Creed McTaggart Interviews Ozzie Wright
And discovers the light at the edge of the world!
He’d hate to hear it, but Ozzie Wright is one of surfing’s most influential figures of the last 20 years. Just when the sport looked certain to disappear down a chute of corporate sponsorship, clean skins and fodder for the masses, Oz tore it back open again. He reminded us that colour, creativity and personality are as integral to the culture as anything, and his influence still dances through the generations beneath him. None more so than in Margaret River local, Creed McTaggart, whose eccentric style, cultural curiosity and thirst for adventure has made him one of the more interesting characters in the sport today. “Ozzie was alway just my favourite surfer,” says Creed. “I still get butterflies every time I’m around him, because I just trip out, he’s just the boss. He’s the coolest dude, to me. I’ve always wanted to be like him and do what he does. That’s the whole reason why I started doing freesurfing.” Here, the two speak unscripted in Byron Bay, where they both now live, about everything from Aussie punk to parenthood and the state of surfing today.
Ozzie’s surfing is an extension of his personality: Loose, unpredictable, creative. And most importantly, inspiring. Tell me you don’t wanna go try a method now.
Ozzie Wright: Have you been scoring up here?
Creed McTaggart: Yeah, I don’t wanna leave here ‘cause the waves have been so fun. Got some fun ones at Broken Head the other day, the day after I surfed with Rasta. I was too drunk but the day after that was super fun and everyone got some good ones. I surfed Lennox with Joelly Fitz – he was fucking ripping! I was tripping out, he was just smashing it. I haven’t seen him for years and he recognised me. I was like, sick, and he’s like “yeah, I’m living with Ozzie.”
O: Yeah, in the sick granny flat out there (Ozzie points out the back). Every morning I see him going surfing at 5am and coming back all surfed out and I’m looking after kids, and…
C: He surfs a lot, hey? I was out there for two hours and he was out there before me and was still out there when I came in.
O: He’s a surfing machine. He puts all his boards in his car and he’s gone for the whole day.
C: What’s that brown thing (Creed points to a board in Ozzie’s roof)?
O: Somebody just handed it to me in the carpark and was like “take this, you’ll love it.” I’ve never ridden it. He’s like, “you’ll be so surprised how good it goes,” and I was like “yeah, I’ll give it a go,” but I haven’t had the motivation to ride it. You’d probably know him, he makes those switch-foot books. Legend dude.
C: Have you liked surfing around Byron?
O: Yeah, but I find myself getting frustrated not getting my wave quota like I used to get in Sydney, because the beaches are right in front of you and there’s heaps of waves and it’s not crowded. It’s perfect here but there’s a thousand people. You’ve gotta drive a lot further. I’m feeling a little bit surf starved here.
C: I’ve found living here it’s hard to get really good waves. Like, you have your novelty surfs and it’s super fun. But it’s really rare that you get pumping waves. What else we got (looks at the questions)?
O: (Aussie punk band) WOD’s performance the other night at Bangas pub was classic.
C: It’s funny cos people think that’s how he (the lead singer) is, but that’s…
O: That’s his schtick? Is he just a normal kind of dude?
C: Yeah, he’s just a normal dude.
O: And he gets up there and just goes full showman?
C: Yeah, he’s from the Goldie. He’s this bodyboarder dude and he moved to Melbourne and he’s friends with all the Drunk Mums (Aussie thrash band) and the bands down there, and the Dumb Punts, and he was going to all their shows and they were just like “be a frontman, start a new band,” and he’s like “yeah!” So he started and his shows have a cool following now and he attracts quite a few people and it’s pretty classic. But like, at (Byron Bay pub) The Northern, you shoulda seen him play. He’s playing and he’s like, “I can’t believe no one’s even spat on me or thrown a bottle at me,” and as soon as he said that someone threw a bottle from the other side of the Northern. It was pretty far, and this Coopers Red has just gone voom-boom! And he turns around and it just clocks him right there and he’s like (Creed grabs his face) and they’re still playing and he’s got his head down, so it must have hurt him and then he comes back up and he’s like, “how you feeling out there! And no I don’t care.” He’s bleeding and I’m like “woah!” It was pretty cool. He was wearing these white skinny leg jeans and they were ripped here from crowd surfing and his balls and set up are just hanging out and he had like bloody knee stains. I was like “holy shit!” Pretty crazy…
“I guess trends come and go,” Ozzie tells Creed. “Trends and music and attitudes. But I guess they’re all just youth cultures that come along. I like all of them and try to be part of every one (laughter).”
O: No way.
C: And there was this old bird, she must have been 60, she was so old and she was holding the mic lead for him when he was on the speaker. She was losing it and he’d throw the mic for a bit and she would count down the other song 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 and he’d go “waaaaaaaaaah” straight into another song. It was going off and just contagious to all ages, you know? It was pretty cool. Anyway, what else we got… Are you a hippie or a punk?
O: I dunno. It’s all the same to me. Counter-culture movements. Just different eras had different looking clothes but overall the attitude is…
C: …it’s the same sort of thing…
O: Yeah, it’s the same sort of thing but I guess trends come and go. Drugs and trends and music and attitudes. But I guess they’re all just different youth cultures that come along. I like all of them and try to be a part of every one (laughter)! Some days I feel like one and some days I feel like the other. I have so many different moods in one day, sometimes I’m really peaceful and sometimes I’m like a psychopath. Sometimes I’m really zen and just wanna eat healthy and sometimes I just wanna go on the opposite tangent.
Stab: One of the weirdest things about growing up in this age is that you’re expected to be one or the other. It’s not like you can have interests in various sub-cultures and be a part of them all. There’s always this question of ‘authenticity.’
O: Yeah, that’s just ridiculous. It’s not like you’re not gonna change from week to week and day to day. There’s like 100 personalities inside everybody.
C: I guess back in the olden days there were the punks and the hippies and they were real true to it.
O: Yeah, they were real true and separate.
C: Yeah, like you had long hair so you were a hippie. But it doesn’t happen like that anymore.
O: It’s just a big mash up.
C: You been painting lately?
O: Yeah, I’ve been painting bits and pieces. I did a painting for (Mitch) Coleborn’s girlfriend as a christmas present. That was the only painting I’ve done since I moved into the Dojo (laughter).
Stab: (We are sitting in Ozzie’s studio which looks like a Japanese karate gym.)
C: What do you think of surfing? You must get asked that all the time.
O: Nah, it’s a pretty broad question, but, what do I think of it? I love it, but you know when there’s so much other shit in life the older you get? It all comes along and you can’t focus on it to the point where you’re satisfied. I feel like I want to surf more than I do, more than I am, but I love surfing, and I love the culture and what it has turned into. I think it’s awesome. It’s fucken sick. I’m so stoked on it. It’s going off.
C: And the sea change?
O: I’m stoked, I feel like it’s just gonna start now ‘cause we’ve been moving and been so preoccupied. I’m stoked on it. It’s sick for the kids. Rocky (River Wright) has got his little cousins here. He’s already looking healthier and stronger. He’s surfing right now at The Pass, but you know it’s just sick having heaps of outdoor time for them. It’s the sickest area. We went down to the pub the day before my Goldie’s birthday and she’s alI like “I wanna see the band, I wanna see the band.” We took her in there and it was just packed and she’s on the stage dancing. I feel like it’s a hell of a place to bring up kids.
C: For sure, I was speaking to Joel (Fitz) yesterday and he’s like “mate, this is the best place in the world.” He’s like “there’s fucken chicks, good waves, good music, good food,” he went on with this list and this last week has been full of that. Good waves, good people, good parties.
O: You’re walking down the street and you meet 1000 surfers and everyones’ like “hey, hey!” In Sydney everyone’s like “look at this dooood, he still doesn’t have a job, he’s still trying to milk it.” But up here everyone’s like “yeah, what a legend.” I’m like “fuck yeah!” I feel like I like the people up here. It’s just good vibes, I love driving out and seeing green hills everywhere.
There’s nothing like raw power applied at the right place and right time. Throw in a rare expression of aggression from the ever-relaxed Oz, and it’s even more pleasantly jarring.
C: I don’t know if I could ever live in a city. I love going to them to check them all out, the action. But I’m such a country kid, I wouldn’t even know what to do.
O: I used to wanna live in a city. I was like, I wish Melbourne had surf beaches. If there were waves in the bay I’d live there.
C: Have ya lived in the city?
O: Na, just the (Sydney) northern beaches.
C: Me and Ellis were in New York having the wickedest time. We got sick waves, pumping in New Jersey, we were like “we’re moving here!” We were fully doing it, talking to everyone, and dudes are like backing us, wanting to pay us money to…
O: …drink their coffee (laughter).
C: Yeah drink their coffee and pay us money to put on these surf parties and Ellis was going to ‘sculpt surfboards,’ he was going to be this sculptor and I was gonna… I don’t know what the fuck I was going to do, be some kind of freak out dude. We had that idea for three days and we didn’t sleep for three days, and then we were like “ahhhh, get me out of there!” Fuck, I slept for two straight days after that and I woke up and I was going… I had to go home. I went back to California and went to Hooters and got food poisoning and I was like “Fuck the USA! Get me back to Australia!”
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