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Drifter Surf Journals - March 2024

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Here at Drifter, our ethos is “The Art of Surfing”…but what does that actually mean? Is that message literal, captured in a photo, in a reel, or upon a canvas? Or is it figurative, evoked and conjured by an intangible spirit, feeling, or sensibility?

Can one define a concept like style? Can one smelt the golden essence out of this aquatic dance and describe in words this experiential alchemy that we call surfing?

How the f-ck do you explain the concept of “lines” — in any of its sacred mediums — and furthermore, what makes one line attractive, and another one not? Sure, as far as good art goes, you know it when you see it, but as far as the art of surfing — you know it when you feel it. 

Art, as the poet Rilke once wrote, has the particularly powerful ability to make you change your life. And perhaps surfing shares this same ability, much like an act of beauty often does.


The always smiling Kopral, photo by Nate Lawrence


“The ocean has this ability to make people reevaluate their entire lives,” says Drifter’s Creative Director and artist, Chris Del Moro. “The ocean has the ability to capture you and set a new course for your life. If you’re from the Midwest or somewhere inland where you might not experience this lifestyle at all, that scene and experience can be life changing.”

“And as far as those romantic, dream-qualities of life, it doesn’t get too much dreamier than a life surfing. Even if you’ve seen the scene a million times — it’s still incredible.”


Chris at home in Santa Barbara, CA. Photo by Stephen Jones

“For me as a young surfer I gravitated to the greats that had good style. The ones that weren’t technical or charged and didn’t have good style — I wasn’t interested in it. It’s hard to explain that concept, but maybe it has to do with body position and the innate balance of where you are on a wave that’s always the most visually captivating thing. At least that’s what it was for me as a child. I just instantly wanted to draw them.”


“I’d literally study people’s body mechanics, watch it on the screen and freeze it and then draw it and then eventually paint it. That was part of my journey in discovering The Art of Surfing and how to articulate that on canvas, but I truly just love every part of the ocean. Surfing, swimming, sailing…there’s an art to all of it.”

That idea of witnessing something — and the unexplainable art emanating from it that truly transforms you, as Chris says — is certainly something most surfers can relate with.

Tom Curren’s first, near perfectly ridden wave at J-Bay. The subtle arc of Gerry Lopez’s back and posture bending beneath the thundering curtain of a Banzai Pipeline lip. Bruce Irons’ hands dripping effortlessly from his wrists at flawless HTs…


“It’s always fascinated me how we all have our own unique style, from bum-crouching beginners to ballet-dancing professionals,” says artist Guy Hastings. “Then there’s the individual's experience with hydrodynamics, bathymetry, geography, weather…all these aspects and experiences form every surfer’s unique perspective and style. It's all so incredibly complex that one takes solace in John Lennon's words: Because the sky is blue, it turns me on.”



Chris has kept nearly all of his journals over most of his life.

For me, it was Second Thoughts. Watching three young surfers’ rugged, raw, and relentless passion for adventure and the will to sleep in the malarial infested mud of a remote jungle until a semi-closeout righthander finally broke.

That work of art was my Road to Damascus religious experience. For a time, I vowed only to search for waves the hard way, a devoted practitioner in the art of adventure.


“Surfing for me has always been a way of living,” says photographer and filmmaker Nathan Oldfield. “It’s a way of being in the world, a way of interacting with the preciousness of the natural world and the holiness of the gift of being alive. Surfing is creative in that it is such a natural and beautifully human activity and human beings are intrinsically creative creatures. I guess it depends what kind of intention and heartbeat you bring to the water, but at its best, surfing can be artful and mindful. Perhaps even transcendental.”


Chris Del Moro on rail, photo by Nathan Oldfield

“Surfing is such delicious play. I’ve never been in a boardriders club. I’m not especially interested in competitive surfing. So surfing is more art than sport to me. And if it is an artform, I've always felt the closest approximation might be dance. There’s grace, strength, movement, style. Like dance, surfing is in the moment, but there’s no product after the moment passes. There’s no poem or song or painting at the end of the creative process, just a cherished memory or feeling.”

“But I think that even a comparison with dance somehow falls short. Surfing is so meaningful and special, it’s hard to put into words. It’s so intrinsic and intimate and innermost, I’m barely inclined to even try to describe or define it.”

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Joel finding those barrels of joy the best way he knows how.

“Surfing it is a form of expression, without judgement or limitations. It’s an act of worship, a place of reverence and respect,” says artist and shaper Joel Fitzgerald. “The Art of Surfing is a connection to your human nature and ocean. The medium is through shaping, painting, music, art, yoga, breath, and adventure.”

“We are an eclectic tribe of vagabonds, gypsies and hippies that travel and sail the globe looking for waves and adventure. We are rebels, Vikings, pirates, and scum bags that will go to no cost to steal barrels and set-waves to fill our chest full of gold. Arrrr me lads, barrels and barrels of joy...”

Indeed art, as Joel brings up — whether witnessing it or making it — if anything, gives us joy.

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“The Art of Surfing is obviously so subjective,” says artist Andy Davis. “It’s many things, I guess. It’s the natural side of things: The waves themselves and the creatures that play on them. Dolphins, pelicans, whales, sharks; all the aquatic dwellers.”

“But then I also think of humans that I see participating in the act. From catching and drawing unique lines on all sorts of craft, to shapers making boards to ride waves in all types of places and spaces, to photographers and filmmakers sharing their stories, documenting all of the going’s on, to the designers and creatives that show and tell their own versions of how they see and feel it. That’s The Art of Surfing.”

For many, surfing and the art within it is an emotional experience.

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"The word “art” travels across so many parts of the surfing experience,” says legendary pro surfer, shaper, and original Drifter muse, Rob Machado. “The artistic side for me, however, is how each and every surfer draws their unique lines. Waves are the canvas and it’s up to us to express our feelings and emotions across wave faces. Some wish to glide…some wish to attack…and everything in between. It is truly  the ultimate form of expression. No rules. No guidelines. Just you and your emotions.”

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“But from the creation of the crafts that we ride to each and every human that stands and slides in their own way — I love seeing all different types of surf crafts and how each surfer’s approach will alter their final glide.”

“I have always admired the creation of surfboards and all the elements that go into each and every one. From the shaper to the laminators to the sanders…it’s very rare that a piece of equipment is touched by so many hands before it lands under your feet.”


Tim and Chris at Tim's home in Uluwatu.


"The art of surfing, for me, transcends being merely a concept or a tagline; it embodies an authentic lifestyle that took root on the beach at a young age,” says Drifter co-founder, Tim Russo.

“My profound love for the ocean, coupled with the artistic beauty of riding its waves, ignited an endless journey of coastal exploration across the globe, which landed me permanently in Bali. Here more than anywhere the blending of the magic and mysticism of Bali's unique Hindu culture — with the creative and adventurous global surf community — creates a tapestry of artistic expression that’s very evident.

“Continuously inspired by the skilled shapers, stylish surfers, and visionary artists who unite to craft the boards we ride upon, this artistic beauty unfolds in the graceful nuances of a surfer harmonizing perfectly with the right board and wave. It's a moment you instantly recognize, and this, to me, is the very essence of the art of surfing."

Maybe at its core, photographer Nate Lawrence quite simply said it best: “The art of surfing is feeling good while sliding on top of water.”

Certainly not a bad way to put it.


Mencos knows the feeling. Photo by Nate Lawrence

Written by: Beau Flemister

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