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The Inertia

If you’re anything like me (and God help you if you are), you have possibly heard about a non-fungible token, or an NFT. Heard about them, maybe, but understood them, no. They’re one of those things that exist in the cryptocurrency world that I cannot wrap my head around. So when John Philbin hit me up and explained that he was working on something that involved surfing, NFTs, Izzy Paskowitz’s charity Surfer’s Healing, and the stunningly amazing art of Damian Fulton, I was intrigued. Intrigued, but confused.

In short: Damian Fulton created a whole bunch of wonderful doodles called SeaMugz for his first-ever NFT drop, and a portion of the profits are going to Surfers Healing.

I was intrigued because John is a man whose mere existence makes everyone else’s existence better. He was Turtle in North Shore, Nathanial in Point Break, and had not-small roles in Children of the Corn, Tombstone, and Return of the Living Dead, all of which happened to be on my list of favorite movies before I ever bumped into John on the beach on the North Shore.

I was intrigued because Damian Fulton’s art has been in my life since I was a kid — he’s responsible for Radical Rick, and when I wasn’t a kid anymore, he was kind enough to illustrate one of my short stories.

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I was intrigued because the Paskowitz family indirectly and directly affected my personal life.

But I was confused because… I didn’t know what the hell an NFT drop was. When Philbin called me, he explained how the idea for an NFT drop involving Damian Fulton’s art came to be.

“So I have this friend named John Caldwell who is a bitcoin, cryptocurrency, blockchain guy,” Philbin told me. “He’s obsessed with all this digital-world stuff and he’s also a surfer. He was telling me about all this NFT stuff and saying I should do an NFT thing. I said, ‘John, why don’t you do an NFT thing? Why don’t we get a hold of Damian Fulton and see if he wants to do an NFT drop?'”

And that’s exactly what they did. “I got Damian to agree,” Philbin continued, “and he made like 40 of his characters. He did one of Kelly Slater and we want to give it to him. He did one of Dane Reynolds, ‘Seal Tooth,’ and gave it to him. We want to auction off the rest of them.”

Caricatures of Kelly Slater and Dane Reynolds

Two surfing greats immortalized as Jelly Slater and Seal Tooth. Images: Damian Fulton

The rest of them are, of course, digitally hanging on a digital wall in a digital gallery.

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So what exactly are NFTs? Well, I called up Caldwell, the project’s brainchild who also happens to be the logistics and marketing man for Martin Daly’s Indies Trader. He broke it down very simply for me.

“It’s basically digital artwork,” he explained. “Digital artwork has been around forever, and obviously anybody could copy and paste it, but you’re basically getting a certificate of authenticity directly from the artist. It’s a way of verifying that the artist actually created this work and that you bought it. In the traditional art world, say there’s a Warhol painting that’s one-of-one. Then there are limited edition prints. Those are worth more than just a random poster, but less than the original. An NFT is a way of proving you have the original. You have that one-of-one, just in digital form.”

And in recent years, people have made a lot of money with these things. Like, a LOT of money. A man named Kevin Roose, for example, wrote an article about NFTs for the New York Times. Then he took a photo of the article and turned it into an NFT. That NFT sold for an astonishing $560,000.

The charity aspect is an interesting one because it’s not just a one-time payment. Whenever any one of these NFTs changes hands, a chunk of it goes back to that charity.

“What’s cool about NFTs is that you bake into it that every resale of this, forever and ever, is going to give a portion back to the artist or in this case, the charity,” Caldwell said. “So if these things take off and they start selling for thousands of dollars, it doesn’t matter — any sale that happens, a percent is going to come back to Surfers Healing.”

As for the artist, Damian Fulton absolutely loved the idea. He’s a busy man — he was on a semi-secret project in China when Philbin called him up — but he was inspired by the idea and began work on what would eventually become the SeaMugz collection.

“I said, ‘I’m so down for that,'” Fulton told me, his voice still thick with jet lag. He’d just returned from China the day before. “So I started thinking about all the characters that I’ve run across. The types and the tropes and especially those from the L.A. surf scene and the action sports world. I got going and had a blast personifying them in these really vibrant portraits. It was a blast. There are a million types and some of them are universal. We all know them, but at the same time there are some that are so individual and so unique that they warrant this kind of immortalization.”

Take a virtual stroll through the gallery or purchase some of Damian Fulton’s work on OpenSea.

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