Harry Bryant’s Utopian Vision for the Future of Surfing

Photos by John Respondek

This article was taken from Issue 62 of Monster Children, which you can grab a copy of here.

Professional surfer Harry Bryant has been called many things in his 22 years. Some of the labels include: ‘that dude who rocks a bowl cut offset by a tidy 70s porn mo’,’ and ‘that guy who once bent an uncooked chicken carcass beautifully into the back corner of a sunny coast soccer goal net.’ The truth is, such tired clichés can’t pigeon-hole Hazza. In a surfing landscape that delivers its heroes on a conveyor belt of results-driven junior programs and sponsorship systems, he presents as a freewheeling anomaly, a kid who does it for no other reason than the pure goddamn fun of it.

It’s this attitude, combined with an electrifying aerial game and weighty figs in the serious stuff, that has made Haz the closest thing to an overnight sensation surfing has seen in a long time. People love him! They dig his knockabout persona, they connect with his piss-taking, and they marvel at the shit he can do on a surfboard. Best of all, there’s a sense within the surfing community that Hazza is a genuinely good bloke… and I can tell you, from surf trips and convos we’ve shared over the past few years, that sentiment is absolutely bang on—he’s a dead-set rippa of a fella!

Seeing as this is our future issue, we’ve done away with the usual profile nonsense and just asked the culture shifting chook-kicker from Noosa to share what he sees when looking into surfing’s crystal ball. Not surprisingly, the outlook is fully bangin’.

Fuck yeah Haz! 2019 is off to a flyer, don’t ya reckon?

Mate, it came out of the gates hot.

The summer won’t end! Early surf before the northerly, tins at lunch, arvo nap, wake up and repeat…

I’ve been on the same program. Getting a few fun waves around the place, too. I mean it’s not pumping, it’s been pretty weird on the south coast, not too many back-to-back cooking swells, but I had my fill last year with a few Indo stints and I went to Tahiti, and that was epic. Yeah, last year was good.

So, listen, man, this issue is all about the future, but I don’t think you can truly consider what the future might look like without first stepping into the past. Do you remember what life was like at thirteen?

I was thinking about this the other day. I grew up in Noosa, Sunshine Beach, and I went to a Catholic primary school, but all my mates went to a public school, which was situated right next door. I remember at lunchtime I would run up to the fence and peer over at all my mates in the state school and heckle the fuck outta them, and they’d do the same back to me. I lived in a perfect little triangle: the skatepark was next to the school, my house was just down the hill, Noosa Point was over the hill, and I had the beach out the front. If we weren’t surfing or skating, me and my mates would all hang at the shops, and I can seriously say I didn’t have a care in the world. Nothing mattered except me mates, and surfing and skating. I’d skate to school, finish at midday and then we’d all terrorise the streets. Knock’n’runs and rocking roofs; all that shit. They were the best days of my life.

My bedroom was the full grom lair. I had a heap of posters on my wall. I had a mental Occy poster, and I was pretty into Mick Fanning, too. I used to froth on Mick, especially when I got picked up by Rippy [Rip Curl] and they introduced me to him. I was star-struck by him, and I had a heap of pics stuck up that I’d ripped out of the mags. And I had a little telly and VCR set up with a hell surf movie collection, too; so, I spent a lot of time in there just frothing out. Around fifteen or sixteen, I started frothing on skating a whole lot harder than surfing. All my mates were doing grom comps and getting coached after school and stuff like that, but I’d come in early from the surf and go to the skatepark before it got dark. A lot of surfers go through a skatepark stage I think. It’s pretty funny.

Did you have any ideas about what the future might hold for you at that stage? Or did you fantasise about stuff?

For sure, although I never really pictured myself being a pro surfer of anything like that. I never thought I’d surf for a living and make a job out of it; it was too much of a pipedream. All my mates had the same dream.

I used to have this fantasy that in my bedroom was a secret elevator that took me down a mile underground, and then it would open into this huge cave where I had my very own wave pool waiting for me, and I’d only share it with my best friend, and the chick I had a crush on would watch me shred and think I was amazing. Did you ever have any dreams of shit like that happening?

Holy shit! Nah, didn’t have that sort of stuff, but I do remember when the Billabong team went to a Flow Rider stationary wave in South Africa in some movie, it was a fully pitting stationary eight-foot keg, and I would daydream all day about riding that thing. Now it’s like nobody cares about those things at all. Wave pools are so gnarly. They’re better than you can imagine anyway, but that first stationary wave occupied a lot of my head space for a while.

When you look at your life now, is there any element of it that a thirteen-year-old you would be able to believe?

It’s like every dream I ever had has come true—and more. Right now, a lot of my mates get up at 4:30 am and go to work. A lot of people where I live aren’t living their childhood dreams at all, so I thank my lucky stars and trip out that I get to wake up in the morning and go chase waves. If thirteen-year-old me could stick his head into one of those future goblets in Harry Potter and see my life now, he’d be tripping out pretty hard, I reckon.

When you look at surfing now—high performance, big wave surfing, etc.,—in every way it’s going places we never really thought possible when we were groms.

It blows my mind so much. The stuff Kai Lenny is doing, jumping out of the lip on sixty-foot waves, wave pools that are absolutely perfect… it’s insane. I don’t even know where the limit is. Where does it stop? Will it all crash? Will we have to start from scratch? Will we end up surfing in space? I don’t know where it can go from here, and I lose myself thinking about it all the time. What is next? I remember when I went to the Texas Wave Pool event, I had a chat with the guy who built it and he said, ‘Man I hope we get some rain tonight.’ And I said, ‘Why?’ And he said, ‘The more water in the pool the bigger the wave.’ And I was like, ‘Hang on. If you were to drain this pool, make it ten times bigger, put ten times more water in it… the waves would be ten foot?’ And he said, ‘Exactly.’ And I was like, ‘Hooooooooooooly sheeeeeeeeeeyit!’ Because that changes everything. Pretty soon, surfers will be getting ten-foot barrels in swimming pools.

Which is a good and a bad thing, depending on what your view of surfing is and where it should be headed.

Definitely. That’s the thing. The novelty of it is insane, but it’ll never beat the feeling of jumping in your car and driving down the coast, looking for waves. When the swell, winds and tides line up, and you get a big ten-foot pit, nothing will ever beat how stoked you get from that. But the fact you can get a ten-foot pit in a pool is such a wild concept; you can’t help but get excited by the thought of it.

What do you think surfing will look like five years from now?

I reckon in five years the four-way stretch boardshort will be gone, and it will return to the over the knee basketball boardshort that rashes the living fuck out of you, and the coolest guy at the beach will be the guy with the most amount of chafe on his trunk.

Please tell me he’ll have a chain wallet hanging out of his boardies too.

Yep! Jeans will return to stovepipe skinny. They’ll be coming back hot. In terms of surfing, backflips will be the new air reverses. I really do think in five years the tricks we’ll see being done on a wave will be absolutely mind-bending, especially with the pool facilities allowing people to hit the same ramp over and over and over again. They’ve only been around for a year, really, and people are already doing the most ridiculous shit ever. In five years… I don’t even know. I do reckon the WSL will shift more towards the pool though. It’s such a perfect stadium. You can hold events at exactly the right time for TV audiences, it takes all the chance out of the equation so that it’s all based on one hundred per cent skill, rather than who lucks into the best wave—therefore, the best guy should win… I mean, it’s a no brainer for where they want to take surfing. No need for swell or wind or waiting periods; none of it matters. It’s too easy. So, I’m expecting more of that.

In terms of big wave surfing, I reckon tow will be gone in five years’ time. Kai Lenny will find a way to do what he’s doing paddling into those waves rather than getting whipped into them, and that will be the end of skis. Webbed gloves might replace the skis. Or motorised foils. That could actually be a new way to get around. If you wanna hit New Zealand, just jump on your moto foil and cruise over.

What will surfing look like in 100 years?

Wow. Mate. Far out. For all we know, there could be cooking waves on Mars.

I read that scientists now believe that there could be oceans, or at least vast bodies of water, under the surface of Mars.

Really? Shit! Well, that takes us back to your fantasy of elevators that bring us to underground oceans where the surf is cooking. Let’s go to Mars.

Mate, the way big pharmaceutical companies are keeping people alive to boost profits, I wouldn’t be surprised if you and I are still alive in 100 years. Should we call Richard Branson and book the first seats on Virgin Mars?

Totally. I reckon medicine is going to become so advanced that nothing will be able to kill us. We’ll be so untouchable and feeling so damn good every day, we won’t grow old anymore. Medicine will keep us alive forever.

Do you think surfing will be a cool thing to do in the future? I mean, it feels like once upon a time surfing was a subculture of adventurers and misfits and reprobates, and it was a dangerous and exhilarating thing to do. Now it’s like a lot of surfers are just SUV driving douchebags who throw Maccas containers out their windows on their way to the beach.

Good question, and I think you’re right. But I do think in twenty or thirty years’ time, we will look back on where surfing is at the moment and think, ‘Yep, if surfing ever had a really uncool period, that was it.’ There’s no doubt that it’s become something not everyone is stoked about; it’s so accessible and corped the fuck out. But, in saying that, I think the only place we can go from here is back to being fucking sick again. I really think from now on it’s only going to get cooler. Everyone has a cool surfer out there who’s doing something for them, inspiring them in their own way. In my group of mates, there are so many different types of personalities and different kinds of surfers, and all of them are on their own trip. So, I feel like people are connecting with surfing on a much more personal level. I think if you surf for yourself, and you have mates doing it for the same reasons, you’re already getting back to what surfing should be about.

In the late 80s, all through the 90s, and even in the early 2000s, you could get punished by your surfing peers for something as simple as not riding a high-performance thruster. Locals carried on like absolute fuckwits at most well-known spots, and there were hardly any women in the surf at all. All of that is just about gone today. People are riding whatever they want, guys from nations like Japan and Brazil—who never got a look-in in Hawaii for five decades— have completely dominated the past two events at Pipeline, and it feels like every single day these tired old pillars built around surfing are being reduced to rubble. Surfing is becoming more inclusive and something to share. That’s pretty fuckin’ sick, ay!

That’s the thing. There are no boundaries on where things can go. Evolution is happening every single day. I saw Bethany Hamilton paddling into bomb sets at Teahupoo last year with one arm. Big bombing sets. And I was thinking, ‘What the fuck?!’ Because stuff like that just didn’t happen ten years ago. I get so excited seeing someone do something new and cool, and it’s so awesome that surfing just keeps on evolving. I mean, what’s next, seriously?

Where do you fit into the future, Haz?

I think the key to surfing is enjoying yourself. My whole life, I’ve never let myself not have fun with it. The key to staying young and enjoying your surfing—and even pushing your surfing—is to continue making it something you truly love to do. In my short career, there have been times where I had to make the decision to break away from something because it didn’t appeal to me anymore. I wanted to keep moving in a direction that kept surfing exciting and fresh to me. Now that I have the opportunity to do that, all I want for my future is to continue to be myself. I want to be happy and live a happy life, and stay true to my values. I want to be a good bloke, I hope to be thought of as a nice guy, and I want to let my surfing do the talking. Mostly, I reckon I want to walk around with a bloody smile on my face because, fuck… it’s all so good.

To get more from our Future Issue, you’ll have to buy it here!

Sign up for the Monster Children Newsletter