Interview by Aaron Curnow, photos by Roy Harley, illustrations by Kiara Mucci
There are many reasons to love Derek Hynd. Whether you followed his pro surfing career in the 80s, his pro surfing commentary in the 90s, or his love of alternative design in the 00s and 10s, he's always got something interesting to say or interesting to do on a wave. In a sport full of robots, he is anything but!
I had the pleasure of spending a few months staying at Derek's house in Jeffreys Bay in 1998. He made me feel most welcome; we bonded on our love of music, surfing and rugby. I have some incredible memories of that time. From the one and only Miki Dora hanging at Derek's on a regular basis to Occy serving me drinks behind the bar after Munga Barry won the contest there. So it was great to reconvene after all this time.
Aaron Curnow: DH I was so amazed back then how unaware of alternative culture pro surfers were. Do you think they're still that way today?
Derek Hynd: Surfers are still unaware, particularly the pros. Maybe not so much Kelly, who seems to be searching for adaptations around his bedrock design. Pros could do worse than condition themselves during their careers by looking at different ways to surf waves during their off seasons. I know it's not much of a gap, but still.
Maybe around 80% of pros are stranded at retirement because they're as pigeon-holed and linear-tracked as America's Cup yachts. Not having a go at them, but once the ego feed is gone, they have to look at things around them other than victory - like how birds, dolphins and sharks approach waves.
I give great thanks to Terry Fitzgerald for mentoring the speed and high line. For the rest of the population, I can't think of one surfer who got totally into the standard Frye Fish post-Litmus - San Diegans aside. Surfers don't know how to apply themselves to alternate design - relentlessly until they break the mould. It's all too easy to ride hybrid boards today. For mine, surfing isn't meant to be easy, it's meant to be an evolution of mind, body, maybe even soul, to aspects of flow. But then again what do I know...I guess it's still just about what turns different people on.
My biggest regret from my time at your house was not buying that longboard of Miki Dora's. He offered it to me for $200, I think his house had burnt down or something. Someone later told me it was the last surfboard he ever rode. What a piece of history that would be!
Yep, well, if Dora had made the offer and you'd paid him the bucks, that's where the grift would have hinged - actually getting your hands on the board. An opportunity though, absolute, on a plate. But who would've come out on top?
Are you still going back to Jeffreys on a regular basis?
Still back there season-to-season Aaron, still in the cottage to the side. There's an allure to the wave that other spots don't have because of the way the changing winds shape things. It's not everyone's cup of tea, but it's not a bad way of whittling away the time.
I met a girl recently who said Jeffreys has gotten pretty dangerous of late - more dangerous than usual. What are the vibes like there from your perspective?
Yep, to the girl in question, a fine observation. Robberies in particular. Murders, same old. But the underprivileged numbers of J-Bay have it very tough - a lot of it due to mass migration, both within the nation to Jeffreys Bay, and outside from Zimbabwe and particularly Nigeria where this culture is having a dramatic influence on crime. Put it this way, not too wise strolling the streets at night. Backpackers are getting raped.
The wave, definitely not as consistent as it was thirty years ago. Crowds, not too bad but then again there are always instances where visitors make tragic mistakes in going inside surfers they haven't seen before - locals without the free time to be surfing every day. I'll respond - "that's surfing."
Talking crowds, what's your take on big business and the mainstream taking over surfing?
Again, that's surfing, it was always on the cards. There's no point bludgeoning the state of a lifestyle that has delivered so much veritable opulence in the course of transforming a leftist pursuit into the most conservative sport on the planet. These millionaires and career interns hopeful of the money and the lust that comes with it, they're but a reflection of how far south the world we live in is heading. Not that they see it. Corporate, pro bodies, amateur bodies, aid organisations - they all end up congealed in the same stakeholder morass. Once near CEO status, look out!
I was in Crescent Head last week and there were Range Rovers and sport 4WD's everywhere. Crescent Head becoming like Noosa is a scary thought!
I am just finding with surfing these days...that it is one of the least renegade sports in the world.
Lawn bowls is way more renegade than surfing. What a fucking joke it's become. But it's only a reflection again of where society generally sits, so I've got no radical problem with the me and my money generations.
Moving over to music right now, we know you have had a Galaxie 500 obsession in your life - what a band! - what other acts have you been obsessed with in your life?
Still haven't got past '88-'90 in music. A lot happened right then. Poi Dog Pondering's first album in the same period. Yeah...since then...since then...nothing stands out...maybe it's got to do with engineers and how they present percussion? In the last 25 years, heading up the coast I can't think of one album that I could listen to, start to finish, and let it rotate again.
I actually liked Lily Allen's first - what a gal! Nah, up the coast, aside from singular tracks or genre mixes which don't count in my books...Neil Young - Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, Autobahn, Powaqqatsi soundtrack, G500 any album, Poi Dog. As far as Luna goes, 23 Minutes In Brussels to toss in with G500.
I guess I was obsessed with Atlanta Rhythm Section in the late 70s because of Red Tape being played in the first months of 2JJ. Russell Guy, Holger Brockman, Chuck Chumer...what a period...last of left wing Australiana. But back to ARS, Jukin' - great track. And the way they duelled and tripled with the bass line, I liked them better than any Southern group. I guess duelling guitars had a surfing feel to it.
Have you been influenced more by British music or American music? Has your British past influenced your musical life at all?
Yeah, I guess so. American music though the 60s was so interlinked between UK and US.
What are some of your favourite Australian albums of all time?
Australian albums...fuck...could you go past Back In Black at the time given the rise from the ashes? And then Chisel's opus. Funny though, the Oils for mine, despite being so fucking incredible, kind of let it be known how good they were on Later With Jools when they just blew the doors off just before they ended it.
Singularly though, too many Australian tracks to focus on but there was one live track done by Blue Ruin, Lighthouse Girl, that was on JJJ for a while late at night then vanished. Incredible. And it might seem a bit nepotistic but Pico - who I had a lot to do with - it's kind of great he never made it. His body of work, particularly his slower stuff, I can listen to it pretty well forever and not get bored.
Actually, the first Hunters & Collectors EP, World Of Stone. That'd be about the favourite of everyone at Newport in the tail of punk.
Heading back to surfing now, what do you remember of that national teams event in Trigg Point in the 1980s that you surfed for Great Britain in? I remember watching it as a kid and loving that forehand layback you were doing.
The Trigg Point event was interesting in the way it changed a few mindsets because of how honest everything was in trying to get a deserved higher profile for WA surfing. I went into a sandwich shop and there was the sandwich maker, 16-year-old Lorraine saying, "Look out for my boyfriend because one day he'll be beating you all." Lorraine married Dave MacAulay and she was just about right. What a great girl to have behind nice Dave.
As for the layback cutties, did a few knees with those, cut them right out of the old routine. But I guess I cut everything out of the old routine, didn't I just.
Do you keep in contact with the South Coast pro surfers from that time: Rob Page, Jake Spooner, Todd Prestage? Any thoughts on those guys or South Coast surfers in general?
Can't say I've stayed in touch with the original South Coasters, the chaps you mention were a good few years younger. Heard Pagey yelling out my voice as I rode by at Crescent though, about two years back funnily enough.
I guess ironically I stay in a bit of touch with Pam [Burridge] and Mark Rabbidge. There's alot to be said for their area. Took the most beautiful woman around the back of Green Island a month or so ago, not a cloud in the sky, not a cloth on our bodies.
I guess deep down Owen Wright is a South Coast surfer, he has been doing well of late.
I saw Owen massacre Margarets and Box. He's a bit like Simon Anderson, the way when it gets big it's shut the gate. His rooster tails, heavy. Pity he busted those two boards hitting the lip.
It was weird, recently Owen was living in Thirroul and spending his down time here. I noticed every time he paddled out the crowd would swell - the negatives of being a pro surfer. I loved watching him surf the local, particularly when he sat on my favourite part of the wave.
I've got no doubt people stopped and watched in awe at that secret spot you've just mentioned. That'd be something to see.
You were a semi-regular at the point for a few years. What are your thoughts on Sandon as a wave?
Yeah, super interesting wave, the way it comes in a few forms, angles, tempting the surfer to go deep then swinging in quite viciously. I remember just scratching under a big ledge of a thing when I was mucking around a bit too deep. It came in like the Sunset West Peak. Didn't do that too often again. I was down with Simon Tognetti and his brothers a bit. I always spare a thought for the young bloke who drowned out there, and also the true locals in their fight against developers.
Any other South Coast surf trips that have been memorable for you?
Just laughed, Green Island 1973, slept on the beach, eight of us from Newport. Paddled out in darkness to what should've been four foot surf, it sounded big, but as the light came it was six inches. Then we got bored and on the walk into town the others egged one guy on to pick a fight with me so that was on for half the day. Boys.
But Bruce [Channon] and Hugh [McLeod] took me down to Ulladulla in the early 80s with Ant Corrigan. What a day trip that turned out to be! Those Surfing World days were special.
Over to friction free surfing now. Do you find any limitations to friction free surfing? From my perspective I find there's less wow factor when watching people surf on their backhand.
Well all the wow is on the inside of the person doing it. It's extreme minimalism opposed to the blunt maximalism of standard surfing. On the backhand, on the right line, high enough up a wall, going straight never felt so good!
I don't find any limitations, especially with no-one else doing it 100%. It's freedom. And you can't say there's much freedom left in the current bog of the world. When the speed is flat chat, there's no freedom like it.
In terms of design, is there lots more experimentation to come? What are your thoughts on the Rabbit's Foot?
Sure there's experimentation but along with it comes the need for dedication. I think the rails are the wrong way around on the Rabbit's Foot. Almost ripped my knee out the first time I tried to drive the rail, but that's just a reflection of how different my rails are to that thing. Not really into the hipster element of how it's marketed. But that's surfing...
Should Kelly retire? He’s still an incredible surfer in all conditions, in heavier waves still the best, but in small waves everyone is catching up.
Kelly? Nope. Should the judges retire? Yep. His first wave of the whole year, a carving loop into snap into clean barrel and he gets, what, a 5.8?
I remember watching that wave, waiting for the score and wondering how they figured that number!
Kelly's drive in his surfing lines at Margarets was a cut above. He's just a stranger in a strange land where some surfers with styles so abysmal that they'd have battled to make the B-Grade squads of Australian clubs back in the 80s seem to score a bit too well for my liking. For fuck's sake, bring back artistic scoring! Anyway, Kelly can go till he's 60 - no bullshit there.
Should Dane Reynolds retire from competitive surfing? In his last couple of appearances, there has seemed to be something missing.
Dane should start his own tour. Maybe not even surfers against each other, but clip based. He could easily pull that one off. Waste of talent right now being exposed the way he is.
Finally, what else are you up to these days? Still watching plenty of rugby? What else do you get up to around Byron when you're not surfing?
Union, League, Football - women's, UK football, plenty, go the relegation battles! Pity Australian sport's so soft that no professional league has relegation.
I walk the dog when there's no surf. You can learn more about humanity in one day of walking the dog on a dog-friendly beach, the way canines interact, than you can in a month of Sundays in just about any lineup. Dogs rule. Or should. Maybe we'll learn to tap their minds 200 years from now and figure how not to totally waste the planet.