Do people ever surf at night?
When there's a full moon and a bit of swell, people go out and surf at night. I did it when I was in high school because I lived in Huntington Beach and at night you could surf with the lights at the pier. Obviously one of my wishes would be to be able to see at night. That would be really, really, really good. I'd save some money on sunscreen (laughs).
The stereotypical Californian surfer dude has long blonde hair and wears flip flops and billabong shorts. What does the typical Canadian surfer look like?
I could riff on a pretty funny thing, but to be honest, I'd say a guy who's kind of rugged. They're good guys, they're friendly, you know? They're down to earth. They're capable of cutting down a tree if they need to, you know, camping. They're self-sufficient and adventurous.
Do surfer gangs like the one in Point Break really exist?
It depends on the area, when it's a small community and it's a real quality wave, it's a limited resource, you know? In the Canary Islands you've got the boogie board gang. They're speaking in a different language and they surf this spot everyday and all of a sudden you show up. You just need to be overly polite and not be selfish and sort of ease your way into the situation. If you're just like “You need to move over” then people that live there kind of go, “Well fuck you, man! I fuckin' live here! My uncle won the golden gloves boxing. We have a whole family of boxers and we'll knock you out!” (laughs) I'm just making that up, but basically it's like that.
People who don't surf always seem to be talking about how often sharks attack. Do you ever get worried about things like that in certain spots?
Yeah we definitely worry about it, but it's kind of like “Well, how good is it?” because if it's really fucking good, we're out there. We're out there for a certain amount of time and then we're coming in. One time I went out in South Africa at this one spot, and waves weren’t really good, just about ten or twelve feet, we're checking out this place called Dungeon, where they shoot shark week, sharks reaching out a mile out from the spot and there's 50,000 seals, and it's about 2000 feet deep and the sun's blocked a little bit because it's such a high mountain, so there's darkness and shadows. The place is so scary. I was surfing out there and was thinking “Man, am I really...is this really...I don't need to be out here right now. I don't really need this.”
From what you've heard or seen, where can you go in the world to get the absolute biggest waves?
Well, I think the biggest wave right now is probably the Cortes Bank. That's 100 miles off of San Diego in California. It's a seamount, a mountain underwater that doesn't quite submerge. So, it comes about 18 feet within the surface, so when there's a big swell and the weather permits, it's like it's own microclimate. So, sometimes five days a year, sometimes nobody will surf out there for three years.
In the same way skaters hate rollerbladers. are there rivalries between different disciplines, eg. between surfers and boogie boarders?
Just boogie boarders. In fact, I guess I'm not even supposed to say “boogie boarders”, but that's what I call them from growing up in the 70s. I think it's a bit of a slant, I don't think they like being called boogie boarders, but I don't care, I like calling them boogie boarders (laughs). A wave that's a slab that's super duper hollow and maybe isn't even makeable, those are good waves for bodyboarders. But then there's some waves like Rincon, a point wave where It's definitely a surfing wave that if you see a boogie boarder out there on that, you're like “What a fucking waste of a wave”. Boogie boarders and surfers usually don't fraternize. They're a whole different community.
When did you start surfing?
You know, it's funny, I was ten and I was walking down the beach with my friend, and there was a surfboard laying down on the ground on the beach if you can believe it. It was just sitting there in the sand, I was like, “What is that? Is that somebody's board?” It didn't have a fin in it and it looked kind of beaten up, but I asked everybody on the beach “Is that your board?” I asked everybody. I ended up grabbing that board and I went, tried it, and it spun around because when a board doesn't have a fin in it, it doesn't really go straight. And after catching a couple different waves just started surfing from that day. The weirdest thing was the board had a picture of Jesus on it, it was kind of like...[spooky noise] You know, where I lived, it was kind of a hippy area and stuff. I lived in Encinitas, and Encinitas has this big self-realization centre and there are a lot of hippies and spiritual new age stuff and all that. And yeah, the board had a big Jesus, well, not a big Jesus, but it had this Jesus painting on it.
What are the wildest conditions you've ever taken your board out into?
Cortes Bank. Cortes Bank or Jaws, yeah. It was right after a storm, and basically we knew that the winds were going to mellow out, so we just took a chance and went out there. It was, I don't know, 85-90 feet?
What's your favourite music to listen to before you surf?
It varies, but I tend to like blues, rock n' roll, I like The Black Keys, I like Queens of the Stone Age, I like Radiohead. My musical tastes are anywhere from classical to hip-hop. I'm also a musician and have my own band and stuff, and I like to listen to stuff that I myself would like to play.
What's the most terrible surf-related injury you've ever gotten?
Three months after that day I learned to surf, I had a really bad accident. I got hit in the nose by my surfboard and it basically broke my nose in four different places, I got plastic surgery and had two operations over a year and a half period and didn't surf. So, yeah. I kind of vowed that I was never going to surf again, but we used to live on the beach and all my friends were surfing and after a while I was like “Well, fuck. I guess I'll just knee-board” (laughs). I knee-boarded like half a wave and was just like, “This is stupid.”
Have you ever taken a first date surfing? Good or bad idea?
I'm teaching my fiancée to surf, and it's really fun to share it with her. It’s a good way to meet someone or show them who you are, because teaching shows how patient you are, and you're able to show someone something that's really fun to do. But if you're impatient, (laughs) I would steer away from it because your true colours may come out.
As you probably travel all over the world to surf, what do you miss most about home when you’re abroad?
Mexican food, probably. Mexican food in California is unbeatable. What I do is I usually load up on it before I leave and then I get it right when I come back too.
What is the best thing about being a surfer?
By far, the best thing is being in the ocean. Being in the ocean on a consistent basis. When you're waiting for a wave, you're looking out onto the horizon, you're not usually seeing anything commercial, so you're just amongst Mother Nature. You know, I'll be sitting there waiting for a wave and a beautiful pelican flies by within two feet of me, and then a dolphin pops up somewhere along the way and starts riding the wave. Then, the clean feeling of just getting out of the water and the coolness of it. It just cools my brain down, there's just so many wonderful things. Then I think surfing itself. I feel quite free on the waves, so I can kind of fly, I feel like I'm kind of flying.
And what’s the worst?
I suppose the worst part is the pollution. Seeing all the pollution around the world. I mean, when I was learning to surf, the trash on the beach was just flotsam and jetsam, you know? Glass bottles, life preserver, a screwed up lobster cage but there was no plastic or Styrofoam, there was none of that shit back then, and now you see it everywhere. It doesn't matter, I could be in the middle of the jungle in Sumatra and I'm seeing plastic bottles and shit. It's just like, fuck. It's so heavy.