Drag came out of nowhere.
And by nowhere, I mean the industrial estate just north of Wollongong, which in the grand scheme of things is precisely nowhere. Australian surf culture, and the brands that both funded and reflected it, was once a bastion of larrikinism and authenticity, but as with all things, once they grew and the money got serious, they—almost without exception—sold up, sold out, and lost touch with the culture that spawned them. Brands like Mambo, Hot Tuna, and countless others either went the way of the dodo, or ended up shadows of their whacked-out, brilliant, former selves, sitting on the shelves with a whole lot of other tatt made in south-east Asia at stores like Big W. With the renaissance of Australiana that’s been sweeping the country in the last five years, Australian surfing was crying out for something that it could be proud of. And it came, from all places, a bodyboarding brand from an obscure piece of coast an hour and a half south of Sydney.
Drag came to most people’s attention thanks to their outrageous, cryptic Instagram handle @dragboardco. Never serious, the handle’s a dumping ground for all the obscurities of fringe Australian life, posted in sporadic sprays. A little investigation—and a conversation with one half of the Drag operation, a man who signs off his emails simply, “Maddog”—reveals that the account’s run by a whole clan of mates, and rather than being the result of a stringent social media strategy, it’s more crude photoshop skills and endless in-jokes.
The name Drag comes from “Dick Dragger”, a derogatory name for a bodyboarder used by stand up surfers during the great erect/prone wars of the early noughties. Since then a truce has been signed, and Drag’s been re-purposed for a multitude of meanings, including the age-old Australian tradition of sucking on a Winnie (for our foreign readers, this refers to smoking a Winfield, usually Blue, sometimes Red, cigarette). Drag’s simply genius t-shirt, which mimics the warnings found on Australian tobacco products, reads, “Dragging Kills.”
One of the most significant things about Drag is the involvement of a number of high-profile stand-up surfers, something that would’ve been unthinkable not long ago. Chippa Wilson has shovelled cash into the brand, along with Creed McTaggart, Wade Goodall, Craig Anderson, and a number of others who regularly travel and surf with the extended Drag clan. Surfing’s a weird clique, and for years it was vogue to hate, verbally abuse, and occasionally throw punches at bodyboarders. This narrow-minded rift, fueled by the surfing media at the time, forced bodyboarding into the fringes. As a result, the resourceful bastards took off into the obscure corners of the country, and ended up pioneering endless waves—many of which remote and dangerous—and carving out a rugged, frontier existence, both geographically and culturally. The merging of the Drag crew and their pro surfing counterparts is the ultimate validation of “sponging” and what it’s brought to the surfing community, and it also signals the end of a stupid, meaningless gripe. As a result, Drag have started making stand up “foamies” as a symbol of surfing unity.
If it sounds like I’m rambling with little concrete facts about the cult of Drag, it’s because I am. I’ve been waiting for answers to an email questionnaire that I sent Drag co-founder Maddog, perhaps also known as Dorf, whose real name I think is Chris James, for around two weeks. The deadline of this magazine coincided with the swell of the year so far on the east coast of Australia. A whomping east swell with an 18-second period that produced unfathomable waves from Queensland to Victoria. If there’s one guiding principle for all things Drag, it’s that they don’t miss waves, ever. Thus, the two dudes who were supposed to provide answers—Maddog, perhaps Dorf, maybe Chris James, and “Big Dav” Fox, were AWOL chasing waves at opposite ends of the country. Subsequently, the questionnaire remains unanswered and I’m left to join the dots and pontificate what this strange fringe movement means, if anything. But perhaps I’ve unwittingly stumbled onto the point. Drag’s a means to an end for the founders, a way to just about fund their lifestyle. I get the feeling that the day chasing waves comes second to meetings, filling orders or answering questions, will be the day that Drag dies.