"There were a few bad years there before it got better for me—like they say, it's got to get bad before it gets good. I actually broke my back in 2011 and that sidelined me for a while when I was rehabbing it. I didn't want to make a big deal about it, so I didn't really talk about the injury a lot. It actually happened out at Pipe. I pulled into one and the foam ball pushed me toward the beach and then the wave literally broke on my back. The lip flared out as it broke and really compressed and tweaked my back. I came in knowing something was wrong, and then went to the hospital where they took X-rays and said that I had cracked one of my vertebrae. I was on pain pills when the doctor came in and told me that I had broken my back and I was tripping because I didn't think it hurt that bad. It was pretty heavy to hear. From there I spent some time rehabbing and trying to get my confidence back."
"I think that living in Hawaii has kept me pretty humble. People will put you in your place if you're acting out of line and respect is a big part of living here. Even if I wanted to, I don't think I could get all cocky without someone setting me straight. I'm not anything special. Just some people think that I surf well. It's weird to be compared to someone else or for someone to say that I'm better than that person and I'm going to do this or do that. I mean, that's just someone's opinion, right? That's all that is. An opinion. Who's to say that anyone's actually a better surfer than someone else? I'm just surfing. I'm just being me. AI is AI. Kelly is Kelly. Curren is Curren. I'm just trying to be me. When it comes to giving advice to younger people, I always struggle because I feel like I'm still having a hard enough time trying to figure it out myself, you know? I'm not gonna tell someone not to dream big or not to have ambitions or goals because I think that's important. But at the same time, I don't think it's good for young kids to really build their whole view of what surfing is by how well they do in a contest or how well they surf. You should surf because you love it, not because you want a sponsor or a good ranking in the NSSA. If that stuff happens, then great, it happened. But don't surf because that's what you want. You can't force stuff like that. If you love surfing, that should be enough."
"How do I view success in the future? That's a hard one. I feel pretty successful today, because I'm able to make a living out of surfing. But at a professional or competitive level, I think you have to always be redefining your view of success to move forward. If Slater had said that success meant winning four world titles, and he would have stopped there, he wouldn't have gone on to win seven more. You can't put an actual value on success. I think you have to always be reevaluating what it means and always pushing yourself. You want to set goals, but when you reach them, you have to make new ones."
Gabriel Medina has all the traits of a future champion. He's freakishly talented, a well rounded competitor, and probably the most confident surfer alive today. Although that confidence is occasionally interpreted as arrogance, there's no misinterpreting his results. Making it onto the World Tour at Gabriel's age is a feat in itself, standing out against seasoned competitors and finishing in the Top 10 is something else entirely. Between mechanically consistent airs, adept tube riding, and the odd backflip, there are plenty of reasons why Medina is one of the most feared heat draws. Believing in your abilities is the surest way to reach your potential, and Gabriel Medina has proven time and time again that he belongs on the podium.
Ayear ago it looked as if it would take an act of God to derail Kolohe Andino as he began his maiden voyage on the World Tour. As the son of a talented surfer, the poster boy for non-endemic sponsorship, and the product of countless hours of coaching and training and refining, the weight of expectation fell squarely on his shoulders. But even with all the hard work and preparation, bad luck does not discriminate. An ankle injury, months of rehabilitation, and a few frustrating heats made up his freshman showing. But despite his rookie year woes, he held on to his spot among the world's elite. We may not have seen what he's capable of in competition last year, but you need only watch his performance in Dear Suburbia to realize that Kolohe's surfing still lives up to the hype. When he finds his footing on Tour, he'll be in the company of Medina and Florence as tomorrow's World Title contenders.
Jack Freestone takes a seat next to me with bloodshot eyes and arms burned red from the contest jersey down. He confesses he's feeling a little lightheaded, and he's entitled to. He has just become
the World Junior Champion for the second time in three years, a win he hopes will throw water on the hype and pressure that's been coming his way since his first title in 2010. "I got hyped up and some
people were writing me off after last year when I didn't win," he says. "I guess this one is a little bit of a statement."
As the heir apparent to the Coolie Kid throne—now being shared by Mick Fanning and Joel Parkinson—there is no shortage of eyes watching Jack. The thing is, with John Florence, Gabriel Medina, Miguel Pupo, and Kolohe Andino all either on Tour or vying for a World Title, there's no doubt Australia is currently playing catch up. Despite this, Jack is content to iron out the flaws and strap in for the long haul.
How has Coolangatta shaped you as a surfer?
I'd be lying if I said Joel, Mick, and Dean [Morrison]
hadn't influenced me a lot. They were three standouts.
Plus a lot of local guys like Brent Dorrington
and the rest of the guys at D'bah have really influenced
me. I live on top of D'bah hill, so everywhere
I go, there's a famous surfer.
Have you taken on elements of their surfing?
I was always just so entertained by them. I was in
awe every time they stood up. I still am. I pretty
much sit back when I'm with them and watch because
they're friggin' amazing. So, when it comes
to my surfing, I think my approach has more to do
with the variety of waves along the coast—where
I grew up, we have slabs, barrels, rippable waves,
lefts and rights. It's the ultimate place to learn.
Coolangatta can be a pretty heavy place in terms
of violence and drugs. Was it hard to avoid?
It wasn't hard to avoid at all. You just don't become
a part of that shit. I've got a really good bunch of
friends who aren't caught up in that stuff. They're
not into drugs or fighting. Everyone in my circle is in the
surf industry, but that bad side definitely does exist. I
can remember this time when it was like three weeks
in a row where someone died just from getting bashed
to death for no reason. Surfing always kept me focused
and gave me something to do.
The first year you won the World Junior Title you actually
choked pretty bad at Narrabeen and sort of won
by default. Is that one of your flaws as a surfer?
Yeah, it was. I was so new to it. It was my first year doing
the World Pro Juniors. It was pretty much nerves that
got the better of me. It was weird. I just couldn't handle
the media and all the people hyping me up. I didn't feel
like I was as good as people were claiming. It put me
under a lot of pressure that I didn't need.
How do you overcome that? You just don't listen to them. What I took from that, no matter what anyone says, you know who you are and what you're capable of.
At the World Pro Juniors in Bali this year, you stuck one of the better full-rotation alley-oops anyone's done in a contest jersey at this event. Do you favor this brand of surfing?
I guess I do. And I guess it's where everyone is going right now. It's just the most exciting. In almost every event over the last few years, someone has done something big and crazy. Everyone is like, "What does the future hold?" Honestly I have no idea what's gonna happen.
You've had a pretty hectic travel schedule over the past couple of years.
Since 2010 it's been crazy. I've pretty much been living out of a suitcase for two years. I get to go new places and meet new people, which is really cool. But I reckon I've only been home two or three months max in the last year. I'm adapting to it. I think it's a stepping-stone and there are all types of stepping-stones in surfing. You have to adapt to traveling and being away from friends and family and just learning to be places you don't want to be. Right now, I'm loving what I've got.
How much have you studied what it takes to make a career out of pro surfing?
It's not just about surfing these days. There are so many technical things behind surfing. But I don't study it that much. I just deal with things as they come and try to learn from my mistakes. It's all you can do. I've been blessed with the opportunity to win the World Juniors twice and also to grow up in the place where I grew up, with the world's best surfers. So I just feed off them and want to get to where they are.
Are you concerned you're about to disappear down the competitive path and not get enough time to boost the other side of your profile?
I don't worry about that stuff. Usually, when I'm home, I'm filming and shooting a bit and when I'm away and there is no comp on I will shoot and film. Image and profile-wise, I'm not too fussed. Last year I had time to do that and yeah, I just really want to get stuck into the WQS.
What are the key improvements you've made in your surfing?
There are things that I'm trying to learn and it's all the rail and power stuff. And it's really cool because I have the right people around me. There is so much to being a surfer. Skill is only a part of it. It's also knowing the different moments in heats where the worst surfer can win mainly on bad waves, or just knowing what to do in certain situations. So I'm still learning.
Do you feel like you're at a level now that is good enough to match up with the world's best?
That's a tough question. I think almost every surfer has flaws, except Kelly. To tell you the truth, I don't think I'm up there with those guys. I'd like to think I am, but there are still so many things I need to learn before I'm able to compete with them. From what I can see, there are a lot of guys on the WQS who are qualifying who can only do airs. As much as I love airs, to be on Tour, you have to be better than just that. You have to have more in your repertoire. I want to have the best of both worlds. Look at Taj. He's got the airs down, the hacks, the backhand, everything.
A quick scan across the best surfers in the world your age-John John, Brother, Medina, Pupo-doesn't reveal a whole lot of Australians in the mix. And really, not since the Coolie kids have we produced a genuine World Title contender. Have we fallen behind the rest of the world?
You could probably say so. There are a lot of good Aussie surfers, but there are none that have gone on to do what those kids have. I guess there will be in the future. Australia is such an evolving country. It's weird because almost every one or two years, there will be a phenomenal surfer who will come through the ranks from one of the major countries—Gabriel did it, John John did it, Kolohe did it. I think every couple of years, there will be a freakish surfer and hopefully Australia will produce one next.
With a cameo in Dear Suburbia and a starring role in Electric Wilderness, Conner Coffin
continued to expand his freesurf presence in 2012. But he also struck a balance, finishing
third at the World Junior Championships in Bali. Born and raised in Santa Barbara—where
he spent his formative years surfing alongside the likes of Dane Reynolds and Nick Rozsa—
Coffin is in no rush to qualify for the World Tour. A surfer's late teens and early 20s, he says,
is a golden period in their career—a time to smell the roses, or in his case sip spritzers on
the Mediterranean. Just days after the finals in Bali, he was off to Italy to meet up with his
uncle and revered surf filmmaker, Jason Baffa (Single Fin: Yellow, One California Day) to
begin shooting a film about the surf culture there.
So tell us about your trip to the south of Italy.
Half of my family is Italian, so my uncle is working with a wine maker and Chris Del Moro on the project. Basically, it's an opportunity for Parker and I to go over there and work and hang with our family, and it's different than anything I've ever done in the surfing world. It's nice coming from the World Juniors to go over there and kick back and enjoy the culture, hang out, and make the film.
How important is it to you to maintain that balance between the pure fun of surfing and the professional side of things?
Fun is the whole reason I do what I do. For me, every aspect of surfing is fun. In Bali for the World Juniors, I enjoyed every minute of that—but it's a completely different mindset. I've tried to keep a nice balance between fun and competition. Keeping that balance is important. If you don't compete for a while, then when you're in a contest and surfing against the top guys it gives you the motivation to find out how good you are. I think competing adds a bit of drive to your surfing. When you're just freesurfing, you can become a bit lazy.
Is there going to come a point in your career when you're going to have to sacrifice fun for professional obligations?
I think the balance will move back and forth. Throughout stages of my career I've done more events and at other times more freesurfing. In the next year the balance will be relaxed, but once I decide I'm gonna have a crack at the WQS, the balance will go the other way. I just want to keep the balance now and that will make it easier when I have to move more in the direction of doing contests in the future.
How has growing up in Santa Barbara shaped your appreciation of surfing?
There are more surfers up here who just surf because they love to surf. There's less media and less hype around surfing up here. It's a great place to live and there are great waves—well, not all the time, but when it gets good it gets really good. And I think people up here just never cared much about being a pro or being in the eye of the surf scene. There are a ton of good surfers who don't ever travel or do events in Southern California. It's changing a bit, but growing up here has kept my love of surfing pure and taught me to hold onto that throughout my career and not ever see it like a job. I think that's going to help me stay grounded and not take it for granted.
Dane Reynolds, Tom Curren, Nick Rozsa, Bobby Martinez—these are all guys who call your region home and none of have shown any long-lasting affinity for the competitive jersey. Is it something in the water up there?
It goes back to what I was saying before. They all love to surf and they're amazing surfers, but their real drive comes from surfing good waves and enjoying surfing for what it is. Curren had three titles, Dane made the Tour and could have won an event, but everyone up here just loves to surf and maybe they'd gotten into the competition scene and then surfing had become too much of a profession. You can't be a pro without having competitive success at some point in your career. And to compete and surf the best waves with a couple of guys out is definitely really unique and a great thing. And those guys did it for a while, but maybe there's also something about peoples' personalities up here—there's a culture, but no spotlight and once you get into it, if you're not really used to it, it can be hard to deal with. Maybe there's never been someone from here comfortable with the spotlight.
Are you one of them?
I'm pretty much the perfect stereotype from up here. I just try to have fun in all situations and lately it's been more about having fun and surfing how I want to. Not being like, "I have to do three turns. I can't fall off." You catch yourself thinking about seeding points and expectations, and when that happens I find myself tightening up and not surfing the way I want to surf. My style gets kind of weird. I've had to learn to surf in heats almost how I freesurf, and just to keep my style and relaxed approach. The events where I've allowed myself to do that, I've done well.
How important is style to you?
Obviously, it's great to win an event, but the biggest thing about competing is there are a lot of people watching you and people can see the way you surf. It's great to move through heats, but I'd rather have people stoked on the way you're surfing. Style is a huge part of surfing and it's something I'm constantly focusing on.
What have you learned from sharing space at Rincon with the likes of Curren, Dane, Bobby, etc.?
We all live in this area and we each have our own little programs and spots that we surf. I haven't surfed with those guys that much. Surfing with Tom at Rincon when I was young probably influenced my surfing the most. Aerials are a huge part of surfing now, but I think there's a lost sense of linking moves together on a wave and putting together the whole package. There is a lot to be said about someone who can put a wave together with speed, balance, and flow. Watching guys like Tom surf points and Josh Crabtree, who surfs similar to Tom—that's what I always saw and it looked good and to me that seemed like how you wanted to surf where I came from. Later, I've had to learn airs and try to string them in there with it somehow.
It seems you've got this intuitive ability to cut turns off just where they need to be to allow yourself to get into the next section with perfect flow. What specific steps forward have you taken in your surfing over the last couple of years?
Gerr [Brad Gerlach, Conner's coach] has really helped me with stylish surfing. That's what we talk about the most: doing big turns in critical parts of the wave where not everyone's turning and having it look good. And I have that awareness ingrained in me from surfing Rincon and growing up with Curren. You need to have that in your surfing to ride a wave at a pointbreak, so I'm really blessed to have grown up where I did. It's really hard to learn how to do that and it comes naturally for me, so I'm lucky with that one.
You've said in the past you can be "too nice" to your competitors. How's that working for you in the WQS/World Junior Champs game?
Yeah, I probably haven't improved much there. Four-man heats are the hardest part about the WQS. To get waves, being aggressive is the name of the game and it's a constant work in progress. I really enjoy man-on-man heats and that takes that it [aggression] out of it a little bit. In four-man heats, sometimes I feel more aggressive and more up for a paddle battle, but other times I don't want to be that guy and I'll sit off to the side and get my own peak and often that will bite me in the butt. You can't teach someone to be aggressive. It's gotta come from within, I guess.
After the way you surfed in Bali, you'd think you'd qualify for the World Tour in a heartbeat.
The last few years I've really focused on improving my surfing and if there is a Junior Series next year then I will probably compete on it again and try and get a World Junior Title. I've never been rushed to get on the Tour. With John John and Brother and Gabriel—it's rad they're on there so young, but you're only young for a little while and it's an opportunity now to do some really rad freesurf trips. This year, I want to make a movie with my brother [Parker] and some friends. Then, in the next couple of years, do the WQS and try to qualify. I'd love to be on the Tour in the next couple of years. The level is so high and it would be really fun to be a part of that.
Andrew Doheny is sitting on his board in the surf. It's the day after the World Junior Championships, an event in which he'd surfed exceptionally, racking up a third-place finish. Although he fell just short of victory, his zany, unpredictable attack, which contains sprinklings of the last 30 years in progressive surfing—laybacks, lip-bash fin-throws, fade takeoffs on wide Keramas bowls into double-hand drag jams a la Dave Rastovich, and an amusing, though risky gimmick, where Droid would spend an unnecessarily long time riding backward after blowing the fins out—installed him as a crowd favorite. One of his fans now paddles up to congratulate him in the lineup. "Great surfing man," says 1980s style-master-turned-surf-coach, Brad Gerlach. "Really dug the approach."
Droid too is pleased with the performance, though mostly because it vindicated the board he'd ridden throughout the event, shaped in his backyard in Newport. "You don't want to shape a board and surf out there like shit," he says, "because you know what everyone is going to point to first." But this, it seems, is as far as he'll go in terms of considering the ramifications of what he's accomplished here in Bali. While his contemporaries wrangle with the radical emotional and financial fluctuations so typical of this stage in a surfer's career, you're more likely to find Droid in the quietest corner of the room perfecting a new riff on his guitar. The training, the diets, the heat strategizing, the paddle battles, the meticulous study of the latest blockbuster surf video—it's not for him. "I'm just trying to do my own thing and feel my flow," he says. "I'm trying to be an individual and not be anyone else." Though, he admits, the big bosses don't always like it. "They think I'm oblivious."
Original thinking and "feeling your flow" are two very Doheny traits. His great-great-grandfather became very famous (and rich) for his original thinking and his flow—a flow of oil, that is—when he became one of the first men in California to tap a rich vein of crude. For a period, the Doheny clan was among the richest families in America, evidence of which you'll find in Doheny State Beach near Dana Point, LA's Doheny Memorial Library, and Doheny Road in Beverly Hills. (Elements of their story have also been re-appropriated for the Beverly Hillbillies TV series, and the Oscar winning film, There Will Be Blood.)
More recently, the Doheny clan has veered in the direction of fringe culture. Both of Droid's brothers were talented surfers before turning to art school, in one case, or photography, music, and the technology racket, in the other. "That gene is in our family for sure," confirms Droid, who himself plays in a number of garage punk bands.
Meanwhile, his hometown of Newport/Costa Mesa has remained a hotbed of indie music and surf culture, spawning the likes of Al Knost, the Captain Helm surf stores, Kid Creature, and bands like The Growlers, Hindu Pirates, and the Tremors. On the fast breaking beachbreak at 54th street, Droid has shown an almost autistic dedication to surfing, complete with a weird knack for remembering obscure surf statistics—like where and how many event victories Kelly Slater had in 1995. "I've been doing that throughout my life, just because I'm into it. I really am curious about those guys," he says.
By his mid-teens, Droid was competing with the likes of Kolohe Andino in contests and it was predicted he too would make the leap to the World Tour. But when that critical stage in a surfer's development came, when the long-fingered shadows of agents, coaches, and (eh-hem) surf journalists loomed large behind him, something changed in Doheny: He showed signs of a fertile mind, one that would take him far beyond the narrow chute of modern pro surfing. He also matured emotionally and started to recognize the things he held dearest in this world. C.H.E.K. training and early morning dune runs didn't make the list.
"I can't be thinking of surfing all the time," he says, "When I go surfing, I want to really want to do it, you know? You need other things that entertain you and other things that you're passionate about."
Droid admits it probably cost him. As Kolohe, John John, and Medina were chaired onto the Tour amid buckets of cash and a soiree of agents, journalists, and coaches doing barnyard dances in the background, he could only watch. "They're really focused and I'm just not as focused. My mind is here and there. But hopefully, having my mind everywhere can work to an advantage for my job."
Droid's Bali hotel room is a wretched sty of damp towels, Oreo wrappers, boards in odd places, stale corn chips, and a miscellaneous grit on the floor. Preserved in a small ring of cleanliness on his bed, however, like a sleeping child, is his guitar. It's the first thing he picks up when we enter the room. Droid's reluctance to realize his lucrative potential as a surfer and assume a professional persona has been a considerable source of frustration for many.
"People look at me and my 'perfect life' and they're like, 'spoiled f--k,'" he says. "I feel a lot of pressure that people think I'm underachieving all the time, but I don't feel like that at all. I'm really stoked where I am and I like where I am and how I'm doing it. If someone is not fine with that, I don't really care."
What becomes of this supremely talented kid is still very unclear. The good news for Doheny is, that if he wants to make it in this nebulous category of surf stardom, he's surrounded by the right people. Al Knost and Dane Reynolds, two of surfing's most influential characters (both of whom, as it happens, have also taken to shaping their own boards) are only a phone call away. And Droid says their support has been priceless. As of right now, however, he's still a little unsure what exactly he wants to do with his career, though he's pretty sure what he doesn't.
"When you lose [in a contest] you get so down. That's why I don't really know what to do [about contests]. I'm like, 'Fuck, if I try to do a bunch of contests I'm worried about losing and feeling that way over and over and just being like, 'Drown me,' you know? You get so depressed."
But the whole freesurfing thing hasn't cracked up to be all it was supposed to, either. "It's fun and it's great and it's a really good job, but what people don't know is that it is a job," he says. "Traveling is great but traveling all the time is gnarly. You miss home and you miss friends. Surfing gnarly waves, you pull up and it's big and there's a lot of pressure to do that. There's a lot of pressure to surf well. You're on a surf trip and photogs get pissed because you're not getting stuff done."
So what else is there? Droid calls the latest answer to this question "The Butt Queen," and right now it's his everything. A 5'7" with plenty of volume under the chest, and a tail somewhere between a Dumpster Diver and a standard square, the board was shaped in his backyard and is one of the several he's taken to riding exclusively lately.
He also reveals that he's worked hard on changing his style and his stance to something quirkier than average. "I try to take different lines and play around a little bit with my style, bring some old tricks in with the new—laybacks and stuff," he says. "I'm focused though. It might not be on one path that I'm focused on completely, but I want to do this."
If you're a surfer living in America, the odds are slim that you're already familiar with Creed McTaggart. The 19-year-old
West Australia native has managed to keep a low profile stateside, despite all the attention he's earned back home for
his stylish approach to surfing both above the lip and inside the heavy barrels of his homebreaks. But with surfers like
Dion Agius and Mitch Coleborn backing him, it's just a matter of time until Creed becomes a household name abroad.
Tell us about your hometown.
I'm from Margaret River, which feels like a pretty small town. It was a sick place to grow up because we had nothing to do but surf and skate, but now I sort of feel like it's a little too mellow. I love getting on the road, which I've been able to do a lot more recently. But when I'm an old man with kids and stuff, I'll probably want to raise them up there for sure.
Coming from a coastline littered with slabs, do you enjoy the heavier stuff?
I grew up surfing Gas Bay a lot, which is a bit of a slab. When I was 13 or so, Dino Adrian took me out to The Box for my first time. I still remember so clearly: It was like 5 a.m., and the wind was howling offshore. We got out there and the waves were 4- or 5-foot, and I just took a beating that session, but I gave it a good run and was really stoked to have gone out there and caught a few. I went back to school just psyching to tell all my friends that I had surfed The Box.
Growing up you surfed a lot competitively, but you're taking a different route now. What led to that decision?
I was spending so much time and money going to these comps, and I wasn't really into competing, so I just ended up doing shit in them anyway. When I came home the waves would always be really good and I just started wondering what the hell I was doing. Steve Dewls lived down the road from my house and filmed me everyday since I was 12, and it was so much fun just shooting with him and putting clips together. Billabong called me one day, and they were like, "If you want to stop competing and shoot this stuff, you should go for it." It's been a year now, and I'm so stoked on the change. It's given me the chance to surf good waves and really improve. I think my surfing has already come a long way since I got off the contest program.
So what have you been working on since you got that freedom?
We just finished a 10-minute short called "Abyss," which was really fun to make. It was all filmed in November in West Oz. Jay Grant and Tom Jennings came over and stayed at my house for a month to do all the shooting and editing, and I got to work really closely with them. I had heard about this San Francisco band called Sleepy Sun, and they had a 10-minute song that goes through all these different types of music, starting with grungy rock, then going into this weird drum solo before heading into a mellow acoustic melody with cow bells and shit. The whole song goes up and down, fast and slow, so it was really cool to work with because it really suited all the different shots. The whole thing was so fun to make.
I know you also recently got on board with sunglass brand Epokhe. What's it like having Dion Agius as your boss?
It's f—king cool. The guy is such a legend. I had never really met Dion, Mitch, or Kai [Neville] until about eight months ago, but I always watched Dion and Mitch in all the videos when I was younger. Those guys are like the idols of my whole generation. It probably helps my surfing just spending time around those guys, but more than that I get a lot of inspiration from them in other ways. They're brainstorming all day, every day. Dion will be driving, not saying a word, and then he'll suddenly be like, "Write this down," and it will be an idea for some crazy video clip or something. He's really passionate about coming up with cool new ways to do things, and he's super hard-working. I'm really hoping it rubs off on me.
It's unlikely old age will be kind to Kalani David. The 14-year-old Costa-Rica-born-
Hawaiian-pro-skater-slash-pro-surfer is looking very uncomfortable seated across
from me at a roadside eatery in Bali. The World Junior Championships are on and
as of yesterday, he is now the highest ranked surfer in the world for his age (having
lost out in Round 4 to one of the event favorite's, Conner Coffin). His biggest
battle at the moment, however, is trying to reach the fried chicken on his plate.
You're supposed to sit with your legs crossed in this restaurant, but due to the amount of scar tissue beneath his knees—a legacy of the countless slams he's taken in the bowl—that's an impossibility for David. "We're always wrapping him in ice," his father tells me later. "And I'm constantly watching his body and making sure he's got muscle on his bones for the slams. It's pretty nerve-racking, actually."
As David confronts the painstaking decision of whether to pursue a career in skating or surfing, you might think the injury toll alone would be enough to make up his mind. But you'd be wrong. "If it was life or death, and I had to choose skating or surfing, I 'd choose death," he says. So how exactly is he going to get out of this pickle?
You're struggling to decide whether you want to be a pro skater or pro surfer at the moment. Run us through the pros and cons.
Skating you don't really have to do contests. Converse really helps me out a lot. They've got all the mags on board so I just go with some of the photographers and skate streets and cool spots and get sick photos in mags. That's what it's all about in skating—the way you live life. Skating is like the opposite of surfing. The fewer contests you do and the more videos you're in, the cooler you are. Like Craig Anderson and Dion Agius—that's what they're doing: getting sick video parts and that's what skating is. Surfing would be so much better if it was more like that.
Who were your big influences growing up?
I'd have to say I was influenced a lot by Justin Bieber [laughs]. The only guy I looked up to as a kid was Kelly because I really didn't know anyone else. I'd just see this bald guy killing it. And in videos I'd see him and I'd want to surf like him. When I moved to Hawaii, then Andy came up, and I just loved his surfing. When Kelly and Andy were battling it was so hard to choose. Andy was such a good guy.
You knew him?
I stayed at his house. He was the coolest guy ever to hang out with. My manager was Blair Marlin and he was Andy's manager. They put on the Irons Brothers Pinetrees contest and I just went over there for that and Blair would take me to his house. He would make you so happy. He would full on make you stoked as a grom. He was like Santa Claus. And when I was 8, Mick [Fanning] cooked me a steak at the Red Bull house in Hawaii. My dad saw that and still, to this day, only really roots for Mick. Well, and he roots for John John. I also really looked up to Parko, but at Backdoor one time I pulled into this wave and it looked like I wasn't gonna make it and all of a sudden I got spit out and Parko was paddling
Oney Anwar arrived in Australia with nothing but a couple of boards, some clothes, a bottle of his prized Sumbawan honey, and the phone number of a guy's family he'd met back on his island in Indonesia. He was just 14 years old.
Today it all seems to have worked out well. In October last year, he equaled Indonesia's highest-ever finish at the World Junior Championships, narrowly losing in Round 4 to Conner Coffin. Anwar is now fluent in English, his disposition sunny, and his manners impeccable. But the journey hasn't been easy, and if he is to get what he really wants in this world—a slot on the World Tour—he's still got a ways to go, with his biggest challenge only now beginning to loom on the horizon.
Born into a family of 13, money wasn't tight in Anwar's household. It was non-existent. For food, he and his brothers would attack a nearby bay with rods and spears while the women foraged for vegetables and rice. School was too far away to attend regularly, healthcare was not an option, and with his village under the punitive law of a conservative brand of Islam, indiscretions were dealt with severely. "It was really hard," he says, "but we are really strong because of it."
A short walk from Anwar's house put him at the horseshoe right that would one day be featured in films like Modern Collective. A five-minute bike ride got him to Lakey Peak, one of Indo's most consistent high-performance waves. It was at Lakey that Anwar scavenged his first board—a 6'6" he had shaved into a 5'4". By the time he was 9, he'd won everything a surfer could on Sumbawa.
When a seemingly well-meaning American tourist offered to cover his trip to Bali so he could compete in larger events, the Anwar family agreed. Within hours of landing, however, Oney found himself in a Kuta nightclub, staring at wasted Westerners swinging from bamboo cages. A few hours after that, he was walking the streets alone, the American nowhere to be found.
He spent the next three days living on the streets before getting in touch with a Balinese surfer he'd met back at Lakey Peak. Later, Oney moved in with expat American photographer, Nate Lawrence, who helped him land his first board sponsor. Meanwhile, his domination of Bali's competitive scene had also earned him a deal with Rip Curl. The sponsorship would prove life changing.
With the Search campaign benefitting so much from Indo's vast wave resources, Rip Curl founders Brian Singer and Doug "Claw" Warbrick had long thought about the appropriate way to give something back. Their solution: relocate the team's number one junior prospect to Australia. "We just wanted to see him achieve something," says Rip Curl Indonesia Marketing Manager, James Hendy. "He had already taken a big leap moving away from his family and we could see what could happen if he went off the rails in Bali."
Moments after landing in Sydney, Anwar dialed the number of the family he'd been told to call. Jenny McDougal, who eventually became his Aussie mum, answered. "He asked if I could come and pick him up," she recalls. Except there was a slight problem: Jenny and her husband Mark live approximately 1,000 miles north of Sydney, on the Gold Coast. "I told him, 'Sweet, you'll have to get a connecting flight from the airport,'" says McDougal.
Once on the Goldie, Anwar found himself immediately embroiled in a bureaucratic tangle. Before arriving, it had been agreed that he would bunker down with the rest of the international students way out in the suburbs. But this left him with no way of getting to the beach. "He was almost in tears," recalls Jenny. So the McDougal’s went to bat for him, hacking long and hard at Australia’s bureaucratic jungle and eventually securing his release.
After being enrolled at Palm Beach High, Anwar finally joined the nation’s premiere surfing program (headed by coaching guru, Phil Mcnamara) and his surfing took off. National schoolboys titles, state titles, a pro junior, and a runner up in four-star WQS followed. Anwar was on fire. He even won his school’s Sportsman of the Year award an unprecedented three times. (Parko, who also went to Palm Beach, only won it once.) But at home, things weren’t going so well. "I was young and missing my mother and the food and the weather at home," he says. "It was so cold and hard to go surfing every morning, to put on my wetsuit. It felt like a nightmare."
Anwar phoned home and begged to return, but was talked out of it—thankfully, he says today. "Now I can see what I actually have to do to make the Tour. If I really want to be a pro surfer, I have to use this opportunity and take this as my job."
Now 19, Anwar is counting on gaining residency in Australia and traveling the WQS under the green and gold passport. As it stands, Indonesians are banned from entering several of the countries required to compete on the World Qualifying Series, a main reason behind the country’s failure to produce a single World Tour surfer. And unless Rip Curl can work a miracle, Anwar will be forced back to Indonesia. For Anwar, there is no question: "Australia is home," he says. But when I ask what he wants out of his future, neither Indonesia nor Australia warrant a mention. "I just want to stay fit, keep training for the WQS, and hopefully I make the WCT."