Ozzie Wright On 22 Years Without A Jersey
Ozzie discusses his two-decade career of staying free.
(Ed Note: For the next eight days, Ozzie Wright, arguably one of the most influential surfers of the past two decades, will be taking over as our Guest Editor. The first in his editorship is "22 Years a Without A Jersey" – tricks to playing the system in your favour. Read on.)
I’ve been a professional surfer for 22 years – since I was 19. So much of it has to do with luck. Luck and work ethic. I’ve always felt the need to put a lot of energy into surfing because it’s something that makes me really happy and that I love. I didn’t start surfing because I wanted any money out of it.
I remember as a kid, talking to my friend, Steve Clements (whose son is Kobi Clements, he's now ripping on the Volcom Surf team). I remember him saying, “Just imagine if you could get 200 bucks a week to surf. That would be amazing. Just make enough to live and enjoy the waves.” That became my mindset. I would’ve lived in a tent on the beach for the rest of my life if I could make enough money to eat. It was all I wanted to do. Before that, as a kid, I discovered Tracks Mag and the whole surf scene.
The first job I really wanted was to be an artist for a surf company. That’s what I thought I could do. I didn’t realize at the time that I was surfing good enough to be able to get paid. Then I got signed by Volcom. It was a one year deal that was $20k for the year. I still lived at home, but that, at the time, was good money. It was like 500 bucks a week. Then I was able to get a few other sponsors, so that helped here and there. I spent my money on travelling and luckily my parents were happy to let me live at home. My dad was a hardcore surfer, he was obsessed with it. My parents were a huge support in the early days.
I would’ve lived in a tent on the beach for the rest of my life if I could make enough money to eat.
Once I was able to get paid to surf, I kept working. I wanted to be able to do every trick that anyone else was able to do. I wanted to make up new things. Then I was just a full surfer/skater. I wanted to do Ollies and chop-hops over everything. I wanted to spray paint everything and go around the world and meet every person in every country. I wanted to use what I had available to surf everywhere. I loved to travel and loved getting into different scenes.
Once I got on my aerial trip, I became obsessed with it. I’ve always been able to do cutbacks. After I started doing airs, it was all I wanted to do on every single wave. When I was a teenager, there was this guy named Dave Neilson. I think he was the first guy to do aerials in Australia. When I saw that, I thought it was so sick and started doing them.
I just wanted to do something different. And to keep surfing and getting paid to do it, I needed to show that I was self-motivated, that helped me keep Volcom as my sponsor for so long. I didn’t want to be a guy who was just going to sit there and do nothing. If any of my sponsors were working on something fun, I wanted to be a part of it. I just believe that the more energy you contribute to something then the more you get back.
Wanna get yourself a travel-around-the-world-on-someone-else's-dime kinda gig? Listen to Oz!
I’m always trying to be working on something, whether it be an art show, music, a surf movie or a surf section. I just keep working on these little things and still feel like I’m getting better at them. I feel like I’m getting better at surfing, better at art. Music? Well, that’s debatable but I still enjoy playing. So you know, onwards and outwards. I don’t want to think I’ve peaked creatively yet.
I think surfing is in a really cool sport. It’s evolved to a point where everyone seems to get it. It has this whole collective consciousness of people doing it well. I love what the freesurfers are doing. Guys like Noa Deane, Creedo, Craig Ando, Ellis Ericson, all those guys are just having one hell of a time. Then Mason Ho is my favourite to watch right now. Rasta's whole movement has been huge for surfing. Plus there are the guys like the Newport Crew with Droid and Ford Archbold. And you can’t not mention Dane Reynolds. He’s been huge for the free surfing scene. Also Ryan Burch, he’s my left-hand guy! Alex Knost, Derek Hynd, Dion, Chippa, Chun, the Gudangs, Wade Goodall, Bryce Young, Otis Carey, the Florence boys... the list goes on and on. There are so many people who inspire me.
I wanted to make up new things. I wanted to do Ollies and chop-hops over everything. I wanted to spray paint everything and go around the world and meet every person in every country.
Open your mind and sponsor's wallets will follow.
For the last ten years, on nearly every trip I’ve done, I’ve been the oldest of all the surfers. I enjoy that. I guess that means I'm mentoring in some way, but it doesn't really feel that way. I'm still pretty immature.
If I could say anything to a 19-year-old that wanted to be a freesurfer, I’d tell them to go for it. To go everywhere and meet all the people. To use it to experience as many things as possible. To not sit at home smoking marijuana and drinking piss. Some people just sit around and get stoned and miss it all. It’s important to go everywhere and meet other people. That keeps it going. And to be themselves. If you have an idea, just do it. Don’t be worried about being called a freak, a weirdo, or a wanker. It’s important to be yourself, that’s all you can be, so just do it.