The Stab Interview: Noa Deane
Noa talks public perception, competitive surfing, anxiety, and Hawaii after his first full year on Volcom.
After a week stint filming the closing section for Head Noise in Margaret River, it was about time Noa and myself sat down to ‘work’.
In reality, Noa had ‘worked’ over the past week in front of Mikey Mallalieu’s RED: stomping what’s arguably the biggest ‘oop at North Point, getting chased in from Box by a great white, and even making the odd tube. But what constitutes work for Noa, differs to what work is for me.
Noa, Mikey and myself had red-eye flights out of Perth that night. So as we cracked the remaining Emu tins, Shaun ‘Chun’ Manners fired up his barbeque, and Tom Jennings talking boogin, I threw my phone on record for what was a two hour conversation with Mr. Deane.
By no means however did these couple of hours result in worthwhile questions and answers. In fact, most of it was brimming with mid-conversation interruptions, longwinded tangents, and Chun’s pickguard-less guitar blaring over the top of the audio.
Thankfully, as the April sun set in Chun’s backyard, and our blood alcohol limit teetered towards the driving limit, the conversation covered enough ground to be considered an ‘interview’.
For brevity’s sake, we’ve taken the best of that conversation and trimmed it into a consumable package below.
Noa Deane, North Point, and a setting sun align.
Stab: So, first year on, finishing up your profile film, how does it feel joining the Volcom family?
Noa: I’ve always been into Volcom. I’ve always thought they were one of the only brands that were super sick and not doing anything… weird.
It’s kinda less like a job when you love the company. Now I’m going on trips with Coleborn, Ozzie and other really good friends.
Yeah, it’s a sick fit. Was there really a bidding war between brands when your contract ended with Rusty?
Nah, that’s so funny, it didn’t happen at all. Who wrote that?! [Laughs]
Someone threw a figure out to someone, and I was so off it, because everyone knows what the figure is now. I went on my first trip and surfed like the biggest kook because I was thinking about how much i was getting paid so I better fucken rip.
About that, do you reckon you’re the ‘marquee surfer’ for Volcom?
Nah, that’s so heavy. If people are thinking that, that’s pretty eggy.
Honestly, to me it feels like everyone is on the same plane. Everyone’s on the same trips as everyone else, following their own paths, and all surfing sick. It’s like a family.
Like, the Hawaii set-up was so sick in the Volcom house. Other times I’ve gone over there, you have to just stay in some random’s house.
Everyone was super nice and really sweet. I guess everyone is keen to see everyone get some waves.
You certainly earned your stay at Pipe [semi-final finish in the Pipe Pro]. Did you put pressure on yourself or feel like you had something to prove heading over?
Ahh, a little bit.
You have to really want it, and you have to sit out there for ages. The more you surf Pipe though the more waves you get. I just tried to block everything out and try and get good waves. I didn’t have a particular strategy in my head for the comp.
The bonus of doing a comp at Pipe, though, is the further you get through, the more waves you get.
There were a few waves where I was still sort of sitting on the shoulder just cause I’m used to sitting further in when it’s crowded. It’s confusing too since there’s no one out there, it’s hard to know whether you’re sitting out far enough without that guiding pack.
What about that bomb you packed at Backdoor? That thing was fucked up.
Yeah [laughs], everyone was pretty frothin’.
I kinda paddled for it, then pulled back for one second – you can kinda see it on the footage – then I thought, ‘you’re already in it, you’re gonna go over’ and then I just went. I thought Gavin was going left and I was looking over my shoulder the whole time. Thinking back, the left on it was fucked up, I should’ve gone that.
I was on a big board too, I was riding a 6’8”. I nursed the bottom turn and just waited until my rail set, just bottom turned under the lip and for a sec thought, ‘this thing is sick, it’s not gonna close out’.
It sprayed me in the eyes when it spat and then just closed out. I got pretty fuckin’ demo’d.
Did that light a little bit of a competitive fire under your ass?
Kinda…I used to do comps a bit when I was younger, and yeah, I guess I used to have that drive but I’m just not very good at [comps].
I never really made that many heats [when I was younger], I had little moments, like winning state titles, but when I was that age it was pretty much Matt Banting just fucking smoking everyone for five years straight. After you get knocked every heat for five years, you just get over it [laughs].
Did you ever picture yourself been on tour?
I wanted to [as a grom], but I guess that slowly went away when I couldn’t make a heat, I don’t even dislike the tour, but I don’t like the thought of wasting a year on the QS.
No one does. So, hypothetical, Mikey Wright scenario, they offered you a position on the tour, without the QS, would you do it?
I don’t know, it looks good, but then like there’s some pretty suss waves on there. They’ve got Keramas on there and I can’t really surf that wave well…
I’d rather just get fucking air sections all day and surf for eight hours and put out videos; rather than fly all day for a comp, have a goal to make heats, get knocked first heat, be fucking spewing, and then you can’t even surf the joint afterwards cause everyone’s still there. You’re not really hanging out with people either, you’re just copping the same thirty cunts everywhere. Nothing wrong with the dudes on there, it’s just that you probably won’t have any mates on there with only 30 blokes.
I think the tour’s alright though, two guys out, with priority—the no-priority stuff is so torched. I guess getting all those waves uncrowded would probably be the only reason [I’d consider doing it].
There’s so much crazy hype around it and shit as well.
You think that’s a detriment to your career, not doing the tour?
Nah, I don’t think so – I don’t think it would help me being on there – if I could even get on. I’d just think about everywhere else I’m missing while on the tour while surfing shitty Snapper in a comp.
Is that it though? Or do you think competition holds surfers back? Does it encourage safety surfing?
Mmm, it’s not safety surfing, but there’s dudes that land airs consistently and I just think they should be firing up a bit more.
I think if John John did a full year just surfing and getting clips he would put out the most fucked up edit. Better than any surfing he does in a comp.
What are your thoughts on filming for clips compared to just plugging it on social media? Your Instagram used to be pretty torched.
People just fucking slap shit up [surfing footage] everywhere, but I don’t do that.
You’ve already seen everything now when a clip comes up, so people go, “Nah, I’m not going to watch that edit, since that would require me to go online and look it up.” People just sit on Instagram all day. People uploading all their best and new footage direct to it just makes the cycle worse.
It seems like there’s not many people putting shit out [full clips] now because of it. I mean, Mikey and I could’ve almost turned what we’re working on [Headnoise] into, like, a full film with all the leftovers. [Ed’s Note: A Film Of The Year nominee, the 13-minute heater isn’t not a full film—though we appreciate Noa’s humility].
What about anxiety when filming? I know Cluster was a dark period for you.
I got really angry [filming Cluster]. I was just trying so hard to get shit done. I was so burnt out towards the end of it—everyone was I guess. I was just fucking stressed.
There was a deadline to get all the footage. There was just shit I wanted to do and I was so stressed out. I didn’t even really watch it and I was over it and burnt out by the time it was released.
I was stoked, but burnt out.
Well, it turned out sick. Have you loosened up on yourself since then?
Sort of, I don’t really get like that anymore, I’ve got more patience with not landing airs. Last week was fucked though, that drove me fucking mad, I did like 10 airs, didn’t land one and it was pretty hard to stay fucking positive when that happens.
It gets to a certain point and you’re like, “fuck that”.
Do you think there’s any flaws in your surfing? [At this stage, Head Noise was looking pretty complete]
Yeah, backside air reverses, I pretty much can’t fucking do em. My backside in general needs a little work.
At the moment I’ve just been cruising and trying not to worry about how I’m surfing. I feel way more comfortable about my boards and how I’m surfing when I’m in that headspace.
You shouldn’t like your own style though, that’s just wrong.
[Laughs], yeah I was gutted the first time I saw myself surf. Have you ever tried to change your style?
Yeah, everyone has to, you pick up weird little ticks in your surfing and you have to try and iron them out.
I think I had to stop just racing on every wave to do an air. Honestly, I had to like concentrate, and go “alright, I’ve gotta do turns” and I’d be so bummed taking off, and then realised how bad my mentality was to doing anything but airs.
Surfing bigger pits was another weakness. I just worked out that you have to back yourself a little more, then I started to realise that most of the time you’ll actually be sweet. It’s hard to work that out in your head though and constantly think you’re going to get lit up.
Do you think there’s a misrepresentation of you, as far as your public perception?
Nah, not really, I think I’m a bit more low-key now though than when I as younger. I’m not really trying to have my own scene now, I just couldn’t be fucked anymore.
It’s not that I don’t care either, because everyone cares, well, except for dudes like Christian Fletcher, cause he really doesn’t give a fuck.
You wanna to talk about that whole fuck the WSL thing, and how that affected you mentally? You saw a therapist around that period, right?
I feel like I was getting a lot of coverage before that incident. I got heaps of covers that year and there were a couple of people just waiting for me to do one thing negative and then blow out of proportion. And that moment was the “Fuck the WSL” thing.
I was honestly tripping that people gave a fuck.
Rusty fined me 100k, but there were no follow ups from the WSL. A few surfers were bummed because I said it though, they sort of thought I meant I wasn’t backing their surfing [on the tour] or them as people.
That’s not what I meant at all, it was a three word phrase, and it just got blown out.
It was system overload with so much happening in such a short period of time. Going to see someone really helped. I just needed a little bit of clarity, and that’s what seeing someone helped with – clarity.
Yeah for sure, it’s difficult to see through that mental fog sometimes. What gives you clarity now?
Playing music – it’s just doing something outside of surfing, and rigging shit up, it feels kinda good. It feels like you’ve done something.
I like lining [guitar] cables up, taping them up and making them look good.
Recording music is a big part too. If you write it and don’t record, it it feels like you haven’t done anything and it’s still stuck in your head.
So yeah, when I have a lot of time, then I focus on music.
I used to get all caught up and rattled about surfing, but now I just don’t worry about anything, I just focus on my own surfing and not what the rest of the scene is doing. For me, it feels good to just be surfing all day.
I’m really lucky to be able to do what I do.
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