Ari Browne Is A Child Of The Rainbow Region
This spinning disk kills surf fascists.
”I often wonder what it would be like to look at Byron with fresh eyes,” says Ari Browne as we stand in his front yard examining his diverse spread of surf equipment. “How weird must it be?”
The 23-year-old, best known for his exploits on the Rabbit’s Foot, a finless asymmetrical instrument shaped by Californian shaper Ryan Lovelace (who may or may not live in a bus) is arguably the best surfer in the world when it comes to unorthodox, eccentric surfing.
Why so serious surfing? Ari and a crew of Byron beatniks are bringing the larrikin back to Australian surfing, and then taking it to another planet entirely. This is the chosen transportation for Ari around the grounds. Perfect for scene reports from The Pass and for getting to the church on time.
“Dude, I dick shred that goat boat,” he says pointing to the decommissioned Ocean Kayak on the ground in front of us. “The next step is a Curren look back (re-entry).”
Born in Newcastle, on the NSW mid-north coast, Ari and his brother Raf relocated to Byron Bay as children with their schoolteacher parents. Enrolled in the local Steiner school, (“They treat you as an individual basically,” he says), homework at the beach between surfs and eating dinner cooked on the beachside hotplates, their upbringing was pure aqua-bohemian bliss. It was here, during their standup bodyboarding sessions, that the seeds of their whack surfing future were sewn.
“I remember a session where I was like, ‘Woah. I’m having so much fun. I couldn’t be having this much fun on anything else,” recalls Ari of his early finless experiments, long before Derek Hynd arrived in the town and popularised the pastime.
Ari tiptoes around his yard stepping over several board designs I don’t have a name for, before settling on his latest invention – the breakdancing surfboard. It’s a mid-lengther with a spinning disc (painted with the yin and yang symbol) drilled into the middle. When Byron’s go-to point break The Pass is two foot and running, Ari’s favourite move is to find a high line, walk the plank and sit on the disc and spin. “It’s pretty pressurised (a variation of the term ‘cooked’ which is rife in the region),” he admits.
A child of the Rainbow Region, Ari’s head would spin in the whirlwind of crafts and chaos that turned out on a day of waves at the points.
When you watch Ari surf his Ryan Lovelace ‘Rabbits Foot’ you realise that this is anything but a novelty. Not only does Ari look like he’s having fun, he also rips harder than pretty much anyone in the lineup, and that’s a pretty significant call considering the calibre of the surfers that he regularly surfs with. Tubes, carves, cheater fives in the pocket, you name it. All at maximum velocity and with the smoothest style imaginable. Don’t be fooled by the apparent ease at which Ari operates this alien craft, riding one of these things is like trying to catch smoke: more or less impossible.
“I’ve always been interested in the oddities in surfing – a standing wave, or someone doing something I’ve never seen before,” he says. “I like spontaneity in surfing.”
You get more than spontaneity at his local, The Pass, however. He recalls the time an Indian man paddled out on a board with no wax. Unable to figure out why he couldn’t paddle on the board, let alone stand on it, someone told him to go in and wax his stick. The man took the advice, returning with the deck, bottom, rails and fins all covered in sticky bumps. “It’s cooked. Dead cooked. No one can surf up here,” he says, though adds, “There’s always something laugh about in the water though, which is sick. There’s always someone doing something they shouldn’t be.”
Lately, it’s dawned on Ari that he might be surfing’s problem. As surfing stumbles through the post-modern epoch, and the mishmash of crafts and approaches it brings with it, a local and very vocal element of surf fascists has found voice in the Byron Shire. Their pet hate, the dreaded ‘squirrel’ aka surfing ‘hipsters.’ At the head of the track to Broken Head, one of the region’s best sandbars, you’ll find a sign with an image of squirrel with a red strike through it.
“It’s like the boogie boarding/standup thing, but with dudes riding alternative equipment versus dudes riding a thruster,” begins Ari. “But it’s too confusing. I don’t know what the fuck it means. Everyone is full of contradictions anyway. Whoever put that sign up I’m sure has a bunch of single fins and rides different boards from time to time.”
A born and bred local with friends in both camps, Ari could well be the guy to bridge the gap between the haters and the fakers. Someone that’s exceptional in the water cannot be dismissed, regardless of taste.
Managing to get a board without fins this on rail without sliding out is quite the physics lesson. Part design, and a whole lot of time and talent.
“I don’t think surfing should be taken seriously. It’s about having fun and doing fun stuff with your friends. I always see people get caught up in the macho egotistical side of it,” he says.
“It just seems like everyone is trying to do what the pros do. No one is trying to express themselves like they should. They just see the best in the world, and try to replicate it.”
He doesn’t let the squirrel-posers off the hook, either. “They look the part but they’ve got nothing to back it up. They love to appear like they’re community minded, but 50% of them are just in it for the chicks…Just be yourself and have fun. You don’t have to be a pseudo-hippie just because you’re in Byron Bay. You can be whoever you want. That’s the best thing about it,” he says.
His advice is to just let go and soak in the vibes. “Half the time you’re out of control anyway. It’s just a matter of relaxing into it and enjoying it,” he says.
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