Style Heroes--Derek Hynd

This week’s style heroes post is dedicated to the legendary Derek Hynd, a quixotic fellow with an against-the-grain approach who tells it like it is--a combination that equals possibly the smoothest and most aesthetically pleasing wave jazz you’ll ever see. What Derek does best is draw fast and simple lines. He's a genius at maximizing a wave’s speed pockets and avoiding unnecessary movements.

Photo by Murray Fraser of .

Photo by Murray Fraser of

I first became aware of Derek while poring through the world tour reports he wrote for Surfer Magazine in the 1980s and 90s. His writing was utterly astute and uncompromising in its analysis of professional surfing, though I didn’t appreciate it till I learned to read the articles as well as drool over the photos. At that time Derek’s surfing was already legendary in the minds of those in the know, but to a banana-rocker-board-obsessed grommet like me, he was just some cynical and witty writer guy who had spent some time on the tour when I was in diapers.

Then Andrew Kidman’s seminal film Litmus came out in 1996 and wabam! Derek’s part at JBay blew my mind. He rides a variety of boards the way they were meant to be ridden: high lines, grab rail cutbacks, and hip jiggles on the keel fish; soul arches, under the lip slashes, and the amazing frontside lay-back on the gunnier boards; and tai chi cross stepping on an 11’ glider. My approach to surfing changed in direct response. I was already clued in to the subtle and graceful lines of Rob Machado and Tom Curren when Derek made concrete the fact that smooth surfing on a variety of equipment was the epitome of the kind of surfing I wanted to do and the kind of surfer I wanted to be.

As luck would have it, I got to meet Derek a few years ago. He showed up in New York to talk story with Jamie Brisick at Pilgrim Surf + Supply, especially about his current turn to finless surfing after losing an eye. We hit it off immediately and set up a surf mission for the next three days. We were joined by Manly photographer Murray Fraser and a few other surf buddies. During our drives Derek told us stories of growing up in Sydney and his time on the pro tour. We had in depth discussions about the state of professional surfing and agreed that the format could really use some work (to say the least!). The icing on the cake of this hero-meeting adventure was on the third day, when we scored the best waves I’ve ever surfed in New York. Derek was on most of the best set waves and also snuck into some of those inside gems I’m always raving about on Instagram (the really good waves that mostly go unridden because no one sees them).

Those keen on developing a smooth style can take cues from Derek’s approach. This doesn’t mean we all need to jump on the finless bandwagon (I haven’t done that yet), but we can incorporate some of the movements Master Hynd demonstrates in his practice. I love his ability to alternately stay low and extend his body, and how he holds his hands and moves his feet. The poetic stillness and radical expression in Derek’s surfing—as if he’s listening to the wave and speaking through it—makes him a true style hero.

More on Derek:

Encylopedia of Surfing Entry
Jamie Brisick on Derek Hynd
April 2014 Surfer Magazine Article
Pilgrim Surf + Supply Article
Inertia Interview
Derek in Surfers Journal
Litmus on Surf Network

Style Heroes—Dave Parmenter and Rell Sunn

Yesterday I took a quick trip over to Pilgrim Surf + Supply to drop off cards, have a chat with the crew, and check out the boards in stock. Right in the front of the row sat five gorgeous glossy Aleutian Juice surfboards, shaped by Dave Parmenter. My eyes were drawn immediately to a deadly yellow 6’7” widowmaker (big single fin, two small side bites). A fellow from Scotland named Malcolm came over and we started talking story about the board, Dave Parmenter, and widow makers. I asked if he knew of Dave and even more, if he knew of Dave’s late wife, Rell Sunn, the Queen of Makaha. Rell was one of the most stylish surfers to grace the planet, an inspiration to anyone who dreams of sliding waves.

Dave Parmenter (1961-present) and Rell Sunn (1950-1998) were married in 1994 in Hawaii where they lived until Rell finally succumbed to the cancer she had been battling since the early 1980s. I suppose Dave fell in love with Rell’s ability to soul arch, hang five, and push through a mean bottom turn in double overhead surf. And Rell must have admired Dave for his vicious roundhouse cutback, his articulate explanations of displacement hulls and wave bumps, and for his ability to push through a mean bottom turn in double overhead surf.

I admire both of them for their patience—neither of them ever look in a hurry to get to the end of a wave. I never got to see either of them surf in person, but I’ve seen both of them in magazines since I was a grom and grew up reading Dave’s witty articles in Surfer magazine. In the mid 2000s I watched the Rell Sunn documentary, Heart of the Sea: Kapolioka’ehukai (2002), and was continually blown away by her absolute fluency in all things ocean. When I watch a video or see images of Rell surfing I think to myself, “If all people rode waves like that, the world would be a better place.” As for Dave, there’s not much of his old surfing footage available, so most of my admiration for him comes from reading surfing magazines as a kid, from fondling his surf craft in various surf shops, and from watching people like Tom Curren, Neal Purchase Jr., and Stephanie Gilmore ride his pretty boards in pretty waves in surf films by Andrew Kidman—Litmus (1996), Glass Love (2006), Spirit of Akasha (2013). The lines that his boards draw tell me that this man understands the sea.

Below are a few articles by and about Rell and Dave. In surfing, as in other disciplines, finding people to admire and imitate is essential. Get your surf nerd on!

More on Rell Sunn
An article by Rell in the Honolulu Star Bulletin
Heart of the Sea on PBS
Rell's Website

More on Dave Parmenter
Dave’s Website
Encyclopedia of Surfing Entry
An interview with Dave by Pilgrim Surf + Supply

Aleutian Juice Surfboards in Pilgrim Surf + Supply, Brooklyn.

Aleutian Juice Surfboards in Pilgrim Surf + Supply, Brooklyn.

Aleutian Juice Surfboards in Pilgrim Surf + Supply, Brooklyn.

Aleutian Juice Surfboards in Pilgrim Surf + Supply, Brooklyn.