If Harry Bryant was born 20 years earlier he would’ve been on six figures and going on trips with Margo and the boys.
Not that whinging about being paid to surf and travel is ever justified, but it’s always struck me that the current climate of professional freesurfing requires the surfers to work twice as hard for a fraction of the rewards. And Harry Bryant may well be the hardest working man in Australian surfing. By that I mean he seems like he’s always surfing heaps and having a hell time, which is by definition his job. The fact that you see Harry surfing and having a good time on a regular basis means both that he’s consistent in terms of putting together parts and landing stuff, and that he understands how this whole caper works. At the risk of sounding gushy, I’d go so far as to say that few professional surfers make me want to jump in the car and head down a muddy track as often as Haz does.
When I get Harry on the phone he’s on his way from Eden—close to the Victorian border, where he’d been camping and exploring—to Noosa for his goddaughter’s birthday. For the unenlightened, that’s close to a 20-hour drive and a certified good bloke thing to do. Knowing the amount of swell chasing that Harry does in the southern parts of this country, I suggest that his petrol costs must be astronomical. “That’s my main cost of living, trying to put diesel in the car,” he laughs. Before adding that it’s alright because it’s a tax write off and “strictly busy.” Before escaping to the remote southern coast, Harry had been on what could only be described as an Indo bender, spending the last two months hunting footage in the wave-rich, but at times infuriating archipelago. “I did a pretty psycho stint,” he tells me. “A Ments trip and then South Sumatra, then home for five days. Back to Bali, then Java and then back to the Ments and South Sumatra again. Surfed my brains out and definitely ticked Indo off the list for the year.”
It sounds like a dream life and in many ways, it is. But it’s not without its challenges. “It’s definitely not the hardest line of work,” Harry admits of his chosen career, “but it does put a couple of extra wrinkles on the head.” The wrinkles come in the form of both prolonged exposure to the sun, and the nagging anxiety of justifying your existence as one paid to surf, something that Harry admits gets to him occasionally. “If you’re not releasing stuff regularly on the internet people think you’re sitting at home cruising,” Harry tells me before adding, “even if you’ve been surfing your brains out.” I ask him whether he ever gets stressed, and he admits that he does. “You know what I definitely get stressed,” he says. “Not when I’m in the water, but people are sponsoring you and hanging off the edge of their seats for photos and clips and you feel like you owe things. I feel that pressure mainly from myself. But I’m trying to remove the stress this year. It’s not a stressful sport and you tend to do the best when you’re having the most fun.”
Harry was born and raised on the Sunshine Coast, but relocated to Thirroul on NSW’s Coal Coast when he was 19 (he’s 21 now). The move coincided with him growing disenchanted with the competitive side of surfing, and the characters and the setups of the region fuelled his love for sniffing out and filming quality waves. “I moved down here and met a bunch of guys and was just really stoked on what they were doing,” he says. The slightly unusual thing about this was that the guys that Harry met were bodyboarders. “They all just surf for the love of it,” he explains. “The surf/boog world was at a weird crossing point where surfers and bodyboarders were expected to hate each other. But chasing waves with the boogers has been hilarious. They don’t care about opinions and the Zion and Stoke Factory guys have been really cool to me.”
After a few years of regularly churning out clips, Harry’s going to be spending the remainder of ’18 working on a profile film that he’s hoping to drop at the end of the year. Although he’s keeping his eye out for a Chopes swell (“a nice one, not a huge scary one”) Harry explains that winter at home’s too good to pass up for waves. “I got a Landcruiser a year ago and ever since I drive everywhere,” he says. “Flying’s cool. But driving you see so much more and it’s a more interesting, raw way of travel. I feel like if you go the extra mile you deserve it and you’re gunna score harder. And camping and cooking a feed on an open fire after makes you appreciate the country we grew up in.”
Ultimately, the reason that Harry’s beloved among the surfing fraternity is his personality. It sounds weird, but not everyone seems like they’re having an epic time in pursuit of their professional surfing lifestyle. Surfing’s a many splendoured thing, and each to their own, but anything tightly-cropped/black and white/avant-garde, to quote a great musician who’s sadly lost the plot, “says nothing to me about my life.” Dudes earning just enough to get by, bouncing down muddy tracks, having fires on the beach, smoking joints, drinking beers and eating beans, however, is another matter. And I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. Harry Bryant is this strain of surfing’s current poster boy, and he’s earned it.