Jared Mell’s story reads somewhere between an episode of the OC and Easyrider (think booze, weed, good times and some very bad ones), and gets extra points from the fact he funds his adventures from his gig painting houses for Al Knost’s dad back in Newport. You want some of his juice? Stab thinks you’ll like the taste.
Interview by Jed Smith
Stab found Jared in Biarritz for an experimental longboarding event (think art installations, six surfers to a room, booze, weed, sex etc) and over the course of an hour told us about a troubled adolescence in which he was arrested for beating up his mum; the patriarch of the family he never had, best bro Alex Knost; a sexual philosophy not dissimilar from Dominique Strauss Kahn’s; surf culture; and financing his dream one undercoat at a time.
Stab: Why do you surf?
JM: I wasn’t into surfing until I was 14 because I wanted to go in surf class at school. I was, like, fuck school, I’d rather hangout and surf at the beach. I was really into sports when I was younger. My mum wasn’t into surfing and my dad was a musician.
How did growing up around them affect you? My dad left my mum when I was two so I’d go visit him for a couple of months a year. When I did see him it made me happy that they could be happy playing a piece of wood with six strings on it. It’s so simple yet so complicated. You don’t even know all the different notes and ways to play. You have to sit there and play and figure it out and you can make so many people happy from it. So rad. No wonder guys can do it forever.
Cheesy question, but do you see a parallel between that and what you do? Kinda, yeah. Longboarding seems so simple but there are so many different things you can do with it and so many different waves and ways you can ride. Some people who don’t know so much about it are, like, “He’s just riding a longboard and running up to the nose on a two-foot wave. That’s all he can do.” I dunno, I’ve seen different types of longboarding all across the world and you’ve gotta be open to it.
You had a wild adolescence. Tell us about the time you got arrested for supposedly beating up your mum. Yeah, my mum kicked me out when I was 17. Me and her are really strong-headed people. She used to be an alcoholic and I drink quite a bit myself. This one night one of my ex’s came over and we were on our way down to the beach with a few beers. So we’re walking out and my mum is up and she loves her music right, and would listen to the same song over and over and sing it til three am. She was in the computer room doing that and she comes out and she’s drunk and mad about something. She’s, like, “What are you doing? You’re not going nowhere!” We had a big argument. I wasn’t having it. She pushed me and she’s, like, “You’re under this house, you do what I say.” I’m, like, fuck that. I’m gonna do what I want. I had these three longboards and a single fin that I’d borrowed from Alex (Knost) leaning against the wall and she put them on the floor and stomped on them, broke the glass-ons out of my longboards and pushed the fin box on Alex’s shortboard out the top of the glass. I’m, like, “Are you fucking kidding me?” I didn’t know what to do. I was shaking. So I stomped over my longboards because they were already broken and walked by her, opened her Armoire (writing desk) and it had a flat-screen her and her husband, who I didn’t like either, had bought and I just… dropkicked the flat screen. I turned around and their jaws literally hit the floor. And, I was, like, that’s what you get. You break my surfboard, I’ll fuck your shit up. Her husband came after me and we started fighting and she tried to break it up and got pushed over and cut her eyebrow. Someone called the cops and they came storming in and pulled me off my step dad and put me in cuffs because they thought I was beating up my mum. They arrest me. I’m sitting there and I’m, like, how fucked up is this? I got drunk, passed out early and get woken up and I’m thinking I’m gonna get lucky on the beach, now she’s hurt and I’m in handcuffs. But my mum doesn’t wanna see me go to jail and I wasn’t beating up on her. She told the cops and they let me go. The guy she was married too was a fucking idiot. So, she has to get stitches and I’m sitting there and can’t believe it happened. Her and her husband come walking up and she says, “I never wanna fucken see you again. Fucking get out of here!” I was, like, really? My mum is gonna say that too me after raising me and making me a man. I just took that as her telling me to get out. I had an old 1962 Dodge Dart at the time and loaded up my boards and some shit and drove to my friend’s house, drunk a big bottle of alcohol and hung out with some chick. The next day, Alex saw me and he’d heard about it. He told me to come live with him. He’d just broken up with a girl that he was in love with and had a place to move in together. He’s a total legend.
How would you describe your relationship with Al? He’s like a full brother to me. We met on surf team (in school) and I didn’t know who he was at all. I was just having a blast getting to meet other people and surf every morning. I had hair to my shoulders, dirty blond, and I was always stoked and probably stoned so I seemed really happy. He’s just the nicest guy and has been so cool and helpful. He doesn’t wanna see any of his friends in a bad situation. If he can help he’ll go out of this way. If I needed money (him and his friends) would help me out because my only income was from working at Jack’s, the surf shop. It was Alex who got me on Insight, I think. He got offered a sponsorship to leave RVCA and he can’t because they did everything for him. But he’s, like, I know a kid, and he described me to them and Jesse Faen was the CEO at the time and we surfed and hung out and he’s, like, yeah, “You’re on the team. You’re going got Bali for the campaign.” Right out of school and I’m in Bali. I dreamed of that growing up seeing Gerry (Lopez) and Rory Russell surfing Ulus with no one around. He’s looked after me from day one. And then me working with his dad, they’re like another close family that I didn’t really have.
“You break my surfboard, I’ll fuck your shit up. So her husband came after me and we started fighting and she tried to break it up and got pushed over and cut her eyebrow. Someone called the cops and they came storming in and pulled me off my step dad and put me in cuffs because they thought I was beating up my mum. They arrest me. I’m sitting there and I’m, like, how fucked up is this?”
Describe a week in the life of Jared Mell and Al Knost. Al has this rad house in Costa Mesa and he loves having people over and taking photos and having fun. We have friends who don’t even surf who are just musicians and will come over and play in his backyard. And, we’ll have barbecues and just hang out all weekend long. Whatever, you know. It’s really cool and fun and keeps it fresh and interesting and keeps it alive, not boring.
Al was telling me you haven’t had a girlfriend for the last six years. How is that working for you? (Laughter) Yeah, I haven’t. I’ve been hanging out with girls and stuff. I love women. They’re beautiful and awesome but, yeah, getting stuck in a relationship… I haven’t found the right one. I’ve tried and found out, you know, wow, this person might not be for me. And, then, the one-night flings where you’re like “Hey what’s up? Your cute, I’m cute, lets hang out.”
With your lifestyle, is unsolicited, no-strings-attached sex a pre-requisite? No, not really. I’ve hung out with a chick for a couple of weeks at a time (laughter). When I was at home I almost had a couple of girlfriend but something always happens. They go on a trip or I go on a trip. It’s kinda hard. I live in Newport beach, dude, c’mon. There’s blonde chicks with fake titties filled with air in their head walking around like dumb asses thinking I want to go to the mall and spend all of daddy’s money or boyfriend’s money. That to me is so fake. There is nothing cool about it. It’s hard to find cool girls in that area. The no-strings sex comes with it and it is what is but you know it’s still fun. I’m having fun. I’m not saying I sleep around all the time but I’m not saying I don’t (laughter). It’s just about having fun and enjoying yourself as long as you’re respectful to other people and not trying to fuck this person and be like “She was such a slut.”
“I live in Newport beach, dude, c’mon. There’s blonde chicks with fake titties filled with air in their head walking around like dumb asses thinking I want to go to the mall and spend all of daddy’s money or boyfriend’s money. That to me is so fake. There is nothing cool about it.”
From what from what Al and your fellow Insight team rider, Warren Smith told me, you have a sexual philosophy not dissimilar from Dominique Strauss Kahn. From who?
Ah, don’t worry. No, tell me.
Okay, tell me about the time you made love with (can’t say who) the night her and Alex broke up, at the same time you were Al’s flatmate, and while he was in the house. (Laughter) No, he wasn’t in the house. Did he tell you that? (Laughter) What did Alex say? No, he wasn’t. Oh my god! That sucks because I don’t wanna name a girl. You couldn’t ask for a better friend. She’s so rad and so cool and I hate talking about girls like that. Alex and her hung out for a bit and were going on dates and shit and he got over her and one night, she comes over and he doesn’t wanna hang out with her. He wanted me to make up something for him so he could hang out with another girl. He doesn’t like being confrontational with girls when it comes to breaking up with them. He went out with some friends maybe to a show or they were playing because that was when he was in the Japanese Motors. She came over and we both smoke weed so I was like, “Wanna smoke a spliff?” We rolled a big spliff and we’re talking about stuff and hanging out. She’d brought over this aphrodisiac bottle of alcohol from some island because she’s a model or something and goes to all these far-out places. And, we started drinking it. Couple more spliffs go by and then we’re kissing on the couch and she’s, like, “I don’t think we can do this in case Alex comes by.” So, we just hopped in her rental car and just, ah, spent the night in that somewhere.
How did Al take it? I didn’t tell him for a bit but he said he didn’t care. But, I guess it might have bothered him.
Despite the indiscretion, he maintains you’re one of the top 10 longboarders in the world right now. What do you think of that? I dunno about that. That’s cool that he says that. I think he’s one of those guys.
As one of Al’s top 10 longboarders in the world, is it frustrating that you still find yourself painting houses for his dad? (laughter) Yeah, it sucks, but if I can’t make enough money off surfing then I have to do something to survive and that’s what I’ve gotta do. It sucks when I’m painting a wall and Joel and Al come back from surfing and they’re like, “Whoo! We’ve been surfing all day.” It would definitely be cool to not have to paint walls and cruise around with those guys hanging out and surfing all day. It keeps me humble. I get a feeling of having a nine-to-five job then I get to go on a surf trip and live that style and shoot photos and do what I want, play music, surf with these people.
And how are things with your mum these days? We didn’t talk for two years. She’d try to get a hold of me but I was off it. I knew she was drinking. It sucked at the time because it was my mum and my only family in SoCal. All her family lives in Guatemala. My dad’s side is up north. We’re back talking again. We have our tiffs but she’s stopped drinking.
You live a very loose lifestyle. What ties your existence together, like, what gives your life meaning? I see guys who keep surfing forever and how they keep stoked on it and the different things they’ve done through it. I got to do the two clothing lines with Insight and I’ve always been really into clothes. I like designing. That kind of just opened up things and I can always go back to school and study photography at college. That’s something I’ve always been into. So, there are so many different things you can get into. Surfing has so many different opportunities when you’re around people.
Is life about trying as many things as you can? There’s endless opportunities. Whatever attracts my eye. There has to be something cool about it. Feeling. Truth. Something that is not fake, that has history behind it – a good vibe in whatever scene it may be. Good people. Good times for me. Like out here in France, there’s a sick crew of longboarders out here. They’re all the funniest kids ever and really good artists too. They have art shows and the kids will be playing music at the shows and its really similar to our scene at home. And that’s what I love about surfing. It brings together all these people that you wouldn’t usually meet. It brings us together like a family, like the family I never had.
Here’s Jared Mell surfing in Noosa: