On be­ing a stu­dent of long­board­ing, short­board­ing and ev­ery­thing in be­tween

Surfer - - A Drift With The Vanguard -

You started surf­ing pretty late, right?

I was around 14 when I got into it. I was re­ally de­voted to play­ing foot­ball when I was young and I was go­ing to play in high school un­til I found out there was surf P.E. Then I de­cided that would be bet­ter than get­ting yelled at by a foot­ball coach ev­ery day. My friends and I started prac­tic­ing ev­ery day at Black­ies in New­port Beach, which is how I be­came friends with Alex Knost.

Most kids at that time rode pa­per-thin, tri-fin short­boards. Why’d you grav­i­tate to­ward logs?

It was the best board to ride in the waves we surfed. Black­ies is a long­board­ing wave; you don’t want to ride a thruster out there. I was also re­ally drawn to the South­ern Cal­i­for­nia life­style of the ‘50s and guys like Greg Noll who gave the fin­ger to school and went to the beach to surf all day. Those guys long­boarded and made their own boards. That scene was like a fam­ily I al­ways wanted to be apart of.

You have a very un­pre­dictable ap­proach to surf­ing, one that looks like a kind of wild dance. How’d you find your style in the wa­ter?

I think style just de­vel­ops from where you grew up, who’s around you, who pushes you and who in­spires you. Learn­ing how to surf, I would watch a lot of surfers, study their style and try to put that to­gether with what I do. Even to­day when I travel around the world and meet new surfers from dif­fer­ent places, I study their styles.

You live in Bali now, right? How has the long­board­ing scene changed there since you first ar­rived?

Right now I’m in Canggu and I’ve been here for about 7 years. When I first came here it was all dirt roads and rice fields. I think now that Deus [a Bali based surf brand] is here and do­ing their 9 Foot and Sin­gle fes­ti­val, more lo­cal kids have started long­board­ing around here. I’ll shape boards some­times and just leave them down at the beach for kids to try out. Not too many of them grew up long­board­ing be­cause short­board­ing is such a huge scene here. But long­board­ing is slowly be­com­ing more pop­u­lar.

What do you ride around Bali when the waves are good?

I’ve been rid­ing dif­fer­ent boards—sin­gle fins, twin fins, old thrusters. Some of my best friends are ac­tu­ally short­board­ers. I just went to Lom­bok with Ozzie Wright, Koby Ab­ber­ton and Jimmy “Jazz” James. That’s a group of peo­ple you wouldn’t think would surf to­gether be­cause they’re all so dif­fer­ent, but at the end of the day it’s about hav­ing fun and hav­ing peo­ple you re­spect show you which boards to ride, which swells to go chase, where to go and how to act.

Do you think your back­ground in long­board­ing has shaped the way you ride shorter craft?

When you first make the tran­si­tion from long­board­ing to short­board­ing, it def­i­nitely af­fects you be­cause long­board­ers tend to have that laid­back, cruisy men­tal­ity. But I’ve learned a lot by watch­ing short­board­ers draw dif­fer­ent lines, and then try­ing sim­i­lar things on my boards and it ac­tu­ally helps. What they do is amaz­ing and in­spi­ra­tional, but I’ll al­ways keep surf­ing the way I want to surf be­cause I love that style.

Most of the boards you took on the boat trip were hand­shapes. How has your shap­ing evolved over the years?

Grow­ing up, shap­ing was all around me. Knost helped me get started and he still helps me out a lot to­day. Dane Peter­son was and is a re­ally big in­spi­ra­tion. Now that I travel more, I’ve learned dif­fer­ent tricks from guys like Bob Mctav­ish and Neal Pur­chase Jr. in Aus­tralia, and Rich Pavel who is a great shaper here in Bali. Ev­ery­one has a dif­fer­ent process. You pick up things in a nat­u­ral way and it just be­comes a lot eas­ier over time.

Do you think it’s im­por­tant to un­der­stand the craft of shap­ing if you want to grow as a surfer?

I think it’s very im­por­tant. If you un­der­stand how dif­fer­ent styles of boards work in dif­fer­ent waves, that’s all help­ful in you be­com­ing more knowl­edge­able and a bet­ter surfer. In the late ‘60s, a lot of surfers were also shapers, and many of those guys are still rip­ping to­day. Look at Mctav­ish or Nat Yong or Skip Frye. I’ve seen Mctav­ish at Tal­lows [in By­ron Bay, Aus­tralia] get­ting bar­reled on over­head days and he’s in his 70s. Be­cause they un­der­stand their craft and know what to ride in dif­fer­ent con­di­tions, they’re still surf­ing well and hav­ing so much fun.

Im­ages of Ozzie Wright on col­or­ful, fishy shapes, tucked into crys­tal-clear bar­rels like this one have been in­spir­ing groms for al­most two decades now.

(Op­po­site) Draw­ing one of the most unique lines of the trip, Mell stuffed his 7'7" pin­tail into a dou­ble-bar­rel drainer, all while main­tain­ing a ‘60s-in­spired par­al­lel stance.

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