INTERVIEW BY STEVE OLSON
INTRODUCTION BY STEVE OLSON
PHOTOS BY BILL PARR
When one is… And the one is the one that is… That is when one looks for what is… And when one finds what one is… That is when one knows what one is… If one is lucky enough to realize what one is… Then one is what one is…. And that is why One is Lucky.“I’M ORIGINALLY FROM KAMAKURA, JAPAN, WHICH IS A BEACH TOWN ABOUT 45 KILOMETERS SOUTHEAST OF TOKYO. IT’S ALSO THE BIRTHPLACE OF SURFING AND SKATEBOARDING IN JAPAN.”
Tak, can you hear me?
Excellent. Are you nervous?
Yeah, a little bit.
There’s no need to be nervous. Just keep focusing on breathing. Okay, tell me your name.
Takuji Masuda. For spell check, that’s T-A-K-U-J-I M-A-S-U-D-A.
Dude, you are way more professional than anyone I’ve ever interviewed.
That’s hot. Where do you come from?
I’m originally from Kamakura, Japan, which is a beach town about 45 kilometers southeast of Tokyo. It’s also the birthplace of surfing and skateboarding in Japan. Kamakura was actually the capital of Japan from 1192 for 200 years.
Yeah. We used to have one of the biggest Japanese naval bases. After the most current war, now it’s the biggest U.S. Naval base, called Yokosuka. During the Korean War, when the Marine guys were coming through, a bunch of them came with surfboards and the beach culture. On the weekends, they would come to our beach towns to surf, and they taught the local kids how to surf. Some of the Marines gave the kids their boards when they left to do their duties. During the Korean peninsula war, a lot of Americans were mobilized to go. A lot of them were trained in Japan, off shore in the seas.
But they didn’t even consider the Korean War a real war. I just found this out, recently.
Yeah, people don’t like to talk about it, I think.
But that’s how surf culture came to Japan. My town Kamakura has such deep connections to the West Coast culture. Jiro Hanaue, one of the guys at the Zephyr shop with the original Z-Boys crew – Skipper, Craig and Jeff Ho – was from Kamakura. He was this Japanese kid studying at UCLA. He was roommates with Craig and Skipper. He came from a house about a kilometer from where I live. Nishioka, the ‘Devil Man’ skate photographer, lives in my town also.
How did you get into surfing?
All the older guys were around, so there was a lot of surfing and skateboarding going on. During my elementary years and pre-school, I’d play at the beach. We played soccer and baseball on the beach, and when the water got warmer, we’d swim. Then someone got a boogie board, but mainly we bodysurfed. Surfing was considered a really rebellious sport, so young kids weren’t encouraged to surf. The people that took up surfing were young punk kids.
What sports were popular to the average non-rebellious kids?
Everyone played baseball and soccer, but I was into fishing and catching little fish for my aquarium. I was a little hermit kid.
What about the martial arts?
I came from a martial arts family. My dad is seventh in black belt in Aikido. My grandpa was a grandmaster in Aikido. He has a red belt in this certain discipline of Aikido called Jawahra. It’s a freestyle type of martial arts taught to the police to calm down the Samurai running around with swords. Police weren’t allowed to carry swords, so they learned this type of martial arts to protect civilians. On the weekends, we’d go and see my grandparents kicking people’s ass with the swords, but I just never got into it. I was overwhelmed by the violence. I was more into hanging out by the beach and snorkeling around on the reef…
Finding fish. What kind of fish did you find?
[laughs] I found little minnows for my aquarium.
It was a saltwater tank?
Yes, I was keeping fish in captivity. I didn’t know the cruelty of it then. I was just testing it out.
Yeah, taking them from the huge, giant ocean and putting them in a little cube?
[laughs] Yeah, I’d release them and bring in a whole new batch later.
It was a ‘catch and release’ thing?
It was weird. I’m sure it wasn’t great for the fish community.
Do fish really have a brain?
I have no idea. I think we don’t have the brain to hear them. That’s our problem, not theirs.
That’s so deep, we’re not going to touch that.
Tell me more about how you started surfing.
The way I got into surfing was from this kid named Takayuki Wakita. He’s the kid who’s always in ‘Surfer’ magazine surfing Pipeline with a helmet. He’s a shortboard kid that drops into waves bigger and deeper than anyone. He was my schoolmate, and he kind of brainwashed me. He made me watch surf videos after school everyday. He had access to surfboards because his dad had this huge fleet of windsurfing shops, so we’d go surfing all the time. Then when I was 12 years old, I got sent off to Canada to boarding school.
Where in Canada?
Vancouver Island, Victoria. There are bunch of boarding schools there. It’s on an island, so kids can’t really run away too far. That’s where I was from age 12 to 18. Once in a while, I’d go surf Long Beach or Jordan River. They were both about an hour away.
What were the waves like?
Cold. It wasn’t that much fun. In the summer, you got to wear a full suit with boots. I played a lot of rugby then, so surfing was a side thing.
You played rugby?
Yeah, when I was 16, I played for the varsity team. We were the probably the best rugby school in the nation, so we got to travel to all these places. One of the trips that I got to go on, as a tenth grader, was to Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan. During our second game in Japan, I cracked the vertebrae in my neck. I was in bed for a month. The doctor told me I wouldn’t play contact sports again, and he showed me this boring list of non-contact sports, and surfing was included. I was like, ‘Okay, I’ll just surf.’ After that, I started surfing a lot. Then I picked up Herbie Fletcher’s video ‘Wave Warriors III.’ I saw the clip with Christian Fletcher and the part with Matt Archibald where they have this old footage of longboarding and hula dancing. We were so familiar with MTV that it really shocked me. They had this section of longboarding with Herbie Fletcher and Jonathan Paskowitz. Those guys were hanging ten, popping fins, doing 360s and really having a good time. I really liked what Christian and Archy were doing, too, but what they were doing was so inaccessible to my own capacity of skill. I wasn’t that good at shortboarding, but there was something about the longboarding that I liked. Then I was reading ‘Surfer’ magazine and I found an ad for the Paskowitz Summer Surf Camp. It said, ‘Meet the pros, like Christian Fletcher and Matt Archibald.’ I decided to go straight there as soon as I got my time off. In between 10th and 11th grade, Takayuki Wakita and I went there. I got to hang out with the Paskowitz family and hang out with all the guys that I’d seen in the ‘Wave Warriors’ movie. It was a really good time. I think it was Israel Paskowitz who looked at my shortboarding and told me that I didn’t have much of a career as a shortboarder. He said, ‘We’re going to get you a longboard and you’re going to longboard.’
Israel said that?
You’re at this surf camp for two weeks?
Yeah, I was there for ten days. Kelly Slater came through on his way to the OP Pro. Mitch Abshire and Joel Tudor were there, as campers. Lisa Andersen came through. They were nobodies then. The guys that ran the camp knew they were going to be the future champions, but I didn’t. I got to be in contact with this whole new world of West Coast surfing culture. They took us to these wonderful places, like the ‘Surfer’ magazine office.
They took you to the office?
Yeah. I was just a 16-year-old kid, thinking, ‘Wow, this is where they make the magazine.’ They gave us a free copy, and I was the happiest kid on earth. My side agenda for going to the camp, which I told my parents was my main agenda, was to look at the universities that I was thinking of attending. I showed Dorian ‘Doc’ Paskowitz the list of schools and he said, ‘Listen. There’s Pepperdine University up in Malibu. Now that you’re a surfer, you’re going to need to be near the beach. Let’s go there first.’ Before he took us up there, he took us to Malibu to surf Third Point. He called Allen Sarlo out of the water and said, ‘These are two little Japanese kids that I’m taking around. Please give them no hassle.’ He dialed us in to riding Malibu. Then we went up to the campus and I liked the school, so I went back to Canada and applied right away. Somehow, I got accepted when I was still in the 11th grade. By the time I enrolled in the summer program of my first year, I was really into surfing. I surfed a lot that summer. Every weekend I’d go to the Paskowitzes and spend time with Joel Tudor and other kids that were just starting to longboard.
What year was this?
This was in 1990. From the school, you could see Malibu Point from every classroom, so whenever there were less than five people out, I’d skip a class and go out. I caught it, by myself, shoulder to head high sets, sometimes.
What happened next?
The second year, I got to live off-campus, so I got an apartment. There was this girl Heather who kept saying, you should meet my dad. I kept saying ‘Yeah, whatever, Heather. I’ll meet your dad.’ So I go to meet her dad, and this guy shows up right before dark with super short trunks on. We were supposed to go surfing early afternoon, and he showed up right before dark. He’s like, ‘My name is Lance.’ I said, ‘Hi, Lance. Let’s go surf.’ We knee paddled out at Surfrider Beach. Lance was so stylized and so good on the nose. This guy was the real Lance Carson. He told me that he only surfs once or twice a year. I was like, ‘Holy shit.’ There was no one out, and I got really, really schooled. I was super influenced by how Lance surfed. That really changed my surfing. I had been into the progressive longboarding, but then I decided I wanted to ride the classic longboards. At that time, I got to meet Donald Takayama at one of the club contests in Oceanside. He said I should start riding his boards, so I got to ride for Donald. He had Nat Young, Joel Tudor, Mitch Abshire, Chris Olivas and all the best guys, at that time, on the team. I was so stoked. As a surfer grom, I didn’t feel like I belonged there.
Donald saw your potential.
Yeah, so I rode for Donald while I was going to college. I think I won three PLA amateur contests. School was really boring for me.
What were you studying?
I was majoring in International Communications, which is really nothing. You study about cultures and how miscommunication occurs. It’s a lot of politics and communication theories, so I figured out a way to graduate in less than three years. I took all the summer schools and graduated a year early. My family didn’t think I was going to graduate at all, and so I bartered with them. I said, ‘If I graduate in 3 years, can I take the tuition money for the fourth year and travel?’ They just laughed, but I did it. I got a whole year to surf and learn about the world.
I decided to get a secondhand Land Rover in Panama and ride my bike through Latin America. Then, in Peru, during that time, the Japanese prime minister really fucked up, and all these Japanese kids were getting kidnapped, so I decided to go to Bali instead. That’s where I met Nat Young. He said, ‘Hey, you should come on my team.’ It was called the Oxbow Longboard Team. I was the fourth guy on the team. He invited me to travel the world with those guys, and that’s how my professional surfing started.
How did you progress so quickly?
I don’t know. I watched a lot of tapes. I watched ‘Wave Warriors.’ I watched Dale Davis’ ‘Golden Breed’ and the old school longboard films. There weren’t too many then, maybe ten at the most. I watch them rip and analyzed it. I just brainwashed myself with surfers that I liked who were goofy footers.
Who were your favorite surfers?
I liked Butch Van Artsdalen. He’d ride big waves and little waves. He wasn’t very polished. People told me he was drunk most of the time. He was like a bronco. He wasn’t like a matador. He was more of a ‘Bronco Billy’ kind of guy. I also liked the refined style of Lance Carson and Phil Edwards. That was really beautiful to watch.
What was your first impression of ‘Endless Summer’, the original?
I didn’t buy it. I wasn’t into ‘Endless Summer.’ I thought it was hokey and slow. I don’t mean to disrespect Bruce’s film, but I didn’t like it. I liked Dale Davis’ ‘Golden Breed’ the most. I liked ‘Wave Warriors III’ and ‘Wave Warriors IV’. I kept watching the longboard parts for the progressive stuff.
What about the argument between longboarding and shortboarding?
I liked the fact that I wasn’t like everyone else. That was small world thinking, because surfers aren’t like the rest of the world. I was the minority of the minorities. There was a very small community of longboarders, especially if you were under 20, so we all became friends very quickly. There were only a handful of us – Josh Farberow, Lance Woolslagle, Eric Gross, Dylan Jones, Tyler Hatzykian, Joel Tudor and Mitch Abshere. Then you had the super progressive early transplants from shortboarding to longboarding, like Joey Hawkins and Jeff Kramer. They were really good surfers, but their riding wasn’t really applicable to me. I was more into noseriding.
What was the feeling you had the first time you hung ten?
It was the best feeling. It was like walking on the water. The board disappears, and it’s just you and the wave. That’s when my fascination of pipeline dreams and noseriding started coming together. I really wanted to get on the nose in the tube. Now I’m trying to knock out that vision. I’m trying to noseride on the biggest tube possible.
What’s the biggest wave you’ve ridden on the nose?
I think Pipeline closes out after 12-feet Hawaiian, that’s third or second reef. I try to catch the big ones that come through at second reef and set up the line before I hit the first reef and try to get on the nose.
When you say a 12-foot wave, you’re judging the wave from the back, so a 12-foot wave is a 24-foot face.
Yeah, and if you actually measured it by feet, it’s a lot bigger than that. To make these tubes, the ocean has to hit the reef fast enough. The waves that tube are moving a lot faster than other waves, and the reef is exposed. And the offshore wind helps for these waves to curl larger. All these elements equal more risk. It just becomes more dangerous, but that’s the perfect condition for what I’m trying to do. I had to dedicate myself to ride in these certain conditions. The elements are against you, but as a tube rider, that’s what you want.
Where do you like to surf?
My spots are Pipeline, Tavarua and Tahiti. I don’t like to sleep on a boat, so I haven’t been on a boat trip. Indonesia is a hard place to go, because of the poverty. I go to Tahiti, Fiji and Hawaii as part of my annual routine. I surf Zuma Beach and hollow beach breaks that are predominantly left.
You ride First Point switch?
Yeah, I like to ride switch, too. It makes sense to be switch footing on the noseriding. Backside noseriding doesn’t look that good. You can’t really control it. It doesn’t feel as good as frontside surfing. I’ve been switch-footing a lot to ride off the nose.
I just want people to understand how big these waves are.
The size isn’t the problem. It’s how strong the wind is blowing and how far it’s throwing and how fast the wave is moving that’s more critical to how big it really is. When there is a really stiff wind and a lot of bumps in the water, that makes it a completely different game. The size doesn’t make it scary. A 4-foot wave in Tahiti can be scarier than a 10-foot wave in Hawaii. It goes over ground and under ground.
What title do you hold in surfing?
Regionally, I’m the former National Japanese Surfing Champion.
When did you accomplish that?
That was in 2001. I actually retired from professional surfing in 1995 after I became 5th in the world ASP Contest in Biarritz. I made it to the man-on-man quarterfinals, where I had to surf against former world champion, Joey Hawkins, in front of the biggest crowd you can get. I rode my Donald Takyama single fin with no leash, and Joey had this super modern board. He just kicked my ass in front of everyone. I didn’t get the points because I didn’t have the technical maneuvers he had. The French people were reacting to the way I was surfing though. They were clapping and yelling, ‘Bravo.’ They were into my surfing and didn’t care about the technical things that I wasn’t doing. That was a high point in my career. I was content with competition surfing at that point, so I quit. Then in 2001, I went back to Japan to work for eight months, and I went on the tour and I won.
What are you doing now?
I still have this huge desire to ride huge hollow tube waves on the North Shore. I’m riding big barrels. I’m getting close. I’m getting barreled off my ass but not really coming out. The time I spend in the barrel pumping off the nose is getting longer and the lines are getting closer. I’m reaching the point where I just feel really happy to be standing upright and pulling into these huge closeout tubes at Pipeline. I’m happy with how it’s going.
What kind of board are you riding now?
Well, in 1997, I got off riding the classic designs. I met Mike Diffenderfer, and he really explained to me how the surfboard design works, how to get speed, and how to use the rail. Mike showed me that I could progress to the newer type of board. Then Herbie and I were surfing and he said, ‘You need to be riding my boards.’ Herbie is so straight up that, sometimes, you don’t want to accept what he says as truth, but I started thinking about what he was saying. He’s the only guy that’s been riding in the tube off the nose, so I started accepting Herbie’s truth and rode his boards. The board was really quirky at the beginning, but it accelerated when you got on the nose. Most boards slow down when you get to the tip, but his boards accelerated. I have to credit Herbie and his surfboard design. People don’t even understand that he’s side slipping at Pipeline and Backdoor, and going backwards down the face and pulling in backwards. He’s doing binary surfing in surfing. Everyone in skateboarding and snowboarding are going backwards and forward, but most surfers are one-directional. I’m trying to take Herbie’s line and take it a little further on bigger waves.
What about skateboarding?
My skateboarding style was very soft at the beginning. It was all ollies and powerslides. The videos I watched were the Powell Bones Brigade stuff. Then six or seven years ago, I really started getting into skateboarding. Joel Tudor gave me a Think Skateboard. Then I met all these surfers that skated. I met Craig Stecyk and he took me to Deluxe, High Speed and Think Skateboards, and they gave me boards to ride. Then I got really into it, and that’s how I started my magazine. When I started ‘Super X Media’ magazine, I was dealing with more skateboard- oriented people, and I really wanted to understand their culture. By being affiliated with surfers that skated and with surf photographers that were affiliated with skating, like Craig Stecyk, Joel Tudor, you and Glen Friedman, I was interfacing with more people than just surfers. I guess I’m a leisure skater.
Everyone is different. There’s no right or wrong on this whole deal. So, you’re surfing and skating, but where did you meet all these people?
I met most of them through surfing. When I met Lance Carson in ’91, Lance introduced me to Craig Stecyk. I had no idea who he was. He was just this tall guy with a stupid beach cap on. We exchanged a couple of words, and then a few years later, I spoke to him at this old surfboard contest with Joel Tudor. He came up and said, ‘We’ve met before.’ I said, ‘Where?’ He said, ‘I met you with Lance at Surfrider Beach.’ I said, ‘You have a good memory.’ That’s how we started talking more. Around ’94, I started producing a lot of travel articles for magazines. Since none of the kids would take any responsibility for arranging any of these trips, I took a lot of initiative. Joel Tudor helped a lot with the logistics thing. Through that, I was able to work with guys like Art Brewer, who we thought would never work with us. He said, ‘Of course, I’d like to shoot some longboarding. I’m so sick of shooting shortboarding all day.’ He took a lot of interest in us. I talked to him about how I wasn’t happy with the magazines that wouldn’t even publish longboarding. It was as if longboarding wasn’t surfing.
That is crazy.
Surfing was really weird back then, but I really liked this magazine called ‘Beach Culture’ that ‘Surfer’ magazine published. It had weird photos and weird writing, and you had to read it over and over. Craig’s stuff was super complex. So I got into it, but then it went away. I was like, ‘Why did you guys quit? We have to do this again, but today, with more of a street feel with street art, skateboarding and surfing, with longboarding being a part of surfing.’ Art said, ‘If you do it, I’ll totally back it up.’ We started calling Stecyk. I met Skip Engblom through Joel Tudor, and then Skip introduced me to Glen E. Friedman. I told him I was doing this magazine, and he said he’d be happy to contribute. I couldn’t believe it. The first issue had Stecyk, Friedman, Art Brewer and Paul Haven as art director, who did the original ‘Skateboarder’ and ‘Action Now’ magazine. I had all the godfathers of this subculture of the West Coast alternative beach culture media doing this magazine.
What was it called?
‘Super X Media.’ We called it ‘Super X’ because ‘X’ is a variable and ‘Super’ means hyper-accelerated. It was a bunch of variables coming together. It was called ‘Super X’ in the beginning, but to get the proper copyright, we had to call it ‘Super X Media.’ To finance it, I was consulting for companies like Casio. I helped to launch Baby G, and these people at the consulting jobs were willing to sponsor whatever I was into. I published four issues of ‘Super X Media.’ We printed 10,000 of them, made it tri-lingual, and freely distributed it in 8 cities. By the fifth issue, some guy came up to me and said, ‘You’re the guy that does the Casio magazine.’ I thought that was really weird. They thought it was a Casio magazine. That’s when I started really thinking about the corporate involvement in media, so for the last two issues, I self-financed it. I was just giving out these magazines. It was completely self-destructive publishing, but the magazines started acting like calling cards, and I got more into the curatorial directing jobs. I got to direct a surf film for Sony, and I got to install an art show for this 450-year-old kimono couture that celebrates heritage in a grand way. That was the benefit for taking up the anti-corporate positioning in the media. I wanted to address the issues that I knew that the kids that I hung out with weren’t aware of. Like the situations in Bosnia and Sarajevo…
It was really screwed up. These were super civilized people – they hosted the Olympics a couple years before the civil war – and in the ’90s, they just started killing each other because of their ethnic background. When the war was over in late ’95, the United Nations decided to take U2 over there. I had an opportunity to go over there with a friend from England, Mike Fordham, (who now does Adrenaline Magazine in the UK), so we went and documented it from beach people’s view. We live in this beautiful beach lifestyle, and we’re so removed from some of the fucked up parts of the world. I wanted to expose things like that besides the cool things to do in the city. I put things in the magazines that I thought would be interesting and that people should learn. Glen Friedman connected me to a lot of people and so did Stecyk. A lot of great people came together to form the ‘Super X Media’ project. I wasn’t really polished in the seven years that I did the seven issues of Super X Media, so I put together this book called ‘Combine.’ It’s the best of the articles, plus some other articles that didn’t get published and some new stuff.
What is this book? Is it ‘The Best of Super X’?
Yeah, it’s the best of the articles that we produced and all the things I felt really close to. A lot of people say it’s like my travel journal, or my bon voyage.
Where can you get the book?
You can get it in the United States at a store in Santa Monica called Hennessey and Ingalls, and in New York at St. Marks, in Paris at Library 213, in London at Shipley and in Antwerp at a place called Copy Right, and Milano Libri in Milan and in Tokyo at a place called On Sundays. Also, a friend who is a fashion designer and surf/skater from Texas, Tracy Feith, will have them in stores in New York and LA. The way I do things is so minute that I was only able to print 1000 books. I felt obliged to give at least 500 of them to people in the magazine or to people who helped to make the articles and to a select few people that I felt it necessary to present one to. I only have half of the copies to sell. I guess I’m not too customer-friendly. I think my non-customer friendly attitude comes from surfing. You don’t really want to deal with people that don’t know about the swells and things. They’re usually considered kooks, those that don’t get to surf the good waves. The mentality of only making 1000 copies and only selling 500 means that those that are able to purchase it are the people that don’t need to be manipulated through propaganda. We are successfully selling them for $200 a unit. To be honest, I printed it right over the Canyon in Oxnard, and it cost me $80 a unit for printing. In China, I could have done it for a quarter of the price, but I couldn’t do my homage to California if it was made in China. I had to do it in Malibu, where I learned all this stuff and got to meet all these people. I paid so much money for printing that the readers have to pay so much, but I hope the content is valuable enough that they’re not too bummed. I think by keeping the number precious, they’re some kind of cache. Or maybe I don’t have the business sense, or I just don’t care to cater.
Maybe it’s just because that’s the way you want it to be? You consider what your articles cover as valuable information for these people, and they should dig it.
Yeah, I think there is just a small amount of people that understand and can sympathize with what we’re doing. I think there are at least 500 of them. Hopefully.
In ‘Super X Media,’ you covered so many genres, from hip hop to the Venice scene, to Japan, to longboarding and the artists. It was a broad spectrum.
It’s really diverse. I think what people may find interesting is that it’s not a completely Western perspective. I lived in Canada before I came to America, so my view of America is different than most Americans. Americans are in the center of the world and have achieved their manifest destiny, but this is the minority perspective. It’s more diversified, and less favorable to one location. I got that from traveling a lot. I tried to stay true to what I was. I just hope that I got to challenge the creators, who were foreigners to most of the situations, like Craig Stecyk in Cuba and Glen Friedman in Japan and Art Brewer in Sarajevo. There were a lot of weird situations. I felt at home, but they were uncomfortable because they were out of their domain, and a lot of interesting things came from that.
What does the future hold for Takuji?
I see the limit in print media for me. Especially when I’m printing a 360-page text-driven photo book. It’s so heavy to carry, and it costs too much to give it away. Whereas, with DVDs, you can pass them out like frisbees. Now there’s compressed media, digitized media, and when broadband comes, everything will change again. It’s already changed so much. We have Pay Per View and Tivo. All this new technology, whether it’s good or bad, is changing how we receive information. I’m more interested now in movies and films.
You want to get into making feature films – from documentary to fiction?
Yeah, I want to make something I feel comfortable making. It’s going to stay within the realm of what we did in ‘Super X’ or whereever my travel takes me to. I don’t want to get a script from some agency and hire big names and just make any movie. It’s going to be something on a more manageable scale. I think there are a lot of interesting stories in beach culture, like the folklore and stories that I was told by legendary surfers like Herbie Fletcher or Art Brewer. By being a longboarder, I got to hang out with a lot of older people, whether it was Lance Carson or Donald Takayama or Gerry Lopez. They have so many interesting tales to tell. Their stories have matured over decades, and I wish people could know about such things. I hope to have the film language to make the stories as entertaining as when they were told to me, if not more interesting.
Who are some of your favorite surfers?
Herbie Fletcher and Jock Sutherland.
What about Lopez?
I like how he surfs, but it’s not really applicable to me. I like people that wipe out. If the people are too smooth and too slick, it’s too polished. The two guys I just mentioned, Herbie and Jock, are both undervalued and underrated legends. I just went to Tahiti and surfed with Herbie, and he was throwing himself over ledges and pulling in. Whenever I’m on the North Shore, Jock Sutherland will call and say, ‘It’s 12 feet – 15 feet right in front of my house.’ Laniakea is a right point break. He says, ‘There’s 100 guys going right and nobody’s going left.’ I say, ‘No shit, Jock. Nobody goes left, because it’s a right point break.’ He says, ‘Yeah, but one in every twenty is makeable. Let’s go.’ I can’t back down. I’m surfing with him and we’re taking these huge closeouts on sets and taking a half hour to paddle back out. I keep thinking, ‘I want to be like this guy.’ For me, I appreciate the polished surfers, but they’re not my favorites. Herbie died twice this year. He just died on this wave. There is definitely a moment of beauty before the destruction. These guys get that. I totally appreciate it as a spectator and as a part of the session.
Do you think it’s the same with skateboarding?
I think skateboarding is becoming more mature now, and young kids are getting to skate with guys that are 20 or 30 years older. They’re learning to respect their elders. It’s not a kids’ sport anymore. Those are the elements that were missing earlier on, so I wasn’t drawn to skateboarding at the beginning. There was no diversity in the skate culture when I started skateboarding. With surf culture, you had 80-year-old Beach Boys telling stories of the 1920s. Rabbit Kakai still talks about the ’30s and ’40s and laying all these girls coming off the boats. Everything was still so organic. Now, everyone complains about the corporate invasion of surf culture, but there are still a lot of places that you can find beautiful, organic harmony. You find it where there are surfers just happy to be there and to be riding. I think the more radical it gets, the more joy that comes out of it. At times, it’s unfortunate because it results in violence. More often, I think, joy comes out of it with people surfing together and then sharing the session over a beer or a BBQ. That’s what drew me to surfing. Once I was drawn into it, I felt like I had to decipher the information and share it. I wanted people to know these stories.
The joy of sharing exists in lots of things, like basketball, and other sports, but in those sports, it’s a team effort, and you have to share the experience. When you’re surfing or skating, it’s more of an individual thing, and it’s more personalized.
Yeah, and everyone has their own translation of what just happened, too. Everyone has a different take and a different approach. That’s beautiful. I don’t need to report on basketball because every channel reports the games. It’s already a commercially-viable paradigm, but beach culture still needs to be promoted and spread. There’s still a lot of wonderful information that people ought to know, and I guess that’s my calling. That’s why I feel good about being a part of it. I’m participating in the session. It’s a great feeling. You can be in it and still have your place. I hope to take it to whatever level I can and inspire kids like I’ve been inspired.
Well, time will tell.
Some characters were bigger than others, but we were all friends. We were a family, in and out of the water. It’s something we can do to share with our friends.