Franken Writer: Donnie On Donnie
The freestyler, musician and father shares wisdom from a life spent in the oceanRead more
What I know about…
Fatherhood… I put fatherhood first and then juggle everything else around it. It’s the most important thing I can possibly do. All I want to do is expose my kids to as many things as possible and hope that one thing clicks, be it surfing or building stuff or whatever so long as they find a passion for something. A passionate life is a full life.
Marriage… It’s important for people to come together but also to disagree. It’s a healthy thing. You can’t flat line the whole time like “we never fight”. We are emotional beings and that needs to be expressed, good and bad. It’s through those experiences that my wife has made me the man I am. I feel lucky to have found someone like that. I feel lucky to be able to call my wife my best friend.
Following your dreams… My school was inland and they didn’t support me leaving for long periods of time to go on surf trips. Their attitude was “unless you’re an Olympic athlete, we think what you’re doing is completely lame and you’re going to be a loser”. And I remember my parents saying, “Hey, if this is what he wants to do, we’re going to support it.” I look back now and it’s kind of crazy because they went against what everyone thought. From 13 to 17, all my high school years, I was on the road and travelling but I did home school and I graduated high school. It was a big, bold move for my parents but with their support I was free to chase my dreams and that set the course of my life.
Changing course… I loved music just as much as surfing, but I was always in cover bands which I found frustrating. I remember my wife telling me, “I’m so sick of you coming home and complaining. Why don’t you just sing and write your own songs? Just do it, who cares? Whether you fail or succeed at least you’re failing or succeeding with your own stuff.” So I quit the band I was in and I was suddenly out of the comfort zone… It took two years for me to get comfortable on a microphone, then when Jack Johnson started his record label I was like, “I gotta get a group of songs together, maybe I can sign to his label.” I’d never made a record but sure enough it all worked out. I realised that you can change the course of your life with one decision. It’ll be scary but if you’ve got the desire and dedication it can happen.
Grabbing that chance… So many people think they’re happy being comfortable, swimming in their little bubble. They’re like, “Hey I’m cruising here, I don’t want to change, I don’t want to go for it.” I’m pretty cruisy too but I know all the good things that have happened in my life came from taking a big chance. So why not give it a try?
Criticism… People can really mess your head up with negativity and trying to tear down your creativity or style or ideas or whatever. We live in a time when everyone’s got an opinion, everyone wants to say something. I get a lot of “That guy’s just an idiot with a moustache, I hate those bellbottoms. What? He’s painting now? What a dick!” But I love all the bad. It comes with all the good. It excites me and makes me want to keep doing it. If you’re honest and you’re doing what you really want to do, you’ll find a way to use criticism as inspiration.
Surfing and music… Music has never got in the way of surfing, and surfing’s never got in the way of music, if anything they’ve enhanced each other. I’m 41 years old and I just re-signed with all my other sponsors and it’s because they see value in surfing and music. But it’s natural for me. Even before I played concerts, there was always a guitar in my hand. Boat trips, airports, anywhere at all. Music is a part of my surfing journey.
Fighting for waves… I’m at the point in my life and with my surfing where I’ve lost the drive to fight for waves. I just can’t do it. I want to go and have as much fun as possible. First couple of days of a new swell at a popular wave, I don’t even bother. I let everyone do their thing and once they all get burned out I might sneak out. I’m just as happy down the beach surfing with my kids.
Who’s really ripping… I like cheering people into a good wave. There are plenty of waves, why not share ’em around? It’s funny because guys go out there all angry and ripping but nobody’s thinking, “Oh I want to be like him, he’s awesome.” You’re more likely to see the guy with the biggest smile on his face and be like, “Yeah man! That’s why I’m out here, I want to feel that!” Because that’s the moment we’re all looking for.