Noa Deane is a 23-year-old surf prodigy from the Gold Coast of Australia. He is a hard-working freesurfer that will go countless days perfecting manoeuvres in international waters. Noa is respected by the legends of the sport and looked up to by the youth. In the past five years, Noa has dropped some of the world’s most talked about web clips, destroyed a couple of big-budget surf films, and won Surfer Poll’s “Andy Irons Breakthrough Performer Award.”
He is in short one of those guys that are defining the art of freesurfing in modern times. Steve England had a chat. Action/Indo photos: Andrew Shield Urban photos: Volcom
Sorry to hear about your injury. Always sucks, but I am sure you will come back frothing.
Yeah, can’t wait to be back in the water again.
How does the WSL getting into air shows sit with you?
I guess it’s pretty hard to tell being they have only done one of them so far; it could be cool if the waves provide and the people in the event go for it.
Do you think they are a more exciting format, or do you think they should modify the main heat format, so it reflects modern air surfing?
In a way they are both similar because you are competing I think one is a bit more serious than the other, and maybe the air shows bringing a little more fun back into surfing.
Is the Waco pool the best air section ever?
Definitely, a very nice section that was in the same spot every time, wouldn’t say best ever but it was sick.
How did you find the comp?
I was saying as a format I think this has more chance of entertaining people, at events like the Olympics than standard heats. I had a lot of fun in the comp I think because it was just fun and no one was too serious, also there being a wave every 45 seconds I guess that makes it a little more fast paced to watch than standard competitions
Pools in general: yay or nay? Would you be happily surfing a series of wave pool events or would you still miss the ocean?
I can see it going almost like freestyle snowboarding (or whatever it is called) and halfpipe. I could do a series of events in wave pools but I would way rather just surf in the ocean, I think once they make the waves in the pools way bigger then it could be a little like snowboarding in that aspect.
I liked the Waco comp, looked fun, but then I saw a couple of spontaneous airs in France that blew me away. I think it was the freedom of expression and being in the moment as much as anything. Do you feel the same, or do you like the pressure and anticipation of lining up a ‘run’?
I think for sure airs are going to be more exciting done in the ocean, it’s just like doing a trick backcountry snowboarding as opposed to a jump that is perfectly built for launching.
Is there any progression left in aerials or is it 1000/1 shots now?
I guess the pool ramps (if you can get on them enough) will fast track progression. I think for sure, no one has done a convincing off the lip kickflip. Lots of things are still to be done in the way of progression, and the pool is going to come into play with that … but does it matter if you didn’t do it in the ocean?
Following on from that what is your as yet unpulled masterstroke?
Not sure to be honest.
What’s a typical day like in Noa world?
Pretty chill, feed the ponies with my girl maybe have a surf or a skate play some guitar.
Who would be on your all-time ideal boat trip? Surfer or not…
Be nice to go with some skaters and snowboarders; they would trip out I think; it’s such a weird experience but a good one.
You seem to enjoy your time in Europe genuinely. Do you have a favourite country/destination, where and why?
I have a good time in Europe, the food and wine are exceptional, also the waves have a lot of power which is nice. I like going everywhere, hard to pinpoint one spot if I were going on a surf trip strictly I would have to go for Indo.
Give two hoots about the Olympics?
Is surfing still cool?
Haha! I don’t think so at the moment.
Five goto tracks for a road trip?
Dinosaur Jr- Freak scene, Pavement- Father to a sister of a thought, T-Rex- Debra, Jesus and Mary Chain- Head on, Hüsker dü- Diane.
Taz Knight chases a dream from Mavericks to Mexico.
My name is Tasman Knight, I’m 18, I’m from North Devon, and I’ve just spent six months driving around Mexico on my own.
Trying to fit six months of adventure in to one article is akin to making a movie from a great book. You get the idea, but never the true feel. I’ve been writing every day however. It was the only way to remain sane when camped on my own for extended periods of time. I think my longest stint was just over a week without seeing another soul. This doesn’t sound too long, but when that week is spent 100 miles from the nearest person, in the middle of the Mexican desert … Well, time is perceptive, anyway, for now I will do my best with what I have.
The idea started a while back I suppose. About 10 years ago, when my Mum and Dad decided to pull me and my three sisters out of education for a year. As a family, we bought an RV and drove from San Francisco to southern Costa Rica and back up the other side to the Outer Banks. I’m not going to spend ages telling you how sick it was, because obviously it was. But there’s something that has been bothering me ever since I got back. It’s a memory. The memory of countless barrelling right hand point breaks.
You see, Mexico was where I learned to surf. Well, I’ve been surfing since I was four … but popping up in the whitewater hardly counts. Mexico was where I really got hooked. It was a great place to learn to surf, but it is also a great place to get absolutely barrelled off your face. Absolutely kegged off your nut! What I mean is the waves are really really good, too good for an eight year old boy to fully appreciate. So here I am. It has taken 10 years, but I’m finally good enough to be in Mexico and get absolutely barrelled off my face.
My adventure started, as before, in San Francisco. I was staying with the same family we had stayed with 10 years before, Richard and Catherine Henry. They live in Half Moon Bay. Now, we’ve all heard tale of the monstrous beast that calls Half Moon Bay its home. So had I, at the age of eight when I was last here. The raging sea monster, who raises its foaming cobra head to strike at the wall of jagged rocks blocking its path. I am talking of course, of Mavericks. I’ve always been drawn to big waves. As a grom, I felt that the bigger it got, the more fun I had. That calling is partly responsible for the starting location of my trip. Searching for perfect right hand points was not my only mission, I also wanted to surf as many famous big waves spots as I could. What better place to start?
I was there for over a month. In that time I managed to catch five swells. It’s an amazing place, the long paddle, the golden sunrises in the morning glinting through the huge rocks making them look more menacing and hideous than ever. It really is a perfect wave, throwing huge caves over the boil and thundering out in to the bay. I had some really epic waves there, definitely the biggest waves I had seen and ridden at the time. The two most memorable sessions came within a week of each other, on the 13th and the 20th of December. The first was one of my best big waves sessions ever. There was a lot of wind forecast, so despite the swell being solid, it wasn’t given much interest. Those of us who were staying/living right there however could check it in the early morning. I was huddled up on the cliff, hiding from the wind in my DryRobe at about half five. The wind was strong but in a pretty good direction so the faces were still clean. It was only on for an hour or so, but with so few people out I managed to pick off a few of the biggest waves I had ever paddled at the time.
The day of the 20th was a perfect Mavericks forecast, meaning that all the best big wave surfers in the world flew out to try their hand. That day was like a zoo. Near 100 people all competing over a small take-off zone … carnage. Quite content with the last session I had, I sat on the shoulder and watched all my heroes getting huge waves. I was out there for hours, but stayed pretty toasty in the wetsuits ION had given me just before I set out. I actually got seven waves which is more than most did I’m sure, but they were all off the shoulder. Didn’t stop them being awesome rides however, so I was pretty stoked.
While I was there I bought a 1977 Ford F250 Pickup. I spent my time between swells fixing it up, putting a bed in the back, making a roof rack and generally getting it ready to spend the next five months on the road. It took me longer than expected, but eventually I was waving goodbye to the friends I had made and heading south.
It took me a while to get through California, partly because it was so awesome and partly because I broke down just before crossing the border. It was an unfortunate delay, but thinking about it now it was probably a blessing, as it seems as though my timing has been impeccable ever since. I blew a hole in a piston chamber about five miles from the Mexican border. I was lucky to find the best engine mechanics in San Diego that same day, Kenyan Machine, I’d done a little mechanics before, so I asked the top guy Greg if I could help out with the labour to save money. Greg took sympathy on the English kid with no money and said sure. I ended up doing much more than just helping out.
I took the engine out and stripped it right down by myself. I also put the whole thing back together as well. A good thing about being there and being emotionally involved with the job, is I got to make sure everything was tip top. I worked every day, almost 12 hours a day for three weeks. For the first week and a half I was taking the engine apart, then cleaning and correcting everything. Gave it all a proper scrub down, sand blast, valve job, sanded the warps out the heads, cleaned the carburettor, adjusted the brakes. I did everything I could to make sure the engine was working as well as possible, plus it was given new pistons and re-timed by the guys in the shop. Because I was doing most of this myself I saved a bucket load of money, and gained some priceless knowledge.
For the next week I couldn’t do much as they were busy and I was waiting for them to do their bit (sorting the pistons out). Greg thought I did a pretty good job taking my own engine apart, so while I was waiting they said I could take the engine out a jeep that was sat in the lot. They said they would pay me a full mechanics salary, and the money I made would be taken off the price of my engine … How epic is that? I spent just over three weeks covered in grease and oil, living in the back of a mechanics.
While that was going on, I bumped in to charger and all round legend Gary Linden up in Oceanside. I stayed in his shaping bay for a few nights and got some advice one Baja and surfing Todos Santos. He really helped me out, even helped repair a board I had snapped at Ocean Beach. I met loads of cool guys in San Diego, I hooked up with a photog, Chuck, and had a fun session at Blacks. Scott Sutherland, who I met at the mechanics, ended up taking me to La Jolla every morning at first light to surf all the many waves they have there. All in all it was a pretty sick delay.
My next point of call was another big wave spot: Todos Santos. Like Mavericks, this huge righthander breaks over a boil out side a big rocky point, only Killers (its official name) is out on an island (from where it gets its unofficial name). I arrived just in time for an epic run of swell. I was there for a week. It didn’t get as big as Mavericks while I was there, but I still got a pretty good day, with the faces reaching about 25 feet. It’s an awesome place, the island is miles out to sea so the water is crystal clear, the waves out there are always double the size of the mainland and super fun. I met a really cool big wave rider, Diego Pertusso, out there. We ended up going out to the island together every day on his ski which was majorly convenient. He actually lives down in southern Baja where I eventually met up with him again to stay with him for a week.
From there I spent a little over a month driving down the Baja Peninsula, camping in the middle of the desert, fishing, collecting clams, surfing perfect right hand points. It was such an amazing experience having to fend for yourself and catch your own food. There was one place where the beach was teeming with huge clams and the rocks were perfect for fishing. I would get up, grab a bit of porridge, jump in the sea, surf the perfect right hand point all alone, then spend the rest of the day chilling, fishing, collecting clams and then surfing again in the evening. I was doing that every day for a week. I had a fire going the whole time on the beach, I would always have the clams by the fire for when I got peckish, then just chuck the fish on the grill as soon as I caught them! I didn’t want to leave that spot. I ate some pretty awesome food whenever I stumbled upon a village, the fish tacos in Baja are incredible. There’s nothing quite like a Baja fish taco. I can’t even describe how good they are.
After I met up with Diego again in Southern Baja, I loaded up the truck with some of his old big wave guns, took a ferry from La Paz to Mazatlan, then followed the coast all the way to the state of Oaxaca. I had some amazing experiences on the way down camping in the jungle, drinking coconuts, getting kegged on random beaches with no one out. I must have found 100 beaches with Hossegor like potential, all of them unsurfed but by a few locals and maybe the odd travelling surfer like myself. I actually didn’t see another surfer until I got to Pascuales. I found one river mouth with a sick wedging right hander, when I met a local surfer from the area they had no idea it existed.
The difference between Baja and the mainland is crazy. Baja is one big desert, filled with beautiful table top mountains, cacti and perfect right points. The fish is also as good as it gets. The mainland is so green in comparison. Thick dense jungle climbing the slopes of massive mountain ranges. Huge palm groves along the coast with big rivers every 10 miles. The waves are all heavy beaches and hollow river mouths, the north swell creating sick rights and the south lefts. The culture and vibrancy of the mainland was a blessed relief after the emptiness of Baja. Actually surfing with other people made me realise how much I had missed it.
The truck was still going strong when I arrived in Puerto Escondido. I had seen a big swell coming a week before, and had made a quick dash through Guerro to get there in time. Puerto was the next big wave spot on my list. The incoming swell was definitely a big one, it was lighting up the Pacific and causing quite a stir in the surf media. I arrived the night before the main bulk of the swell hit. That evening I watched the sunset at Playa Zicatela as 30-40 foot waves detonated on the sand.
The next day was scary, the scariest paddle session I had had at the time. The swell came through with 30-40 foot faces, but it was the heaviest 15 feet I’ve ever seen. The waves here break super close to the beach, the sand less than a few meters below the surface. The energy of the huge swell gets focussed in that small area, making for some seriously heavy wipeouts. I got worked while that swell lasted, getting huge waves, hold downs and barrels. It was an amazing experience, I was really helped out by the local crew there. Local photographer Edwin Morales showed me the ropes and made my life much easier.
Puerto is a really cool place to hang out. Loads going on and always great waves to surf. After the big swell the banks were amazing and everyone was just getting kegged every morning. I had this magic 8’0” from Nigel Semmens which has been working like a dream this whole trip, but it really reached its full potential out in the huge dredging barrels of Zicatela. I had snapped it twice by the end of the trip, but it only seemed to get better! All told I snapped five boards eight times… But that’s Puerto I suppose.
I spent a while in Puerto, I had been travelling for over four months by this point and I needed to spend a bit of time in one place to get some energy back. I met up with some friends from England and we decided to head out to find some of those barrelling right hand points I’d heard so much about. Edwin pointed us in the right direction and my adventure started up again. We took a round about route, up through the mountains to see some temples and hot springs and then back down to the coast to chase the goose. We certainly found what we were looking for. Perfect, barrelling right hand points that completed my fantasy. I had a couple of waves which were ridiculous. 13 turn waves and deep sandy barrels, the image of perfection. We got some fun small days, trimming along on knee high waves, getting an average of three or four head dips per wave! The few bigger days we got were not as hollow, but we were not disappointed by the minute long whackable rights, and there were definitely still super hollow sections.
By this time it was full swell season for Mexico, and another monster storm was brewing off the coast of Chile. With my heart in my mouth, I said goodbye to my mates and steered course back to Playa Zicatela. The storm was ridiculous, the swell predictions were saying it was to be as big as it gets, maybe even bigger. I thought I must be getting popular, as all the big wave surfers who had flown to meet me at Mavericks were making the trek to meet up with me again down in Puerto. They may have just been coming for the swell, but I can’t be sure.
When the day arrived it made the last swell I caught look like ripples in a pond. It was ridiculous. 100 meters of beach got washed away and the sets were smashing through the beachfront restaurants and on to the road. The street was the new shoreline. It was like a hurricane had passed through over night. Part of the contingent who had arrived for the swell were Tom Lowe and Tom Butler. It sure was nice to have some fellow Englishmen to share the nerves with. I’m not sure what would have happened if they were not there, but the fact that they were definitely gave me a bit more confidence. The only minor was that neither had their boards with them, Lowey’s had gotten lost on the plane, and Tom had come strait from the XXL awards in LA so didn’t have any to start with. They both managed to borrow boards, but not their boards, and not great boards at that.
We paddled out despite it all, a long paddle from the harbour half a mile up the beach. I was riding a 9’0” which Diego had lent me up in Baja. The sets were huge, so big I wasn’t even scared, just in awe at the immense beauty of the 60 foot walls of water that were bearing down on us, travelling so fast that they were feathering for 3-400 meters before even breaking. It was a somber line-up. Those who had dared to paddle out were all shrouded in their own minds, eyes fixed on the horizon with grim determination on their faces. The sets were most likely to be the biggest waves ever to be seen at Puerto, but every man there would have committed if the wave had come their way. I turned my own eyes to the waves and waited.
It was impossible to know where the waves would come, and you had to be in the perfect spot to actually catch one of these things. As a result the chance of catching one was slim to none, and the chance of the wave which came to you actually being makeable was even slimmer. The end result was there were very few waves ridden that day. Half the line up got caught out by the huge closeout sets with came ploughing through, Tom and Tom included, both taking one of the heaviest beatings imaginable. Mark Healey got the wave of the day, a giant set wave which absolutely destroyed him. And yes, I managed to get one myself.
After waiting out there for over three hours I saw a good sized left coming through which I thought I might be able to catch. I looked around but couldn’t see anyone near me. At that moment, Kurt Rist buzzed passed me on a safety ski, he saw me looking at the wave and gave me a look. It said, ‘I got your back’. It was all I needed, I swung, paddled and took of on the biggest wave of my life.
I was extremely late, as I got to my feet I had to grab my rail to keep the board from being blown out from under my feet by the wind howling up the face. This also helped to keep the nose of my board out the water as the wave went over vertical. There was a slight moment of weightlessness as the majority of the 9’0” disconnected from the wave and I dropped down to the point where the board fitted the curve of the wave. Holding on for dear life I flew down the thing, going faster than I thought possible. Every ounce of my being focussing on making the drop and getting away from the monstrosity which I had managed to catch. Before I had taken off, it looked as though I may have been able to make the wave. Unfortunately I was put off course a little by the steepness of the drop I had to take. As it was, when I finally made it to the bottom and thought about shooting it to the shoulder the lip was already on its way down to land on my head. This didn’t appeal to me greatly so I picked the lesser of the two evils and straightened out.
I was immediately blown to pieces. The force of the explosion was so violent that it knocked me senseless. All I could think about was holding my arms around my head and neck as I was ruthlessly rag dolled back and forth. When I got back to the beach, someone told me I had been under for 20 seconds. I could have been under for 10 year for all the perception I had of time while that was going on. All I know was the flotation vest I was wearing eventually bought me back to the surface (I couldn’t have found it if I had tried) I grabbed a breath and shot my left hand up, searching for Kurt. I could see him racing towards me, bent over the handle bars. Unfortunately, I could also see a 40 foot wall of whitewater which was much closer. The ski was struggling to drive in the thick soup which the previous wave had left behind, and we both knew he wouldn’t make it in time to get me. I got a couple of deep breaths and went under.
This wave was promptly followed by another. After looking at the footage, I realised both held me down for 15 seconds, battering me from every angle. Luckily my leash held and I was washed in a fair way. I was washed up the beach not long after. As I struggled up the sand I was greeted by cheers from the spectators. Safe to say it was one of the better moments of my life.
The next few days were mental. I had a great time hanging out with all they guys, even got to say ‘Hi’ to Andrew Cotton as he flew in for a swell forecast the week after I left. The waves got a bit more manageable and the banks were perfect while my time dwindled. Every one was getting shacked off their heads. It was a great end to the trip. By the time the big swell passed through I only had 10 days left before my 6 months was up. I spent that 10 days getting shacked with mates and relaxing in paradise. It was such an epic trip with so many phenomenal experiences. It will take a while for it all to fully sink in.
Donald Brink is producing some fascinating boards based on some very interesting concepts, like foot size. Steve England caught up with him on a recent European tour to find out more about feet and asymmetry.
With cutting edge surfing and amazing art direction Volcom’s films have cut a swathe through surf culture since 1993. Their latest is set to be let loose in September. Come with us behind the scenes and chat to Mitch and Ozzie some of the main protagonists.
What’s it like to be in a Volcom movie? As a kid BS was the highlight of my career. Everything I’d ever done surfing it all came down to that … it was the pinnacle. It’s all downhill from here.
Did the old movies like Magnaplasm inspire you as a grom? I remember watching them all and thinking ‘that would be the coolest thing in the world.’ Not getting into specifics of particular movies but even before I was sponsored being in a Volcom movie seemed liked the ultimate. To end up being sponsored and appearing in them now is mad. It was a pivotal moment when it came to figuring out what I wanted to do with my life.
The films helped you get to where you are now? For sure. It gave me a level to achieve.I wanted to be Dustin Cuizon so badly. Then when I was on the team I got two waves in Creepy Fingers. It’s not what I wanted but to be featured as a kid was huge. I was still stoked. Any young kid would be. You’re being showcased on a world wide stage. I’m still so grateful to be involved in anything they do.
How is being in Indo filming with Ozzie Wright… Ozzie’s 156 Tricks from my childhood memories … was so different. I had a whole wall of his photos and art. Pretty baffling that I’m here now on a trip with him filming for a section.
He’s still a big influence? He’s certainly got longevity… He’s a legend. An actual legend. If I can get a section in a movie when I’m nearing my forties… He’s still reinventing himself. He’s still surfing more than anyone on this boat trip and having more fun than anyone. Surfing all kinds of boards … whether it’s one foot or whatever. He’s stoked if he’s doing the biggest air of the day or a cheater five.
Stoked to be working with RT on this project? I’m excited for this movie. He has a vision. We are all working towards the same goal. I can’t wait to see it unfold. I want to do more trips, film more with this crew, get the best I can for the film. I’m really excited too see how it turns out. You’re involved with what he’s trying to accomplish, you’re part of the film, rather than a puppet on a string.
Best filming trip? Definitely South Australia with Ozzie. Just us two in the water. Pretty low key, it’s an isolated spot, you don’t get many camera crews allowed down there. It was a privilege. We partied with the locals, the waves were just insane, it’s the sickest spot.We all got to embrace the real Australia. I love going to the desert. That was the best for me.
Tell us about Carlos Munoz? Everyone on this trip has baffled me in some way … in the way that they surf. I’ve been surfing with him a few years now and even more than Dane Reynolds he is the most sporadic surfer in the world. You never know what the kid is going to do when he takes off on a wave.
How about Yago? Intimidating to surf with him? (Mitch does a hearty laugh) He’s out there every second of the day doing back flips. As soon as the boat pulls up he’s out there. You can’t even try and comprehend. You just have to stick to your own game plan. He will blow you out of the water nine times out of ten. I’m just trying to keep up now with the way that everyone’s surfing. He’s definitely proven to me over and over again he’s the future. One of the coolest kids coming out of Brazil and I’m stoked on the path he’s taking. He’s doing it right and I’m stoked to be working with him. The kid’s insane.
Droid? He is been my favourite surfer to watch on this trip. So different to everyone else. It makes you think about the way you surf. He shapes boards for specific turns that he wants to do?! The shit that he does is so different to anything I’d ever try. It’s just baffling.
Miguel Tudela? Peru’s pretty sick. He did two flips the other day at Lance’s Right which was pretty baffling. I was all ‘it’s perfect flip conditions’ the kid went out and did two. I was all ‘right, I’m going back to the boat!’ I’ve known him for a few years and the worldwide crew from all over are so sick. He’s been ripping the whole trip.
How do you see your career path if you weren’t with Volcom? I couldn’t picture myself anywhere else. I would probably not be surfing. I’d be f@cked. What we’ve been trying to accomplish in all parts of my career they’ve been amazing. It’s the raddest thing in the world.
What was your first impression of Volcom films? The first film I watched was ‘Alive We Ride’ before I rode for Volcom and my friend Spillsy surfed for them and was like the first Aussie rider in there and I was like ‘Oh my God.’ It changed the way I looked at everything and it was the first time I had ever seen such awesome youth. I don’t know, it just made me want to shred so much. It changed my life. I had to ride for Volcom and I was stoked when I got to. I think they are just the best movies they are cult classics … So much heart and soul.
The trips I have done for the films have taken me to the next level. I mean I got to go on trips with people like the late Barney Barron. Barney was such a big influence on me. He was the life of the party in and out of the water every day. If you were surfing with Barney it was like being at party. Every wave he surfed made me laugh my head off. He was always painting and drawing and just being hilarious. I did crazy trips with Bruce Irons and he was shredding … it was awesome.
What do you think about this movie? I can’t wait to see it. The Volcom team is in a really awesome spot. The characters in the team are massive and everyone has a really good personality and surf with a lot of character so yeah I can’t wait to see it.
What do you think of Mitch? Mitch is heavy hitter. He don’t muck around, he wants serious shit. If the surf isn’t the best best waves you have ever seen he just stays asleep. He gets lots of sleep and that’s good for health and healing and when he does surf like three foot he does airs that are like five feet. He does he biggest airs, it’s sick. Mitch rips.
What do you think of Yago? Yago is like a freak of nature. He’s like ‘Robotron’. He is 16 and six feet tall, his bones are made of rubber even though they have broken. He rips everything. He is cross between Damian Hardman and Christian Fletcher. He can do eight turns to the beach and the craziest airs you have ever seen. He’s an absolute freak.
Carlos? Costa Rica’s finest. Looks like a palm tree and surfs like a God! He’s classic!
Droid? Droid is one the biggest natural talents the world has seen. He is super humble and the natural ability inside of him is another level. It is so instinctual. He can play the guitar like a freak and he can surf with pure instinct. It is really good to watch. He fits the wave, there’s no thinking, he is an animal.
What’s this trip been like and what’s it like to be a veteran on the team now? It’s been a really cool ride and the flavour of the South and Central Americans … to have that international vibe is amazing. They come from such different backgrounds. As an Aussie we are brought up on the Aussies and Americans owning all the media and whatever you see, so it is good to see the guys having the chance to display their moves and personalities and I think it will bring something new. I would love to know all about these guys and where they grew up as opposed to us who grew up in first world countries like spoilt brats. A lot of these guys come from places where they had to fight so hard for anything and you can see it in the lineup … they are working so hard.
Who are your favourite guys that you have filmed with over the years? Gavin Beschen who is one of the most unique individuals I have ever met. He’s a really inspirational guy but you will never got to the bottom of him. You will never figure him out. And then we had like Brad Anderson who filmed ‘Computer Body’ in Australia who was really funny. Somedays you would look at the surf and it was would be really good and you’d be like ‘Where’s Brad?’ and he would have like disappeared into town an hour’s drive away to pay for some exotic massages.
156 Tricks was sick because I met ‘Hollywood’ who was making movies way before iMovie and the like. We call him ‘Hollywood’ because he was he only person we knew that could make movies! Then he decided he didn’t want to travel around the world visiting amazing places for a year filming, so I had a friend ‘Cowboy’ who was like one of my oldest buddies and a cabinet maker, so we hired him! We had one day in France where I surfed a shorey and I was having a full shorey bash and it ended up with like 50-60 people all on the beach screaming and applauding and it was like best session of year. Cowboy was in the next town shacked up with a beautiful French woman. I couldn’t blame him … But I was definitely bummed! But he did a great job on that film. He is the kind of guy that can do anything, modelling, filming, cabinet making, drumming.
Do you think that part of surfing is gone: party first and everything else falls into place, instead of work your brains out until they are fried? I do feel it is so professional now and everyone has to try so hard. There is something to be said about living your life and surfing when you are in the mood and capturing it when the planets come together. You just get that special feel. Like you can have surfing as a job but I don’t think you should ever feel it is a job. It should be a celebration of how you feel. Volcom has always embodied that and captured the life we live.
How has surfing for Volcom affected your life? For me it was almost like college. I quit school and hooked up with Volcom and luckily it wasn’t a bunch of robots doing their job, it was a bunch of artists that were so into everything: music, art, surf and skate. There were so many mentors who schooled me on everything I need to know. I wouldn’t be half he person I am now without their help.
What has this Indo trip been like? The surf hasn’t been that great a lot of the time so this trip has been a little like a slumber party with 15 dudes all wrapped up in blankets in a dark a room with the air-con on watching movie after movie after American teen movie. The other day was hilarious, Yago said, ‘Hey you guys, what’s a boner?’ Haha! He opened a Pandora’s Box of ‘A boner is…’ and fifty words to describe it. We had a boner-thesaurus.
So one filming trip went to South Oz which is a really sharky. How does it feel being a father surfing these places? It is pretty unnerving to surf these places. The first day we had to surf a spot where I know a kid had been killed. And my leggy broke and I had to swim across the channel worrying about being eaten by a shark. The second day we came in and Nate, one of the filmers, was like, ‘Did you see that Great White, there was a 20 footer right there. I would have screamed but you guys were already coming in.’ I looked down the beach and saw a 20 foot Great White jump out of the water and eat a seal. It is pretty frightening, no one is ever in the water and the waves are incredible but … every beach you go to there is a remembrance plaque where someone has been eaten by a shark. So the ratio is terrible. It is scary. For me now as a family man with two children I definitely self preserve a lot more than I used to and try to stay alive as long as I can. So surfing death defying waves I’m over it! And sharks … I don’t like them!
As far as British surfboard manufacturers and surf shops go it would be hard to argue that Tris Surfboards was perhaps the most legendary. Certainly in the west country. Shapers like Tris Cokes, Mooney MaCallum, Chops, Mark Hills all worked there and some of the most iconic sprays produced by Neil Wernham and Teeps decorated their boards. At the heart of it all over all these years has been Johnny Manneta one of the best glassers and finishers of a surfboard the country has seen.
Johnny was a London Mod who got caught up in surfing via a family connection, a sense of adventure and a friendship with one very enigmatic waterman, one of the best surfers in the country at the time, classic anti establishment lover of life Tris Coates. Johnny met Tris on one of his visits to Porthtowan in the sixties and they have been best friends ever since. Through their youth and the sixties to the eighties these two were pretty much at the heart of everything that went on in Porthtowan and St Agnes. From shaping on the beach, then in the back room of a rented chalet on the cliffs of Porthtowan they took Tris surfboards from an idea to iconic surf brand. They set up one of Europe’s first surf shops and were some of the first surfers in Newcastle and Saltburn, all the while focusing on the two most important things in their lives: surfing and partying.
When you look back at this age they are the halcyon days of surfing in my mind. So much so that many of today’s brands and hipsters spend most of their lives and a lot of money trying to recreate the ‘look’. Note I say the ‘look’ because the actual subculture of surfing, when most the participants were underground bohemian explorers is long gone. You can grow your hair and beard, you can ride old boards but that certain spark, a mix of carefree abandon, naivety, open mindfulness and I guess hippy outlook was overrun a long time ago. But the ‘stoke’ is still there. I know some people hate this term, but I’m afraid I still don’t know a better phrase for it.
Johnny is quietly spoken, assured, intelligent and his book reflects his journey from his early days in London hanging out with mods and mobsters to his transformation into a surfer, the setting up of Tris and his subsequent adventures. He has a great outlook on life and there are many funny little moments as well as interesting views peppered through the books pages. It is a great accomplishment to even remember half the adventure given the amount of spliffs that were smoked, but as Johnny points out early on even the weed has changed over the years, from a mild class B hippy drug after being genetically modified by unscrupulous drug dealers for profit.
I have to add a disclaimer here because as a Porthtowan grom Johnny was, a major influence on mine and many others, surfing life. The boards in his shop, the stories, the Tris surfboards and surf shop crew were all held in high esteem. I actually found the surfboard factory before I started surfing wandering around the countryside. Small old farm buildings with some sort of dust and chemicals strewn outside, dark windows, rows of surfboards inside it was down the road from a campsite I was staying on. I was intrigued by the boards, the strange hairy fellas who turned up one afternoon, not so much. They looked pretty scary. A year later I was stood in Tris surf shop and it soon became the centre of my grom universe. It was small but rammed with shiny sticks which us groms would salivate over. If a new one hit the rack all the groms would all go down and check it out. The Tris logo was so revered it was considered bad luck to put wax over it. Behind the counter was Johnny who was patient, would talk you through rocker and rails shapes and if there was a quiet five minutes between relieving holiday makers of their spending money, tales of mystical waves around the country and beyond.
With a view of the sea, the only skate friendly area in the village and handy seating the shop forecourt was a hangout for locals and anyone who hit the village. Men with sleek boards and foreign accents would turn up and everyone would check out their rides with design theories from overseas, stories and girlfriends. Sometimes they stayed and got dragged into the village scene, sometimes they moved on. In short it was a portal to the world more than a simple shop and Johnny was its keeper. More than anything there was a certain intelligence, wit, healthy disregard for politics and overlords, and inquisitivy bred on the forecourt. In the nineties it led to the formation of Surfers Against Sewage, now based in St Agnes, a movement started in the main by surfing residents of Porthtowan, Johnny being one of them, even though he knew exposing sewage on his beach may harm his own business.
I could go on but I will leave that to the book, suffice to say the boards which were adorned by the iconic art of Neil can now attract prices in their thousands, other boards from the seventies and eighties are now sought after collectors items and the shop is still the centre of the village surf scene. “Who’d have thought?” said Johnny when I asked him what he made of it all. He genuinely means it. He built himself a huge eco-friendly house out of logs and recycled timber washed up on the beaches around Porthtowan, teaching himself carpentry on the way, with an ethos of focusing on what he could do and doing it well rather than listening to nay sayers and being brought down by the things he couldn’t do. It is so big and cool random people stop on their way past and wander in to have look at it. “I needed a house, didn’t have much money so I just thought I’d build one,” he says. No big deal.
Johnny’s life has been a life well spent living life well and “Looking For Something To Find” to find is a great book for lovers of surfboards, surfing culture and history. I fired Johnny a few questions about how it came about…
What was the inspiration to sit down and write a book? Have you ever tried writing a f**king book standing up? Sorry, Steve. I will try and be serious…
The inspiration came from my partner Pip. She said, ‘I notice when you tell a story people always listen. You tell a damn good story, why don’t you write them down? They love your recordings for the First Wave project. Tell it like it was and is.’ Which, after a lot of editing, turned into Looking For Something To Find. I didn’t sit down to write this book. I was laying in a hammock!
What was your favourite decade in surf culture to date and why do you consider it so rich?
Love them all! And still loving them. Look at what I have been blessed with. The sixties: Mods, music and motorbikes. The seventies: love and peace. Make love not war. Yep – up for that. Along with the hippie headbands, LSD and flares, experimenting with life. The eighties: easy living, easy travelling and no boundaries. The nineties: saving the planet and the oceans, building my dream, including building my home. And the here and now, the 21st century, still living the dream. So, as you can see, a hard one to call, eh?
I guess normally this would usually be the cue for me to say, ‘Had to be the early days, man.’ Well, actually, this is a tricky question to answer. The early days were fantastic but recently, surfing in the tropics in Central America, have been phenomenal for me. The seventies surfing scene was so rich, because of the attitude back then and the lack of crowds. Now it’s all changed but the scene when I get down to Costa Rica harks back to those good old days.
Was the surf culture the same around the country or do you think Cornwall being the end of the line was different?
Oh, yeah, Cornwall was one of the last frontiers. You were kind of left to your own devices. I think the stoke was the same for all surfers, everywhere, in the early days but, even with Newquay being the centre of the surfing culture, there were some real out there soul surfers, myself included, tucked away in their vans, hiding in the deepest depths of Kernow.
Right now there are a lot of surfers trying to rediscover an era and look that you actually set: retro boards, beards. Did you realise you were highly fashionable at the time and what do you think of the resurgence?
Of course we did, Steve. We were dedicated leaders of underground fashion. Mind you, Tris had a hard time growing a beard! And, hey, if it makes you happy to ride a retro board and get your beard wet, so be it.
Who was the best surfer you have seen surf and why did you rate them so highly? On the world scene, no contest, Lopez. Mr Cool for his technique and style. On the European or British scene, Tigger Newling, he had the attributes of Lopez. I rate these guys so highly because of their ability to be so in tune with the waves, whether watching Tigger out at Porthleven on the monster double overhead days, or Lopez in Biarritz, both just embraced the waves. Super cool. Their technical ability was second to none.
What is the most you have been offered for one of your collectors item boards, what was your reaction and what do you make of this occurrence?
I have had offers into the thousands for one of the early Tris boards. But the collector who offered me this huge wodge of dosh kind of knew what my reaction was going to be: ‘Sorry, no thanks, it ain’t for sale.’ But there it is, hanging up for all to see in Tris Surf Shop and that’s where it will stay.
How did the iconic Tris logo come about, who designed it, what does it signify? Tris and I put a few ideas together with inspiration from Rick Griffin and asked a brilliant artist from Aggie, named Keith Flack, to come up with a logo for the boards. After a few months and a lot of weed the iconic logo began its legendary journey with Tris Surf Boards and Tris Surf Shop. The logo is timeless and signifies all that is true about surfing: the sun, the waves and the lone surfer. A rarity these days but it’s out there. You just have to try a little harder to find it.
Tris Coates in three words..?
Haha, Steve you gotta be joking haven’t you! Well I guess it would have to be … Stark raving mad! Or as Tris once said of himself, ‘Self serving bastard.’
I think it is fair it say he has been a major influencer on your life with ups, downs and a fair bit of sideways. Why did you hit it off and what is the funniest thing you have ever seen him do/get involved with that we can’t be sued for?
Well we didn’t really have much choice; there was nobody else around at the time, so we were stuck together! We both thought “work” was a dirty word and neither of us really liked the idea of working for somebody else. As for the funniest thing I have seen him do? Try and shape a surfboard! But hey, he got the hang of it and to this day his boards are still sought after classics.
What was Porthtowan like when you first arrived? Pumping.
Has it changed much? Yeah. Like all good surf spots change will come, for better or for worse. Obviously, the early days when Tris, a few others, and myself, were hanging out, were absolutely magic and I will always think myself lucky for living through that era. But, of course, change has to come. Running a business on the beach means I have seen the village grow over the years, not so much in size as in reputation. After the hazy days of the seventies, Porthtowan actually turned into a pretty hardcore place, it never lost its charm but thanks to a variety of factors it wasn’t exactly on the list of family friendly beach holidays. This was not always great for business but it did mean the waves stayed quiet and the local crew had the place to themselves. It was wilder than it is now, it epitomised the Badlands vibe and, for guys like yourself, Minzy, the Hendy brothers and the rest of the posse, it was a good stomping ground. Nowadays it’s much more user friendly, the shops are busier and, guess what, it’s bloody crowded.
Being in the midst of the sixties and seventies there is mention of a fair amount weed in the book, but I noticed the specific paragraphs that seem to warn readers on the dangers of skunk and the drugs. Why is this?
Well, Steve, I am not about to start preaching but I do feel that drug use in the early days and the modern situation has changed somewhat. The difference between the taking of drugs to get high in the old days and the use and abuse of drugs in modern society, is pretty obvious to me. In the early days, I am thinking of surfers, but I am sure it was similar in all walks of life; like-minded people smoked a little weed and dabbled to get high. Now the drug culture has evolved and things are more business orientated. In a way it’s become more normalised and less of a counter-culture. This leads to massive problems on a global scale, unscrupulous dealers cutting the drugs for big bucks, and the resulting patterns of abuse and, ultimately, tragedy. Just look at some of the legends of surfing, the needle and the damage done.
What life advice would you give to any younger surfer reading this. Never tire of chasing your dreams. Try saying ‘Hi’ to a stranger in the line up, don’t worry about the ‘I am Best’ T-shirt. Try soul surfing one day. It is good for you. Don’t be a twat in the ocean and last, but not least, respect your environment.
Are there any ambitions to produce a Tris heritage range? It is happening! Tris is shaping and Neil Wernham is spraying. Click here to find out more
What’s next in your life of adventure? The Film!
“Looking for something to find” is available on Amazon or here www.toadhallpress.co.uk
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