I’ve come to understand there’s a common quality among big wave surfers that somehow, someway, must translate to doing seemingly inhuman things in the ocean: an endearing level of eccentricity. This isn’t hard science. I don’t plan to gather qualitative statistics and testing my theory. It’s just an observation after far too many times of meeting people who build their life around riding the world’s meanest waves. A majority of them just have that random thing they bring into a room with them. Yes, there are outliers and exceptions. But just roll with it.
Case in point, Brad Domke. The first time I met the man face-to-face, he was walking onto the red carpet of the 2015 WSL Big Wave Awards as one of the night’s Ride of the Year nominees. More than a few people were flustered by the thought of a skimboarder from Florida taking one of the game’s top honors and, if you buy into all the negativity that exists on the internet, some were flat out appalled by it. Brad didn’t care. The guy showed up for a good time. He was the only person in the entire building wearing a suit and tie. I should have recognized the foreshadowing then, but within about 30 seconds of starting our conversation, he was goaded into 16 bars of an impromptu freestyle rhyme. So here we are, in the center of the often too-cool-for-school surfing world and Brad Domke is cool enough to embrace the whole white guy rapper wearing a suit in a room full of surfers moment.
It was entertaining, to say the least.
And the moment perfectly illustrates Domke’s place in the surf world: what seems “different” at first glance has just enough “I don’t give a shit” that it ultimately becomes undeniably cool. The man simply does what he’s excited about, charges what he’s excited about, and doesn’t seem phased by the fact that he’s become a bit of a trailblazer in the process. One shouldn’t be surprised that when the 2016 WSL Big Wave Awards came around, sportcoats and ties were no longer taboo. In fact, there were enough of them at The Grove this time that it almost seemed cliché.
We can easily draw parallels to his growing profile as a big wave surfer. While just two years ago Domke’s antics like towing at massive Puerto Escondido atop a skimboard got mixed reviews, today more and more people are appreciating it. When Brad started teaching Tom Curren his finless ways in Mexico earlier this year, he lit a fire in the former world champ. It seems to be Curren’s new obsession, gliding and trimming across waves a la his younger skim guru on a regular basis now. He’s even inspired completely new “hybrid surfing designs” from Curren. Word has it Derek Ho tried a little experimenting of his own in Indonesia recently.
So Brad Domke’s life is full of surf trips, skimming, surfing on top of skimboards, towing into massive waves, paddling into massive waves, and apparently recruiting anybody and everybody willing to jump on the bandwagon. But if you live in South America, not much of this is news. That’s because the guy actually has his own reality television show, appropriately named “Domke’s Show,” now filming its second season for CANAL OFF TV and GLOBO SAT Brazil. It’s essentially a globetrotting dream tour on film with the second season starting in Mexico then taking on everything from hang gliding in Rio to surfing and skimming Padang-Padang with Rizal Tandjung. The filming of season two takes place with a side project of Domke’s soaking up some of his travel time too, filming a feature length movie with the Go Big Project. All this and he managed to find time to skim Jaws and paddle at Maverick’s for the first time this past winter. Whether or not he’s actively pursuing a career as a rap artist is still to be seen.
He was ahead of the curve on skimming the heaviest waves in the world and wearing suits to surfing award shows, and now everybody else is jumping on board. I think it’s time we throw Brad Domke’s name in the race for surfing’s version of The Most Interesting Man in the World.
Watch the full first season of “Domke’s Show” here.