Endangered Species-The”Regional Pro Surfer”

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A Case Study–Santa Cruz, California

By Neal Kearney
*NOTE. THE MEAT OF THIS ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN, YET UNPUBLISHED, IN JUNE 2017 FOR A CERTAIN AMERICAN SURF WHO MAG WHO SHALL GO UNNAMED. THE SURF INDUSTRY SUCKS SOMETIMES! OH WELL…HERE IT IS, I HOPE YOU ENJOY!

It’s hard to make it as pro surfer these days. Even for the world’s best surfers , the cushy, umbrella-sponsorship deals of the past are hard to come by. Last year, you may have noticed that the back half of the World Surf League’s World Tour had rippers like Josh Kerr shredding without a main sponsor. If guys like Kerrzy are in trouble, that means “regional pros” are going extinct.

If top level guys are scraping for support, how does a local legend or talented, up-and- coming surfer (commonly referred to as “Regional Pros”), expect even a piddly crumb from the withering pie that is the surf industry? The pro surfer explosion in Santa Cruz, California, which blossomed in the ’90’s, and fizzled out by the end of the first decade of the twenty fist century. This shift illustrates how difficult it is for up-and-comers to remain relevant and marketable in a hemorrhaging surf industry where a good looking, yet mediocre Instagram surf star is guaranteed more exposure than a tech-inept, shy, introverted, yet phenomenally superb surfer.

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The catalyst for the explosion of media attention directed to Santa Cruz can be attributed to many factors, but in the beginning, much of the credit goes to ace photographer and filmmaker Tony Roberts, who pushed the surf media to recognize just how much insane surfing was going on in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Robert’s unique, in-your-face action shots began peppering all of the major US surf mags, including Surfing and Surfer magazine, and helped put the national spotlight Santa Cruz’s stacked talent pool.

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It got to the point that Santa Cruz was so saturated with talent that practically every hot surfer had sponsors and contracts; along with free gear, respect and prestige. Many of these surfers went on to become “international pro surfers”: Adam Replogle, Chris Gallagher, Jason “Ratboy” Collins, Shawn “Barney” Barron, Pete Mel, Anthony Ruffo, etc. This crew could travel the world and get paid to huck huge airs and rush giant tubes, fine-tuning their acts with unbridled, point-break power surfing at home.

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TR was the man in Santa Cruz during the late ’80’s/early ’90’s, pumping out classic images and even full-length movies, but when he left for Central America in mid 90’s, there was a need for someone to take the control of SC freight train. Ripping skateboarder and surfer Dave Nelson learned a lot from Roberts and could keep the ball rolling, especially Roberts knack for up close fish eye action and skate influenced angles.

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“TR was by far my biggest inspiration. I studied what he did daily and we used to shoot and skate and surf every day. He was always experimenting with different lenses and angles. He taught me a lot!” remembers Nelson.

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Enter Transworld Surf, established in 1999, and sadly decapitated in 2013 due to the strangulation of print media. Nelson scored countless covers and spreads with his unique angles and inventive use of multiple flashes, film gel, and speed blur effects. He also introduced a new crew of “regional pros” to the masses. These centrally located hot-shots usually stuck relatively close to home during their careers, following Nelson, aka “Nelly”, into a number of local,”studio-esque” surf breaks. Guys like Homer Henard, Matt Rockhold, Bud Freitas, and Austin Smith-Ford were among the local pro’s who worked extensively with Nelson.

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Chris Cote, TWS’s editor basically ran the ship, and gave “regional pros” from SC a lot of love, mainly due to Nelson’s wealth of insane photography.

“Regional pros are surfers who absolutely rip their local breaks, AKA, ‘Hometown Heroes’. Locally respected and widely known by ‘traveling pros’ as the guy or girl to either get in contact with when they are rolling through their town, or, watch to out for when competing in their town. Regional pros a lot of times just choose to stay in their hometown a lot of times, not that they don’t have the talent to travel and compete, but for one reason or another, they are content with just being “the guy” in their respective area,” explains Cote.

From 2000-2010, or thereabouts, regional pros in Santa Cruz could make a chunk of chain just cruising with Nelly, scouring the coast for big pits and ramps. They were memorable days for the humble photographer, and he soaked up every minute of it.

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“Every day was a mission. An adventure. Some days we went North, but usually we went South. The spots were sharky as Hell. The locals were always watching. I was always ready to go, from dawn to dusk, which some surfers loved, and some hated (laughs)”.

This enabled regional pro’s such as Bud Freitas and Austin Smith-Ford to concentrate on their surfing at home; to the point that no one could touch them- their talent was next level. Cote was more than willing to give love to these under the radar pro’s.

“Young kids like Matt “Ratt” [Schrodetz] and Noi [Kaulukukui} were fucking on fire, absolutely ripping. It was easy to fill magazines with Santa Cruz surfers cause they all surfed so good and Nelly was right there to capture it going down.”

Unfortunately, the era of the regional pro, especially in Santa Cruz, was quietly burned to ashes due to the ’08 financial crisis and struggles of the surf industry. Companies had to take a hard look at what surfers would be best to promote their brand, and now, there are only a handful of regional pros who get financial help, let alone free gear.

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Matthew Myers of Santa Cruz, now residing in Costa Mesa, works for Rip Curl. His job includes tending to the needs of high profile team riders while building a solid youth presence. A former regional pro himself, Myers has valuable insight into the woes of the surf economy. A common theme he’s noticed is more money is going to the top, world tour, elite athletes, some of which are gunning for world titles. Companies see the biggest, more recognized athletes as a greater asset as they possess the ability to reach a larger audience, which results in a greater return on investment.

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“There’s not a ton of regional pro’s in America getting paid anymore,” Myers admits.

“For example, we have a surfer in Santa Cruz who is getting a pay check; definitely not enough to get paid comfortably but he gets to travel the world and have some incredible experiences on Rip Curl’s dime. He’s stayed extremely active, charismatic, has a lot of fun with other people, and is an amazing surfer to boot. To be relevant you must be really outgoing and marketable, and be attractive to the brand to want to use you in either their marketing including social media and websites.”

The regional pro is now an endangered species across the globe, especially in Santa Cruz. For better or for worse, these extremely talented surfers and photographers have been forced to adapt. They’ve returned from their day jobs; running business, cutting hair, working construction, and everything in between. The ripple effect from companies clamping down on their funds has altered the landscape of professional surfing dramatically. Will this stop surf fans from visiting their favorite surf websites or WSL broadcasts? Not a chance. Life is constantly changing, and although regional pros may be a thing of the past, the talent will continue to shine when the waves come up.

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Faces of Surf-Marciano Cruz

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Lead by Example

Pleasure Point’s Marciano Cruz uses his experience as an immigrant to inspire others

By Neal Kearney

 

A young boy wanders outside of his neighborhood in San Pablo Huxtepec, in Oaxaca, Mexico, allured by gleeful noise of children playing in the streets. Before he realizes it, he’s walked straight into a large celebration. The six- year- old almost fled, but was halted by the hypnotic dance of a colorful, candy stuffed piñata tied to a tree, swaying in the wind. He sees the group of ten-year-old boys lined up in a row in the street. A man approaches.

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“Would you like to race?” he asks benevolently. The boy looks down. He’s barefoot, wearing hole ridden pants, tied together with a rope around his waist. He looks up at the other kids. They are all wearing new shoes and shorts. They are also all laughing. At him. He hesitates for a moment, but the thought of all that candy dancing around inside that purple and yellow piñata firms his resolve. He nods his head at the man and approaches the line. The man blows a whistle and the boys are off. The older boys blaze past the barefooted boy. But not for long.

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Talking over coffee in a quaint, yet hip Pleasure Point coffee shop, I listen to Marciano, “Chango”, Cruz recount this defining moment in his life. One that instilled a courageous approach to a living where the odds have been stacked against him his entire life. I’m transfixed by Cruz’s story, an intimate insight into the life of a man I’ve known for over twenty years.

“Little by little, I started passing everyone and before I knew it I had won! The man who got me to enter the race tried to grab me to celebrate my win and I got so scared (laughs). I was so shy that I got scared and I started to run away. So I kept running out of that place and didn’t even get any candy (laughs)”

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Cruz has been living in Pleasure Point for the past twenty years and is recognizable in the lineup by his dark brown Mayan features, loud laughs and piercing whistles of excitement. Despite learning the sport in his thirties, the Oaxacan native has honed his longboarding technique over the years, become a very skilled and valued member of the Point’s surfing scene.

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He’s also been serving the community at large for over twenty years, namely his efforts at the Resource Center for Nonviolence, and organizing, “La Liga De La Comunidad”, an all-ages soccer league that is one of the largest in the County. Despite his successes in life, Cruz still must continually worry about assimilation into a country where people of color like himself are constantly up against the ropes.

Born in 1963, Cruz didn’t see his father very often as a kid, as he would head to the United States to work. Like most young boys, Cruz idolized his absent father, and Cruz missed him desperately while he was gone. One time when he was six, his dad brought home something that would come to signify Cruz’s life forever.
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“One time, he (Cruz’s father) came back from the States and brought a back a watch; one of the watches that when you push a button it lights up. At the time I couldn’t believe it, and I became so curious about all the things I’d never seen before in my land or my life”.

This fascination with the wonders of American life and a strong desire to not only be with, but to be like his dad, are the catalysts which prompted Cruz to join a large group of young men on an illegal border crossing. Cruz was 13. When he arrived at the border, he called his father. He told him not to come to where he was. He was afraid Marciano would face hardship because he was brown. Cruz was crushed, but with no money, he kept running North.

It wasn’t long before Cruz began working in Moss Landing. He lived in Watsonville, and it was there that he was exposed to the life of the streets for the first time. “We went to a dance in Watsonville,” Cruz recalls. “One of my friends got stabbed. That was the first time I saw little gangsters in the street or people that relate to the streets. I got attracted to the streets; because of the way they defended us a and gave us a way to survive”.

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In the late 1970’s, Cruz and some friends moved to the Beach Flats area of Santa Cruz. It was becoming a dangerous place, infested with crime and drugs. Yet it also offered sanctuary to the marginalized members of society; who felt strength in numbers and easier ways to make money than picking strawberries in a hot field all day, even if it meant crime or violence. Over the years, this affiliation caused Cruz trouble with the law, yet he continued to hang out with his trouble-making crew until 1989, when his world changed forever.

“I met a woman– a beautiful woman with red hair from Michigan. She became my wife and I started trying to change my life. I started to work in the Parks and Recreation cleaning up the Beach Flats because I got in trouble there, and she soon became pregnant with my first child, Anthony. Seeing my son being born changed my life because seeing this little guy made me look back on things and the way I lived my life– and I didn’t want him to go through what I did, so I started working hard to fit in this society.”

This community outreach started in the form of Cruz speaking about injustice in American society. Cruz caught the attention of Scott Kennedy, who was the vice mayor and co-founder of the Resource for Non-Violence. Kennedy would prove to be Cruz’s largest supporter and gave him the support he needed to turn his life around.

“Nobody believed in me more than Scott,” Cruz admits emotionally.  “He knew I wanted to survive and see my kid. He sent me through a lot of trainings to be different and to maybe learn more about living in our society. So, through that, the courage came to start doing things in the community.”
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Cruz started a Kids Club that was successful in the Flats; a place for kids to go on field trips and to do positive things to do in their community. Cruz began to volunteer at the Resource Center for Nonviolence, and, along with his public speaking, he started a Kids Club that found great success. It was a safe place for kids to go on field trips and to do positive things to do in their community, as opposed to falling victim to drugs, gang life, and crime.

It was during this transformative time that Cruz moved to Pleasure Point and learned to surf. He was learning at the same time as his six-year-old son, Anthony, and soon became hooked. The healing powers of the sea became a new focus for Cruz, and he translated that energy by introducing his Kids Club participants to the sport as well.
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“Water is an extension of life,” contends Cruz.

“I believe the water heals the mind and spirit, and it allows me to help people as much as I can. It gave me the strength to be able to survive; to allow me the stability to help my family and help my community. To share this gift with the children of our community is a blessing”.

You’d think that for someone who’s worked so hard to change not only their own life, but the lives of countless others would be rewarded later in life with comfortable means to live. This is not the case for so many Latinos like Cruz in our country. The man must scrape by to afford to support his family, which now includes two more daughters, Esperanza, and Susana. He stays afloat by landscaping and selling some of his paintings, images that are based heavily around Cruz’s past and identity: La Virgen de Guadalupe, the Mexican Flag, Mayan statues, among others.

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Even with his own economic struggles, Cruz has selflessly sacrificed time and money for his community, especially with La Liga. If a player can’t afford cleats or jerseys, especially kids, Cruz will dig into his own savings to make sure that there’s enough resources for his players. He understands that meeting to play soccer every week and having the camaraderie of La Liga behind them, the Latino youth of the area will have positive alternatives to the streets to occupy their time.

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Resource Center for Non-Violence co- founder Peter Klotz-Chamberlin, can’t praise Cruz enough for his work—especially his efforts with La Liga de Comunidad.

“Cruz’s dedication, especially for the kids has been amazing. The league brings together people from different sides of town, of the county, different gang identified areas to play soccer.  I think it was an important means of violence prevention and community building among immigrants”, says Klotz-Chamberlin.
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Cruz knows both sides of being an immigrant, from the positive people who helped him assimilate like Kennedy to those who judged him for the color of his skin.

“I know it’s hard to change everyone, but this is the philosophy I live by; if you help just one person in this world, that person can help others. That’s what I believe. We have a lot of successful youngsters that I’ve coached who’ve ended up playing for Carmel and Salinas High Schools. The idea is to keep guiding, to keep encouraging others to be positive and do positive things in society around us, that’s what keeps me going”.

In 2008, the Mayor of Santa Cruz proclaimed May 12th, Marciano Cruz Day.

If you are interested in finding out more about the Resource Center For Non-Violence contact them at

831-423-1626
rcnvinfo@gmail.com

612 Ocean St.
Santa Cruz, CA
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An edited version of this story was featured in Santa Cruz Waves

Artist Profile: Maia Negre

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Artist Profile-Maia Negre

If you live in Santa Cruz and you’re not an ocean lover, you should get your head checked…immediately. Other than scrooge-like land lubbers, it’s not a stretch to say that our local community has saltwater flowing through its collective veins. This affinity for the sea has produced countless Santa Cruz-centric surf films, brands, musicians, shapers, and artists. One such artist is the wonderful Maia Negre, whose dreamy oceanic artworks are truly are a sight to see.

Maia is a jewel in the Santa Cruz surf art scene, which includes artists like Tim Ward and F.J. Anderson. She brings a unique blend of photorealistic and abstract surfscapes to her art. The flowing lines in her wave paintings evoke a sense of movement, and much like a wave, they seem to carry you with them as you experience her artistry.

The following is an up-close and personal look into the world of an inspirational and sweeter- than- honey artist.

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Let’s start from scratch. Who are you and what do you do?

I’m an artist, and I paint. For most of my career I’ve worked on canvas or on paper. I’ve recently started painting on wood, which I’m really loving at the moment. I’ve also painted surfboards, done a large-scale glass mosaic, as well as a public mural project in Capitola.  I’ll hopefully be doing more mural projects in the very near future.

Very nice. How did you decide to become a professional artist?

I do it because I love doing it. Always felt like it was absolutely what I was meant to be doing.

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How do you work?

Mostly I paint indoors in my studio, where the lighting and environment is consistent, but the source of my inspiration comes from the outdoors – especially from the ocean.  I also usually work listening to music and drinking lots of coffee.

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Sounds like a good set-up. So, can you tell me a bit about your background and introduction to art?

My earliest training in art began at 5 or 6 years old, when I started playing piano and reading, writing, and composing music. Being born into a culturally diverse family (my mother is from Hong Kong, and my father is from France), some of my earliest memories were communicating non-verbally to my non-English-speaking grandparents and extended overseas family. Art and music bridged any cultural language barriers, so I’d play them music, sing, draw them pictures – mostly all expressions of love.

The reason my parents named me Maia, was because it was a name both the Chinese side and French side could pronounce.

In my late teens, I started surfing and taking college art classes. I later got my degree in Fine Art from San Jose State University and with a minor in business. I’ve been a full- time artist, pretty much ever since then.

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 In your eyes, what’s integral to the work of an artist?

Inspiration, time, and space to create.

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What about an artist’s role in society?

I think the artist’s role is to inspire and innovate. We are all artists on some level, and we can all remind each other how important it is to be creative and unique – in whatever field we might be in.

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How has your practice change over time and what art do you most identify with?

I think my practice has just gotten more refined and consistent over time, evolving with experiences and influences in my life.

I love art that evokes a sense of wonder. Art that is beautiful and inspiring – I think the world needs a lot more of that.

What is an artistic outlook on life?

Having courage, trusting the process, following your heart. Having the tenacity to keep doing what you’re doing and being true to yourself.

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What memorable responses have you had to your work?

The sense of serenity, joy and appreciation people have when connecting to my work, gives me a feeling I don’t even have the words to express.  It’s a beautiful cycle and inspires me to keep creating.

Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?

Not at all! My life, as an artist, has connected me with more people than I would have ever imagined, and on very beautiful and meaningful level. The time I get to create, when it’s just me, my brush and the canvas, is always a time I look forward to – and every part of the process.

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Note- Maia’s partnered up with Merge4 Socks, you now you can actually slide your feet into the tube in the comfort of your home, (and wear them anywhere! 😉 Merge4Socks are available at Santa Cruz Boardroom, SC Apparel, O’neill Surf Shops, Buell, Pacific Wave and more.)

Come meet Maia at her booth at the Capitola Art and Wine Festival, September 8th and 9th in front of Zelda’s on the Esplanade.

And follow her on Instagram @maianegre

 

 

 

Double Duty

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Frank Quirarte photographs the world’s heaviest wave and save lives in the process

By Neal Kearney

Frank Quirarte is not your average surf photographer. Instead of standing on the beach with a tripod, clicking away, his craft involves documenting Mavericks, one of the world’s heaviest waves, astride a Jetski—where he snaps photos and, when needed, uses his bravado and horsepower to assist in rescuing surfers in peril. The Pacifica-raised photographer has made a name for himself with this gutsy act. Twenty years ago, he forged a friendship with Mav’s pioneer Jeff Clark, who let him shoot photos from the channel in Clark’s inflatable Zodiac. Over time he became proficient behind the lens under the tutelage of established photographers such as Don Montgomery, Vern Fisher, and Doug Acton, gaining acclaim for capturing stunning images as well as for his lifesaving skills as a member of the Maverick’s Water Patrol.

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“We didn’t have any safety out there back in the day,” says longtime Mavs charger Peter Mel. “Frank was one of the first guys to bring that safety aspect to Mavericks. He had the balls to get in the zone and get people out of harm’s way. The fact that he gets some amazing photos along the way is awesome. We’re lucky to have guys like Frank out there looking out for us.”  Waves caught up with Quirarte to find out how he pulls off this impressive two-pronged gig.

Fearless Frank rushing into the belly of the beast for a much appreciated rescue

What is the most difficult part of shooting photos from aboard a jet ski?

It’s all very calculated—physically, mentally and technically. With experience I’ve learned to be in the right spot at the right time, taking into consideration all the hazards involved. Aspiring photographers show up out there with the most expensive equipment and top-of-the-line PWCs thinking they’re going to get the shot. They realize very quickly that that’s never the case. You need to be able to survive in a very harsh environment. The line-ups are so crowded with boats and skis these days [that] just getting an image without a boat or another ski in it is almost impossible. You have to get really creative and try to avoid getting run over or sprayed.

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The late, great Jay Moriarity and Ken Collins sharing a smile between sets.

 

How do you manage to shoot photos and be prepared to go in for a rescue at the same time?

Timing wise it’s pretty simple. Most wipeouts take a few seconds to happen. That leaves you plenty of time to shoot the shot, stow your camera, and then set up for the rescue. I have it dialed. I have a little nest in the forward compartment of my ski. I open up the hatch, basically just drop the camera in, and then go in for the rescue.

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A gorgeous view of Josh Loya dropping into a bomb, as seen from the channel

What makes for a strong Mavericks shot?

You know it when it happens. Those moments looking through the lens and capturing an amazing drop or a spectacular wipeout or a gigantic wave—you know you’ve just witnessed and documented something special.  

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Grant “Twiggy” Baker absolutely rushing a Mav’s macker

Some people are content taking photos of flowers and rock formations. How does shooting a force of nature like Mavericks compare?

I have some friends who [have] climbed the Himalayas to get the shot—and that’s a big rock—and others who have repelled down the side of mountain to take a photo of a rare succulent. So I guess it’s all relative, right?

Assorted Burning Man Images by Frank Quirarte Photography ©

Burning Man festivities shot by Quirarte

What do you like to photograph other than Mavericks?

Just being able to get behind the lens now and make a living is always a blessing. In the age of digital photography, the pro photographer has been marginalized or wiped out. So other than weddings, I will shoot basically anything. But I still need to be challenged. Shooting big waves has created some excellent opportunities, like working on movie sets and commercials—which is always really fun. I shot the America’s Cup for ESPN and the City of San Francisco hired me to hang under the Golden Gate Bridge on safety cables to shoot images of some of their earthquake retrofits. Basically, if there’s a possibility of somebody going the emergency room, I will most likely be part of the shoot.

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This photo of Flea Virostko makes me feel both excited and anxious

What makes a good photo, in general?

I like to walk away from a photo feeling something. It’s that simple. In the age of video, capturing a shot that can speak to you like that is definitely an art form.

Which photo in your portfolio are you most proud of and why is it special to you?

I have lots of favorites. If I had to choose I think it would be an image of Peter Mel I shot from the El Niño year, back in 1999. Quiksilver used it on the first Mavericks contest poster. It’s hanging in my living room. I get incredible satisfaction knowing that not only do I love the shot, but also that Pete gets to have his courageous moment captured and frozen in time.

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Fearless Frank fetching a frightened friend in the belly of the beast

(This article was first published in Santa Cruz Waves)

 

Know Your Commentator…Strider Wasilewski

 

 

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In an ongoing Split Peak Soup feature, which I’ll now dub, “Know Your Commentator”, I’ve been fortunate enough to pick the brains of the World Surf League commentating squad. I’ve spoken with the dapper and daring Peter Mel, the stoked Brazilian Andre Giorenelli, and the ageless Kaipo Guerrero.

Now, the spray has settled since Owen Wright’s win at Snapper, a spectacular return to competition after a head injury that had him sidelined for fourteen months. Next up is finals day at stop number two, The Drug Aware Pro (I know, it doesn’t make sense), located in Margarets River. So far, the venues have been solid yet tricky, the surfing tame and repetitive, overall. I’m a surf fan goddamnit so I’m gonna be watchin’ anyways!

Of all the commentators, a man named Strider Wasilewski gets the best view in the house. Usually during important heats the camera will pan to the “Wazz” as they call him, either stradling a surfboard or ski raft, mic in hand, calling the shots from the water. Strider spends a bit of time on land as well, and his seemingly uncontrollable, ageless froth is fully evident during exciting moments.

Who is Strider you ask? Well, the California kid cut his teeth rushing giant Pipeline, and was able to travel the world as a Quiksilver athlete, with some of his most memorable moments inside mutated monsters at Teahopoo in Tahiti. I was fortunate to have tolerant parents who let me watch …Lost’s What’s Really Goin On/Wrong movies religiously at a ten year old. Strider had some mental clips at Pipee and a mean holwler monkey impersonation that awed me then and to this day. I tracked the Wazz down before the comp to ask him about his job, and his surfing.

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Strider, mic in hand, calling the shots in Fiji

 

You grew up in Los Angeles. Can you remember your first experience surfing? What was the LA surf scene like back then?

My first surf was out in front of our apartment in Santa Monica. It was in the late 70’s. My brother and I would wait for people to loose their boards, snake ’em and ride them until they figured out we were riding them!  (Laughs).

The surf scene was super localized, you surfed where you lived, that was that.

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Baby Wazz

 

You rose to legend status with your efforts at Pipe. How does a kid from LA show up and just rush the joint. Can you tell me about your first, favorite, and worst tube/hardcore beatings out there?

I think you dream big and big things will happen. It’s a little easier to avoid a beatdown because of phones and everything getting out in social media– localism has slowed down a lot. When I first got to the North Shore it wasn’t just in the water, it was everywhere! I couldn’t even go to Food Land without getting verbally abused! Man if the kids visiting Hawaii now only knew what it was like…

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Pipe, a mutant of a wave that put Strider on the map

Tell me about your relationship with Pipeline

I surf Pipe as much as possible, it’s a place that calls to you. It always has, I think my love of the tube is why I was first drawn to Pipe.

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Strider standing tall at Pipe

 What was your first gig behind the mic? Did you think you’d follow that path, or was it a one off thing? How did you get on the WSL’s radar? 

I worked at a contest in Brazil about 5 years ago. I went because I always wanted to try it out. I surfed for Quiksilver and had asked them to do one of their events for years but the producer would never let me even give it a try! Then when the WSL took over I asked again, and they gave me a chance. We have a great relationship that’s mutually beneficial.

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The Wazz and longtime friend/coworker, Pete Mel

Did broadcasting come natural to you, or did you have to work on your delivery over the years?

Doing this new job was pretty natural but there is a learning curve. I’m still learning and all the people I work with help me every event. I’m pretty much the rookie of the group, but I’m getting better…

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It seems like the entire surf industry comes to play during events. How hectic do the line ups get with all the pros, commentators, locals, visitors, nutritionist/hypnotist/coaches/nail clippers all trying to satiate their own surf appetite?How do you guys avoid such tensions?

The tour surfers are all really cool; they mostly respect each other in and out of the water. Sometimes the lineups get a little crowded and it gets a little edgy. Our crew usually finds other places to surf, or find other times to surf when everyone has finished warming up. Its definitely something we think about and try and give the tour surfers the respect and space they deserve.

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RUSHING maxed out Chopes

Describe what it’s like being in the water commentating with the current caliber of surfing? I notice you get pretty frothed. Is the energy of the heat contagious? 

I get super frothed while I’m in the water; I love surfing and the level of surfing these guys are doing is crazy high! I get pumped from all the energy around an event: the waves, the heat, the athletes… I’m so close to them I hear and see a lot, some stuff good, some bad(laughs). I’ve had to learn to calm my self down a little and better compose my information. I still get over frothed but I’m getting better at my delivery.

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On The Nose with Michel Junod

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Previously featured in Santa Cruz Waves

There is sometimes an unflattering, and often undeserved, stereotype of older surfboard shapers: that they are cantankerous and jaded old grumps limping through their shaping bays like lame prize horses, their brains frazzled from long-term exposure to hazardous resin, foam and fiberglass (that, or from all the acid they dropped in the ’60s and ’70s). Sixty-seven year-old boardmaker and longboarder Michel Junod is none of that. He’s robust, clever, grateful and just plain stoked on life, even in the face of a market that is primarily focused on brand name, mass-produced shortboards and fishes. He has a winning business model—making people happy—that’s worked for him the past 50 years.

“People are stoked when they get a custom surfboard,” Junod says. “I’m known as a guy you can come to for a fun, custom board.”

Born in Santa Monica in 1948, Junod grew up in and around the water. From an early age, his mother gave him swim lessons and would take him to the beach in the summers to enjoy the sand and surf. By the time he was 10, he and his best friends would spend most of the summer body surfing and hanging out at the beach. “If you are born by the beach, you don’t really know anything else,” reflects Junod. He caught his first wave on the south side of the Santa Monica Pier in May 1962, around the time that surfing was really taking off in Southern California.

After a few years spent honing his skills, Junod met Carl “Tinker” West, the owner and shaper of Surfboards by Challenger in Mission Beach, San Diego. Tinker built him a board, which led to his first surf team experience and introduction to shaping. In 1966, Tinker moved to the East Coast to open a surfboard factory in New Jersey. That summer, he invited Junod and a couple of other team riders to come work on and promote his boards.

tinker Tinker and Team Challenger

“That’s the way a lot of guys learned—either they worked at the shop sweeping as a kid, or surfing for the team,” says Junod.

Junod spent the next three summers learning to shape and build boards for Tinker. He moved to Santa Cruz in 1970 after an old friend offered him a job shaping for Overlin Surfboards and promised an uncrowded “Wild West” of a surf town. “And wild it was,” he remembers. “There weren’t any leashes yet so no one was even surfing at high tide because they didn’t want to lose their board into the cliffs. There were just a few of us shapers back then. It really was a whole different world.”

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After only a few chilly winters in Santa Cruz, Junod could hear the tropics calling. Over the next two decades, he lived and surf on the North Shore of Oahu and on Kauai, where he started a family with his wife, Jodi. He made a modest living shaping for some of the islands’ most reputable brands: Surfline Hawaii, Lightning Bolt Surfboards and Dick Brewer.

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Junod: high-lining  in Hawaii

In 1990, he and Jodi packed up and returned to Santa Cruz, where he began shaping for Pearson Arrow Surfboards and was soon drawn back to his longboarding roots. Before long, Junod had become an integral member of the local longboard scene, which has seen a resurgence over the past 20 years.

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He was a regular at contests, riding for the Big Stick Surfing Association surf club, and began his own label, shaping for most of the area’s best longboarders. All the while, he continued to hone his skills on the nose. Just ask Santa Cruz’s noseriding heir apparent, Mark “CJ” Nelson.

“Michel Junod is hands down my favorite longboard surfer to watch here in Santa Cruz,” says Nelson. “He is a perfect example of a surfer who has made the appropriate sacrifices in his life to keep his surfing and style top notch for the last 40 some odd years. His surfing is smooth and simple with perfect positioning and an emphasis on style. Dignified and honorable—exactly how I strive to be.”

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These days, Junod is still shaping custom boards and hanging 10 all over town. He has this advice for the aging surfer who’s contemplating throwing in the towel: “I always tell people who want to or are close to quitting surfing in their 50s and older, ‘Don’t quit, because you’ll never start again,’” he says. “If you are physically able, and want to keep that part of your health regimen and stoke going, you have to keep at it because somebody else is going to take your place in the lineup and you’re going to come out one day, flail [around] and go ‘Aww, I can’t do it anymore!’

“Later, if you change your mind and want to get back into it,” he adds, laughing, “you better move to Mexico or something—because in Santa Cruz, there are infinite guys to contend with.”

Find him online at surfboardsbymicheljunod.com.

 

The HeART of Barney

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A Shawn “Barney” Barron Art Show

The late Shawn “Barney” Barron was truly the clown jester of the Santa Cruz surf scene. His antics, in and out of the water were over the top, to say the least. Everyone who knew or were exposed to him has at least one bizarre, yet hilarious anecdote to illustrate this.

For example, about fifteen years ago I was surfing Pleasure Point during a fun south swell. I saw a black truck pull up to the Cliffside, and out emerged Barron, already clad in his fluorescent Hotline wetsuit. With the car still running and his dog in the camper shell he proceeded to scale his way down the sheer cliff, apparently disinterested in the preferred Billy goat trail that existed before the sea wall.

He paddled out, singing loudly, caught one wave to the beach and scaled the same sketchy cliff route he’d taken to get down. He jumped in the idling truck and took off. Everyone in the lineup just shook their head and burst out in laughter.

This is Barron in a nutshell. Impulsive, outrageous, and unbelievably amusing. He devoted his life to entertaining others with his brand of hard charging and explosive aerial surfing. As a poster boy for Volcom, he was able to travel the world, scoring magazine covers and prominent roles in heaps of surf films. While many have seen his comic book inspired wetsuits and brightly painted surfboards, other than the people close to him, the vast majority of his fans are unaware just how much of a creative genius he was.

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This Friday, at 6PM at the R.Blitzer Gallery, a mind boggling collection of his art will be on display in an art show/tribute called, “The HeART of Barney”. Along with live music by Ribsy’s Nickel, and Ono grinds from Pono Hawaiian Grill, this show is a true grassroots community event to honor the treasure trove of Barron’s amazingly expressive and eclectic artwork. There will also be prints of Shawn’s paintings available for sale, along with other goodies.

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As a child, Barron was fueled by boundless energy that made it hard for him to sit still during school. Despite a lack of engagement in traditional schooling, he had an extremely active mind and imagination.

“Early on he was inspired by the world of space and science fiction by our father (Shawn’s stepfather, John Coulter),” remembers his step-sister Amelia Coulter. “He would take my brother up to Berkley to little known theaters to watch strange Sci-Fi films. Shawn ate it up. They both had a love for toys and all things unusual”.

Barron was always a standout surfer but it wasn’t until high school when his art teacher, neighbor, and family friend Katie Harper saw the potential for creative genius when he took her classes.

“We had a lot of fun,” remembers Harper, “We played around and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to get super traditional stuff out of him so I just tried to guide him in his areas of strength– which was spontaneous, energetic, and colorful. His art was textural, very tactile; not too abstract like other abstract artists, but very playful. He was a playful kid. Because of that, I realized that he wasn’t going to let this go, like, “Oh I’m going to take this art class and be done with it”. I realized that he was really an artist. Truly an art spirit. A young art spirit and it was just a matter of time before he locked on and used it for his life, the way he navigated his life.”

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Art became a sanctuary for Barron, who had struggles with bi-polar disorder. Like surfing, it was a way to express the explosive energy that was constantly simmering in his imagination, as well as the reflective and painful lows. As Shawn became more prolific, this became more and more apparent to Harper.

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“He used it (art) as a therapy, as a playful medium, an exploration, as an adventure”.

Barron’s art was very impulsive and diverse. One day he would be working on an oil painting of UFO’s, and the next he would be using physical objects as a medium, like the infamous “Trophy Man”.

trophy-man

“In going through his work you can see really distinct phases,” recalls Coulter. “In the late 90s/ early 00’s he had a really intense creative period where a lot of his work seemed more pop in color and style. He then got really into body molds, landscapes, abstracts, lots of dots and circles, and of course, girls. He painted canvases so many times I don’t know how the paint ever really dried. Prior to his death he went through another really pretty creative phase, with a much softer tone, yet still bright with tons of color  and subtle shapes… He was mourning the death of our mother and to me, you can see some this in his work. They were extremely close.”

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Now the public has a chance to appreciate the massive collection of art that he created. It’s a chance to honor a very conflicted, yet beautiful soul. I can attest to this gentle spirit. As a grom growing up on the EastSide, I was scared to death of the older Westside guys; yet Barron was always very approachable and kind to me. It was this “Allsides” mind frame that made him a favorite for local surfers across town; hell, across the globe. I like to think that Barron’s creative and sensitive soul has found a comfortable place in the universal soup of energy that we refer to as the universe.

Harper sums up Barron’s stay on this earth quite simply.

“Shawn was just one of those people who wasn’t going to be stuck in a box and to conform, and more power to him! He was a wonderful spirit. He was a gentle man”

I hope to see you all this Friday at this once in a lifetime event, which is orchestrated with love by Coulter, Sandbar Brenna, FleaHab, Nate Weinstein, and Patrick Trefz.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1815923328621270/

Instagram @shawnbarneybarronart