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The Rise of the Free Surfer

Free surfer

Free surfing. The search, the long journeys, the peace, the freedom, the joy. It’s a lifestyle which packs the most appeal. No one above you, surfing at your own pace with no schedule or time frame. Just you, your board and the world. What’s not to love? In this episode of The Crunch, we explore the rise of the Free Surfer, and give you a list of cool names to follow. 

Breaking Free from the Competitive Chains

Competitions have their place, sure. They showcase talent, discipline, and the sheer will to win. But here’s the rub: they can also feel like a straightjacket. Imagine surfing’s most creative spirits trapped in a cycle of heats, scores, and what the judges wanna see. It’s like trying to paint a masterpiece but someone else is holding the brush. That’s why some surfers say “nah” to that life.

They crave the freedom to surf how they want, where they want, and when the waves are just right. It’s about catching the perfect ride, not the perfect score. Now, we love the CT, the events, the comps… but the appeal of a free surfers’ world rings more true.

The Free Spirit Philosophy

This is the essence of the free-surfer ethos. It’s not anti-competition; it’s pro-freedom. Free surfers live for the moment when they’re alone with the wave, where the only thing that matters is the connection between surfer, board, and ocean. It’s pure, unadulterated surfing joy. This philosophy attracts a certain kind of surfer – one who’s less about the bling and more about the bliss. They’re the ones out there at dawn, chasing the horizon, always on the lookout for that next great wave, far away from the crowds and the contest areas.

A surfer riding a wave
Balance is everything

The Digital Surf Revolution

One thing that’s turbocharged the rise of the Free Surfer is the digital age. Social media and online platforms have given these wave riders a way to share their epic journeys with the world. It’s not just about snagging a magazine cover anymore (though that’s still awesome); it’s about Instagram stories, YouTube vids, and Tweets that go viral faster than a wipeout at Pipeline. Free surfers have become their own media outlets, broadcasting the surf lifestyle to a global audience hungry for adventure, authenticity, and awe-inspiring surf action.

Life on the Swell

What does a day in the life of a free surfer look like? It’s waking up before the sun, checking the swell forecast, and then heading to wherever the waves are firing. It’s about living out of a van or jet-setting to the other side of the planet on a moment’s notice. It’s the thrill of discovering a secret spot or sharing a lineup with just a few friends. And when they’re not surfing? They’re planning the next adventure, tuning their boards, or sharing tales of epic sessions around a beach fire. It’s not easy as some trips are to remote areas of the world, packed up in tiny vans… but waking up to glory is always worth it.

The Role of Community

Despite the solo nature of the pursuit, free surfing thrives on community. Free surfers often travel in packs, share waves, and support each other’s projects. They’re a tight-knit tribe, bonded by the love of the ocean and the pursuit of freedom. It’s a community that welcomes anyone with a passion for surfing, regardless of skill level. This inclusivity has helped to expand the surfing community, bringing in new enthusiasts who might have been turned off by the competitive aspect of the sport.

The Environmental Connection

An unspoken aspect of the free surfer lifestyle is a deep connection to the environment. Free surfers are often the first to notice changes in the ocean, whether it’s pollution, coral bleaching, or the impact of climate change on wave patterns. Many become advocates for ocean conservation, using their platform to raise awareness and promote sustainability. Their love for the ocean translates into a commitment to protecting it, ensuring future generations can experience the same stoke they do.

A surfer riding his rails on a wave

Legends of the Free Surfing World

Let’s not forget the legends who’ve paved the way, surfers like Gerry Lopez, known for his soulful approach to big wave surfing and pioneering the tube riding at Pipeline. There’s Rob Machado, with his flowing mane and smooth style, who turned free surfing into an art form. And let’s tip our hats to the likes of Laura Enever, who, after making a name for herself in the competitive arena, embraced the free surfing life to tackle some of the world’s most challenging waves.

The Call of the Wild Waves

Ultimately, the rise of the Free Surfer is a call back to surfing’s roots – a reminder that before the sponsorships, the camera drones, and the gold trophies, it was all about the love of the wave. It’s a celebration of freedom, a testament to the thrill of exploration, and an ode to the creative spirit that lives in every surfer.

Keep Surfing Weird

As surfing continues to evolve, the free surfers keep it weird, keep it wild, and keep it real. They remind us that surfing is more than just a sport; it’s a way of life. It’s about finding that perfect wave and riding it as if nothing else in the world matters. So here’s to the free surfers reading this, the dreamers, the adventurers who live by the tide and follow the wind. Keep going!

Free surfing isn’t just a segment within the broader surfing community; it’s the heartbeat of what makes surfing uniquely captivating. This breed of surfers doesn’t just ride waves; they’re in a perpetual dance with the ocean, each wave a new verse in an ongoing saga of man versus nature. They’ve taken the path less paddled, and in doing so, they’ve kept the soul of surfing alive.

Saving Surf Culture’s Future

The influence of free surfers extends far beyond their own experiences. They’re the trendsetters, the ones who influence board designs, wetsuit styles, and even the music we associate with surf culture. Their videos and photos don’t just go viral; they become the blueprint for what surfing is supposed to feel like. They inspire the next generation to think outside the competition jersey and to see the ocean as an endless playground.

The Challenge of Staying True

Of course, the free surfing life isn’t without its challenges. Navigating the financial waters without competition winnings or consistent sponsorships can be tricky. Yet, this scarcity often breeds creativity, leading to surfers starting their own brands, hosting surf camps, or finding innovative ways to partner with companies that resonate with their ethos. This entrepreneurial spirit keeps the free surfing culture vibrant and continually evolving.

Big brands like Quiksilver, Vans, Needessentials and others have recognised the allure and influence of free surfing and have adapted their sponsorship deals to support this unique aspect of the surfing world. Rather than focusing solely on competition results, these brands offer support based on the surfer’s ability to inspire, innovate, and connect with audiences through content creation and lifestyle embodiment.

Deals often include financial support, travel budgets for chasing swells around the globe, and supplying the latest gear and apparel. In exchange, free surfers wear the brand’s logos, feature their products in social media posts and videos, and appear in promotional campaigns. This symbiotic relationship allows free surfers to pursue their passion while providing brands with authentic content and a connection to the surfing community, embodying the spirit of adventure and freedom that these companies want to associate with. It’s a super strategy to branch out, and not focus on the CT, while making sure people consume their content with their brands splashed about. It’s a new wing of surf culture so having the big brands there is brilliant. 

A surfer in a purple wetsuit on a wave
Captured by Francesca Soster

A Global Phenomenon

From the shores of Australia to the frigid waters of Iceland, the spirit of free surfing has gone global. It’s not just about the hotspots like Hawaii, Indonesia, or California anymore. Free surfers are venturing to every corner of the globe, bringing back tales of epic waves from places most of us can only dream of visiting. They’re expanding the world map for surfers, proving that as long as there’s a wave, there’s a way.

Inclusion and Diversity

One of the most beautiful aspects of the rise of free surfing is its ability to embrace diversity. It’s opened the door wider to women, to surfers from non-traditional backgrounds, and to those who might not fit the mold of the competitive surfer. Free surfing celebrates every style, every approach, and every individual’s unique connection with the wave. It’s a reminder that the ocean doesn’t care who you are; it treats all of us the same.

The Eternal Search

At its core, free surfing embodies the eternal search – for the perfect wave, for the ultimate ride, but also for something deeper within ourselves. It’s a journey of self-discovery, where each wave offers a lesson and the ocean serves as both mentor and muse. Free surfers aren’t just chasing swells; they’re chasing a feeling, a moment of pure bliss that can only be found when you’re riding a wave.

The Legacy Continues

Free surfers are the custodians of the surf spirit, keepers of the flame that has burned since the first person stood up on a board. Their stories, their adventures, and their relentless pursuit of freedom on the waves inspire all of us to look beyond the boundaries, to seek out our own adventures, and to remember why we fell in love with surfing in the first place. They are pioneers, darers and dreamers.

So here’s to the free surfers, the wanderers of the waves, who remind us that sometimes, to find yourself, you just need to get lost in the sea. Keep chasing those horizons, keep living the dream, and most importantly, keep surfing free.

Free Surfers to Follow

  • Dane Reynolds
    • Instagram: @sealtooth
    • YouTube: Dane doesn’t have a personal YouTube channel, but you can find his content under the Marine Layer Productions tag or by searching his name.
  • Craig Anderson
    • Instagram: @craig__anderson
    • YouTube: Craig Anderson’s content is often featured on channels like Surfer, Stab Magazine, and others.
  • Albee Layer
    • Instagram: @live.fast.die.old
    • YouTube: Albee Layer’s breathtaking sessions and films are typically shared through the Take Shelter Productions channel.
  • Mason Ho
    • Instagram: @cocom4debarrelkilla
    • YouTube: Mason Ho has a channel filled with surfing adventures, look for it by searching his name.
  • Stephanie Gilmore
    • Instagram: @stephaniegilmore
    • YouTube: Stephanie’s videos can be found on her sponsors’ channels like Roxy and on WSL (World Surf League) for some free surfing clips.
  • Rob Machado
    • Instagram: @rob_machado
    • YouTube: Rob Machado Foundation channel and various surfing-related channels feature his surfing content.
  • Laura Enever
    • Instagram: @lauraenever
    • YouTube: Laura’s big wave and free surfing journeys can be followed on her personal account and through various surf media channels.

BOMBA’s Top pick: Torren Martyn

Torren Martyn is another phenomenal free surfer known for his stylish approach to wave riding, especially on twin fins, and his adventures in some of the most remote and exotic surf locations around the globe. His content is not only about surfing but also about the journey, the cultures, and the beautiful landscapes he encounters. BOMBA’s very first event, a surf movie night was held as his channel and sponsor needessentials released “Calypte – a sailing and surfing voyage“, and to say he inspired us all is an understatement. Here’s where you can follow Torren Martyn for a dose of his incredible surf adventures around the globe:

  • Instagram: @torrenmartyn
  • YouTube: Torren’s films are often released through the “needESSENTIALS” YouTube channel, which features high-quality surf films and documentaries. While he might not have a personal YouTube channel, searching “Torren Martyn” on YouTube will lead you to many of his beautifully crafted surf videos and series like “Lost Track”, which are a must-watch for any surf enthusiast.

Following Torren will give you a unique perspective on surfing, one that goes beyond just riding waves to encompass a whole lifestyle deeply connected with nature, exploration, and the essence of travel. His graceful surfing style and the breathtaking locations he visits are truly inspirational, making his social media accounts a treasure trove for anyone passionate about the surfing life.

Get ready to fall in love, pack your quiver and travel, see you on the other side! 


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