Sunday, 23 December 2012

just jai'ving

Iphone shot, still dripping wet after an early morning session.

As is usually the case, my wonderfully verbose style leads to my submissions to drift being far too lengthy and the published version misses some stuff out so here is my interview with Jai Lee as it was originally written:

Jai Lee is a study in contradictions
A surfer from the sundrenched shores of Noosa obsessed with the dark worlds of horror and witchcraft
A man of the church of the open sky working miles inland and underground 
A man full of joy and life with intimate knowledge of  the furthest depths a mind can fall to.
A fantastically talented longboarder unable to turn his talent into food for his wife and child.  
Jai is a phenomenal surfer, arguably the most talented Australian logger of his generation. Images of him with both feet planted on the nose are synonymous with the perfect point waves of Noosa, his stylish surfing is just as flawless. For the last few years his floppy haired silhouette, streaking along perfect azure blue walls has regularly graced the screens and coffee tables of longboarders the world over.His surfing a smooth mix of jaw-dropping nose trickery and fluid turns. He is "Big in Japan"

From the outside it's easy to imagine him having the perfect life with perfect points on his doorstep, fans of his surfing worldwide, sponsors cheques and free stuff fluttering regularly onto his door mat along with tickets for exciting surf trips and yet.............

The reality is quite different and his story is evidence that real life behind the polished sheen of pro surfing, is not always what you thought it would be. Like all good stories jai's is one of a fall to bottom and ultimately a redemption. 
Sure "Real life" is sometimes hard, sometimes unexpected but ultimately joyous and more than you could have hoped for, even if perhaps it's in a different form than you thought you wanted....
What's your surfing history?
My surf history is vague at the best of times! Over the years I've done damage to the brain cells from having such a good time, leaving me with glimpses I aint even sure are true to start with!

 Officially I started surfing when I was around 9 ( on and off before that, as I hated the water ) I started on a shortboard, around 5'8 and then in my early teen years my dad got into longboards cause there wasn't much swell consistently around Noosa. So pretty much from that moment on I have spent many hours frothing along the points of Noosa on longboards.

What do you love about riding logs? 
It all started cause I live at Noosa, what else was I gonna end up riding!?

 The main reason I love riding logs is i LOVE noseriding. When you get one of those noserides that levitates across a section for multiple seconds, its a feeling I can't explain, but it feels farking good. The closest feeling I've felt to it, is getting barrelled, like reef barrelled. That weightlessness is addictive, the same reason people are addicted to drugs, they create weightlessness, they lift the unnecessary burden and help you escape. I am an addict, an addict to noseriding!

What are riding at the moment?
Mmmmmmm.. right now I have 2 new 9'6 Jai Lee Noseriders shaped by Thomas Bexon.
They're a new project I am working on with him that i'm really excited about.
A 9'4 Alex Knost shaped by Dano Forte
9'6 Kevin Connelly Noserider
9'6 Jai Lee Noserider shaped by Class Malibu
A 5'8 swallow tail thruster
A 5'10 Brother Neilson Mark Richards look alike twinnie.
Tell us a little about what you're doing with Thomas Bexon?
Thomas and I have been friends for a long time now, drinking beers and partying on rare occasions got us in tune with each other on board designs and ideas for Noosa as such. 

It all came together when I decided I wanted to be more independent in my so called surfing career. Steer right away from doing the publicity for someone else when I could just do it for myself, at least a make a coin or two on the side. So Bexon lived on the sunshine coast and so do I, I approached him about making a jai lee model and here we are today, still drinking beer and talking about board designs. These days though were actually producing something!
The new board with Thomas is more of a pig style template than your Classic Malibu model, what led you there?
Culture, travel and experimenting have all played a major factor with my log/noserider designs. Like everything, as you evolve, the things around you must evolve. So over the years with cultural influence, my ideas expanded, my knowledge grew and my surfing evolved.

What are the characteristics of your new Thomas board that make it special. I know you have narrowed the nose down to 17"?

 Yeah I've played a lot with Nose and Tail width's, and found they work best for me both around the 16' to 17' mark. 
Just little things, like I used to have a rounded off nose at the tip but I love having a pointed tip now to make me feel like its the arrow to go any direction I choose to go.

Over the years I've mainly mucked around with the blending of rails from nose to tail and concaves. I have always ridden a hard edge in the tail of my noseriders which nearly everyone I come across does not. This is just because of the way I surf, I find 50/50 rolled up rails create a start stop style of surfing. I on the other hand just wanna keep going, I want speed as well as flow in every wave I catch. 

Recently my rails have become a bit more old school compared to the more shortboard rails I had on my Classic Malibu model and I've flattened the deck a tad more and added more curve to the bottom of the board. Just these minor adjustments add so much more flow and control for my style of surfing.

This new design with Thomas Bexon has really captured the essence of the way I surf I think. It has complete flow with every turn, and it sets-up and noserides like one bad arse muther fucker!

So what's exciting you in surfing right now?
The creativity that's around in surfing right now. There are some amazing things out there. The internet has connected the whole world with one click. No advertising, No agents, No showings. Just upload and click play. Every week there is something new on the internet to check out and cause I don't get to leave home much, this is amazing. is your little corner of the internet?
JaiDivision; my alter ego you could call it.

 It's definately an extension of me. I have massive issues with doing too many projects at once, leaving me without one finished project. I had to find a way to control that and jaidivision has helped me structure my projects until they're finished. It's taken time over the years but my idea of having all the clothes / boards / art and photos I like available for anyone else is slowly coming together. Anything I think up to make and follow through with becomes available on the website. Although these days everything gets sold through instagram and Facebook before it even makes it to the website! 

You were working on a film project as well, can you tell us about that?    
Yes, I was working on a feature film and all last year I tried to find sponsors and/or backing to help me follow through with this idea. But money = time, I don't have much money at all, so i don't have much time. 

It's pretty much been put to the side, some of my footage has been sold to Steve Cleveland for his new movie and the rest I was going to make a little series of clips for the internet ( when I have the time ). It fully sucks, I had so many ideas, but hey. Some things aren't meant to be.
Do you consider yourself a pro surfer?
A professional surfer surfs as a job and makes their income from it. I've made about $1000 (Aus) and two surf trips out of it. So, NO. I defiantly ain't one!

Do you feel let down by the surfing industry? Surely someone with your talent and previous exposure should be able to make a modest living or is that something you have never pursued seriously?
I used to think that, and it got me down a lot. In 2011 I gave it one last shot, I tried hard to get a paying sponsor, even hit the big dogs, was ready to sell my soul to them and I would have given them everything if the opportunity raised. 

My job (as a painter and decorator) wasn't paying enough per year to survive and the extra money from a paying sponsor would have kept me from biting the bullet and heading inland to work in the mines. The mines were my last resort and this week ( first week of march ) is my first stint out into the mines in which I miss out completely on the Noosa festival Of Surfing, a first in a very very long time.

 I've had my go, I've had my chance, life has had different plans for me and now my family comes first.

 How do u juggle the demands of being a dad and providing for your family with surfing?
It is a juggling act, but lucky for me, I don't surf as much as everyone thinks I do!

 One, cause Noosa doesn't provide a consistent swell program and two, when it does, every man, his brother, sister, mother, father and dog come from all corners demanding a wave. That isn't a pleasant way to surf!

 I sneak my sessions in at what I think is the right tide at the Noosa points and all the other times I surf, I head to the beach with my girls and find a isolated peak. I'm running back and forth pleasing the mrs and pleasing my need to soak in salt water!

Your interest in the macabre comes across strongly in jaidivision, where does that come from?
I have been asked that on numerous occasions, never really having a answer. I've thought it through and come to the conclusion that my personality has been seriously depressed for a long, long period of time. It's been a massive struggle working through the bizarre thought process which enables depression to take hold. Death is a highly romantic form of weightlessness, which is very intriguing. and death and depression go hand in hand.

 So I guess my infatuation came from a disorder I had before I knew I had it. Like I always saw the light in the dark, the good in the misunderstood and the bad in the well established good. I rebelled against the common idea of what was right from a early age, I saw the holes in societies perfect behaviour and this observation stirred me right towards punk rock and goth. The two loves of my life to this day. My heart is punk and my soul is goth and thats the way it will always be. It makes me happy

Sounds like you've been through some dark times? 

Dark times, oh yes. The ironic part is that I used to be farking scared shitless of the dark, now I'm just as scared of the day, due to anxiety and depression. ( luckily I'm a great actor, hahahaha ). 

But yeah, I've been down that line of massive amounts of drugs, and still large amounts of alcohol. Self medicating, its a bastard, but sometimes its just what you need to survive in this demanding world. 

There is such huge expectations from others and yourself, especially growing up in Noosa where everyone is retired and has all their desires right at their finger tips. I don't blame anyone else for my actions, it was only my way to loose control to feel a gain of control and now that I have crawled my way back from rock bottom there isn't anything in the world I couldn't take on, it's made me strong mentally and physically with a lot of stories to tell over a few drinks.

 If you have never hit rock bottom, you don't know what your missing. The crawl back is one of the most satisfying struggles you can ever encounter. Thats what I live by.

You've obviously turned a corner and you're looking forward. What plans for the future do you have?
Right now I'm actually right on the brink of finding a complete sense of happiness within myself. I've done the pills, I've done the self medication and what works best for me is to just consistently create. Having 100 hobbies isn't a burden, its a luxury.

 So my plan for the future is to be happy, internally and dive deep into myself and throw out all the trash I've had hidden in there for so many years.

 what are those 100 hobbies?
My Girls, Reading, Learning, Nick Cave, Bauhaus, My Umbraluva's, Joy Division, Photography, Filming, Editing, Old AFI, Strung Out, Poetry, Short Stories, Horror Movies, and most of all a few quiet beers with a few mates.
Who inspires you?
People who don't give up, people who fight to live in this one chance life we have. People who have passion, people who strive to gain knowledge. People who are really happy, I mean happy with themselves, happy on the inside.

 The more people I meet, the more the percentage goes up on people who are just pretending to be happy. But when you get inside you see something much different. 

How do you feel about the state of longboarding at the moment?
I'll be happy when longboarding or "logging" isn't "Hipster" anymore. 

Do you feel that there is currently a push in the surfing media to create a "scene" around longboarding, something that can be used to sell stuff? Is that what you mean by hipster?

There is definatly a push at the moment, companies always want a piece of the "cool" (hipster) action. Thats all cool with me, everybody has got to make a living and if you're smart enough to jump on board and make a few bob out of it, congratulations to you. I would if I could.

"Hipster" on the other hand gives me the shits cause I like REAL people. Hipsters are the ones that are into something totally different every six months, changing their values again for the millionth time. Usually it'll be in correspondence with what ever is "IN" at the present time. 

That is a definition of "Hipster" to me, they're everywhere, in every scene. Longboarding is just the cool thing to do at the moment and I hate that cause it makes me feel like a hipster for doing it.

How do you feel about the big surf companies starting to move into this part of surfing? Is it a good thing because there is money for the people involved or are they trying to cash in and diluting something real and organic for their own ends?

I actually think its great,. The big companies are the only ones who can offer up that lifestyle, the smaller companies involved with longboarding don't have the money to provide that. Maybe it helps the companies sell stuff but at least the surfers can get paid without just riding 6'1 thrusters.

 I would love to be in that situation where your job was surfing and being creative, I only work hard at my job to give me money to do that.

Anyone you'd like to thank ?

I just like to give a big thanks to my Dad, he was really the only person who deserved a sticker on my board if you think of it that way. Without his time and the use of money he didnt have, I wouldn't be in surf mags, I wouldn't have travelled the world and met all the different people I have over my time. 
Thanks Jai i think that prety much covers it, anything you want to get off your chest?
Yeah, I ain't a hipster and I want nothing to do with ya "Hipster" scene.

 Please leave me alone.


Tommy said...

Really enjoyed that, CP. Refreshing and frank.

Tommy said...

BTW, hope you and the girls have a great Xmas!

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