by Donovan Frankenreiter
[Editor’s note: Donavon Frankenreiter is a musician and former professional surfer. This essay is edited from a conversation with surfer and musician Gavin Heaney]
Surfing, like anything else in the world, has evolved, but the state of mind of surfing has stayed the same mostly. There’s a lot more people riding waves, but there’s also more possibilities of where you can do it and how, like in a wave pool, wave machine, or in rivers. Even in the ocean, the discovery of new waves is still taking us down new paths. You can go on Google Earth and research where the next best wave is. You can pinpoint when and where it’s going to be good and pull a strike mission. But the essence of wave riding, the love of it, why we all do it, has never changed. How we do it adapts with what's given to it, technology wise.
Anybody can go to a surf shop and buy a board and then go on a surf trip or to their local beach. But the one thing that nobody can buy or own is how their ride is going to be. I think that's what excites people more than anything. You can buy the first class ticket, you can be on the expensive boat, you can be the wealthiest guy in the world that wants to catch a great wave, but there’s no guarantees. You have to be the one paddling into it, you’ve got to stand up and pull it off and that’s exciting. That's why people are obsessed with going out at Pipeline or big wave hunting, they just don't know. Are they going to get that hundred foot wave? That's what excites me every time I go surf. I think I would be totally bored if I knew exactly what I'm going to get in the water. That’s one thing that ties surfing and music.
You go to a festival like BeachLife, you might know the bands, but you just don't know exactly what you're gonna get. It could be that band's best day ever, and you're going to be there for that or it could be a disaster, and you'll be there for that too. I think that's why people go to festivals. They want to see these people get together, do it live and see how they pull it off. Music and surfing is all a vibration, and so is life. If you're on this rad vibrational frequency, you’re like an antennae just waiting to receive. Whatever you’re putting out there you receive. There's no process of writing a great song, it just happens. You just have a moment in time, receiving the song that was out there floating around in the ether and it just came. You just have to be available to be the conductor, receiving that information. If you're looking for it, you're gonna find it, that’s the mindset of surfing and songwriting. It’s where you want to go, how you’re going to get there and what you want to do when you're there. It's all a learning process.
Everybody has a different reason why they paddle out, but I paddle out to just get rid of the noise of life. It's the time with no phone around me, when I'm in the water surfing or I'm on stage playing music. There's no sounds of whatever people are saying. That's what I try to look for. I think that's the same reason that people go hiking, snowboarding or skiing. You’re in the wilderness and it's about the fun. That’s the beautiful thing about surfing. If you go out to a spot, and there’s 400 people and you're in a bad mood, I don't know if you’ll get a great wave that day. But if you think, I'm going to search, I'm going to try to find this, and you put it out there, then all of a sudden, there's a moment in time and it’s all coming together and you're like, Oh my God! It might not ever happen again. That's what makes people addicted to surfing. It’s just exciting because when you get a great wave, that moment only lasts a few seconds, and then you don't know when you're going to get it again. It’s like this fix. I want to get another one, I want to do it again! I think as you get older, the essence of surfing is to keep moving. If you stop surfing you’re stuck because you're not gonna be able to do it anymore. If you don't stay active, or if you don't keep playing the guitar or singing, you're gonna lose it.