Interviews, Surf cultureMe, Myself and Surfing:  Chris Malloy 

-Words by Mat Arney, images by Tim Davis, Jeff Johnson and Devon Howard (courtesy of Patagonia, Inc.), portrait by Mat Arney & film by Woodshed Films

Chris Malloy is a surfing polymath; an accomplished professional surfer and big wave rider, he can also list some of the most influential surf films of the last 15 years amongst his achievements as a filmmaker (he’s made more than twenty). The eldest of the three Malloy brothers, Chris lives on a working ranch in Central California with his wife and kids not too far from the headquarters of Patagonia where he also works as a designer, product tester and ambassador for their surf program. You add that lot together and you get a very busy and productive man, however the impression that you get from Chris upon meeting him is that he’s just a regular rancher with a love of surfing. This down-to-earth attitude belies the fact that he’s been incredibly influential for a generation of surfers (be it in front of the camera or behind it) and to top it all off, he’s a real nice guy. We caught up with him whilst he toured his latest movie The Fisherman’s Son and put the “Me, Myself and Surfing” questions to him:


Current Age: 42



Surf Simply technical surf coaching resort, Guiones, Nosara, Costa Rica

Chris Malloy, Cornwall, UK. 2015. Photographed by Mat Arney.

  • My earliest memory of surfing… is my dad pushing me into a wave when I was 5 years old. He started us out on the boards that he was riding at the time, which were mid-60’s longboards; he never switched to shortboards. I remember rubbing Paraffin wax on the deck (which comes in blocks and is used for making candles). He wasn’t into that “new hippy shit”.
  • Surfing to me is… whatever Quiksilver says it is.
  • Home is… estranged – not from family, just from home.
  • My first overseas surf trip was to… G-Land with Matt Warshaw, Akila Aipa and my brother Keith in around 1990. I’d done a lot of Baja trips throughout the 80’s with my family, but Java was a whole new experience. There was a shark chasing a deer through the tide pools and tiger tracks on the beach! It was the first of seventeen trips to Indo, and I’ll never forget it.
  • I still want to travel to… I’ve been checking out the bathymetry of Lake Baikal in Siberia. With the right wind there is potential for some fun surf there. I think it’d be a blast to go goof around in Russia for a few weeks and maybe find a wave or two. Trump won’t find us there…
Surf Simply technical surf coaching resort, Guiones, Nosara, Costa Rica

Chris Malloy flying along the high line somewhere in the Mentawaii Islands, shot by Jeff Johnson for Patagonia, Inc.

  • I wish that I could… take back the last thing that I said to Donnie Solomon before he drowned at Waimea.
  • I’d love to share a few waves with…(alive or dead) Bobby Martinez. I travelled with him when he was a kid, but I haven’t seen him in years. We live in the same zone but never see each other – I miss you Bob-o!
  • My magic board/piece of equipment is/was a… I have a couple of boards that have enough foam in them to hide my waning dexterity and flexibility, so they must be magic!
  • Wetsuits are… Kong-inspired short-sleeve full-suits that are cut off at the shins. It’s the most undervalued wetsuit set-up ever.
  • Localism is… misunderstood and misused, most of the time. The media has gone huge with a few stories about raving assholes who surf and beat people up. To me, that’s not localism – that’s a story about a guy with a short dick whose mom didn’t hug him enough. I am a firm believer however that a line-up is safer and more enjoyable for everyone when there is a collective understanding of how things flow at that particular spot. If a surfer paddles out to a new line-up and has no interest in learning a little about that place and its people then I think that’s a sign of disrespect. In a healthy line-up, one’s negative actions are met with equal and opposite reactions; call it localism if you want, but I have no problem with that. If surfers don’t employ some kind of self-governance then we’ll soon have cops and rangers on the beach and in the line-up issuing citations, and we’ll be paying their salaries when we purchase our “Dawn Patrol 3 Hour Surf Pass” from a toll booth built on our favorite beach.
Surf Simply technical surf coaching resort, Guiones, Nosara, Costa Rica

Chris and his youngest brother Dan, Fletcher Chouinard and Wayne Lynch checking the surf from a boat in the Mentawaii Islands during a rain storm, photographed by Jeff Johnson for Patagonia, Inc.

  • Before I get in the sea I always… get a little bitter because I can see good waves from where I’m going to paddle out. I usually surf some shitty back beach because I’ve convinced myself that surfing alone makes me happier. Later that day I’ll run into my buddies and hear them talking about getting blown out of barrels; I was surfing some shitty close-out and I reassure myself and them that I got a few corners, but I’m mostly lying and they know it.
  • My most memorable session was… I think maybe my first?
  • The last time I scared myself surfing… I paddled my 3 year-old daughter out to a reef break on a small day in an effort to hand her off to Mom because Mom had “over-surfed” her allotted water time by 5 minutes! We got caught inside by a freak set (by freak I mean a head-high wave) and I literally almost lost hold of her. My wife saw the whole thing: No bueno.
  • My favorite surf movie is… I’m certainly a surf flick nerd – I could wax poetic about them all day – but I probably got my biggest injection of stoke watching Occy punt that big frontside air in the opening scene of Chris Brystrom’s Beyond Blazing Boards. I heard that Chris was killed in a car wreck in Oz a while back. Damn shame; he was never given the credit that he deserved. I have a signed poster of that movie and I hold onto it dearly.
  • My guilty pleasure is… fail videos on the internet; If once a day I laugh until I cry then everything else is ok.
Surf Simply technical surf coaching resort, Guiones, Nosara, Costa Rica

Chris restoring a hollow wooden cigar-box style vintage paddle board in the workshop in his barn. Photographed by Jeff Johnson for Patagonia, Inc.

  • If I didn’t surf then I’d probably… be a better friend to my non-surfing friends. They have a hard time understanding my ability to make a promise and then break it so easily just because the wind switches.
  • My greatest fear is… me and G-Mac fear nothing.
  • I’m happiest when… I’m in the water by myself.
  • I check the surf forecast… almost never. Seriously. That way, when I get to the water I’m never, ever let down. If I chase a swell it’s because someone told me about it.
  • I dream about… the older I get, the less I seem to dream. I do however have this recurring dream of a scene from an experimental Man Ray film where a bunch of shadows twist off a wall. It’s become a nightmare for me because I know that those stupid shadows eclipse R.E.M. that should be devoted to things like building a lawn-mower with my naked 8th grade teacher Ms. Wynn, or me pulling John John Florence on a wagon through a giant barrel, or me somehow being in a Seinfeld episode where me and Kramer gang up on George.
Surf Simply technical surf coaching resort, Guiones, Nosara, Costa Rica

Setting up for the barrel at Greenbush in the Mentawaii Islands, photographed by Devon Howard.

  • If I could travel back in time I’d set the dial to… I’m a futurist, all the way. Almost any of the cool shit that we missed can still be done. I’m not talking about the kids with long hair riding shitty boards – I’m saying that if you yearn for Meade Hall in the 50’s then there are still places where you can live off fish that you’ve speared and steal chicken eggs. Sure, I’d love to have surfed the bay with Eddie or bullshit with Mike Boyum at Cloud-9 two decades before it got gang-banged, but that stuff’s over and is being reincarnated through new people in new places. There’s no looking back.
  • In the future… Well, it’s obvious but I’ll just go ahead and say it anyway: There will be “Wild Surfers” and “Farm Raised Surfers”. The Wave Pool Spawn (W.P.S.) will rebel against us Wild Surfers (W.S.) wearing leather jackets, headbands, and wielding switchblades. Westerly Windina will rise up to become the W.S.’s Joan of Arc and we will fight mightily under her heroic command. On the faux beaches of Tucson, Scrandon and Poway there will be bloody battles. When wave pool surfing becomes an Olympic sport, Donald Trump will come in to lead the W.P.S. front. He will move his white shark breeding facility to Seaworld and teach members of the W.P.S. to ride on sharks’ backs, viciously attacking any and all W.S. rank and file (the recent drastic rise in shark attacks is no mystery my friends! The war has already begun). On his first day in office The Donald will sign an order to “Halt any and all maritime wave sliding activities at once!”. Under Windina, the last survivors of the W.S. will unceremoniously capitulate on August 6th 2020 in the Green Room at of one of President Trumps Tropicana Hot Buns contests.
  • When I get barreled I… full transparency here: I haven’t gotten properly caved since my second kid. Lots of mini-funnels, but nothing that didn’t make my knees ache. So, when I get barrelled I usually wince a little.
  • Surf culture… see Question 22. It comes to an abrupt end in about 5 years.
  • The ocean is… fair game.