Third Eye Blind may not have been the only band to shape the soundtrack of the late 90’s, but tracks like ‘Jumper’ and ‘Semi-Charmed Life’ will forever be some of the most important to come out of the decade. The band has been back at it with new music as of late – releasing their new record, We Are Drugs, earlier this month. But did you know that frontman Stephan Jenkins has not just a predilection for music but also a passion for surfing? Crazy, right? We caught up with him to find out more about his surfing life and the interplay between the waves, his music, and the other key pillars of his life.
Maybe we could start talking about your interest in surfing and where that interest came from?
Surfing is foundational to me. It’s one of my pillars. You know, there’s music, family, friends, some sense of giving beyond myself or philanthropy, and surfing. And that’s the end of the list. That’s all I got.
I think that in every other aspect of my life there are always these other distractions and cobwebs that get in to my mind. There are moments when I’m on stage where, you know, in music when I’m in that fully fully engaged flow state. And those are really special moments. We really try to cultivate those.
It’s that oneness… the mind, body, planet connection is instantaneous. And that’s my definition of Nirvana. That’s like what monks and yogis work at.
Yeah. Definitely. So how’d you first get introduced to surfing? And how does that play into your music or as a release from everyday life?
It’s a sense of renewal for me. Whenever I paddle out, I’ve never had any times where I’ve paddled out and regretted it.
Now, as a little kid my neighbor pushed me into a wave at Santa Cruz. That was out at Pleasure Point.
I always wanted to get there, but could never get into the rhythm of it because we were in Palo Alto, and I had a very education based upbringing.
And then, when I was out of college I wanted to really get into surfing more but I got sick, I got chronic fatigue syndrome. It basically robbed me of my sense of vitality. So that’s another thing that surfing does. In order to surf you’ve gotta be fit and you gotta be flexible. It requires your prime. It really requires your best physicality. And it’s what makes me… it’s how I experience vitality. And I think I carry that into expressions of music. And it’s not even specific things. Although, on We Are Drugs there’s a song called ‘Weightless’ and that’s really about surfing.
Cool! That’s awesome.
Yeah. ‘Weightless’ is really about… it’s almost about that melancholy of surf travel. I don’t really know what it’s about, but it’s definitely surf inspired.
But, over the last ten years I’ve really been much more dedicated to [surfing].
I also feel like it’s about sharing it with others and we’re always kind of looking for ways to bring philanthropy into what we do. So, I started working with the Jimmy Miller Foundation. They’re a group that treats active service military, Marines for example, who have PTSD. And they’ve found that surfing is this really great method to deal with PTSD, which makes tons of sense for me.
I always knew that surfing was good therapy for me. And the issue with PTSD is you’re still kind of in country. Your brain, your mind is kind of just some place else. Part of the agony of it is you haven’t come home, you know? And surfing puts you right into that moment. It gets you right in your body and in your mind and right up to what now is. It brings you home, you know?
It’s cool to see how all of those thinks intersect, and how you’re able to share that with people.
Yeah, definitely. And you know the other thing that I also want to do with it is I want the climate revolution. And, one thing I like about surf culture, and mine coming from Northern California, is it’s fierce. Surfers are all kinds of people, but on a certain level we’re fierce. And I love that.
You know, Climate Change is ocean change. Really, when we’re talking about the climate changing, we’re talking about the ocean changing. And I want to find more ways to make… I want to find more ways to become a climate activist through surfing. I want us surfers to be, I want us to get local on Climate Change, you know what I mean?
Yeah, definitely. I mean surfers naturally have a vested interest in the health of the ocean. And that’s what it comes down to. They’re a constituency for what happens to the ocean because they use it every single day.
Exactly. You know, I just started riding Nirvana Surfboards, and I did some work with Sustainable Surf, which is a great organization, you know, trying to make all surfboards eco-friendly. And Nirvana is making all of my boards recycled, sustainable and non-toxic. They’re also making kick pads out of recycled wetsuits, which I think is super cool.
And the thing that Sustainable Surf does, which I think is so simple is. You know, barely anybody surfs, and luckily it’s even a fad that has some increased interest in it. I think that’s gonna fall off because once people start surfing they’re gonna start to realize that surfing is really hard. So hopefully it’s gonna come down. But the allure of it, you know, is used for every last thing. Like John John is world champ of the WSL and hardly anyone knows who that is, but you’ll see surfing advertising anything. So it’s everything else. So even though it’s a small group, it has a huge influence on the culture. So I think that can also be a force for positive change.
I could talk about surfing forever (laughs).
No, it’s cool. I mean for one, I don’t think many people would know off the top of their head that you surf, so it’s awesome to share that. But, it’s also cool to see how all of these elements intersect for you.
Yeah. You know there’s a song on my first record called ‘Motorcycle Drive By’ and the end of it is about going out at Ocean Beach and it’s a really like… you know in the rain, it’s a place where you can feel really, really alone. And that’s another aspect. There’s almost that melancholy, there’s aloneness, there’s a reset staring off into infinity that I think I get something out of that as well.
Totally. The ocean is a place for fun, but it’s also something that demands respect.
Or it demands me paddling in (laughs). No, you know, the last time I was in Indonesia and I dropped in on something that was too big at the time and I fell off the front of my board – it was a gun –and hit the back of my arm, and hit the bone and separated my rib, and there you go.
Whoa, crazy. Now I guess the final question, and one thing we like to ask a lot of people is, what’s the key to happiness according to you?
I think the key is about connection. It starts with connection with yourself and then you’re eligible for connection with others. You know, words like being present, being real. I think surf is a vehicle for that. And I find that when I do something that’s real, however minor that might be, you find that companionship with other people. And I think that connection is where you find joy, for sure.