Now Unlocked: Ollie Henry In 'Volume' For SEOTY - Stab Mag
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"He’s 100% got the lunatic gene," says Taj Burrow of Ollie. We've been given no evidence that suggests otherwise. Photo: Nick White

Now Unlocked: Ollie Henry In ‘Volume’ For SEOTY

Who the hell is Ollie Henry?

Words by Chris Binns
Reading Time: 11 minutes

Keen students of Stab Cinema might remember the name Ollie Henry from Surf 100’s West Australian outing in 2020, when a wiry natural-footer snaffled the wave of the day from the under the noses of Jack Robinson, Jay Davies, Jacob Willcox and Kael Walsh at bombing North Point, much to the delight of commentators Dane Reynolds and Yadin Nicol.

Beyond that, unless you frequent the heavier reefs around West Oz you might not be too familiar with the spritely lad who commands surfboards from the OG Rusty Preisendorfer, is occasionally known to pilot said sleds through grotesque mountains of water at The Right, and when not doing that sends behemoth punts over onshore Yallingup ramps.

Ollie is a polite and slightly quirky 20-year-old who was recently delighted to find he’d made his way onto the can of Gage Roads Brewing Co’s freshly released Yeah Buoy beer, only to then be disgusted to find out that Yeah Buoy is alcohol-free. Currently enjoying his first international surf trip in what felt like ten years, Ollie flew to LAX and bolted down to Del Mar in San Diego to meet the iconic Mr Preisendorfer and collect an assortment of oversized boards, before jetting to Hawaii, where he would celebrate turning 21 by paddling a notorious outer reef. Our hero is now couchsurfing his way along the North Shore in-between sneaking out to Off The Wall to swing into the kind of windy, wild and unwanted wedges that resemble home to a West Aussie but generally don’t appeal to the masses. 

“He’s definitely a unique and entertaining bloke,” says Taj Burrow. “I see him in the water a fair bit around home, we team up and surf everything together. I think he definitely has a future chasing heavy waves and going big, that’s his go for sure. He’s 100% got the lunatic gene, and he’s very keen. I’m backing him.”

We caught up with Ollie at the Yallingup Coffee Roasting Company for a quick chat before the seatbelt sign came on and he bailed overseas, and we thoroughly recommend you dive into his Stab Edit Of The Year entry, Volume. Like Kael Walsh’s Idiot Box last week, Ollie’s edit immediately qualifies for the final because he got everything cleared in the first Quarter of the contest.

Enjoy.

Ollie’s reaction when learning that the beer he’s on contains no alcohol. Frame: Volume

Ollie Henry! You’ve got a new edit out and it’s great. Tell us about it. 
Ah, thanks. I always wanted to make a real ‘coming out’ clip but I kept pushing it back. At my age it feels like I’m still getting better, even now I look at things that were shot six months ago and think I could have gone bigger or been deeper, so you just have to release something before those clips get lost forever. Volume is the result. 

What’s your backstory?
I was in born in New Zealand before we moved to Australia when I was two-years-old. I grew up on the Gold Coast, then my parents moved over here to West Oz for Dad’s work when I was 12. Was sick growing up on the GC, I used to surf with Brenno Dorrington heaps, and the rest of the Dozza family, and I’m still good mates with all of ’em. 

At first, I hated it over here. There were maybe five sharks attacks right when we moved and I’d been so happy surfing Snapper up till that point. I was pissed they’d pulled the pin, it really felt like I got thrown in the deep end. I’d always liked the idea of heavier waves but then when you’re a kid and start paddling out at Rabbits you’re just thinking, ‘oh my god, this is fucked!’ It’s so heavy, and there are rocks and stuff everywhere in the water over here, whereas there’s none at Kirra! Pretty stoked looking back now as I got to experience both of those types of set-ups where most people only really get one or the other.

Did you do any comps growing up?
Not really. I liked the idea of it; being down at the beach, hanging out with your mates all day. I just didn’t really like heats. I went in Taj’s grom comp every year and would always make the round before the final, but I never really cared. I’d see other groms lose and start crying and I never understood the big deal, I just surfed because I thought it was fun. A funny memory is when the Yallingup Boardriders put me in a QS event at Yallingup Mainbreak when I was 17 and I just went out and did little punts ’cos I could barely string a turn together. I was against Jacob Willcox who was going so vertical, getting eights and nines, and my little air-revs were getting nothing! Ha!

Don’t worry, Ollie — we rate your airs. Photo: Anj Semark

What’s it like growing up doing Taj’s event and now being mates and surfing together?  It’s pretty cool, we link up a bunch to surf and have a beer every now and then. He roasts me pretty hard for having two first names, which is pretty funny. I went to his place yesterday and spoke about Hawaii. He gave me the run down on the joint which was cool, it’s mental having someone like him to ask for advice. Surfing stuff aside he’s just a really good bloke and great to hang out with.

Who were your favourite surfers growing up?
Andy Irons was amazing, and Dane obviously, but Laurie Towner was always someone I looked up to. Every pro goes out and does crazy turns or crazy airs, but he always had a mix of everything, whether it was two-foot or 20. I actually lived for a while in Angourie when I was nine and I’d see him around. Was mental. He would have just got back from Code Red Chopes or something skitz and I’d be thinking he was the biggest maddog. 

He was in WA for a stint last year, did you surf with him at all?
Yeah, that was the first time I’d actually hung out with him properly and he was super cool. He pulled me out of the biggest bog hole on a 4WD track. I went straight through a deep puddle and got so stuck and he skull dragged my fourby out.

When you grow up idolizing Laurie Towner, it is unlikely that you’ll ever be drawn to the QS.

You say you never really liked comps, when did you decide you preferred waves that weren’t so friendly? 
I remember an old Surfing Life DVD back in the day had all these crazy Shipstern waves in the credits. I never watched the main movie again after that, I’d just skip straight to the end every time, and slowly I started to think that maybe that could be me one day. Then I moved to WA and the waves got so much heavier, and I’d see people surfing crazier and crazier waves and slowly started stepping it up a bit myself. When I was around 15 it felt like I was starting to challenge myself a bit more than most other groms my age. I met a few crew who were going down to The Right all the time, guys like Zac Haynes, Jake Osman and Henry Davies, and in 2018 they took me down there just to watch. I was tripping out thinking there was no way it was surfable, then you see guys catch waves and think, ‘okay, maybe it’s doable, kinda’. The second time I went down I got my first wave, a 12-footer that was the scariest shit ever, and the rest is kind of history. 

How long have you been sponsored by Rusty for? 
Since I was 17, so coming up on four years. I’d never had a main sponsor before then other than my parents! I’d just started making these little Instagram edits and a mate, Hummer, sent them to Luke Clark, the Rusty team manager. They started supporting me a little bit straight away and I’ve slowly worked my way up with them after that. I don’t have a contract that says what I have to do, I’ve pretty much just been told to “do me”, which is perfect as a free surfer. Like, I started surfing The Right ’cos I think it’s fun, not ’cos my contract says I have to or anything. Fun, ha!

If you “do you” for the next few years, what does that mean?
We are filming for a Rusty full length at the moment. That’s taking up a lot of the time. I’m also going to start making YouTube videos with my mate Rex (Nink-Mowday). I’m not that serious of a person generally so I want to show that side of me a little bit, and show a bit of the backstory behind some of our trips. As a surfer things pop up with media like Stab occasionally, so it would be cool to get the hit up for some trips and projects.  As for my own projects I’m going to make little adventure clips of our trips and start a web series on my personal YouTube. I have the first episode ready to come out after Volume is released.

Have you got a bucket list of waves you want to chase?
100 percent, I definitely want to go and hunt Shippies, that’s right up there for me, especially after surfing The Right. And I want to surf good high-performance waves too, not just heavy waves. I haven’t spent much time in Indonesia, so would love to get up there and throw some punts into the wind and get pitted. Covid has killed travelling these past few years, but that’s okay, it’s allowed me to do a heap of trips at home. I’m pretty ready to hit the road now though, that’s for sure. 

Fully stacked. Photo: Nick White

Do you work? 
Used to work a bit up until this year. Mostly part time stuff during summer if I couldn’t get out of Yalls. I did some arborist work on a big property, tree maintenance, back-burning, that kind of thing. That was with a local surfer, Geoff North, he has two groms who rip (Otis and Remy), and they’re both sponsored by Rusty too, so he hooked me up with the gig to help me out and keep me busy when there were no waves. Rusty was paying me too then, but it was nice to top it up to save for upgrades to the fourby and have more travel coin. Before that I did night-fill, stacking shelves all night at Coles supermarket for five years through school. I didn’t mind it, but I’m happy to be done with that. 

What are your intentions in Hawaii?
Just go over and feel it out really. I’m trying to not go in with any expectations. All I’ve got is the advice I’ve been given and the hours of videos I’ve watched. It’s pretty cooked trying to balance that out to be honest. I’m doing it how I want to do it and seeing what happens. Laurie told me just to go and sit at Off The Wall all day, so that’s all the advice I need I reckon.

A lot of people put their names on the map out there. Laurie did it. 
That one he got was so tapped! He did the same at Shippies on that Billabong trip, that one he got is still the craziest shit ever. Even though he didn’t quite make it I think that’s best wave ever, paddle or tow, out there. I’m a huge Russell Bierke fan as well, he has packed some hoggy ones. Always makes shit look effortless too. I’m not really putting any pressure on myself to go over there (to Hawaii) and do another Surf100 thing or anything, just to have a dig.

Both Russ and Laurie are Red Bull Cape Fear competitors, is that the kind of comp you could get behind? 
That’d be pretty sick. I wanted to get in last year but didn’t have much luck talking to anyone. It’d be nice to have a chance, and actually be noticed as someone that’s pushing it when its bigger.  I don’t think there are too many guys my age pushing it, are there? Russ and some of the east coasters are pretty skitz but they’re a bit older, 25 or so, I’m 20. Whose DM’s do I have to slide into to get this fucking sussed? [Laughs]

Talk us through your Surf100 bomb at North Point. 
That was pretty funny. I’m mates with all the guys who were surfing in it, and all the filmers too. I remember Tom Jennings told me what was going on and sorta saying I should try stay out of the way, which I just laughed at. I was stoked on what they were trying to do, but North Point was on, and I definitely still wanted to go and get a good wave. 

I figured the guys in the heat would be trying to catch every wave to get scores so I grabbed a bigger board and sat out the back minding my own business. It was a 20-second period so even though it was really slow I knew there’d be bombs. I was paddling out when everyone else went past on the skis, so that kinda fired me up too. I would have waited three hours for that wave, it just happened to come during the window, and it was definitely my turn. 

You’re mates with Jack Robinson, how did he feel about you getting that wave?
I think he was pretty happy really, ’cos it kept the other guys off it and helped him win. He offered me $300 a bit earlier to give him a bomb set if one came through, and I just laughed at him. Then when it did come he was sorta yelling that at me again, but I was always gonna go. Three-hundred bucks? I’m not that broke bruz!

How much would it have taken?
Five-grand maybe? 

[Skip to 1:11:30 to watch the $5k wave]

Five-grand! 
Mate, waves like that don’t come through at North Point that often. That’s the best wave I’ve ever had out there, they normally wash through. It was really high tide and really big period so it somehow held up, without being a wash-through set, and then it just ran. I could have been a bit deeper, but you can’t always time things like that, it happens how it happens. 

You got a bit of publicity out of that wave too.
Yeah, but that doesn’t mean much. A lot of people were stoked I got that wave in amongst all the comp guys, but a lot of them thought it was the best wave of my life too, which it definitely wasn’t. I was more pumped I’d got a clip for my edit. I didn’t actually think Stab would run it in the Surf100, so that was cool too. 

And the edit? 
It’s called Volume. The waves I like to surf have a fair bit of volume, and it has Ol in it too haha. Simple. 

Got it. Tell us about the crazy last wave at The Right. 
It had been a long day out there and we, me and Phil Read, were done. We were sitting in the channel and had packed up when we saw this five-wave, freight train set roll through. It went 12-foot, 12-foot, 15-foot, 20-foot, 15-foot, and we lost our minds. You can’t leave when you see that, so put the rope back out, and waited another hour and a half. Finally saw a lump coming, 500m away, and you know you’ve got 30-seconds or so to get ready for it. I ended up a little deeper than I thought I was gonna be after I let go of the rope and I was just thinking, ‘holy shit, this is what it looks like when you drown’ but knew I had to give it a go. It was real south and started to fold over and I was thinking I was done. I’d made a couple of similar, smaller waves that day so knew I had the right line, so I was just held my line and tried not to get my board sucked up the face because I don’t use tow straps. Luckily it worked out and I made it. 

You never know how big it is behind you just how heavy it feels, but after I came out Rex was in the channel and gave me the nod, and another mate was just shaking his head at me. It wasn’t till I saw a clip later on that I realised it was pretty solid. 

What do you want people to think when they watch your edit?
Whatever they want really. I make these for me because I love chasing waves and filming with my mates. Hopefully everyone can see I go alright in small stuff too, I’m not just a dude who grabs the rope when it’s big. Would be sick for a kid to back the edit hard and put it in his regular pre-surf video rotation too though, I’d love that!