Chris Malloy ain’t no fairy cake. He’s the sorta man who’ll spend a week hucking fish outta the sea for two hundred bucks or working on a horse gang hauling gear into back country to feed his family, and maybe for kicks, too. The kinda man who’ll take a half-slice outta his salary so he can ride for a brand that suits his vision of what surfing is, or should be, and who can make a world-class documentary, advertisement or film. Stab hesitates to use the word renaissance to describe Chris cause that suggests a new beginning. For the Malloys, not a thing has changed since they were lil surf hounds camping (an entire summer!) on the beach in a canvas teepee, food supplied by pops on the way home from work each night. Photo: Scott Soens
The Confession Box, with Chris Malloy
Stab magazine was re-attracted to Chris Malloy, the eldest of the Malloy bro’s, because of an online advertisement his multi-media biz Farm League made for Gerber knives. Ice that boar! Conquer that mountain! Phew! Chris Malloy straddles so many mediums: documentary films, personal expression films, performance films, commercials that look like film. And, he writes, surfs and climbs! Let’s climb ourselves! Let’s climb into his Confession Box!
Interview by Derek Rielly.
STAB: In an earlier communique, you told me you “whimpered like a little gal at Himalayas”, the big-wave left at Haleiwa. Is this true? Did you really whimper?
Chris Malloy: Well, a couple weeks ago I shipped the family over to the North Shore to catch a few waves before the circus shows up. Didn’t even check the swell forecast. I roll down to Kohl Christensen’s for a beer and the next thing you know we’re loading 9’6’’s into the truck. We check a secret spot and it’s solid but the buoys are like 17-17 (17 feet at 17 seconds) so its guaranteed going to be closing out by dark. So, the session went great but the next morning it’s still coming up, buoys still jumping. Mind you, I’m fresh off the boat after the worst summer ever in California. I paddle out with Keone Watson and Ross Williams to another secret spot. It’s really good but the sets are hitting and closing out. I get mopped up three sets in a row. Just clobbered. I didn’t actually whimper like a little girl but I think if I had the breath and the energy to, I probably would have.
How do you think you differ from other men? Um, maybe penis length?
What do you struggle with on a day-to-day basis? Nicotine. I chew tobacco and it’s the dumbest habit in the world. Nothing good about it.
What do you consider the bravest thing you’ve ever done? Shit, I think brave means when you do sketchy stuff for other people, right? All the sketchy shit I’ve done was pretty much for myself.
Are there any movies that you’d like to make, or have tried to make, but have found impossible? I’d love to tell Todd Chesser’s story someday, but Hollywood always fucks up surfing even if surfers are involved. They just did Jay’s story (Santa Cruz’s Jay Moriarity) and it seems pretty cheeseball from what I’ve seen. If I fucked up Todd’s story he’d come back from hell and haunt me for the rest of my life. He’d come back and piss on me while I slept. He used to love to do that.
Can you describe what you believe is the current cultural state of surfing? It’s whatever you want it to be. Surfing has pretty much become everyone’s and we cant do shit about that. I think it’s kinda silly to whinge about “how it used to be or that the other guys aren’t doing it right or that they don’t do it for the right reasons.” Yeah, its clear that there is some ridiculous stuff happening in surf culture but it’s also clear to me that theres some amazing new board designs out there to ride and waves to surf and there are some mind-blowing young surfers out there to witness. I’ve got friends that fish for a living and surf secret spots by themselves. When I’m with them on the boat there is no talk of anything other than fish and waves and maybe beer. I learn more from them about the current state of surf culture than the internet or our stoic surf scribes that cry on their keyboards as they lament the death of surfing.
Does this please, sadden or excite you? I’m saddened by crowds, but I’ve made a bunch of surfs films, that hasn’t helped, so fuck me, I’ve contributed to that and I have to live with that.
Now, tell me, what’s your finest childhood memory? When you camped on the beach, in a teepee, for an entire summer? Those were pretty good days. My Dad would help us set up his old canvas range teepee on the beach at the start of summer. He or my mom would come by in the evenings when he got off from his construction job and bring us food and firewood. Then they would go home for the night. It was pretty much a full set up. We’d just surf and chase girls and swipe beer from other campers. The rangers hated us.
What has been the biggest mistake you’ve ever made? We rolled a truck four times on the North Shore, I think, in 96. My back has never been the same since. Stupid. Big cliff on the other side of the road. If we had rolled the other way it’d been lights out, for sure.
What has been the greatest moment of your life? From 1990 until around 2001.
What was the most life-changing thing you’ve ever experienced? When I was 10 years old my sister was born blind, deaf and with cerebral palsy. Dad was working full-time and mom had three small boys to deal with so I ended up being a nurse to my sister a lot of the time. It really sucked but I think that’s part of the reason I’m always moving. I think I’m still trying to catch up for those times I missed outside.
Have you ever felt like you truly hated someone? Yeah, for sure, but it just takes so much goddamn energy to hate people that I just sort of tried to give it up. Dan got into a fight at the beach a few years back (with a meth-head surfer) and right as he knocked the guy on his ass the guy’s mate came from behind and king hit Dan. The guy he knocked on the ground got back up and they double-teamed him pretty bad. For a week after that I was at that beach looking for those guys. I really wanted to kill them. I was miserable with hate that week. Then, one morning I woke up and just said, man, you gotta snap out of this! But, I wont lie, I hope those two stay on the meth and that they end up giving blowjobs to score their next fix.
In an interview, you once said, and you were referring to the perceived saintly nature of you and your brothers, “We get wasted and we get in bar fights and we do stupid things.” Do you, or did you, really get into bar fights? I don’t think any of us have been in a scrap in a few years. Shit, with all this jiujitsu out there you never know who’s going to choke you out. I’m afraid of old ladies these days! We were never into fighting. But, yeah, we had fun in a scrap here and there. And, yeah, I remember that interview. The guy was trying to build us up to be something we weren’t. So i just told him that fact so that he’d shut up. Over the years, we had good manners on the road and while we lived in Hawaii. It just seemed silly to get stupid when you’re in these amazing places surfing good waves. But, yeah, at home, over the years, we won a few and we lost a few. It’s hard to grow up in a giant Irish family and not have that side to you. There’s a little gem of Danny boy on the internet. Look up “surf rage” on Youtube.
What is the general provocation for a fight? It’s always different and usually not worth it the next day.
Do you have tactics? Our only tactic was to end up on top. It worked a few times.
Have you ever thought, hoo!, I’ve bitten off more than I can chew here? Oh yeah. I was in a restaurant in Waikiki with this girl I really liked. A Canadian hockey team walked in and one of them just started feeling her up. Right there in front of me! I was out-numbered but it drove me crazy. I jumped on the guy and got him good, three or four times with a beer mug. The rest of the team beat the shit out of me. I woke up in a cop car. The next week I was in G-land and my ribs were so sore I could barely surf. Perfect Speedies and I’m in the channel wincing. Another lesson learned.
In the same interview, you said that when you were sponsored you were like a “trained seal. Don’t say too much and everything will be fine.” Did you really feel that confined? We grew up cleaning Al Merrick’s shaping bay and we never thought we’d get the chance to surf for a living. So when that chance came we pretty much did what we were told. It was either make the surf deal work or drive a tractor.The surf industry was booming and we got swept up in it all. We were dumb kids. I don’t blame anyone. We should have understood that there was and is a lot of bullshit involved with the gig.
Did you really take a giant pay cut to go from Hurley to Patagonia? Can you explain the difference as a percentage? And, what lifestyle changes did you have to make to bring up the slack? Yeah, sure, we gave up about half our income. But, come on, no violin music here. Hurley was going one direction and we were going the other. Bob is one of the best people I’ve ever met and he helped us a ton. But, we were just on a different path and if we had stayed it would have been bad for both of us. Bob saw that as well and we left on good terms. And, how did I bring up the slack? For a while when I first got married and moved back to my home town I got my commercial fishing licence and also worked on a pack string hauling gear into the back country on horseback. I’d come home after two days smelling like horses or fish and always like beer and with 200 bucks to show for it. My wife helped me recognise that I should probably see if I could make a run with my film experience instead.
What’s the best story you tell? We feed our kids beef, pork, chicken and venison. Sometimes they get picky but since I know they love chicken, I always tell them we are having chicken for dinner. Regardless of what’s on the table, they’ll eat it if they think it’s chicken. So, they start thinking that all meat is chicken. So, I take my four-year-old son Luke out on his first wild boar hunt. We get a nice one. He walks out to it, thanks it and says, “Dad! lets get the skin off this hog because I’m hungry and theres a lot of chicken here!”
Have you ever truly believed that you were about to die? At Chopes in the early days when we still called it Kumbaya. Mind you, this is years before Laird and the crew had towed it and showed the world it was possible to live through. Me and Keone Watson and Noah Johnson and Shaun Briley would go down every summer and sleep on Raimana’s grandma’s floor. We’d surf it six to maybe eight feet. I’d never seen it hit that size when it turns into the Chopes we know today. So I eat shit on a wave that, at the time, was big Chopes and I come up and I see my first real Chopes wave. It looked like a backless train, like something I’d never seen before in my life. I went to swim for the bottom but the bottom was right there! I remember thinking, what is that fucking thing? What was that? No shit, I thought it was a tsunami or something. I’m for sure dead right now! It blew me into the lagoon and I’m looking out watching the next three waves detonate on the reef and I’m just thinking to myself, we’re not in Kansas anymore!
When you lie in bed, at night, alone in the dark, what do you think about? I pretty much always hit the bed sleeping. But, if for some reason I don’t, it’s usually Beyonce.
What were your childhood dreams? I wanted to be a bronco rider like my uncles and cousins. But, I always got bucked off and I got stepped on so many times, so I traded dirt for water. I was in King City watching my dad in a rodeo and one of the guys got a bull horn in the groin and bled to death and then my cousin broke his neck riding bucking horses and it just didn’t look that fun to me after that. Then, I saw an article about Derrick Doerner surfing big Waimea and it changed my life. I was 15 and that day I decided I’d move to Hawaii and try to earn an invite into the Eddie Aikau. I’ve never felt like a competitive surfer but that was a big honour and I’m really proud to have gotten to surf Waimea, meet the Aikau family and surf in Eddie’s contest.
What is your biggest fear? Oh shit. More car wrecks.
What is your key, you believe, to a good life? Live outside as much as you can. In the water or in the hills. Live with your friends and family. Just do the stuff you want to do. Figure out how to make a living doing what you love and try to do it with integrity. Even if it takes you some time to figure out.