Mayhem On The Generation Capturing Photog Known As “Ranthar”
Origin Stories with Jason Kenworthy and images from …Lost’s millennial coming of age.
For generations, influential surfers, popular board designs, and occasionally even brands seem to represent, define, and signify different eras (or decades) of surf culture.
The same can be said with photographers.
For me, lensmen like Ron Stoner and Leroy Grannis defined the 60’s; Jeff Devine and Art Brewer, the 70’s. The 80’s, in all their garish glory,recorded by luminaries like Aaron Chang and our local hero, Larry “Flame” Moore.
While many of these artists have thrived and produce to this day, their best work is associated with certain time capsules.
In our early career with …Lost, and through most of the 1990s, we were fortunate to work close with Flame, who helped us find images for our burgeoning magazine ads, posters and video covers. He introduced us to all the best photographers and really taught us how to “pick the shot.”
Flame was older: From another generation and not really one of our crew….but a skinny, long haired kid, named Jason Kenworthy (who futilely nicknamed himself “Ranthar”) was.
In the late 80’s, Jason was a high school ripper, and regular out at Sat Creek. He was one of the first young crew of kids brainwashed into thinking I could shape a good surfboard. He effectively put himself on my “team”. Jason would come to the Herbie Fletcher factory and write up orders for “Archy” inspired, deep six channel bottom, swallowtails with outlandish skulls and tribal themed paint jobs. He’d take these early, rudimentary Mayhems down to Creek and launch all the airs he could.
I was only a few years older than JK and his crew. Besides building them boards, we did everything together: Surfing, skateboarding, snowboard trips, raging parties, punk rock gigs, mad Mexico missions. He and his group of friends were really the litmus test for what I wanted to create and do with my life. They inspired me, and I rallied them.
When we started …Lost, he was one of the OG crew who embraced and evangelized the ethos. Soon, as things developed, he even helped us finance some projects. In the winter of ’91/’93 he handily inspired and loaned us the money to develop a crude line of “snowboard pants and jackets” as we called them. For a fairly long time during this era, Mike (Reola, Co Founder of …Lost) and I, literally had no car between the two of us. We would commandeer Kenworthy (who at this time had shed his “Ranthar” moniker) and he would generously drive us all over Southern California, helping us run our little …enterprise.
We’d drive to downtown LA, and walk up and down Fairfax Blvd with a wad of cash, negotiating with all the orthodox Jew fabric vendors selling “end rolls” of fabric out of their little industrial retail shops.
Fancy, expensive wool blends that would net seven hats per yard when taken to the hat factories in San Diego.
Richly colored, over-dyed Bull Denim…for hopelessly baggy pants and over-sized walk shorts.
Endless end rolls of assorted flannels patterns, in a myriad of grunge-inspired colors, to be cut and sewn into long-sleeve flannel shirts.
We’d load everything into Jason’s giant, life-sized Hot Wheel truck (thanks, Jello) and race back down I-5, to the sewing houses in Santa Ana and the hat makers in San Diego.
This is how it was done in those days. Whether you were measly little …Lost or Big Ol’ Quiksilver, most everything was still made here in the USA. Usually within a 30-minute drive from your office, or in our case, house.
When we started making surf movies, Jason was there, in front of, and shortly after, behind the camera. (He was the only one of us who could afford a video camera!)
The VHS Jacket to …Lost’s “Momentum 3.”
After we did Momentum 3, Jason and another of the original crew, Ryan Ray, partnered with Mike and me. Together, we made What’s Really Goin’ On. During the course of that video, everyone learned a lot and fought a lot (too many chefs). We had different agendas. Jason and Ryan wanted to go more mainstream, like Taylor Steele, maybe. Mike and I wanted to destroy the whole concept of surf movies and re-write the script. We parted ways. Jason and Ryan went on to make a series of successful surf flicks, while we did What’s Really Goin’ Wrong, 5’5″ x 19 1/4″ and the rest, over the next decade.
Over time, the video boom began to bumble, Jason saw the writing on the wall and transitioned into still photography. To his credit, Jason is one of the last generation of surf photogs to come up in the film era. All his early, seminal work was shot on slide film, before switching over to digital. He quickly learned.
With access to so many good surfers, and his reputation from his video days, he raced up the ranks quickly. This is where …Lost and Kenworthy part two starts.
…Lost’s internationally famous, infamous, and ungodly talented late-’90s and early-’00s posterboy, Chris Ward. “With access to so many good surfers, and his reputation from his video days, he raced up the ranks quickly,” says Mayhem. “This is where …Lost and Kenworthy part two starts.”
“Mr Kasey Curtis. Awesome California surfer. Held his own in Hawaii. Good friend. Important part of our …Lost culture.” -Mayhem
Chris Ward, Mexico, early-’00s. “Incredible image of Wardo,” says Mayhem. “I think this is Baja. We did a lot of marketing with this photo. This one is pretty special.”
Kenworthy would set up Indo boat trips and say, “Hey guys, I’m bringing so and so and so to Indo next month—let’s make them all some boards”.
We would say, “OK, but let’s also get one or two of our guys on that trip, as well.”
The ball started rolling. Even I jumped on trips. Most notably, one ill-fated Mentawais trip, in the early 2000’s, that included Chris Ward and a host of other California hotshots.
Within minutes after we boarded the boat, I clearly remember pulling Jason aside, saying “Hey man, I grew up on boats. This big old sailboat looks decrepitly slow and barely feels like it will float. It’s messy and not well maintained, and looks like a pile of shit”.
He looks me in the eye and says “What the fuck… You’re Mayhem! You taught us all to be hardcore. You told us we were all little surf pussies! Quit complaining and don’t be a pussy! It’s a fucking hard core boat!”.
I had no response. He got me.
Young Kolohe Andino on one of Kenworthy’s Aughties Indo missions.”Kenworthy would set up Indo boat trips and say, ‘Hey guys, Im bringing so and so and so to Indo, next month. Let’s make them all some boards,'” says Mayhem. “We would say, ‘OK, But let’s also get one or two of our guys on that trip, as well.'”
Cory Lopez, filming for 5’5″ 19 1/4 Redux, circa late-’00s.
On the second day of the trip, the engine ceased, and left us listless for a solid day, during repairs. The next day, the generator died. We lost all electricity.
For the next 24 hours we had to gorge ourselves on all the fastly defrosting frozen and refrigerated food, before tossing the rest overboard. The interior of the boat was so hot, that our entire crew slept up on the deck, every night, under the stars…but not too close to shore, because we couldn’t risk mosquitos.
The ice didn’t last long either.
We lived on warm beer, dry goods and canned food… with the occasional fresh fish.
Because we anchored far out, to avoid Mozzies, many of us battled sea sickness when the swell came up. Every once in a while I’d look at Kenworthy, roll my eyes and say “Hard Core!”, with a feigned smile.
In the end, the swell came and Lances Right pumped like I’ve never seen before or since. Way out of my league, and even most of the assorted pros on the boat struggled, But Wardo, good old Chris Ward. He relished and reveled, and put on a display of tube toying like nothing I’ve ever seen. Pure mastery in massive, roll-in double ups. Literally laughing at the waves with giddy ecstasy.
Kenworthy got the shots.
Everyone was happy.
Here’s a few favorites from Kenworthy’s archive:
Julian Wilson, late-2000s. “Short and wide,” says Mayhem. “He loved to take these little fat Sub Scorchers home to the Sunny Coast.”
Ian Walsh, Indonesia. “I love this turn,” says Mayhem. “So much power and G-Forces. I still make him a batch of short boards every summer. He’s an awesome human being. His performance at Jaw last years event was the best big wave surfing ever done.”
Longtime …Lost apostle, and perpetual thorn in Slater’s side since they were childhood rivals, Shea Lopez somewhere in Orange County.
“Carissa Moore, on a Round Nose Fish. For my money, she’s the best female surfer ever. Should have five or six World Titles, but gets bored or distracted. Loses desire. She’s got a couple more in her with ease, but I feel she’s got higher aspirations in life.”
“The Big Fella: Jordy. Been friends with Jordy since he was tiny. I used to stay at his house in Durban, on shaping trips, working with his dad…1996. Jordy musta been 8 years old. I remember teaching him how to Ollie a skateboard up a curb, out front of his house.” – Matt Biolos
Cory Lopez, California late-’00s. The middle Lopez Brother, Cory, was one of the most radical surfers to rise up through the …Lost ranks, and a World Tour threat for years. These days he’s raising kids in Florida, and spending just as much time as ever blowing tail and tossing airs like this at Ponce Inlet and New Smyrna,
“Julian, again,” says Mayhem. “We had a good run together.”
Mayhem, himself, banking a lipper at his beloved Trestles.
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