Observations Part III: Noa Deane
From the Stab 2013/2014 Big Book: The evaporating dull of Noa Deane’s world, in which the latest flaming candle from the Gold Coast opens the door to success, failure, a family portrait and the honeymoon of being a teenager beholden to the nineties… Story by Elliot Struck | All photos by Matt O’Brien Noa Deane, eighteen […]
From the Stab 2013/2014 Big Book: The evaporating dull of Noa Deane’s world, in which the latest flaming candle from the Gold Coast opens the door to success, failure, a family portrait and the honeymoon of being a teenager beholden to the nineties…
Story by Elliot Struck | All photos by Matt O’Brien
Noa Deane, eighteen years old, is a ferociously collected child of the 90s. He was born and lives in a place called Coolangatta, the mention of which should inflate your mind with a collage of Joel Parkinson and Mick Fanning, Snapper Rocks and Duranbah, Commodores and Falcons, once-glamourous facades ageing in the salt air and the unrelenting flash and trash of Surfers Paradise burning in the distance.
Noa, however, is none of these things. He does not surf in competitions like Mick and Joel. He’s not fond of the crowds at Snapper, especially when it is good, and he is perplexed by Duranbah. Nor is he the type of man to care for shimmer in his belongings: “I’m never gonna buy a fifty-thousand dollar car,” he says. “I don’t need it.”
But Noa is no hater! His dialogue swells with frequent laughter and he is considered. He may hate Duranbah but he also loves it and surfs it more frequently than anywhere else. And when he does surf it, he does huge airs into the wind. Sometimes full-rotation but he also has straight airs dialled more than most (Chip Wilson, Australia’s best aerialist, says straight airs are the hardest to do well).
And yet there’s more, another line. Noa was raised by Wayne Deane, an extremely well-regarded surfer – a man’s man if y’wanna know – who celebrates classic lines and power, power, power! And so Noa has absorbed this from his Father and also appreciates power. He has unpredictability and flies and often hangs by a thread but is there any better kind of surfing to watch? Noa sometimes shapes his own boards, another skill he learned from Wayne, and believes there are few thrills greater in surfing than shaping a board that moves with electricity.
Surfing is everything in Noa’s life but music is also everything. Particularly the kind of music played by people like Kurt Cobain and Thurston Moore but also by people like Neil Young. The latter was a gift from Ma, Colleen, who is also a famous surfer. She introduced Noa to Neil Young, which then became a gateway to other folk music. Noa now likes grunge because he hears elements of folk. He released a digital short last year that was cut to Nirvana and it was raw and exciting.
The last two years have been excellent for Noa. Having removed coffee and the ensuing paranoia it brings from his life, and now flying under the wing of a company that gives him the freedom to exist as he chooses, Noa swirls through the ether and reminds us how fun surfing is. He jams, shapes, surfs, and lives! Is it not infectious?
Stab: First, tell me about your Kurt Cobain-esque guitar kink.
Noa: I’m left-handed, but I have a right-handed guitar that I string upside down so I can play it like a left-handed guitar. Left-handed guitars are really hard to come by, but you can get a million right-handed guitars and they’re way cheaper. I’m ambidextrous. I skate goofy, surf natural, I do everything a different way and playing guitar, that way feels better.
What do you like about grunge? I like punk and I like folk and grunge is kinda in between. It’s not as severe as punk, but still has that element, and nice singing. I do play that on guitar, but I play a bit of everything. I don’t write my own stuff yet. I’ve been writing stuff down, but I haven’t pieced anything together yet. I’d like to. I’ve been playing for maybe 18 months. I can’t read music, that stuff’s crazy. But I read tabs, which are the easier version. They tell you what strings and what frets. Reading music, it doesn’t equate that well to guitar, I think it works better for piano.
Your music palate is all 90s. Yeah, I’d say that, f’sure. I’m pumped on Sonic Youth and Nirvana, and I’ve just started listening to Mudhoney and stuff like that.
You should listen to My Bloody Valentine. Oh, yeah? I should get on that program? I’m trying to pace it out, so I don’t get over stuff too quick. But I’m writing that down right now. My… Bloody… Valentine.
Tell me about listening to music that was released when you were a very small child, and some before your birth. Yeah, it’s weird! Maybe when you’re little, you hear it subliminally. Sitting there as a baby all innocent, and those songs were playing and you absorbed them. Now it comes out of the vault. But maybe not. When I was a kid, dad listened to the Stones, still does, and Mum likes Neil Young. I love Neil Young, too.
Your parents are famous surfers! What’s it like to grow up in a famous surf family? It’s funny, Dad didn’t push it on me, he knew that pushing it on me wouldn’t be a good idea. I got into it myself. He did come and try to help me with contests, then we had this blow-up one day and he said, “No, you’re better doing it on your own.” I’ve kinda worked my way into what I like, now. I’m not very good at comps. Mum and Dad were good at comps, but for some reason, I guess it’s a double negative, but I suck at them. Maybe if I was guaranteed two waves in every heat that I could do a few turns on, I could get through. But I struggle finding waves, it does my head in.
When did you know you weren’t gonna be a contest guy? The whole time, I used to do these dumb flick outs where I’d flip the wave off. Dad used to tell me that the judges would score me down for flipping the wave off. That was when I was 13 or 14 I’d get pissed off and flip stuff off. Then when I was 17 going on 18, doing the junior series, which was only, like, last year, I just couldn’t make a heat. It did my head in.
What changed? You feel like you’re supposed to be doing comps. Then you get old enough to know what’s going on, when you’re maybe 18, and you see people who’ve been stuck in that rut since they were 16. I picture myself doing that and can’t even think about it. How do people do that? It’s a trip-out. Just blow it off and go surf for six months! Rekindle your love for it! You need to freshen up every now and then.
Most coastal towns are home to at least three burnouts. Anecdotal evidence suggests that Coolangatta has more than the average. Discuss. One hundred percent. You go down the pub at home and you’ll hear 40 stories of “Don’t blow it, don’t do this, don’t do that.” People say to me, “Don’t do what I did.” It’s so gnarly for someone to say that to you. “Don’t do what I did.” They tell you about taking it for granted. Always drinking beer, but not getting on the program at the same time. They tell you not to ever think: “I can drink beer and do my job. I’m getting paid, I don’t need to do anything, I can just drink beer.” Coolangatta is littered with those sort of people. From what I’ve heard and what I know, it’s the worst place for that kinda thing anywhere. You’re either getting critical acclaim or you’re not surfing ever again. Joel, Mick, Dean, guys like that have nailed it. Then there’s 30 guys from their generation that were probably better than them when they were young, but didn’t make it.
Coolangatta sounds like a love/hate relationship for you. F’sure. There’s elements I absolutely hate about it. I hate D-bah. I hate that Cooly’s linked to the Gold Coast. I hate the clubs. But I love going to the pub to have a beer, because there’s always someone to talk to. And I like going a little south, like Fingal and Cabarita, ‘cause there’s good waves and good people. Coolangatta’s a weird place ‘cause just up the road you’ve got Surfers, which is the most Jersey Shore place in Australia. There’s also a big bikie presence and heaps of fights, which I don’t like. I like how close the airport is to my house! The consistency with the waves is good, too. D-bah… that’s the biggest love/hate relationship in my life. I hate that place’s guts, but I know how fun it is and how much I need it. I always end up there. There’s nowhere else to go. I don’t like the crowd, I don’t like that south wind, I don’t like all those eggy dudes at the wall.
Are the older gen kind to you because of your lineage? They’re all pretty nice to me, maybe ‘cause Dad back in the day was gnarly to them. He was pretty crazy. I remember one time out in the water, this guy tried to fight him. Dad was was going, ‘Nah mate, go in, don’t try and fight me, I don’t wanna fight you.’ The guy was, like, ‘I’m gonna beat ya up!’ and started swinging punches. Then Dad swung around and the guy held up his board for protection, and Dad was punching through his board. The guy put his head out the side and dad smacked him in the face. It was crazy. I was really young. I’ve heard a few things from other guys that he’d do things like that. He’d never start it, but if he was provoked… I remember Bruce Lee (another Snapper enforcer kinda guy) bit this guy’s boogie-board once, too.
Did your parents teach you to be respectful in the water? Dad did. He caught me swearing at a dude in the water once. I didn’t know what swearing at someone meant. I was 12 and swore at this guy, told him to fuck off for dropping in on me. Dad snapped at me and blew up, like, “What are you doing?” Afterwards, the guy that I’d swore at was calling me a Brazilian for some reason. But, Dad told me to snap out of it and that I couldn’t be a little brat like that. I guess he just taught me everything that you should know about waiting your turn, not snaking people. It’s all stayed with me. Maybe that’s sucked a little for me though, because now I’m overly cautious and don’t catch many waves. And, that’s why I don’t like the Gold Coast.
You don’t strike me as a defensive surfer. I’ve tried to do that but you paddle back out and you have 20 people starring at you like they wanna kill you. You can’t do that. I don’t do it, and I don’t think it’s a good thing. There’s so many random dudes on JS’s trying to be Parko and snaking everyone, which is fucked.
Did you start off on pops’ boards? When I was young, he shaped all my boards. I kinda helped with them, watched, and had some input.
Tell me about the conversation you had when you decided to ride someone else’s boards. That’s a good one, no one talks about that. It’s weird. One day, he goes: “This is doing my head in, I’m not cut out for this. You should start riding someone else’s boards.” I’d thrown some hints in and tried some other boards which were sick. Dad tried to do something similar but they didn’t work. He wasn’t gutted at all, though. It took him a bit to get over it, but then he was pumped. Now I’ve done the full circle, I try to get boards off him and he won’t make them.
Was it strange for your Dad, a traditional shaper, to make high-performance shortboards? Yeah! If you told Dad to make a longboard, he’s gonna make you the best longboard you’ve ever had. Or, single fin, or twin fin. ‘Cause that’s what he does. He shaped for then, not now. Everyone can progress, but not many people can last three generations.
And you shape, too? I’ve been shaping a bit. I’ve been trying to do some thrusters but they’re harder to make. But I made one and took it to Mexico and it was the only board I rode, it went really good. It’s only 5’8” but goes so good. Shaping your own boards is the dream. You get extra zing from shaping it yourself and if it goes as well you’ve got more confidence. And you made it so you’re all anxious to know how it works. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t.
You’re an odd existence considering you’re from the Gold Coast. Your area seems to breed contest kids. Is being different a conscious decision? It’s both. I get a little kick out of it, being on my own program. I don’t see how doing the same thing as everyone else is fun. I look at what they’re doing and it doesn’t look fun to me, going to every ‘QS and trying to get the most Instagram followers. Everything looks so calculated when you go that way. I wanna be looked at as someone who’ll do something different every time. Most of that comes from Dad. He’s a pretty retracted person, doesn’t talk much, and wasn’t about getting famous. He just wanted to surf Kirra and do his things. He’s not phased about fame. He had a good time and that’s all I wanted to do. Have a good time in life.
What makes you most happy in life? Lately, music does. I love music. I wanna be in a band, I think. I get pretty happy after I do something other people like. I like making other people happy. If I do a good clip or get a nice shot in a mag and someone tells me about it, that makes me happy.
What keeps you up at night? Getting bad photos, or putting in heaps of effort and not getting much out. Or if someone else blows it on your behalf, like blows a whole trip’s worth of photos. Stuff like that freaks me out. I don’t have many friends but when they don’t talk to me I freak out. I’ve only got a couple of close ones and when they’re off me I’ve got no one to go to so I freak out and can’t sleep. I had to stop drinking coffee, too. That was keeping me up at night. I was having four cups a day.
Dane Reynolds comparisons are taboo in surfing. But, whether it’s your on-wave lip placement, penchant for shaping or general appearance, they’re comparisons you occasionally scoop. That scares me because I don’t want him to think I’m trying to be like him. That’s what freaks me out about it. I’d hate for him to think that. I put myself in that situation and if I saw someone trying to be like me it’d fucking freak me out. I don’t know if he does or not, I don’t think he thinks I’m trying to copy him ‘cause I do different stuff to him. But some people just like similar stuff. I have no problem taking a compliment like that, though. That’s crazy to think that you get compared to your favourite surfer even the littlest bit.
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