In our digital world, pro-travellers adorned in fashion and accessories sponsored by every brand under the sun target jealous millions watching through their screens. For the new generation, it’s not about enlightenment, experiment or even exploration. It’s all about exposure.
Which is why so many people love Ozzie Wright so fucking much.
He doesn’t care what he’s supposed to look like, or which mould he’s supposed to fit into. He’s mastered the surf industry — as a freesurfer — without even trying, and he lives by his own vibe: the crazier, the better.
“I got into riding boards shorter than everyone else’s, ’cause I like to go as fast as I can,” says Ozzie. “I go flying down the line. Half of the boards you can barely turn, they’re outta control. It’s funny the boards I’ve chosen to ride – they make me surf kinda crazy; I feel like it makes you surf a little more original.”
Big-hearted and oozing the raw sex appeal of punk rock-meets-athlete, Ozzie has done everything right to stay original. Growing up freesurfing wasn’t a thing, even though Oz will tell you “freesurfing is just surfing, really.” But as far as a profession, it didn’t exist. Competition was the deal. But the sport has grown into an incredibly lucrative career, if you play your cards right and take a few risks along the way.
Originally, Ozzie had been in the competition zone. “You’re travelling and going to the beach, meeting everyone and having a good time – a bit like a music festival.” Eventually, he realised he could go to these places with a few friends, way less crowds and meet locals and surf on his own terms. “I’m not into structure. I just want to surf how I want, where I want, when I want. I like to do things my way, 100 per cent, all of the time.”
Back when offers were on the table, Ozzie had more than a handful of major brands bidding to smack a logo on his back and board. But it wasn’t the highest buyer that caught this guy’s attention. “The first time I saw Volcom when I was a kid, it hit me like a ton of bricks – this is the company for me. I was like, ‘This is it, this is what I want my life to be like.’”
He chose correctly. “I’m so glad I went for the small dollars and the company I truly believed in.” Once he got more involved, he realised he was in for more than just a cheque.
“I’m not into structure. I just want to surf how I want, where I want, when I want.”
In Instagram land, where everyone’s arse is for sale, this guy has been loyal to his mates from school and just one brand. It’s shaped who he is today and has sent him and his family of chosen wild things around the world.
The first movie Ozzie made for Volcom set the stage for what was to come. He brought along one of his best mates, Cowboy, who had never shot a video before. Pretty standard day job, really. “It was unreal, a dream situation: take your best mate surfing, partying and tripping around the world – for a year!”
When it comes to intelligent life choices, working, travelling and playing with friends is pretty much the only way to go when you choose to live a life less ordinary. Vaughan Deadly, who Ozzie met on the first day of kindy; Killerwhale, who came along in Year 5; and Cutthroat Cowboy, who they found in high school, all now make up the internationally loved surf-rock-meets-horror-punk band, Goons of Doom.
“We were just really old friends in our early twenties, who all surfed together, lived together and had heaps of parties. It was a bit like, ‘Should we start a band? Yes, yes we should.’”
What’s better than a surfer who travels the world and gets crazy in the water? A band of surfers who get crazy in the water and up on the stage while on the road together.
“We get Goons gigs along the way on surf trips, meet locals and party. Being in a band with your best mates, it’s pretty much a dream,” says Ozzie. “Music, for us, is the best thing ever to do with friends – you get to go away together and have so much fun, it’s ridiculous.”
Having explored many corners of the Earth for “work”, ultimately, Indonesia is Ozzie’s happy place. “When I go to Indo, I go straight to the art shops and buy tons of paper, crayons and paint. So in my downtime when I’m not surfing, I’ll either draw or play music. And most of my friends are there, too, so we’re always having a good time.”
When he’s not creating or chillin’ in Indo, Ozzie is traipsing the globe, hopping from one surf spot to another. Years ago, he ventured to Cuba when surfing was only just a whisper. “It’s cool to go to those places where there isn’t a surfing culture at all and see it from its inception.”
He left behind a few boards in Cuba, to a local group getting kids off the street and into riding waves.
“It’s pretty special to go to a country that, early on in its surfing history, influences the kids. I hope they’re going to do it forever and teach their kids, too.”
Ozzie has managed to break the mould of freesurfers before there even was one. He opted for the small dollars and takes his kids on the road. Some would say he’s wrong, but if you take the time to get him, you’ll understand why he’s just so very right.