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Noa Deane shares his thoughts on instinct over analysis, the pitfalls of modern surfing, and unplugging the mind to stay plugged in.
As told to Vaughan Blakey | Photos by Phil Gallagher
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I can’t believe that I get to do what I do. It’s fucking weird. I’m sure a lot of people want to be pro surfers, and sometimes it used to make me want to not be good at it, because I’d get rattled about it. Now I’m just like, “Fuck it.” And I think you do some of the sickest shit when you’re stoked on whatever it is you’re doing. That’s when you stop surfing with your brain and start surfing in the moment. You put everything into it and, as a side effect, you come up with way more creative ways to ride a wave. Then that naturally feeds into wanting to be more creative with the boards you ride. I have a bunch of different boards in the car now. I’ll ride random old boards of my dad’s and it feels more natural to be spontaneous, making decisions like that. On the wave, too. You never know what you’re going to try on the wave.
Most kids grow up watching their favorite surfing, going, “Oh, I want to do a turn like that.” And I feel like I did that for years. I was more concentrated on trying to do the turn instead of trying to actually surf. Then I saw how Creed McTaggart started surfing. He got on better boards and changed his line, and he was absolutely killing it. Once I saw him doing that, I was like, “I should probably do that too. I should start actually surfing.” I’d spent ten years learning how to do all this shit, and it felt like it was time to start using the real tools in my shed. Filming for video parts was part of the problem. You try to do one thing over and over, and when you end up doing it, it looks shit because it didn’t happen randomly. You just kept sessioning the thing, doing it on the wrong sections. Whereas if you’re just not trying and just doing whatever the wave lets you do, then that’s when you start doing sick shit.
When I think about Occy at Bells, or Curren at J-Bay, that’s the best anyone has ever surfed. And it’s all on instinct and reaction. I think it’s possible to reach that state with aerial surfing, even if you don’t really have too many sessions where you’re just nailing shit. I’ve had them in the past, and then I cling onto them. I’d go, “Oh, I’m never going to land that many aerials in a row again.” Then, last year, I was like, “I don’t even care if I don’t land a single air today.” And all of a sudden, I landed ten of ’em. Mostly I’m just stoked now if I get one up there and get a nice tweak on a grab or a little bit extra than what I might normally get. When you feel like you’re up there forever and you’re just going in slow motion—that’s the feeling. Then who cares if you don’t land it? Before, I was like, “I’ve got to land this air before I die.” Now, I just don’t even care. If you’re feeling good and you’re surfing without too much thinking and you get the right wave, you can just fuck shit up. Usually those moments happen when you least expect it, on waves that throw something unexpected at you.
I’m finding that I want to milk every session really hard now, even when I’m roasted and tired and over it. If I have a session where I feel like I’ve left it half done, I feel like I’ve blown it. I feel like I should be milking every second out of it. A lot of that has come from watching Mason Ho surf and how he’s approaching it. He’s always done his own thing, but the amount of juice that he squeezes out of every wave is nuts. It’s something that’s obviously been passed down from his dad and uncle. That’s how they surfed—milking every single bit of surfing out of every wave. I think it’s a sick way to surf. It keeps you from putting a lid on your capability. It can help you push your surfing to wherever you like. Look at Andy Irons. He might not have seemed like he was that way, but I think he was probably grateful for every wave he ever caught. He felt a need to belt the fuck out of it because he was angry. He needed something to smash and he was grateful to have that, and that’s why he surfed so good.
It seems like a lot of people are doing the same things on the exact same waves, over and over again. And you just burn yourself out trying to do the gnarliest thing that’s ever been done at that wave. Lately I’ve just been enjoying surfing semi-fucked waves that are hard to surf. And a lot of the time I go out on a day where it’s probably pumping somewhere else where I could’ve gotten heaps of footage. But I go out at this other wave and snap two boards and get driven on the rocks or something, and I come in so hyped because I’ve actually learned something new or seen something I wouldn’t have seen. And it’s been heavy. For the first six months, I was like, “Fuck, I can’t even surf these waves.” But then I’d get one and think, “Oh, okay. I got a little in there! It wasn’t the bomb that I wanted, but I got one!” It just builds from there. You get a bit more confidence, and you’re like, “I could probably try this or that too.” Then you either do it or you get smoked. I feel like by surfing these waves that seem unrideable for progression, I’m maybe contributing to progression instead of just surfing the same thing over and over again. That feels good to me. The waves are unpredictable and it seems like you can do something that no one has ever done at spots like that. You can go straight at some backwash and make up some new thing that you couldn’t do anywhere else.
I’ve been surfing with bodyboarders a lot over the past couple of years, and they’re riding the silliest waves ever. They’re just doing it for the love, too. It’s not a big deal to them, because all of them are so gnarly. No one’s like, “Oh, yeah. I’m the man because I got a gnarly one here.” It’s like every boog is on a gnarly one. And, watching them, there’s a boog line that I’ve been trying to take into airs. I’m always flapping around and racing, and I’m like, “You don’t really need to. You don’t need to be zigzagging to hit a ramp. You can just take off.” What the boogs do is stay up at the top, then time it and let go. Just a three-quarter bottom turn on the face, and then they smack the ramp all in one motion. Hitting airs like that is the most insane feeling, because you know you didn’t just flap-flap-flap and then throw it up there into the wind. You took off and you waited. It’s like when someone gets a sick tube and they just one-liner it off the bottom. That’s some Gerry Lopez shit. And then, if you land it, that’s sick. And if you don’t, whatever. It feels insane.