Where Has Jay Davies Been? - Stab Mag

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Jay Davies has still got it. Photo: OTIS

Where Has Jay Davies Been?

On a boat, 180 miles out to sea.

features // Nov 8, 2022
Words by Christian Bowcutt
Reading Time: 5 minutes
Catching up with Jay — You’ve seen the video, now read the convo. Video: OTIS

“It sucks to be a cog in the wheel. But it’s a way to make a living, I guess.” 

We haven’t heard from Jay Davies for a while. There were rumors — he’s in Bali, he’s not surfing as much, he’s a tugboat driver, he looks a little less Hulk-like than usual.

The gossip proved to be mostly untrue. 

This started out as a chat to discuss Jay and OTIS’s collaboration on a new range of signature sunnies. But it quickly turned into a conversation about hard work, balancing family and career, staying excited about surfing as we age, mental health, and yes, Joe Rogan. 

“I don’t take surfing for granted anymore. It’s crazy how good the ocean is for you.” Photo: Otis

People love Jay. And he has a 15-year history of getting paid to ride waves to prove it. But during the pandemic, as the swift hand of surf capitalism clamped down on sponsorship contracts, Jay was let go and forced to make a living elsewhere. The last time we spoke to him, over two years ago, he was operating a tug boat and living in his hometown of Yallingup, WA. 

Things have changed for Jay. “I’m on a standby vessel, like a big catamaran. Our job is to service the oil rigs off the coast here. We’re 180 miles out to sea, in the middle of nowhere. I’ve been in the industry ever since surfing stopped paying the bills. It was a bit of a shock to the system [losing his main sponsor]. But it’s a business, they’ve gotta do what they’ve gotta do.” 

Jay and his signature lenses. Photo: OTIS

Jay works three weeks on, three weeks off. “It takes some mental capacity. You can start to spiral and go downhill out there. The hardest thing to deal with is missing the little stuff, like my dog, the comforts of home with my girlfriend, and not seeing family.”

Separation from the things we love requires us to find new ways to deal with mental health challenges like anxiety or depression. “It’s made me find new ways to cope,” Jay says. “I use my free time out there to read and listen to podcasts. I’m into the Joe Rogan podcast (laughs). The crazy personalities he brings on keep my brain active and take my mind to other places.”

“I don’t take surfing for granted anymore. It’s crazy how good the ocean is for you. I’m surrounded by the ocean but I’m not allowed to touch it. Being able to be in it, to be submerged in it, is just so good for you mentally. Growing up surfing every day, I just didn’t realize that. You don’t fully appreciate something until it’s gone.” 

The “specimen” himself. Photo: OTIS

But Jay is an optimist, and he says there are advantages to this unique work-life,“ It’s almost like a retreat out there (laughs). Nobody can smoke or drink and I do a lot of exercising and eating healthy. I tore my pec major off the bone and was out of the water and wasn’t working for 4 months. I’ve been rehabbing that. I’m at the height of my fitness right now. I shouldn’t have waited so long to learn to train like this (laughs).” 

And standing at 6’2, being as Dane Reynolds put it, “quite the specimen with huge shoulders and a tiny waist and not an ounce of fat on that body” a Jay Davies at the “height” of his fitness could mean some Grade-A surf clips in the future.

“I would love to get a full edit out there,” Jay says. “The clips you’ll see on the OTIS video are from the first sessions I’ve shot with someone in a while.” 

Jay continues, “For a long time I was injured, out of shape, and couldn’t film. I actually haven’t surfed North Point for years, But that day you’ll see everything came together and I got the best barrel I’ve gotten in a long, long time. It shows I can still do something (laughs). I’m psyched to start getting clips again. With my work, I can really take advantage of my 3 weeks off to do strike missions.”

Jay says his collaboration with OTIS is a step toward the future he wants to have. He said he eventually wants to pivot out of his current job and step back into the surf industry he knows so well.

“I grew up around these factories and always loved stopping by and being a part of the creative process,” Jay says. “I’ve got a creative design side that I want to explore and learn more about.” 

Capitalizing on those 3-week vacations. Photo: OTIS

The most important part of Jay’s future though is his family.

“I don’t want to be away at work forever. My girlfriend and I just got a place in Dunsborough, close to home. This coastline has given me so much. I always get pulled back. If we start kids, I wanna bring them up here. It’s been on our radar but right now we both have careers and want to work and save before that.

“Before, I had such tunnel vision. Just surf, surf, surf. Now, I’m branching out. My girl and I just went to Indo and it was so different to not have the tension of getting clips. I just surfed and we got massages and lived the holiday life (laughs). We’d even love to get to Japan and snowboard sometime. I’ve never done it.”

Jay is just getting started. Photo: OTIS

Stephen King once said, “I don’t have to listen to rumors about a man when I can judge him for myself.” Jay isn’t some curmudgeon pro-surfer-turned-tradie. In fact, he’s giving the younger generation a clinic in terms of how to navigate surf industry tempests and survive. He’s providing an example of why to study, “branch out”, and prepare for a life after paid wave-riding.

Indulge yourself and peruse Jay’s signature collection, “Spirit” on the OTIS website:

https://au.otiseyewear.com/pages/otis-x-jay-davies

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