Oh Brother, Where Art Thou: Kolohe and Dino Andino In Their Own Words
A long read about one of the most fascinating father/son dynamics in surfing.
All photos by Nate Lawrence
(Ed. Note: This is an excerpt from The Last Crusade, the BTS hardcover from Kolohe Andino’s Reckless Isolation. It’s a long read, but the honesty from one of surfing’s most dynamic father/son duos is heartfelt and touching. It’s a view into the world of a two competitive figures from different generations. What they did wrong, what they did right, and what they wish they could change over the course of Brother Andino’s ride to CT and Olympic status. Dive in.)
ICONOCLASTIC JOURNALIST, LEWIS SAMUELS, DELVED DEEP WITH KOLOHE AND REINOL “DINO” ANDINO, PULLING BACK THE CURTAIN ON THEIR OFT-MISUNDERSTOOD RELATIONSHIP AND RECORDING IT IN THEIR OWN WORDS. THE DINO INTERVIEW WAS DONE IN PERSON, IN LEWIS’ SAN FRANCISCO STOMPING GROUNDS, WHILE THE KOLOHE DISCUSSIONS WERE VIA PHONE AND INTERNET, DURING KOLOHE’S TWO-WEEK QUARANTINE IN SYDNEY, LEADING UP TO THE AUSTRALIAN LEG OF THE 2021 WSL TOUR.
KOLOHE — This is a big year. There’s so many voices in my head. Olympics, being the competitor you want to be, being the person you want to be. It’s non-stop over-thinking. It’s definitely a big year.
I’ve been doing this for 10 years and I only feel like I’m half way done. Most everyone is younger now. I have to remind myself that I can be alpha in the competitor’s area, because I am one of the more established guys on tour. Whereas I still feel like that young guy – “Whoa, there’s Gabriel!” I still feel a little insecure because those guys are… so established.
This is weird to say – but I think the whole time I’ve competed in a way where I’ve been scared to lose. Afraid. On the defensive. And that’s not the best way to live, or to compete, at all. I kind of realized that at the end of 2019. Instead of competing scared to lose, why not compete excited to win? So I’ve been trying to maintain that psych.
I learned a lot about myself in the off year. I really like the preparation of competing. The feeling of being ready for anything, you’ve done all the work, and you’re ready to just run through a fucking wall. You don’t get that feeling much in a normal life setting, just being at home surfing Lowers. At least I don’t. I was really longing for that in the off year. I was thinking, “Am I going to go work out? For what? I can still rip. Once I lost at Pipe early, I was going to work my ass off, and I realized that I really missed that feeling of surfing all day and then leaving the gym just pining. Now I’m out of my skin excited to compete anywhere I can.
I’m motivated by the feeling I have at the end of an insane ride when the jersey’s on, the pressure’s on. That feeling you get with a 9-point ride or an unexpected, crazy ride when you’re competing. A crazy drop into a blow-out, a crazy tube ride when the pressure is on, against someone who’s really good. It’s a fucking wild feeling. I don’t think you can duplicate it.
DINO — 2020 got me starting to think about mortality. I’ve lost some friends – like Derek Ho. I’m realizing I might not be able to do this that much longer. Last year, when competitions weren’t around, I didn’t have to worry about that. So I’ve been trying to go get amongst it, myself. I’ve been spending a lot of time with my wife, doing trips with her, taking the dog down to Baja camping. My relationship with my daughters has improved a ton, I have a grandson… I’m 52, and I can still come off the top, and when I’m on I can get form. I can still surf and I don’t know how long that’s gonna last. So in 2020 I had a level of appreciation for still being able to do those things.
(With the pandemic) I think Brother’s honestly had too much time not competing. I think a lot of them have. I wouldn’t say everyone, but I hear it from a lot of athletes – they are kind of just lost.
Back in 2019, trying to make that cut for the Olympics, it was a gnarly deal. Kolohe’s like the Captain America guy, and he loves that shit. He has a chance to do the gnarliest thing in surfing ever, if they run it. A gold medal. Just to get the chance to be in it even is huge. I hope they run the Olympics, obviously, for selfish reasons, but I think people need it – not just the guys who are going – I think everyone needs it this year.
KOLOHE — I kind of grew up on tour. When I first made the tour, I was just a cocky asshole. Not a flamboyant cocky asshole, but almost a chauvinistic, in your face cocky asshole. I was young and good looking and pretty rich and I knew it. I never lost events, I got any chick I wanted, life was way too good almost for how young I was.
That first year on tour, I was just an angsty little shithead, really. And kind of a crybaby when it wouldn’t go my way. I’d blow up and carry it throughout the year instead of just moving on. I would treat people a certain way, and I was losing all the time and just being a brat. Once I realized all those things I was doing, I hated that person so much I just wanted to run from that person as much as I could. I went full on “grow my beard out, dress as ugly as I can” mode, but doing that, it simplified things, I could really focus on events, and that’s when I started doing better. I’m trying to have a balance now, being the person I want to be inside and out of the water.
DINO — From 15 to 21, Brother was a person that I think he despises now. Because the person he is now is completely the opposite. He was the sharp-tongued hipster, slicked-back cool guy, the chick guy. He was known as The Prodigy so he was milking that with this whole persona, and I think he didn’t even really like surfing that much. He didn’t have the pure love for it that he has now… Growing up, Brother could be kind of a dick.
He had like three hundred fifty thousand Instagram followers ten years ago, before anyone even had any followers. He would quit and then start a new account, then quit and start again. Evan Slater put it perfectly – Kolohe’s always had a love-hate relationship with social media. But now he truly doesn’t like it. He does it because he has to and not because he loves it. He’s not a vlogger – he just will not vlog. He’s not a guy that wants everybody to know his life and his business, people being able to see what you do with your wife each day.
What people think matters to him. And if it matters to him, it matters to me. He acts like it doesn’t, but it does. He wants people to be stoked on him. That’s why he hates what he was before – because he knows he was immature. He was thrust into a situation, and he wasn’t ready for all the hate coming out of social media. He had hundreds of thousands of girls liking and commenting on his stuff but then random guys saying he was a douchebag. It affected him.
KOLOHE — I’m just sooo over surfing being an Instagram sport. It’s so phony and lame. We just need events. Hopefully we’ll have a decent year and everyone will forget about their selfie sticks. Ever since all of this stuff happened with Covid it really seems that surfing is just only a social media sport which I’m uncomfortable and unfamiliar with.
Dino likes saying I have a love hate relationship with social media, because Evan Slater said that years ago. But I don’t love it. At all. He keeps spitting that out everywhere, though, so whatever…
I like putting out surf clips. I’m proud of my surfing and I like editing, and I think surf films are a part of the history of our sport. They’ve made icons in this sport. But it feels like nobody even watches them anymore. The attention span is so short, and they only want to see you videoing yourself, talking about what you ate for breakfast. And for me, in my heart, I just don’t feel like what I ate for breakfast is that cool. Even if I tried to do it, I’d be so bad at it. It’s just not me.
Everyone seems to think that whatever goes on within their own mind is important enough that they need to tell everyone on social media. I’m just really afraid of being like that. I don’t have real problems. I’m just another person. I don’t believe that what I think should be valued higher than what a normal person believes.
Everyone is trying to sell themselves. For some guys, it seems like social media gives them a strange sense of confidence, from people loving them through Instagram or YouTube. I could never relate to that because I built confidence from doing stuff I don’t want to do, training, in the gym, that’s how I get confidence. Maybe it’s because I was so ridiculed at a young age. Once I got on tour and got my ass kicked, I found out that as quick as everyone loves you, they can just hate on you. So, finding real confidence has to come from within, not from a comment or something.
DINO — Through the seventies, San Clemente was a town that was a lot different than it is now. It was more blue-collar, lots of Marines around, a lot of drugs and lowlifes, bikers, surfers, all on the beach. Starting from when I was five or six years old, I was using the beach as a place to go where I felt safe. I was always just on the beach during the day because I didn’t want to be at home – my mom was a hardcore drug addict and she had abusive boyfriends and it was just a bad scene.
My mom would come down to the beach all drugged out, on pills, lay out, take her top off, sunbathe. Eight cops would show up, handcuff her, and I’d be over there hiding out, thinking, “Oh my god, that’s my Mom.”
But luckily for me I had my grandmother and my grandfather who actually were really normal. They lived in San Clemente. I was pretty clever – I used the time between going from the bad situation at my Mom’s to the good situation at my Grandma’s to roam around and have all this freedom. I got all this time to explore that other kids didn’t have. Even then, it was rare, especially amongst the people around us.
I was definitely against all odds. I still have people come up to me, and say, “I remember you when you were a kid.” Even the cops in town knew my whole deal. My mom had four other siblings and they were all in and out of jail. Something must have been weird underneath fundamentally, but I don’t know what it was. My grandmother made my life a lot better, being with her was a lot better than anything going on at home.
I didn’t meet my Dad until I was eleven years old. He was a Cuban guy who got on the last commercial flight out to the US when Castro came in, ended up becoming a really good percussionist, played with the Doors. His name’s on the albums, Soft Parade and LA Woman. I didn’t meet him until I was eleven and he was more like a friend – he wasn’t really like a Dad figure.
The San Clemente Pier – at the time that’s where I hung out – it was pretty seedy to say the least. Pretty radical shit. I would never change that part of my life. Looking back now, it was so alive down there. It wasn’t plastic, it wasn’t fake. If you know me, I get along with everyone. I’m pretty personable. I can paddle out, make my way through any kind of crowd. I learned to get along with anyone. I’ve always been able to kind of find the fruit on the tree – something about my personality. I was down there so young, and everyone knew my background.
They took me under their wing, showed me how to be a better person. Hardcore drug addicts, great surfers too. They were kind to people like me. When it got tough for me, they’d pick up on it. Give me something to eat, let me sleep at their house – and I’m talking at six or seven years old, not 14. I was so lucky to have places to go. My mom would be in jail for four days, and I’d be roaming around skateboarding ‘til eleven at night, staying at friends’ houses.
KOLOHE — It’s bred into my Dad’s DNA, that street kid mentality. He is still like that. As much as he tries not to be, he seizes opportunities. Every opportunity, you have to milk it. Punishment makes a better person, hard work pays off. It’s an old school mentality. In the new age, smarter work pays off. But he was a street kid. His parents were not there. For me, my parents were the sickest parents ever when I was young. I surfed before and after school with my friends. My Dad was pretty hard on me in terms of wanting me to be good at surfing. He knew that I Ioved surfing, and he knew I loved competing.
DINO — I don’t think I was a super-talent by any means, but I was just a survivor. My strength was being a grinder. I started competing when I was eleven years old, doing pretty good right off the bat. I was pretty competitive. I ended up making the NSSA National team when I was fifteen. I won Open Men’s at Huntington – won the national title in two divisions. I turned pro shortly after that and went to Japan.
When I got signed to Gotcha, I was a charity case. It was an ego boost – a pinch yourself moment. I went from a surf shop sponsorship through Surf N’ Style, in Ventura, and the owner said to Gotcha, “We’re one of your top dealers – we want you to put something back into one of our guys.” So they put me on Gotcha for $500 a month.
There were always guys that had more talent than me. Like Matt Archbold, we grew up in the same town. He was the star – Gotcha had him in centerspreads, rock n roll, long haired dude. I was the guy below Matt, just grinding. Once I got on their team, my hair got a little longer, and then Matt went to jail, going through things with alcohol. So Gotcha asked me to keep the hair long, started putting me in ads, the catalog, pushing me like crazy. I went all the way to being one of their main guys.
All of a sudden, I was kind of a surf star, and Gotcha was the “It” company. It was pretty overwhelming. Their team was me, Archy, Potter, Sunny, Mike Stewart. Derek and Michael Ho, Brock Little, Cheyne Horan… and Gerry Lopez. Lopez? Come on. It was a rad time.
Fast forward, I did the tour, I was the Rookie of the Year, I did some things, I won some contests, won the US Championship, I did fairly well. A lot better than a lot of people thought I would have done. I ended up having kids when I was pretty young, 24 years old, I had my son Kolohe. It’s really young, 24. I broke my foot, I dropped off the tour, and I had kids, all in the same year.
Then after I got better from my foot injury I went into this period when competitive surfing became really easy for me. I don’t know why, what happened in my mind, but it just became super easy – I started doing really good in all different types of events. Probably because I had a reason to, having a family.
Money had nothing to do with it. I loved to compete. I was like a Brazilian. I had such a gnarly drive. I loved to take a guy like Matt Archbold or another high-profile guy and just sit on them and make them squirm. Something like that would just thrill me because I had a lot to prove. When I was coming up, I took every single opportunity that I had – any opportunity that was in front of me. There was no time for rest. In my subconscious mind, I think everything is going to be taken away from me. Everything that’s there is going to be gone someday.
KOLOHE — It was both of us being hard on me, the whole time. It was never him forcing me to surf or compete. When I got older, he put me in front of as many opportunities as he could in terms of events, trips, surfers. It was rad to be around all my favorite surfers. I just felt like I was one of them from a really young age.
We hung around Taj, Andy, it was just normal because my dad worked for Oakley and he was friends with them. They were like uncles to me. Taj was a lot more relaxed than Andy was. My Dad has seen what worked for people and what tears them apart, in terms of being too relaxed, too intense, too bitter. He always tried to steer me on that fine line of everything. It can be a hard world to live in, having to be overly perfect, but my Dad’s been there, he’s lived it, and I take his advice for what it is. Some guys get bitter because of judging, contracts, and my Dad was scared of me going down that road.
DINO — When Kolohe started competing and doing good, I was grinding him down to be something, but he didn’t need it. He had all the talent and he was more like an Archy – and I wasn’t – so it was hard for me to get it. Every Surfline trip, every boat trip, contest, photo shoot, every opportunity, I wanted him to have it. It was like I was making up for what I didn’t have. Making up for …. I don’t know?
Because I’m so crafty with people, he was everywhere. It was out of hand – the level of hype and coverage was over the top. Completely wacko, but he didn’t really need that because in my mind, my personal opinion, he was really gifted. He didn’t need to be everywhere all the time – it was probably going to happen anyways. Brother had a bit of an unfair advantage, the coverage he got, the places he got to go to. Boat trips at 11 years old. Tavarua, hanging with Andy and Taj… I think his ability was overshadowed by the hype machine.
While I was at Oakley, at Billabong, I’d take Brother with me when I was working. I was spending so much time with Kolohe, while my wife was with my daughters. Looking back on it, I wish I’d evened it out more, spent more time with my daughters. They turned out great, but I just feel that I missed out, personally. If I could do it again, I’d be more involved, even if just emotionally. Now I’m really stoked to get to talk to them, see them almost every day. Spend time with my grandson. Where my focus is now has shifted a bit.
KOLOHE — I thought I was better than I was – and now I wish I had more of that. It all kind of went in reverse order for me – usually when you’re young you think you need to get better, but now I’m just trying to get better all the time, thinking I’m not as good as I really am. I still feel a little pressure just for myself because I want to do good – the judges are watching and people are watching, but I never really felt a lot of pressure from sponsors or from my family or anything when I was young.
As I get closer to having my own kids, remembering how my father raised me… He didn’t really have a dad, so he didn’t have anything to go off of. Being hard on me, it’s great, it makes you better. But being confident as a person, it’s something I’ve struggled with the most, going to compete. And I really think that has been a bummer. I really wish I’d been brought up more confident, a bit. Told, “It’s going to be alright – you’re going to survive.” I’m still trying to get away from “It’s do or die! This is your opportunity!” That’s given me a fear of losing. That’s why I compete that way. I’ve had to battle that feeling, instead of, “Go have fun, go surf freely, love every moment of it.” I’m trying to learn to compete that way.
DINO — He’d do one thing wrong and I’d magnify it, instead of telling him he killed it. I had unrealistic expectations, to be honest, and I think that’s partially why Brother is like that. But there’s something in him. It’s like me. But maybe I ignited it.
I made a lot of mistakes. I look back, if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a lot, but there’s some things I would change. Where did those unrealistic expectations come from? I don’t know. Maybe me. I hope not. Maybe… I don’t know. There was a two or three year period where I’d worry about contests that shouldn’t have been even a blip on the radar. Like an NSSA Explorer’s final at Bolsa Chica, Kolohe got third, and I was like, “What is that?” And now I look back, and what the fuck did I even care for?
In Motocross, behind every one of these champions, there’s a gnarly dad that’s just grinding them, pushing them. But I look back on it now, I think I’d do it differently, in hindsight. I’m just telling the truth. I didn’t have a lot of examples. I never had a dad. I would look at Mike Parsons and his situation with his dad. He would be down the beach just watching Mike surf – pull up a lawn chair. Mike would get out of the water and be like, “I got third.” And his dad would look him in the eyes and say, “Good job, Mike! You’re a champion in my eyes.” I just look back at that and think, “I wish I could have had a little bit more of that in my approach.”
KOLOHE — There’s so many stages of how I felt about losses. In the beginning I was really just surprised to lose, because I thought I was better than I was, just because I always won my whole life. I won everything pretty easily, and I never really put in work outside of the water. That first two years (on the WCT) I only made it past round three, three times or something like that – three fifths and a ninth. So I was getting my ass kicked big time and I had a bunch of different feelings.
Whether it was how I was treating others outside of the water, insecure about not putting the work in, I thought I was better than I was. It’s a lot easier for me to take losses now because I feel confident going into the heat whereas before I was super insecure. I was happy and having fun, but when I would lose, I would explode. When I lose a heat, I still have to battle that urge – exploding, breaking your board, yelling at someone, it just comes up naturally because I want to win so bad. I just know now that reacting like that makes the loss so much worse, times a trillion. You just get embarrassed. I’ve learned the hard way.
DINO — The thing about Brother, he doesn’t give a shit about the money. He’s really never had to. He would give almost everything back if he could be a World Champ. He’s driven by competitive accolades, not financial gains. Some people want a lot of money – that’s never been his deal. But in all fairness, he’s never had to worry about that. Whereas I did.
You never know – things can end quick. When I was young, I bought two houses, paid both mortgages for three or four years, but then my house was worth 30% less than when I bought it, and everything went to shit. I got sold a bill of goods when there were 13.5% interest rates, and I only put 10% down. I couldn’t keep paying my mortgages, and I had to walk away. I had all this debt. I blew it. I should have said, “My mission in life is to pay this off – I’m not going to smoke pot and just do whatever.” I learned the hard way. Don’t overextend like I did. I didn’t want that to ever happen to Brother.
He came in exactly at the right time in terms of where the industry was. It was never better, honestly – they were throwing contracts at kids in a way they never had before. He was able to capitalize on long-term deals with mainstream players.
When he started getting paid, I felt the pressure. Then he was on the tour, up against Kelly Slater at Snapper when he was 17 years old! And he didn’t need to go on tour when he was 17. Brother was making money from such a young age, and I was intertwined in it. I felt not exactly guilty that he was getting paid that much, but I felt a weird pressure. And I wasn’t even the one getting paid. The money was put in a trust. When he turned eighteen, he bought an apartment complex in cash. He hasn’t bought brand new sportscars, flown private… he’s been conservative with his money.
KOLOHE — I made a lot of money when I was young, which was rad. I signed a big contract with Nike when I was 17 and qualified for the tour. A ten-year deal. And that set me up for the rest of my life, honestly. It got turned into a Hurley contract, and I’ll be done with it this year.
Luckily my contracts were done before the social media boom. Before Instagram, vlogs, YouTube and all that stuff took off. So I’ve never really been obligated to do it. I’ve just been paid to compete, which is what I love to do. I can be jaded in a sense because I can stand on the side of it. Punch down at it, which is lame. But I still think vlogging is lame.
When I was younger, I didn’t care about money, because it came easy. But now that I’m older, looking at the numbers you have to spend on life. I’m thankful having signed those deals at a young age.
I felt like I had to do good to legitimize what I was getting paid. Myself and a couple guys got super lucky, in terms of the timing. Nike just threw truckloads of money at the sport, for five or six years. That was when guys were turning down $700,000 contracts. I happened to be the California Kid, making it on tour, winning a bunch of events, and it set me up so I hopefully won’t ever have to work. It’s fucking rad.
DINO — I think he’s a polarizing figure. He’s had some really bad calls – or I should say close calls – different things happened in the year that he was going for the title. I think it’s partly his own doing – kicking your board – and then when he was younger, everyone publicizing how much money he made… People are human. It’s a weird world. The tour picks certain guys. You can be pretty bitter if you let yourself go down that road and I try to avoid that thought process.
I feel like Brother still hasn’t had all things come together for him. He’s been top five twice, top ten… he’s done exceptionally well. But I don’t think everything merged – good attitude, good timing, good luck. It’s always been one little element missing. Hopefully he’ll come out of all this with a new outlook, just stoked on being in the water.
It’s like you’re so close to it, but yet so far. Everything that you want so bad is right there, but it’s out of reach. You’re reaching for it but it’s going away, farther and farther away.
KOLOHE — When you learn to turn the worry off, it’s scary. You realize you have no aspirations, you have no control. You realize you’re not worried, and should you be? I have learned to turn it off a bit, and then I’ll be like, “I need to feel worried now so I can prove to myself that I’m ready for the next event.” It’s just a load of bullshit that goes into your head.
I think John John has done a good job of competing from love, his love of surfing. He’s allowed to express himself when competing, which is really hard to do because you just get tight. Gabriel seems like he was brought up with everyone telling him he’s the best, his whole life. So in his brain there’s no worry – at all – he just thinks he’s the best. And he is one of the best, so it worked. If you don’t get lazy, it can really drive you to just explode. I think Gabriel’s been like that.
I’m so worried about everything. What I eat. How I train. What I say to everyone. How much I surf. It’s just so much worry. And Gabriel has zero of that. He shows up, he looks a little out of shape, looks like he’s slacking, maybe partying down in Brazil, whatever, doing his deal with the boys back home – and he’ll just win the event. Like, what the fuck? I wish I could have some of that.
There are a lot of different engines, for sure. I feel in the middle of the pack in everything. Not the best at anything, but right there. I feel like I’m pretty well rounded in surfing. The conditions I have the hardest time in are rights where I can’t get barreled or do airs. The best thing about my competitive surfing is that I’m very consistent as far as conditions go.
I could say I’m insecure but it’s more fear based. Fear of losing. But I’ve already won in life. My life’s great. It’s just weird. And what even happens if I lose? My hand falls off? That’s how I treated it when I was younger. But nothing happens. Life rolls on, my wife’s still here, my family. It’s all good.
Even if my career ended today, I’ve had a pretty sick run. Top five twice, going to the Olympics. I have to be proud of myself in that way, and also I’ve made a living doing something I love, chasing swells, competing. I probably won’t have to work again, luckily. Having that gratitude, I have to remind myself every day. I still worry, “Fuck, what if I don’t win an event? What if I don’t win my heat? What if I get this guy? What will the waves be like?” It’s so much worrying over stuff I can’t control. There’s still a lot I have to tell myself to fuck off from. Everyone has close heats. Winning an event, it definitely does haunt me. Not haunt me, but I really want to win one. I feel like once I win one, I’ll be able to get over that hump.
DINO — My love for surfing in the last three or four years is much greater than in the ten years prior. My back is finally more healthy. I’m frothing. I’ll drive fifteen hours down into Baja, alone. Or I’ll drive up to your pad in SF to surf in a 4/3, no booties, and the day before I surfed Santa Cruz, and the day before that I surfed Rincon with three guys out. My surf stoke is at such a high level.
When I’m surfing around Brother, it’s harder for me to just focus on surfing and being stoked. I love surfing with Kolohe, I enjoy it immensely, but I feel like I’m always kind of looking, wondering, focusing on me but on him too. At the very beginning, when he was just starting to compete, I couldn’t even take my eyes off of him. But I’ve grown through that, back into frothing on surfing, beyond. I’m just psyched on surfing.
I like surfing with less people, too. I’m having a harder time surfing where I live, because people come up to me to talk about Kolohe, the Olympics, that heat… I’m pretty approachable. I’ll talk to everyone when I’m surfing, I’m pretty friendly, maybe to a fault, because I’ll talk my way into not getting any waves. Sometimes people will ask about Kolohe, and I’ll think, “I’m my own person. Can’t you even say hello? I’m so proud of Kolohe, I don’t want to take anything away from that. But sometimes I just want to surf. I want to just get in the water and paddle around and not just be “Kolohe’s Dad” – I want to be Dino. Sometimes I want to be me – just me.
KOLOHE — I’m pretty much all surf, all the time, my whole life – surf trips, surf movies, swells, finding new waves, competing, learning how to relax when I’m nervous, doing the best I can. Engulfing yourself in what you want to achieve is rad. This year off, and that boat trip, it’s taught me that the ranking, the hierarchy, as far as what I am as a human, is so much higher than as a competitor. I truly love to go get barreled, the adventure of surfing – it’s almost the same as winning a heat. The ecstasy is the same, but more relaxed, less stress, more of a good thing. I think that part of me will always be there, as long as I can surf.
But being on the tour, you really end up getting good waves. You go to Snapper, it’s barreling, and you go to Bells, it’s firing Bells, everywhere in the premier time of year. J-Bay, La Grav – barrels. I never really realized that until the tour ground to a halt with the pandemic. Man, I missed the tour so much, missed going to J-Bay, knowing it’s going to be pumping. You’re just getting barreled all the time. I was at Lowers grinding it out with 75 guys who want to ask you when the Tour’s back on. Taking off doing little cutbacks and blowtails and shit. I was driving up to Huntington to surf different waves, which is a whole ‘nother issue.
So I went up north, which I try to do every year. I spent three weeks at Middle Peak having fun riding a 7’0” and 7’6” – that’s what I like to do. The freedom around the line-up, feeling like I’m back in time almost, it’s easy for my mind to be relaxed when I’m not worrying about doing the best turn on each section. And some of those bigger beach breaks, you needed the length just to get around – or just to get out. Some places you can’t film, and I don’t even have stickers on my board there. It’s the sickest. That’s what it’s all about.
I don’t think anyone else on tour is quite like that. Maybe John? But even he likes to get filmed every session. All the guys, they’re competing to make money, survive, with the way the industry is now. There are a couple other guys like me who need it like medicine, religion, routine, like brushing your teeth. They just need it. But the majority of the guys blend the work with their surfing so much and it adds a weird amount of pressure. They surf for a job. Their job is winning the title, and if they don’t do that it’s a failure. I’ve never ever thought of surfing as training or a job. It’s just what I love to do.
I could never picture someone like Gabriel or Filipe at a big Nor-Cal beachbreak with no stickers on their board, with a 5 mil suit on, 5 mil booties, duck diving 500 waves just to get out.
I don’t think people really know how much I love surfing. I can say it in an interview, and everyone does, and it’s kind of believable to a point. But for me, I go into deep thinking about how lucky I am to enjoy a tube ride. The percentage of people who never get to experience that, even people who surf, and never get to experience a proper spit out or foamball ride in their life – it’s hard for me to articulate how much I love to surf.
It’s wild. All aspects too. Competing, barrel riding, alternative equipment, even longboards. Guys that are my heroes, as I get older, are guys that can still surf when they’re sixty, like Michael Ho. Guys that are still possessed with riding waves. When people quit, they become other-holics. They get fat, or they drink a lot. It’s weird. The way I see my career going after the tour is just slipping into nowhere land, hopefully shaping and teaching my kids how to surf.
You can pick up The Last Crusade at a surf shop near you, or order one online, here.
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