Being both a rock star and a surfer would, you’d imagine, make you about as happy as any human can be. What could be better than the fame, money and the adulation of playing music to millions of your fans, coupled with being able to hop on your private jet and chase waves? Surprisingly though, the crossover point on the Venn diagram is pretty thin, making those who can do both even more impressive.
Here are ten of the best rock stars, who mix a passion for surfing with their mega-music careers:
1) Perry Farrell
On my first ever trip to Bali aged 18 I was fortunate enough to share a hotel pool and many beers with Perry Farrell and his then band Porno for Pyros. This was the early 1990s and Farrell already had half a dozen Bali surf trips under his belt. The natural footer was born in New York, but moved from Miami to California in the 1980s so he could surf.
On that Bali trip we had a few surfs out on the Bukit Peninsula. He’s light years from pro surfer territory, but anyone who can surf Uluwatu while seriously under the influence of high-grade magic mushrooms gets massive respect in my book. To this day the former Jane’s Addiction frontman and founder of the Lollapalooza festivals still surfs three or four times a week out the front of his Santa Monica home.
2) Ben Howard
Ben Howard was born and raised on the South Devon coast and is as committed to his surfing as he is to his music. Howard’s phenomenal success was built around first gigging around the South Devon pubs, before embarking on coastal tours of the UK. As his following grew he still managed to combine his international tours with locations that had great waves.
Now that he has added famed surf photographer Mickey Smith to his band, that doesn’t show any signs of letting up. Howard is now on good terms with Kelly Slater and his platinum album selling success means his surfing trips are now slightly more elaborate than van missions to the Cornish coast.
3) Kirk Hammett
Metallica’s lead guitarist Kirk Hammett has been a longtime, diehard surfer who grew up in California. Over the last ten years Hammett has replaced booze and vice with a surfing addiction, and his board collection is starting to rival his guitar one.
He has endorsement deals with Billabong, friendships with Mick Fanning and Joel Parkinson and uses Hossegor as his base when touring Europe. He’s a bit of a kook, but hey, they say the best surfer in the water is the one having the most fun, and few seem to enjoy riding waves more than Hammett.
4) Robert Trujillo
When the former Suicidal Tendencies bass player joined Metallica in 2003, surfing was one of the key elements that he bonded over with Hammett. Trujillo grew up as part of the Venice Dogtown scene in California, which has been the backyard for some of the world’s most renowned skaters and surfers.
The goofy-footer has logged multiple trips to Tahiti, Hawaii and Indonesia and can be seen surfing with his buddy Hammett at any opportunity on the their world tours. In a Surf Summit in 2014 he said: “Surfing has kept my feet firmly planted on the ground. It’s helped me be humble, because it can all go away just like that.”
5) Eddie Vedder
Eddie Vedder is the key member of the Kelly Slater-Eddie Vedder mutual admiration society, the two having shared surf trips and concert stages all round the world. The Pearl Jam frontman is a committed surfer and huge surf groupie.
“The one thing surfing with Mark Richards, Kelly or Laird is that it really comes down to wave selection,” he told Surfline. “When they tell you they see one coming out the back and this one is yours and you know that one is yours, you have to go for it, no matter how late the takeoff might seem. They are always right.”
One of the most confusing experiences I‘ve had in my life, and I live a life of total confusion, was when I walked into a small pub in a very small, isolated beach town called Congo on the southern coast of NSW and saw the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s bass player Flea sitting at the bar.
That itself, would have been confusing, but the main aspect that blew my tiny brain apart was that he was wearing a Red Hot Chili Peppers tour t-shirt!
The bass player is Australian-born, but moved to New York aged five when his father was transferred there as a customs official. Flea though has kept a bolthole down on the south coast, a place known for its quality, uncrowded waves. It’s a no nonsense surf town and Flea is just one of the small group of hardcore locals that surf down there. Recently Radiohead’s Thom Yorke (who is a bandmate of Flea’s in Atoms For Peace) said Flea was teaching him how to surf. As if I wasn’t already confused enough…
7) Jack Johnson
The poster boy for this rock-stars-who-surf gang, Jack Johnson comes from a famous Hawaiian surfing clan who had a house directly in front of the notorious wave of Pipeline. Johnson was a professional surfer who had made a name for himself in the heavy waves of his backyard.
However after nearly dying there when his face collided with the reef, Johnson went to university and turned his attention to filmmaking and music. His first album was a byproduct of his work on surf films, a nice little sideline that went on to sell over a million copies. Best mates with Kelly Slater and Rob Machado since their teenage days in Hawaii, Johnson still has the style and commitment of a surfer with real talent. The rockstar part might need a bit of work though…
8) Jimmy Buffet
Okay we may be pushing the rockstar definition a bit here, but the singer songwriter Jimmy Buffet earns around a cool 100 million dollars every year, has a dedicated set of fans (called the Parrotheads) and of the 30 albums he has released, 17 have gone Gold or Platinum.
He is also a keen surfer, and weirdly is on the board of the World Surf League, surfing’s governing body. He was recently seen on his SUP watching the Fiji Pro in Tavarua. Prior to that at this year’s Quiksilver Pro on the Gold Coast he performed for free, where he was joined on stage by six time-world champion Stephanie Gilmore and Kelly Slater. In fact it seems if you are rockstar, and you surf, it’s mandatory that you become friends with the 11 times world champion.
When Jon Foreman, the lead singer of Switchfoot, was asked about his band’s name he said: “We all love to surf and have been surfing all our lives so to us, the name made sense. To switch your feet means to take a new stance facing the opposite direction. It’s about change and movement, a different way of approaching life and music.”
That approach has resulted in each of their seven albums selling millions of copies and earned them a Grammy in 2011 for Best Rock or Rap Gospel Album. That’s right, best Rap Gospel Album, it doesn’t get any more rock’n’roll than that. In fact all the members surf, and surf well, and are known for their ability especially in waves of consequence. A documentary on the making of their album Fading West showed both how good they surf, and how shit their music is.
10) Donavon Frankenreiter
Aged 12, Donavon Frankenreiter started both playing guitar and surfing. Initially it was his surfing prowess that gained the most accolades. His fluid 1970s retro style enabled him to be one of the best-paid free surfers of the 1990s.
All the while though, he was playing lead guitar with his rock band Sunchild, almost, but never quite, cracking the big time. In 2002 he went solo, signed with good mate Jack Johnson’s label (who also produced his first self-titled album) and has never looked back. Nowadays, while still paid by long time sponsor Billabong to surf, it’s his music that he is most famous for. He even had the opening song to the movie Surf’s Up easily the best surf movie ever made. Fact.