Hometown: Manhattan Beach, Los Angeles
Noah Collins has a face I want to be friends with. It’s smiley and kind and framed by a split fringe that billows gently on either side of his dark warm eyes like voile drapes by an open window. Beneath his inoffensive nose rests a brilliant moustache; angular, not too thick, and perfect for sipping a Sapporo without garnishing any unseemly rabies-like froth. Yes, his is a face I want to be friends with, but more than that, it is also the face of a young man with interests and curiosities that fuel a natural and easy lust for life, and it’s this combination that has seen him become one of surfing’s most intriguing characters in 2020 at the ripe old age of 22.
Noah grew up surfing in LA, which doesn’t carry the lofty reputations of San Clemente or Santa Cruz when it comes to revolutionary, high-performance, Californian shredding, but is not without its own powerful surf scene. In the water, Noah’s backhand has already been touted as one of the state’s best ever, which is no small compliment when you consider the current benchmark for such destruction currently sits with Bobby Martinez and Dane Reynolds. But aside from shredding, Noah is also an artist, a photographer, a cobbler, and a tailor, and he’s been known to French seam little cardigans for his best friend’s chihuahua, complete with piping and button plackets.
When we contacted Noz (Oh, didn’t I tell you? Noz and I are friends now and I call him ‘Noz’), he’s at home in LA doing what we’re all doing, but doing it better because he’s in this list and we’re not. Our conversation kicked off with the brilliant, recently-released film he stars in with a host of other under-the-radar shred lords. It’s called FAIRY.
Tell us about FAIRY. I love that it features so many surfers who rip but who we hardly ever see in the mainstream media.
Fairy was such a fun movie to be a part of and yeah, you’re right, everyone who’s in it are the best people you’ll ever meet. They all rip so hard. We travel together a lot, but for some reason there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of light shining on these really great surfers. So, Oscar O’Shea and Dav [Fox] and Jamie [Krups] made the decision to make this movie and it was received really well. They did so good.
Did you guys get to launch the thing with a big premiere party before the world shut down or did you have to bench all that and do a digital roll-out?
We got to party just in the nick of time. We couldn’t have planned it any more perfectly. The first premiere was wild. Jamie showed me the space for it, and it was fucking huge! I was like, ‘Whoa, this is a big venue for a bunch of nobodies trying to put on a little surf film.’ But the Facebook invite list ended up topping 500 and by the time we got there that night, the line was out the door and around the corner and we were like, ‘Holy shit!’
Not many people get to experience that feeling of kids-lining-up-around-the-block. That’s amazing.
Yeah, it was so sick.
You got a taste of that and then you got told to go sit in your room for four months.
(Laughs) I know! There were a lot of travels and surf trips planned for after that film and it’s totally gone to the wayside.
We’re doing this interview for MC’s Bright Young Things, featuring young people who are fucken legends who might just go on to change the game. It’s a list of people who we feel have the potential to be culture shifters and the reason we’re including you is because you have the best moustache we’ve seen since Jack Barlow got home from the Vietnam War in Big Wednesday.
Cool. That’s great!
…but it’s also because you shred, and also because you’re a man of many talents and curiosities. I love that you make your own clothes, for example. When did that interest in things outside of surfing take hold?
I guess it has a bit to do with being a product of my environment. Being from LA, I mean, it’s a city where it’s all happening around you at all times. I live in Manhattan Beach, which is in the South Bay. It’s pretty secluded but still within the city of LA. I get the best of both worlds because you can surf all day and not feel like you’re in the city, but then when you get in the car and drive for five minutes and you’re in the thick of the LA hustle and bustle. It’s close enough where you can switch on and switch off. The thing is, a lot of the people I grew up with never really leave this zone. They like being out of the rush. But that was never for me. As soon as I got my license, I was out and about every chance I got. Seeing bands, going to parties, checking exhibitions and meeting as many interesting people as I could. And I ended up making friends everywhere who exposed me to a bunch of different things. When I was a kid, I was 100 per cent like, ‘Holy shit! Surfing is the way of life. There’s nothing else cooler than this. This is the answer to it all.’ But once I got a little older and saw all these different walks and ways of life, surfing began to feel like it was in a bit of a bubble. Don’t get me wrong, it’s my number one passion, it’s just that seeing a wider world, walking in other people’s shoes and learning there’s much more to life than riding waves.
My favourite surfers over the past 25 years have always had interests away from the beach and it made them better surfers in that it gave them more freedom to enjoy and interpret life with a greater sphere of influence. Tell us about creating your own clothing. How did that come about?
I didn’t really even notice that I was into it. My mom was into making slip covers or re-upholstering the couch and it never made sense to my dad. He was always like ‘Why does she pick up broken furniture on the side of the road? Why does she want to fix this old shit just sitting there?’ But she loved it. She would bring it back and make it her side project. She’d get the material and re-upholster everything. And because of that, I have a crazy level of respect for the procedures and the work and the love that goes into how things are made, particularly with sewing. But Dad would be like, ‘Just get a new one! What are you doing?’ But to me now, I’m just like, ‘Holy shit! That is so cool.’ So, she pretty much had everything to do with my curiosity in that realm. There’s also the fact that I’m not the tallest human being and I’ve got tree trunks of legs. So, nothing really fit, and mom showed me how to pull all the clothes I had apart and re-hem them so they fit perfect. And then I just … It was just like opening Pandora’s box, I guess. At first, you’re learning the basics, but soon you come to appreciate every stitch.
Ozzie Wright has gotten psycho into sewing the past year. He’s got blisters on his fingers from sewing all day. I don’t know how psyched he is on the manufacturing elements of the craft, but he certainly loves using his sewing machine and fabric as an extension of painting.
Yeah, I saw that. He’s doing those giant, sewn pictures of girls and birds. They’re awesome.
What’s been the one thing you’ve made that you’re most proud of?
I don’t really know. I’m in the early stages of learning everything and so every time I make something there’s a slight bit of improvement and something to feel happy about. Most people probably wouldn’t be able to notice, but to me I’m like, ‘That line, that stitch was… all right, I’m getting there.’ The funny thing is only I can see it. To somebody who doesn’t tear those things apart and really look at them under a magnifying glass, they wouldn’t really notice anything all that remarkable.
I know you’re not interested in creating your own brand but is there any goal for you with creating your own clothes, or it just something you enjoy doing?
I’m just trying to let it all happen naturally instead of forcing it. The world doesn’t really need a new clothing brand. I’m just focusing more on the art of piecing textiles together and trying to figure out more expressive ways of doing it. I’m trying to keep it as more of a creative outlet. Learn it, get as schooled on the details as possible and have it as something that adds a feeling of satisfaction and joy to my life.
Spoken like a true Buddhist, man! The act of doing is reward enough! The journey is the destination!
(Laughs) I don’t know.
Are you the kind of person who goes deep when you’ve developed an interest something?
Once I take a genuine interest, I’m locked in. I have to make sure I’m learning as much as possible about whatever it is I’m interested in.
Sick, man. It’s a good way to be.
I can spread myself pretty thin at times, but if there’s one thing that’s really got my interest, I can sacrifice a bunch of other things just to be doing that one thing.
Let’s talk about surfing. I haven’t done a lot of surfing around LA. What’s the scene like?
There’s a huge surf scene for sure, not just on the coast of LA, but all throughout LA. It seems like you can visit anyone creative anywhere in the city and there’ll be a grimy old surfboard somewhere in their apartment. They might not be doing it every day, but they know what’s up and they surf. It also has its career groms who wanna be pros and all that, too. So, it’s big. Surfing’s such a big career path now that it’s not so much like you’re just finding your own way with it.
Considering you come out of LA, it seems incredible to me that you’ve already got a reputation as one of the best backside surfers in California. That’s so huge when you’re being held in the same company as Bobby Martinez, Tanner Gudang and Dane Reynolds, dudes who just obliterate lips on the backhand.
I had a lot of great early influences. Guys from my area who just loved to attack the lip. I have a lot to thank them for.
What’s the future look like for you, Noz?
Man… I really don’t know. Who in the world does right now? I guess for me, surfing is my priority. If I can keep travelling, and surf with my friends and have great times, then that’s where I’ll be putting the majority of my energy.
Lovely, man. You’re a class act. I wish you nothing but good fortune and blessed times for your future and your friends.