BY JEFF HO
PHOTOS BY JASON MURRAY
Strider grew up in Santa Monica most of his life. He was one of the little groms that worked his way up. He surfed really hard, won all the local WSA contests, and then somehow, without much sponsorship, made his way to Hawaii. He got into big wave surfing, and has done really well for himself with Quiksilver. I have a lot of respect for what he’s done. He’s become a fine, upstanding representative and ambassador of surfing worldwide.
“I JUST TRY TO DO THINGS THAT MAKE ME HAPPY. IT’S NOT ABOUT BEING POLITICALLY CORRECT.”
I remember the first time that I met you. You were just a little kid.
Yeah. I was four years old. I was living in Santa Monica with my mom and my brother.
Do you remember living in the Hotel Monica?
No. I remember where the hotel is, but I don’t remember living there. I was too young.
You lived in the pink hotel right on the beach in Santa Monica.
Yeah. Then we lived at the Sea Castle Apartments. We were dead broke and living on welfare.
I didn’t know that.
My mom was cleaning houses. She was doing whatever she could to pull it together. We had just come from England. My dad had gotten busted. All of this crazy shit happened. My mom had to start over with just me and my brother. She was a single mother in Los Angeles. Somehow, she got us into this rent-controlled apartment on the beach. That’s how I started surfing. I didn’t have any money to go anywhere, so I’d go swimming at the beach. This was in 1975. People didn’t wear leashes, so they were always losing their boards. I would wait for their boards to wash up on the beach, and then I would grab them and ride them. The person would finally figure out that I was riding their board, and they’d come and take it back. That’s how I started surfing.
When you first started surfing, were you in Santa Monica?
Yeah. I started surfing at Station 17.
What was your first surfboard?
The first board I ever got was a board that I saw at a yard sale outside of my elementary school. I was getting $5 a week for allowance. I told the guy that I didn’t have enough money right then, but I could save up. He said he’d wait a month for me to save up. I saved my money and I went over there with my $20 and bought my first board. It was a 5’2′ Jeff Ho single fin with a pre-dome deck. It was turquoise green on the deck. The bottom was a purple-reddish color that wrapped up on the rails. I remember going to Jay’s house and getting one of those Z-Flex foam fins for it. It was a fiberglass and foam fin. It was yellow and white. That was the first board that I ever had. I learned how to surf on that board.
How old were you then?
I was six years old.
Where did you go to school?
I went to Madison Elementary on 11th and Arizona in Santa Monica. Then I went to John Adams Junior High, up on 16th and Ocean Park. Then I went to Santa Monica High School.
What were your favorite surf spots?
As I was growing up, I surfed Bay Street and the end of the Pico/Kenter drain. That was the only place I had to surf. Sometimes, we’d get on the bus and go up to Malibu or Topanga. That was our version of going on a surf trip; getting on the RTD and riding up the Coast Highway. Some days we’d stay on the bus all the way to Trancas. That was a long day, but it was an adventure. Sometimes they kicked us off the bus, because our surfboards were too big. We surfed Santa Monica. Every once in a while, we ventured into Venice. We surfed Rose Avenue, the Breakwater or the Venice Jetty. It was a rare occasion to go over the border.
You’re talking about the border between Santa Monica and Venice?
Yeah. Nowadays, it’s not a big deal. When I grew up there, it was a big deal. There was a common ground in skateboarding, but with surfing, there wasn’t. People were looking at you funny when you came down there. They knew where you were from. There weren’t many surfers that ventured across.
Do you remember the first contest that you surfed?
I think it was a Pac West contest at Station 26. I remember making the finals. I got fourth place. It was in 1979. I was 7 years old. I remember Solo Scott, Mike Pakim and a few other guys surfed in it, too.
Did you have any surfing mentors?
I hung out with David Lansdowne. He showed me where everything was. He showed us what it was all about to travel and surf. He took us up and down the coast to surf. It was pretty interesting to have a black man from Watts for a mentor.
David was the Western Surfing Association guy, right?
Yeah. He was the WSA District 4 Director. I was surfing all of the WSA Contests and the Horizons West Contests. I was winning all of the contests. Not to be conceited, but, I won everything there was to win as a grom. I won the Nationals, the West Coast Championships and The WSA.
Weren’t you asked to be on the National Surf Team?
Yeah. When I was 12 years old, I won the NSSA (National Scholastic Surfing Association) Nationals, and Pete Townend asked me to be on the National Team. I asked my mom what I should do. She said, ‘You should do what you want to do. Do you have more friends in the WSA or the NSSA? Where are you going to have more fun?’ I said, ‘The WSA.’ It was the first lesson of happiness that my mom ever taught me. She was telling me to follow my happiness, instead of following the social structure for success. I said, ‘I want to go have fun.’ She said, ‘Then you should do that, but you need to go tell P.T. what you’re going to do.’ When I told P.T., he was baffled that I’d turn down the National Team. It was the most prestigious team in surfing at the time. The National Team was Chris Frohoff, Tom Curren and Jeff Booth, all of these amazing West Coast surfers who were going to be the next national icons in surfing. When I turned it down, P.T. said, ‘You just basically ruined your whole surf career.’
How did that feel?
I remember being really bummed. As it turns out, it was the first lesson to follow my heart and be happy. Since then, I’ve stayed on my path. I just try to do things that make me happy. It’s not about being politically correct. If you’re not happy with yourself, nobody is going to be happy with you.
What was the factor in making the decision to go to Hawaii? Did you want to ride better waves?
All I ever did was sit back at my apartment in Santa Monica with my friends and watch surf movies of Hawaii. We were broke. We had food stamps, so we had lots and lots of cereal. Milk, cereal; instant meal. My friends and I would sit there, eat cereal and watch movies. I’d say, ‘One day, we’re going to do that.’ We were watching Marvin Foster, Dane Kealoha and the whole crew at Pipeline going nuts. My mom would sit back and laugh at us. She’d say, ‘Yeah, yeah. You’re going to Hawaii to surf Pipeline.’ I was like, ‘Watch, mom. You’ll see.’ We were only ten years old. I’ll never forget it.
Who was in that crew?
It was my brother, Tristan Welch, Steve, Andy Chuta, this guy Terrence, Pat Brogan, Aaron, Jimmy, Jason and Mark Dominique.The list goes on of the people that filtered through the pad. Everyone came over, had a bowl of cereal and watched surf flicks. I remember, when I was 10, I surfed the U.S. Championships in Makaha. I surfed the finals and got sixth. I stayed with Sonny Garcia on that trip. I never made it to the North Shore that year. The next year, I was 11 years old. I’d been making some money doing modeling. Herb Ritts had found me at Horizons West. He was like, ‘Dude, we have to do these photos.’ Next thing you know, I was up in ‘GQ’ and in all these magazines. I was working with Daryl Hannah, Cindy Crawford, Buzzy Kerbox and all these people. I was doing these crazy photo shoots. Herb Ritts was the best fashion photographer of all time. I was making like, $1500 a day. Then my mom gave me another opportunity to make my own decision. She said, ‘Here is your bank card.’ I was 12 years old. All of a sudden, I had all this money in my bank account. I told my friends Steve and Kevin, my two best friends at the time, ‘We’re going to Hawaii.’ My friends were like, ‘Where are we going to stay?’ I said, ‘Don’t worry about it. I got it all hooked up through Town and Country.’ The reality was I didn’t have anything hooked up. I bought the tickets, we got on a plane, we caught a cab straight to Sunset Beach. We paid the cab driver $100, and he dropped us right in the dirt and burned out on us in a puff of smoke. We were just standing there looking at Sunset. It was onshore, like a Kona wind day. We dragged our board bags to Cami’s, which was where the famous postboard was, with all of the places to stay. I was like, ‘Yeah, right here. I told you it was here.’ The whole time I had no idea. They were like, ‘What are we going to do now?’ I was 12 and they were 14. There was some stress going on. We grew up in Santa Monica, so we knew what was going on. We weren’t scared. We started writing down numbers. Then Davey Miller walks out. I was like, ‘Davey. How’s it going?’ He was like, ‘What’s up, bro? Do I know you?’ I was like, ‘No, but I know you.’ He was this big California pro surfer at the time. I was like, ‘Dude, we need a place to stay.’ He said, ‘You got any money?’ I pulled out a wad of cash. He said, ‘All right. Put your shit in the car.’ Then he pointed to this beat-up station wagon. We got in the station wagon and started driving down the highway. He was like, ‘How old are you? Your mom just let you come over here?’ I said, ‘She thinks we’re staying at the Town and Country house, so I have to call her once I find a place to stay.’ He said, ‘You’re pretty grown up for being 12 years old.’ I was like, ‘We grew up in Santa Monica. We’ve seen a lot.’ He was tripping on us. We finally got to the house. I had no idea where we were. I’d never been on the North Shore. He walked me through the house to the balcony. He points toward the water and says, ‘That’s Pipe. That’s Backdoor. That’s Off The Wall. That’s all you’re going to need to know for the next 15 years.’ I was like, ‘What? That’s it?’ It was this little tiny stretch of beach. We were standing on the wall on the balcony at the actual ‘Off The Wall’ house. It was my first time to the North Shore and I was standing in the house that they named the spot after. I couldn’t believe it. It was one of those moments you take to your grave. It was unbelievable. Davey was cool, but he was partying at the time. He stole my friend’s money. There was all kinds of shit going on. Now Davey is the man. He’s killing it. He’s painting and living in Ventura. Davey opened the door for me to be on the beach at Off the Wall at Pipeline. He let us get into his car and he took care of us. I’ll never forget it. I’ll owe that guy for the rest of my life.
That’s the way that the surfing society is. The older guys pass it down to the younger guys. They take the younger guys in. I’m sure there was a lot of drama, but you probably had a great time.
Yeah. It was the best trip ever. I was chilling on the North Shore with a surfer that I idolized. I had my two homies with me. It was great.
Did you get good waves that trip?
I got sick waves. The first day, we paddled out with this guy Kevin who lived in the house with Davey. We paddled out in between Backdoor and Off The Wall. It’s the deadliest place you can paddle out. We got blasted immediately with a 6-8 ft set. I almost died. I was borrowing Steve’s board, too. I almost died. I was all freaked out. I was a little guy, too. I was terrified. At that moment, I was like, ‘This is why I’m here.’ It was the best. I surfed everywhere. It was sick.
There are a lot of things that happened to a lot of guys from Venice and Santa Monica that held them back. How did you pull it together to become one of the most respected figures in surfing?
I guess it was about staying true to myself and staying true to my dreams. Life has so many roads. There are so many things that I could have done in life. I worked in restaurants to make money to surf. I worked in restaurants all summer long. I’d make as much money as I could and then I’d split in the winter and go to Hawaii. I worked my ass off every summer to get to Hawaii in the winter.
You’d spend the winter in Hawaii? Where did you stay over there?
I stayed wherever I could. I stayed in garages. I stayed on the side of houses under tarps. I did whatever I could to surf there. Hawaii was the one outlet where I could go and prove myself and become a part of the surfing community. It was the one place to get on to the map for someone who doesn’t surf the contests, but can surf Pipeline, Sunset, Off the Wall and Backdoor. There are all of these amazing waves and all of these surf photographers in Hawaii. I took a different route. I was trying to get photos and get publicized in editorial to get the ball rolling.
You were gaining a lot of recognition without being a part of the pro surfing circuit. I have a lot of respect for that. You gained a lot of respect from a lot of people for doing that.
It wasn’t the easiest road to take. I think biting the bullet and going the other way would have been a little easier, as far as fitting in socially and being a part of the structure. I could have been a part of amateur surfing and pro surfing, and taken the steps to becoming a WCT World Championship tour guy. Instead, I was slaving away in restaurants and washing dishes. I poured concrete. I cleaned toilets. I’d do whatever I could to make the money, so that I could surf. I didn’t get paid to surf until I was 21. Kids that are 21 now are getting paid $300,000 a year. I was getting paid $6 an hour to carry wood and do manual labor. In the back of my mind, I always knew why I was doing it. It was all about getting to the beach to go surfing. It turned out to be the right way to go for me. It doesn’t work for everybody. Only around five percent of the entire surfing community gets to be a pro surfer. For me, it worked out. I worked hard at it.
After that, were you hooked on surfing waves in Hawaii?
I was hooked on the adrenaline rush that I got from surfing in Hawaii. Competitively, I did really well. I was into it all the way up until the PSAA Tour. It was a pro surfing tour for America. It was cool, but I saw the politics. I saw people leaving bummed. That’s when I stopped surfing competitively.
How old were you?
I was 18. It was around 1989. I was over the contests. I was getting a lot of pressure from my friend’s parents. They all tried to look out for me. I was surfing better than I ever had, but I wasn’t taking the structured way to becoming a pro surfer. I wasn’t doing the contests or the pro tour, because of the politics. I hated it. That’s not why we started surfing. We surfed to get stoked. I rebelled. I bailed. I went camping and surfing up to Big Sur. I went surfing for myself. I stayed in the game, but didn’t take the pro route. By the time I was 20, my mom wanted me to go to school at UCLA. Around that time, my friend Steve Siegrist invited me to go to a sweat lodge in Malibu. I went to this sweat lodge and had this crazy out-of-body experience. It changed my life. Suddenly, I felt so clear about what I was supposed to do. I knew that I had to stay on my path, so I decided to go back to Hawaii.
Who were you riding for at the time?
I was riding for Bear Surfboards. Billy Hamilton was making the surfboards and Bear was doing the clothing. The market wasn’t that great. I was just trying to make it happen. My friend’s parents were giving me a lot of grief. They were always trying to help me out. My mom was like, ‘Okay, go back to Hawaii, if that’s what you want.’
What happened next?
It all just happened one day. I went back to Hawaii. The next thing that I knew, I was on the cover of ‘Surfer’ magazine at Pipeline. Then I got hooked up with Quiksilver. My dream of all dreams had come true. Quiksilver was the perfect sponsor for me. They were the biggest in the industry. They saw that photo, and then they started to run ads of me. It all just steamrolled and became a career. It’s all about your destiny, your fate and your will to succeed. You just have to stay true. I followed my own path. My mom was cool enough to let me do it. When I got there, I was rewarded.
Do you remember the first time that you rode a skateboard?
I was riding a skateboard with my dad before I was even a year old. I have pictures of us riding down the sidewalk together. Skating was a good means of transportation. Ever since I can remember, I had a skateboard.
Did you ever skate Paul Revere?
I skated Paul Revere, Kenter and Marina Skatepark. I did skate the Turning Point once. That thing was scary. I also skated the little bank in front of Santa Monica Farms. I got a two-page spread in ‘Thrasher’ skating that thing.
Were you ever sponsored by anyone for skating?
I was never a competitive skateboarder. It was just recreational riding. We used to take the bus to Kenter to ride and then skate home. Skateboarding was recreation and transportation.
What type of skateboards you were riding?
I was skating the little freestyle skateboards, when I first started skating. Once I started skating the streets, I got whatever boards Natas had. I always rode Natas decks with Independent trucks. Back in the day, the Kryptonics were the wheels to ride. I never went and bought a skateboard. Someone always kicked one down. I got a few old Z boards from Jay Adams. Then I went to the Z-Flex boards to the SMAs to a Hosoi board. I had a bright orange Hosoi board that I loved.
Do you have any Venice Breakwater stories?
I was terrified to go down there. I remember going down to Venice Jetty and surfing with Jay Adams. I knew Jay, and my mom knew Jay and his parents. If I went out there with him, it was cool. Back in the day, they were throwing rocks and beating the shit out of dudes at the Breakwater. Getting from your car to the beach was the biggest challenge. You’d get ridiculed the whole way. I was from Santa Monica and these were the Venice boys. It was VBWL (Venice Breakwater Locals). The Venice Breakwater Locals were gnarly. You did not want to go down there. Sometimes I’d sneak in from the beach side. I would run up on the beach, jump in the water and surf with the boys. Ricky Massie and I would hang out and surf. Now people just surf out there all the time. Before you couldn’t go out there and surf. Somebody would roll up on you, call you out and ask you where you were from. If you didn’t say the right thing, homeboy was bombing on you. It was gnarly. I would go down there and hang out, skate the pavilion, cruise the jump ramps and do wall rides. I’d hang out on the wall with all the boys after surf time. During surf time, I wouldn’t even go down there. I didn’t want to get fucked with. They would let me hang out on the wall, but the water was their zone. Whitey was one of my buddies. I had friends down there, but it didn’t matter. I was from Santa Monica. It didn’t matter how good of a surfer you were. Over the years, the walls got broken down a little and I surfed with those guys a lot more. It became easier and easier.
Why do you think it’s easier now?
I think the authorities deterred the Venice localism. A lot of the guys got older. They turned 18, got charges pressed on them and went to jail. We all know what happened in Venice through the mid ’80s. Cocaine and crack came in and everything went crazy. A lot of people went down. LA is a crazy place. People get caught up in a lot of shit. I saw it happen to my brother, so that’s why I didn’t get caught up in it. He would look at me like he didn’t even know me. That’s what happens when you smoke crack. You don’t even know the people that you love. Then you steal from them. You do whatever you have to do. It was so heavy. My brother taught me one of the most valuable life lessons. I learned a lot about what not to do. Otherwise, I might have gone down that road. He’s a perfect example of the fact that it’s never too late. He turned his whole life around. He’s successful. He’s in school again. He’s making money. He’s counseling kids. He’s saving the world, so to speak. He’s taking care of everyone that needs it. My mom and my brother are the most unselfish people that I know. They are constantly helping other people. I learned from them that drugs will take you down before you even know it’s coming.
How is your mom doing?
She’s doing great. My mom actually works at Venice High School now as the probation officer and counselor for all the kids.
I didn’t know that. What is your brother doing?
He’s finishing up junior college. He’s about to go on a world traveling experience and check out everything before he dives into his four-year degree. He has also been doing counseling up at some rehab centers. He’s a substance abuse counselor. My brother went through a lot of substance abuse himself. He cleaned himself up and he’s been sober for almost eight years now. He is helping out all the kids, because he really understands. They all relate to him really well. He’s pretty much tatted down with full sleeves and piercings. He relates to the kids 100% because they’re all just like he was. He speaks at a lot of AA Conventions. He’s really well-spoken. He’s always been a really intelligent person. When he was younger, he was genius status in school. He flew through school like it was nothing. Then he rebelled in his youth. He got caught up in it. Now he’s doing really well.
It’s incredible. The whole family is good. My mom was partying. My brother was partying. Nobody was connected. Now everyone is doing great and I’m the bad son.
Yeah, I’m the one that’s not around as much as I’m supposed to be. I’m always late for the dinners.
Well, you’ve done really well for yourself. I’ve watched your career grow over the years and I’m really stoked to know you. You truly are a success story that came out of our area. Do you believe that localism in surfing worldwide has gotten any better or is it as bad as it used to be?
It’s definitely not as bad as it was. Now, there are so many laws, you can only go so far with localism. The problem is that, when people learn how to surf, they are not taught the respect and the etiquette of surfing. There’s a protocol when you surf. You don’t just paddle out and take the peak. You don’t just go somewhere you’ve never been. I’m a pro surfer and I don’t paddle out to the peak and think I’m going to catch the best set. I see kooks everyday in the water. I say kooks and I mean beginners. If they’re paddling for the wave and I know they’re going to get pitched, I just let them go. I figure if they make it, it’ll be the best wave of their life. The etiquette of surfing is to let the guy on the inside have the wave. Guys that have never surfed before drop in on you, and then they wonder why they get yelled at or get beat up. You can’t just paddle out to Pipeline and take the peak and think you’re just going to dominate. You’re in for a rude awakening. It took me two years just to get a wave out there, just to be on the peak and call people off. There’s an etiquette. There’s respect. There’s a pecking order. You have to wait in line. People need to learn that. Sometimes people have to learn it the hard way.
After you signed with Quiksilver, and you were soul surfing, how did you progress from there? How did you move up in the company?
Being a competitive surfer, you’re judged on your ratings. Being a lifestyle surfer, you are judged on your editorial value. For me, the more magazine coverage I got, the more money I could make. That’s what I tried to do. I tried to become more visible. I put everything I ever made from surfing back into surfing. If I ever made any money, I’d turn around and spend it on a trip. I’d call the magazines, photographers and video guys and set up another trip. I’d go to Puerto Escondido, Indonesia, Hawaii, Tahiti, wherever I could. I never stopped. I never looked back. I knew that the more that I was part of the community, the better it would be. Then I had almost maxed myself out. Every single month I was in ‘Surfer’, ‘Surfing’, or some international surfing magazines. I got a lot of international surfing coverage as an athlete and a lifestyle surfer. At that point, the other biggest face at Quiksilver was Kelly Slater. I’m no Kelly Slater. I’m not even close to being as good as a surfer as Kelly Slater, but I knew how to work to get the exposure. By doing the amount of work that I did to get that exposure, I started to climb the ladder at Quiksilver. My face and my recognition and my respect within Quiksilver grew. Then I went to Danny Kwok, and I said, ‘Dude, we should take Quiksilver to Rolling Stone, Spin and Ray Gun.’ I was like, ‘Let’s do this.’ I got ad campaign prices. I lined it all up. I said, ‘This is how we’re going to do it.’ This is how we’re going to get bigger. They didn’t do it right away, but six months later, they did. Then Quiksilver took a huge jump. They went from a multi-million dollar company to an over 100 million dollar company. During that time, I was one of the focal points of the campaign. I was the face in a lot of those ads. I was becoming that much more recognizable. I just kept working at it.
What you’re saying is that hard work pays off?
Yeah. No one is going to give you anything. You have to go for it. We live in a world of go-getters. The ‘American dream’ is known around the world. People are coming from all over the world to live the ‘American dream’. I was watching TV the other night and they were interviewing some girl from Czechoslovakia. They were like, ‘How did you become an American superstar?’ She was like, ‘It was the American Dream and I wanted it.’ The reality is that we might not love our president or our government, but the opportunity in America is like no other. We have the opportunity to go get it. Every day, there are millions of people coming to America to get it. If you don’t go get it, nobody’s going to give it to you. If you’re lazy and sit back, it doesn’t matter if you’re the most talented guy in the world. Unless you show somebody, how is anyone going to know?
Is that your advice?
Yeah. You better get up and get yours before someone else gets it. You can’t wait and think someone is going to come by and hand you a check for a million bucks. You’ve got to have ambition and drive. You have to be out there. You have to work. You have to get in front of people and be exposed.
What do you do at Quiksilver?
I’m the Surf Program Manager. I work with Eddie, Chad Wells, Jeff Booth, Tim Shuck and Greg Macias. We collectively run the marketing department for Quiksilver. We try to identify the market for the brand. I do the contracts with all the athletes. If we want a new surfer on the program, I make it happen. I put the ink on the paper and close the deal. I pick all of the photos for the ads now. I help out with the creative aspect of what we want to do. I work a lot with Natas Kaupas. Natas is our International Art Director. He is someone that I love to work with. He comes up with concepts and delivers the concepts. I have to make sure we have the right surfers in the right magazines for the right territories. I help with all the Americas, which is from Canada all the way to South America. I deal with Nicaragua and Central America, all the way down to Brazil.
When you first started with Quiksilver, how many guys were on the team?
Well, they’ve always had a big team, but not all the guys were getting pushed. There were about fifteen guys being pushed.
How many are on the team now in 2005?
It’s about the same. Probably ten guys get focused on the most. For a long time, Quiksilver was a different company. It used to be identified by the individual surfers. They are the ones that made Quiksilver. Then Quiksilver became a big moving force that was trying to identify itself. Then it changed. The athlete would become a part of Quiksilver and that’s what made the athlete. We should have never gone away from the athlete. The athletes make the brand. It’s their identity. The athletes make the identity. It’s the personalities that are attractive. People are attractive. Everybody makes clothes. Granted, Matt Harrison is one of the sickest designers in the world, so Quiksilver has the sickest clothes that you can possibly imagine. The apparel that we have is better than anyone else in the marketplace. I like it better than any company across the board. None of the other companies even come close. There is some high fashion stuff like Gucci or Versace that I like because it’s Gucci or Versace. It’s the bling and the glitz of it. It’s all pretty basic, but our clothes are insane. When you bring in an athlete with charisma and he can surf, he makes the brand. It’s the identification between the personalities of the athletes, the clothes, the advertising and the consumer seeing it. That’s what creates Quiksilver. I’m back to the individuals and letting them identify the company.
Who are the guys on the team now?
It’s a big list. On the top of the list is Kelly Slater from Florida. We’ve got a guy named Fred Pattachia from Hawaii. He’s paid his dues and he’s blowing up on the WCT right now. We’ve got Dane Reynolds on the West Coast. He’s our new superstar. He’s the best 18-year-old surfer in the world. He’s the one that everyone wants. There all of these new guys coming up right now. There’s Dylan Graves from Puerto Rico, Adam Wickwire from Florida, Frank Walsh in the Northeast and Clay Marzo from Maui. There’s Ola Eleogram from Maui. The kid is just a good surfer. Cheyne Magnusson is killing it. There are all these kids coming up. Then there are all these lifestyle surfers like myself. There’s Mark Healey, who’s a madman when it comes to surfing big waves. He’s a pure waterman. There’s Danny Fuller. He’s a male model, so he’s in all the shoots. He kills it for us. There’s Reef McIntosh who just came out of nowhere, but basically taught Andy Irons and Bruce Irons how to surf. He’s the man. He kills it. He’s a super cool guy. He helps me run the house in Hawaii. There are so many guys who are just so talented. The talent pool that we have is so deep. There are guys like Peter Mel and Anthony Tashnick who make up the West Coast base of our program. You don’t get any better than Peter Mel. He can get gnarly from two to 20 feet. He’s a great guy. Tashnick won the Mavericks contest, paddling in. He’s the new big wave kid. He’s 19 and he’s blowing up. There’s Jimmy Rotherham in Central America, Magnum Martinez in Venezuala and Gabriel Villaran from Peru. It just doesn’t end. The roster sheet is about 120 thick.
That’s a big team.
Yeah. I have to deal with all of those guys. I have to tell them ‘yes’ or ‘no’. I have a lot of help, but I’m responsible for them. I also get a lot of calls from guys that don’t surf for Quiksilver that want advice on what to do.
You’re a mentor to a lot of guys?
Yeah. It’s pretty cool. It’s nice to get respect from people. They feel like I’ve succeeded. I’m happy. I’m still doing it. I work for Quiksilver. That’s my number one priority now. I still surf. I still love my job as a surfer. I got a two-page spread in the ‘Surfing’ magazine at Zuma getting shacked. I’ve still got it.
Yeah. You do.
I’m still training. I still work on it. I go to Hawaii. I surf Pipe. I still surf the contests. I surfed in it last year. I got a 9.5. I got shacked and spit out. Derek Ho was trying to take my waves. It’s all still there. The opportunity that I have is like having your cake and eating it, too. Right now, I’m having a good cake. Hopefully, it’ll never be done. Hopefully, there’ll just be more cake. I just want to keep going. I’m doing whatever it takes to keep the ball rolling. I just try to be a good person. I know that if I want good things, I have to do good things.
Who are your sponsors now?
I surf for Lost Surfboards. Matt Biolos makes them. Etnies is my shoe sponsor. Herbie Fletcher at Astrodeck has always given me pads. Quiksilver sponsors me for wetsuits, eyewear, watches and apparel. I can’t imagine ever being so spoiled.