Derek Hynd isn’t interested in fame. Quite the opposite. In fact, locating the king of finless surfing is a nearly impossible task. Every so often, he surfaces in a dreamy, finless surfing film near his hometown of Byron Bay on a steady right and spinning along endless point breaks, eventually escaping back into obscurity. But getting this legend on camera is akin to filming a ghost. So when The Inertia recently stumbled upon Hynd at the Mercado Sagrado Lifestyle Fair, an event produced by Kassia Meador in the Malibu Hills, we were excited to catch up on all things surf. As becomes very obvious, very quickly, we weren’t prepared for this chance encounter, so we made due with the camera we had on hand and an ambient mic. Bear with the audio, if you will. We apologize, but trying to bottle the magic of Derek Hynd is something that just needs to be done wherever, however, so we apologize for the grainy shot and the horrible audio.
But the conversation was not half-assed. We discussed topics ranging from Kelly Slater’s run at a 2017 title, the future of pro surfing in general, and his vision of success. “I had a successful career because I knew the boards that I wanted and I didn’t bow to anyone else’s convention,” said Hynd. Without further ado, Derek Hynd.
(We’ve transcribed the full interview for you below.)
What’s changing in the WSL?
Back in the day is now 35 years ago. It’s that far back that things just started to standardize. It’s difficult in the wake of those 35 years for surfers in just one generation to say we are changing, because now they can only change by increments. Everything is too ingrained in the system of expectations in a subjective sport. It’s like politics. They’re wedged. They can’t move. They fear moving. I mean, Slater was kind of on the right course in the first heat of the year, when he rode that fucking piece of whatever. He was kind of on the right course. He was trying to move the consciousness; it was just that he didn’t know what he was moving.
So do you think there’s something wrong with doing something different?
Well, that was lot different, what Slater was trying to do. I respect that. Kelly apparently has just Instagrammed that he is going to give 2017 a big shot. He no longer knows his capabilities as well as he used to.
Why do you think that?
Svengali or Svengali’s in the mix. Kelly’s no longer listening to himself and going back through all his campaigns, and taking a good feeling, a barometer, a barometric test, of where and when he was surfing his very best. Marty Thomas, whose name a lot of people forget these days, he rode the Pat Rawson thruster in ’88 or ’89 to great effect, and I think he finished 6th or 7th in the world. Really important surfing in the sense of showing what could be done to great effect with a new design. Everyone looked at it like, “Wow.” Kelly is kind of the reverse effect equation; he needs to go back over the 1001 perfect heats he surfed and what really was the best surfing if he really wants to change the mindset of judges to make them think “we’ve never even seen this” because they haven’t been on the panel that long. All of a sudden Kelly’s surfing like 94 ’95’ on boards these judges have never seen before and
Kelly is kind of the reverse effect equation; he needs to go back over the 1001 perfect heats he surfed and what really was the best surfing if he really wants to change the mindset of judges to make them think, “We’ve never even seen this,” because they haven’t been on the panel that long. All of a sudden Kelly’s surfing like ’94/’95 on boards these judges have never seen before, and they’re going, “Shit a brick. Check it out.” I bring this up because now I’m only based on what I’ve seen live for a few seasons at J-Bay instead of on the coverage. He’s now a dancer (Kelly) on the wave instead of that driving Mike Stewart type bottom turn banging off the lip in a drive. Julian Wilson has now borrowed that from him. Even Adriano borrowed it from him. Even though I don’t agree with Adriano’s style. I do agree with the lines he’s drawn in overtaking Kelly, and leaving Kelly as a ballet dancer, aged in mid-40s, instead of a power animal like Jordy, which Kelly still could be. The whole purpose about Kelly is that you can’t make claims with a reputation like his unless you know your own history and pay attention to yourself and not have people telling you what you should be riding based on your ability to shape or promote or to give ideas off the cusp.
What does free surfing mean to you then? Like Dane for example.
The biggest mistake Dane made was going in one event as a wild card, he shouldn’t have done it. He was already successful with Marine Layer before he decided to compete. I think Dane knew what he was and what he should have been before he agreed under suggestion from Quiksilver that this had to be his trajectory. Relevance is what Dane has to think about. I’ve just done a few retrospective pieces about the 1990s, and it’s all about the relevance you spot in the history of surfing. Ten years down the tracks is too early, but 20 years down the track, people can start going, “Well, fair enough.” By the 1990s, the industry had risen and fallen flat. The ability of women as spokesmen, role-model spokesmen, or women as great surfers, or women with enough pizzaz or verve to be able to spark an industry behind them is as great as Kelly winning world titles. What they did for Roxy and Billabong, Roxy more than Billabong I think, was greatly influenced by a photographer of course. That’s relevant. That saved an otherwise ailing industry and propped everything up so that the framework for the whole industry through the ’90s into the 2000s, at least by the looks of things, looked strong. Now you just kind of got a morass of people in the industry not knowing where or what because there isn’t originality anymore.
What would you consider a successful surf career then?
One that had condition enough so that you didn’t have to go through two knee constructions…That would be a successful career to begin with. I came through clean and thought, “Wow, wonderful.” Another success would be when I was with a sponsor that understood me from the age of 13 and let me do what I wanted within reason. Another one, I had a successful career because I knew the boards that I wanted and I didn’t bow to anyone else’s convention. So with going back to Dane, he’s rotting on the vine, simply because as with Jamie O’ Brien, they did not have the capacity to build a new system around them. Abandon that side and move to the other wing. It’s not too late for either of them. Look at Laird, he’s canny. He reduced supply to the marketplace at a time when Dorian began his crossover from the tours in big waves. He wisely saw that Dorian was the first of a flood, so Laird stepped back and became exclusive. He’s relevant because people remember he didn’t drown the message. Like a boxer who went out undefeated. and very few boxers have ever gone out undefeated.