"It's Really Top to Bottom and Hard to Get Into, But that Adds to the Fun" - Stab Mag
Photo: Sturgis

“It’s Really Top to Bottom and Hard to Get Into, But that Adds to the Fun”

Get a glimpse of Simon Hetrick’s east coast existence in ‘Dead April’.

Words by Zack Raffin

Simon Hetrick has firmly cemented himself as one of the East Coast’s top freesurfers.

When I first met Simon, he and his incredibly sweet parents were living in Pennsylvania, dedicating their weekends to driving around to regional comps and making sure he got ample time in the water. Fast forward 10 years, and we as surf fans get to reap the rewards of all of that hard work.

Making it as a pro on the east coast is no easy task. Simon’s DIY approach and unrelenting desire to make his dreams a reality have enabled him to carve a career out of riding waves in and around his Maryland home. Simon’s aptitude for building projects from start to finish has only grown over time, with ‘Dead April’ being the first clip that he has scored entirely on his own (although he had some help from his band Valhöll).

In a world where anyone can slap together clips on their iPhone and call it an edit (or a vlog), Simon’s meticulous approach to production is something we’ve come to appreciate even more. We called him to get the scoop on ‘Dead April’ and find out what he has going on back east.

Photo: Sturgis

Stab: So you’ve come quite a ways since you were beating me in ESAs, what have you been up to lately?

Simon: (Laughs) I’m pretty sure we traded off heat wins back in the day, those were good times. I’ve been at home on the east coast for pretty much a full year, surfing as much as I can, working and jamming. It’s been a change of pace but I’ve really appreciated living in Maryland over this time, there’s not many places like it especially in the colder months. The boys and I have been hopping on the road if the swell doesn’t look good for home, but we’ve had one of the most surf filled years I can remember here in MD, and it’s been nice to be around for every swell and have friends that I usually see on the road come visit.

Stephen Alther and I moved in together last summer and we’ve been spending a lot of time writing music and making noise in our garage. Matt Mcqueeney—who filmed the majority of this piece—is a synth master, and we’ve been having fun nerding out with the keyboard too. 

Where’d you go to film this and how long have you been working on it?

We started filming in January of 2020 when I was in Jersey for the Cold War—since then we’ve been just about everywhere from Maine to North Carolina and hopped on a quick strike with the homies to Puerto Rico. Last hurricane season was a dinger and there were some memorable sessions around New York, Jersey, and home.

Simon-Hetrick-Dead-April

You’ve become one of surfing’s most reliable do-it-yourselfers, editing and scoring almost all of your clips. How do you feel your editing skills have evolved since you first started?

I appreciate it, in the past I’ve made music for my clips but this was the first time we made every piece of music—it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while. It was a challenge learning to record from scratch, but I’m slowly learning and it’s really fun to experiment with. It’s hard to not be critical while chopping up your own surfing and music, but I try to use that in a positive way to motivate me to make it how I want. I try to let the film tell a story best I can, and with this one I wanted to capture a snapshot of life as a surfer on the east coast during the year of Covid. We’re extremely lucky. I’d like to thank Matt Mcqueeney, my parents, and the other videographers that spend their time freezing their ass off on the beach to make this possible. 

What inspirations did you draw from for this piece?

Dane and Mini have always been a huge inspiration to me. I really respect their work ethic and love for their craft. Since watching First Chapter as a kid, I admired how involved Dane was in the production of the film, and everything they’ve done since then has gotten me fired up to surf and create. The RAGE boys have always gotten me pumped to make clips too, and I back how they do everything themselves.

Musically, I’ve been listening to a lot of Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt, Ween, Motorhead, The Clash, Deux, Slayer and a lot more—they definitely influenced the music in the film with or without me knowing it. 

Simon-Hetrick-Dead-April

Delmarva isn’t known for surfing like NJ/NY to your north or OBX to the south. Would you say your zone gets as good as anywhere else on the East Coast?

It can be fickle. It’s really top to bottom and hard to get into, but that adds to the fun. On its day I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. 

On a good winter day, how many guys are you generally surfing with?

Usually just my close friends I grew up surfing with, and sometimes a couple homies from out of town that make the trip. I love how desolate it is in the winter.

What can we expect in terms of music from you and your band coming up?

I’m working on recording an album of my own—mostly acoustic songs—and Stephen, Matt, and I are working on a demo album and a studio album for Valhöll that we hope to have completed by the end of the year. We wanna drop some fun stuff along the way too. I perforated my eardrum during the last swell, so I’m trying to heal ‘er up quick so we can keep recording. 

Are you proud to say you have and Ashton have matching tats?

Hell yeah! Ashton, Gony Zubizaretta and I share the O Pescador tat from Portugal, favorite restaurant in the world!

The shared tattoo as seen on Goggans’ tanned hide.

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