Way back in the mists of time, somewhere around 2015, I made a bold claim: Clay Marzo is the best surfer in the world. “The best surfer in the world isn’t Kelly Slater, or whoever is in first place on the tour right now, or “the one having the most fun,” I said at the time. “It’s Clay Fucking Marzo.”
Is there anyone who, despite releasing almost nothing to a thirsty public for years on end, can still command such excitement for a 5-minute clip?
Marzo’s surfing career took off early, as they often do. He, however, spent his childhood struggling to understand regular social cues and facial expressions. He felt at home in the water than he did in public. He has Aspergers, a high-functioning form of autism with links to Savant Syndrome, which could explain why his surfing is on a level that us regular folk can’t even understand. Cheyne Magnussen, Marzo’s half-brother, saw the talent, and urged Marzo to put together a clip to send to Quiksilver. The Quik exec who picked it up, Strider Wasilewski, was floored when he watched. “It was like someone had sent me the instructions to create the first nuclear bomb, he told ESPN. “I knew I’d received a package that would change the face of surfing.”
That was the beginning. He soon found himself on a boat trip with Dane Reynolds, Fred Patacchia, Ry Craike, and Kelly Slater, all of whom were thunderstruck by Marzo’s preternatural talent. A few years on, though, due to the intense social anxiety and feeling overwhelmed in crowds, the trips and contests that sponsorship requires became nearly impossible. Marzo just wanted to surf. Quik cut him from their roster, and Marzo continued doing what he does best, minus the contests and forced trips.
Of course, he’s still got backers who are happy to support him doing what he wants—and that, apparently, is dropping the most mind-blowing surf videos whenever he feels like it. Unfortunately for everyone, that’s not very often—but, as they say, patience is a virtue.