Interview by Mike Jennings
Ideas are easy. Doing stuff is hard. Especially doing stuff all the way until it gets done. Dion Agius is a professional surfer, but he’s also a guy who seems pretty good at doing stuff.
Like just the other day, a new tailpad/deck pad/front grip/surf company thing emerged out of nowhere. It’s called Octopus, and guess what? It’s fronted by Chippa Wilson, Nate Tyler and, of course, Mr. Dion Agius. He can add it to the list of other stuff he’s done that isn’t pro surfing, like launching eyewear company Epokhe, becoming an accomplished photographer, publishing a zine with pal Warren Smith, and pioneering the surf blog a few years ago. I called him to ask him why being a pro surfer isn’t enough.
MC: Dion, hi, hey. I want to talk to you about Octopus, and the art of side projects. Because when Octopus dropped I thought, “Man, Dion does lots of things.”
It’s absurd. I feel like my head is going to explode any second.
Where did Octopus come from?
It started with myself, Nate Tyler, and Chippa wanting to do our own grip. I’ve been getting grips from all over the joint, same with Nate, same with Chip. I’d always had a couple ideas for stuff that I wanted to do but I didn’t want to tell the company I was getting grips from because I didn’t ride for them and I thought, “Well, I’m just going to tell them things that I would rather try and do myself.” Then I had a buddy in the States who was trying to get something off the ground and he approached us about it and yeah, we’ve been working on that for about a year.
Do you always ride with front grips now?
Yeah, it’s kind of one of those things that has a trendy connotation to it as a 90s throwback thing, and I get that but it makes a huge difference, especially for airs. Wax can get a slickness to it in the water when you lose contact with it for a couple of millimetres, it’s not until you really bury your feet into it that it kind of sticks. Deck grip never gets that slickness. It gives me a heap of confidence that I’m not going to do the splits and break in half. I’ve never really been that stoked on wax, and I’m like the most disorganised person in the world so I always have the wrong wax, or I don’t have wax, I never have the right shit.
There are two types of surfers: the ones who buy wax and the ones who borrow it.
Yeah, I’m the dickhead who borrows wax.
I hate you guys.
It’s shit, and it plays such a huge part in surfing, the connection between you and the board.
What do we call this? Front grip? Deck grip? Front-deck-grip?
I just call it front pad, I think. Front-deck-grip-pad.
Ever since I’ve known you, you’ve been doing stuff other than surfing. I’ve always got ideas that I start but never finish. What’s the secret to following them through?
Oh my god. I have no idea. My follow-through rate is tiny, if you could see the amount of ideas that get thrown out the window—probably because they’re so dumb. I only ever follow through on about one per cent of them.
How many things have you started that we’ve never seen?
I don’t know. An obscene amount, but I have good friends that don’t let them get that far. The beauty for me is that I’ve had the most amazing friends and any time I’m doing something it’s usually with these super talented people that make it happen. If I’m left to my own devices I’m just useless. Guys like Joe (G) and Kai (Neville) and Beren (Hall), and obviously Warren (Smith) when we used to do Proxy Noise (Dion and Warren’s photo zine that ran between 2010 and 2013), they’ve always been huge mentors and help for me. On my own, I’m stupid.
Okay, so the secret is to surround yourself with people who are actually talented.
Ha! Basically, yeah. I think so.
Why isn’t being a pro surfer enough for you? Why are you always doing stuff?
I don’t know. It’s funny that you are asking me this now because I don’t know if it’s that I’ve hit a certain age or that I’m on the verge of a nervous breakdown, but lately all I can think about is moving back to Tasmania and living the most simple life possible. But I wonder how bored I would be and how long it would be until I wanted to do something else.
You’ll go crazy, after two weeks you’ll just tear your hair out.
I’m going to move back down there this summer, so that’ll be a good test to see how I like it. I don’t think it’s healthy being that busy because the other thing I do is not allow enough time to focus on one thing. I get in a bit of trouble by trying to squeeze too much in and then it hurts everything as a result. I pretty much stopped drinking coffee. My friends refuse to talk to me if I call them and I’ve had a coffee. About 30 seconds into the conversation, Beren usually—he helps me with everything in life—he’ll be like, “I can’t talk to you anymore, give me a call back when you haven’t had a coffee because you’re out of your mind.”
Hey, what happened to blogs? Your blog was one of the pioneering blogs in surfing. Where did blogging go?
I’m not sure, was blogging ever even really a thing in surfing?
Yeah! It was huge.
I know, I know. I did it for a while and that was good, it kept me entertained and Globe was stoked and it kept me from having to do competitions so I was absolutely over the moon, but yeah, as to where it went, I have no idea.
There was a period there when you were doing yours and Dane had Marine Layer and then every pro junior in the world had to make a blog. Then it kind of disappeared.
I know! It was a lot of upkeep. Well, it wasn’t that hard, but we did it for five years and at the end of it I wanted to throw my computer off a cliff. It ran its course and I’m sure no one gave a shit about it anymore. Like anything new, it was fun at the start and then it got tedious and monotonous and it lost its fun. I never really thought about that, that they don’t really exist anymore.
Maybe Instagram killed it.
Yeah, I guess that is the modern day blog.
You were explaining the other day how you were busy with Epokhe, I knew you were one of the founders, and I assumed you’d be consulted on design and things of that nature, but I didn’t realise how much of the business guy you were. What do you actually do?
Between myself, Kai (Neville), and our brand manager, we do everything, which is pretty gnarly. Pretty much all day I’m working on that, which is good because it’s getting busier and busier. From design to marketing to creating the website, managing the online stores and then all the wholesale accounts and international distributors and then this year I started my own distribution company so that I could take the brand over to the States. It’s been a wild crash course in business, three years of learning and there’s still a lot I don’t understand. It’s one of those things that I wish I could dedicate more of my time to but obviously surfing is still my number one priority and the thing that I love more than anything. I’ll milk that teet until it’s all dried up for sure.
Far out, I’ve been trying to write a resume and it’s taken me over a week.
Yeah. Keep your eye out for the headlines about the surfer that has a nervous breakdown.
“What happened to Dion?” “He moved to Tassie, he lives in a shed and doesn’t speak to anyone.”
That will be the day. I can’t wait. Everything is geared towards that right now.
Last thing, that Wedge floater in the Octopus clip—it’s so ridiculous, but you actually try and land it.
Ha, as I was coming down I thought I was going to die. I thought that maybe if I got super lucky, maybe there’d be a chance I’d land but even if I landed perfectly on my board I think the wave would have detonated me. It pretty much broke me in half.