A Competitive Surfer Turned Inner City Artist
"Being a competitive surfer I could never chase that dream of being an artist." – Billy Bain
"Saltwater, it's like a bloody medicine"
Ain't that the damn truth.
This first instalment of O'Neill's O'Riginals tells the tale of Billy Bain; a once competitive surfer who's now turned towards illustration and art, without leaving his love of surfing entirely behind.
We happily consume the backstories of those who are paid handsomely to surf, but they're not the only individuals with worthwhile tales whose lives have benefited from a fibreglass board.
Billy's the son of a former professional surfer, so the fever to surf was always going to be in his blood – and growing up on the beach at Avalon helped a little too.
In earlier years, Billy was a name to be reckoned with; nabbing state titles and taking down now well known names such as Ryan Callinan, Wade Carmichael and last years rookie of the year, Connor O'Leary, as a junior.
A fair interpretation of your typical Aussie coast.
“Like so many kids who show promise as talented juniors, their journey with surfing doesn’t just stop when they finally decide the contest rash vest isn’t for them." Vaughan Blakey, the series director, said about Billy "If anything, it’s just getting started, that’s what makes Billy’s journey so cool. That and the fact he’s doing it on his own terms.”
Instead of chasing a potentially fruitless competitive career, Billy re-directed his focus towards his adjacent passion, illustration and more broadly, art.
He packed up from his suburban beach life on Sydney's Northern Beaches a few years back and moved into the stark contrast of Sydney city to study fine arts at UNSW Art & Design. Although he still punches it eastwards to get a couple whenever he can, and in the case of the above clip, south.
Billy's in touch with his Indigenous heritage and is also keen to evoke some of the grimier aspects of Australian sub-cultures through his artwork – evoked below through 'Blinky Bilge'.
He's not a professional nor competitive surfer anymore, but he's a bloke with a story worth telling who's life has been graced by surfing for the better.
Plus, he can punch it through a tube and jam it on rail, we'll never complain about watching that.
A dark example of what could be considered 'Australian culture'.