Shawn “Barney” Barron Made Me Laugh, Scared Me, And Was My Good Friend
Ozzie Wright describes his relationship with one of surfing’s loudest and most beloved individuals.
The first time I met Barney was in California.
He was wearing this brown leather jacket that looked like it was from the ‘70s. He had his hair cut into an afro and a huge goofy smile. His eyes were wide open like he’d just seen an alien or something. He was a space cadet, so free and in the moment. Everyone loved him, and he would talk to everyone. Just cracking jokes and teasing anyone in his periphery; Barney was a real open person.
When I met him, I was shy, but we both realized we were into painting and drawing straight away. When we’d do a trip, he would never stop drawing. At the time Gavin Beschen was also into drawing. We’d just surf, surf, surf, and on the way, we’d all be drawing in books and chatting.
Barney was so creative, in everything, but especially as a surfer – he was like a surfing clown, he was so funny. Surfing with him was entertaining, he’d be doing karate chops on waves and yelling. He made you laugh. It was comedy. Then he would do acrobatic stuff. He could do things nobody else could do. I’m pretty sure he was also a gymnast. On land, Barney could walk on his hands. He could do backflips. He had that real athletic, acrobatic body. And he’d put it all into his surfing – his acrobatics, his humor, ideas, art, and his crazy wetsuits. All of his boards were painted, I always liked that because I also paint every board I have.
Barney had no filter.
Any thought that came into his head would be talked about. He just said it out loud. We did heaps of trips together, and when I would stay at his house in Santa Cruz, he was always having these parties. Like half the town would come over to his house; he loved having people around him. At the party, he’d be doing a painting, and all these people would be hanging out. He was the life of it. There were always a lot of girls. He was crazy about girls.
He would literally talk to every girl that walked past him. It was funny. He did well with them, but he also tried with every single one that he saw! He made them all laugh. They loved him.
He had his moments though. He was bipolar, and when he was down it was the flipside of his manic energy. I remember him disappearing for two days in New York. He would do stuff like that, then come back with some crazy story.
It was always a big adventure with him.
Barney scared me a few times. There was one instance in Santa Cruz where he was driving around in his truck, going way too fast around corners. He kept going on about Mind of Minolta. He kept saying it, “Mind of Minolta, Mind of Minolta.” It was worrying. He always had to have his medication.
He was loose. He was Barney.
When he died I was devastated. He was one of my favorite people and the thought of never being able to hang out with him was shattering.
The last time I saw him, myself and Rocky – my son – were staying at his house in Santa Cruz. He was on fire. He was like a ruffian. He had an art show and Rocky was into scary things at the time. Barney was like, “Oh Rocky is into scary things, huh?” Then he kept trying to do all these scary paintings. He was doing these big, crazy devil paintings and stuff, trying to impress Rocky. It was hilarious. We went for a few surfs on that trip and he was still ripping.
Barney’s been such a big influence on my life, art, and surfing. I’ll always miss him.
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