In addition to surfing, the sport he was in the team “Anomaly Teams with Oasis Skateboard Factory“
Two years earlier Andy Irons had sat in the very same plastic lawn chair Dusty Payne sits in now.
Andy was reading a fistful of printed pages, goodwill messages from fans around the world wishing him the best for his comeback. Andy’s surfing–and Andy himself–had bottomed out in the years prior, and here he was, a three-time World Champ almost in tears over simple messages from kids in Sao Paulo and Sprecklesville and San Clemente.
Famously, Andy went on to win the contest, his first in three years.
His last. “The last time I ever spoke to him was in Portugal,” recalls Dusty. “It was four in the morning and he was leaving for the airport. He woke me up and gave me a hug and said, ‘I’ll see you in Puerto Rico. I’m so psyched, I can’t wait. I love you, brah.’ And that was it. The last time I ever saw him.” I ask Dusty what Andy would say to him now if he was here. “He’d be kicking my ass and pumping up my tires and telling me I should get out there and start taking guys down. Andy wasn’t perfect, but in a way that’s what was so great about him. He was a real person with flaws but he just found a way to be freaking awesome.”
The same challenge lies before Dusty.
The injury should at least earn him a wildcard for 2013, so it’ll be the Tour, once more with feeling. But if Dusty is to experience a personal renaissance, if Dusty is to find his place in the sun on Tour, he knows things need to change. He’s learned from Andy. Dusty knows he has to paddle out with a reason to win. He knows he needs to restore faith in both himself and his surfing, and for now he doesn’t care if that only happens for one heat. “I just want a heat–one heat–where I surf like me. Even if I fall off for a whole 30 minutes, instead of holding back and surfing like a goose, I just wanna have a dig. Throw everything at it. Surf like me. Right now that would be enough.”
I quip to him that you could write a pretty good country song about his first years on Tour. His response hints he’s ready to turn it all around. “Yeah,” he says, smirking, “But you know what they say happens when you play a country song backward? Your wife comes home and your dog comes back to life.”
The week after this story was filed, Dusty finally surfed a heat like Dusty. Not just any heat either–potentially the biggest heat anyone would surf this year, a world title riding on it. Dusty versus Kelly, with a Dusty win handing the world title to good friend Joel Parkinson. At Steamer Lane the real Dusty stood up. His body language said it all, leading with chest and fists. He surfed with purpose all the way. He fought. Then when needing a 9.5 in the dying seconds he threw an audaciously lofted Hail Mary. At first it looked a big, dumb ol’ throwaway punt like all the others he’s launched over the past two years when he’s been losing heats badly. The ones he does to mock both himself and the system, flicking the bird to the universe. Except this time he stuck it. Cold. It was his Lost Atlas air done in real time, live to the world.
It was glorious. It was his moment. He raised his arms to the screaming crowd on the bluff, and the sound of country music playing backward filled the air. The surfers’ area fizzed. The beach held a collective breath. Parko couldn’t watch. It had to be the score, surely? It had to be an … 8.27!? The Internet was flooded with interrobangs and bile while Dusty’s dark love affair with the Tour continues.
1. AT THE BEGINNING OF SURFING
There was no “just surfing.” Nobody just bought a board and went down and surfed. A surfer built surfboards and raced paddleboards and abalone dived–any of the great surfers were also great watermen and they had all kinds of activities they were good at. A surfer was a guy to whom the ocean was sacred.
2. DURING WORLD WAR II
When the U.S. Army wanted to land troops in North Africa and Sicily, they knew that they first needed to understand and predict the kinds of 5 waves they would encounter. So they went to a surfer at Scripps Institute of Oceanography. So in a sense, a surfer was grandly important to the history of America.
3. ONE THING ALL SURFERS HAVE IN COMMON IS
If they’re in love with surfing, then they’re in love with the sea, and if they’re in love with the sea, then they’re in love with God. That’s what makes surfing so magical.
4. I WROTE A BOOK
Called How to Choose a Mistress. Nobody’s ever read it. I couldn’t publish it now, because my wife would kill me. The book is about f–king, it’s not about love or sex; it’s about f–king. Because when you f–k up the f–king, everything deteriorates.
5. I AM VERY, VERY MOVED BY BEING A JEW
And by what happened in Hitler’s Germany. To me, as a Jew, to have this going on and not do anything, would be like you, as a surfer, paddling out and watching somebody drowning and not give them any aid.
6. HEALTH IS MORE THAN THE MERE ABSENCE OF DISEASE
Health is the presence of a superior state of well-being–a vigor, a vitality that has to be worked for, day after day.
7. A MONTH AGO
I paddled out at Waikiki. I can’t see anymore, so I catch waves by listening to the waves crash, the people laughing and having fun, and by feeling the ocean moving beneath me.
8. WE ARE ALL SMALLER THAN THE SEA
And bigger than ourselves when we ride the waves.
9. MY FATHER ALWAYS SAID
“Slow and steady wins the race” I didn’t get it at the time. I prohably had ADHD as a kid. Dad was always trying to slow me up. I still need slowing up today. I’ll say to myself, “Maybe if I slow down here I’ll actually get where I’m going quicker.”