The list of professional surfers going rock star on us is getting longer every day, and there’s no sign of this trend slowing down. The latest to jump on a smelly tour bus is one of our sport’s most renowned characters, Donavon Frankenreiter. “Diamond Donny” has been pretty busy in recent years; he’s been a leader in the retro board movement. He’s been actively lobbying surf companies for two-inch inseams, and of course, playing a ton of music. After leaving his band Sunchild last year Donny went to work on his debut solo album produced by none other than surfer/musician Jack Johnson. The album is out this month, so we decided to get to Donny before he hits the road.
HOT SEAT: Jeez leweez…another surfer going rock star on us?
DONAVON: Man I know. It’s crazy.
HOT SEAT: What’s the frickin’ deal? Riding waves isn’t good enough for guys any more?
DONAVON: I don’t know. It’s funny, I think a lot of us get into playing because there’s so much down time on trips and stuff. So we’re listening to music a ton, or playing it. Plus we live in this communal kind of atmosphere on boats and stuff, and it’s a perfect opportunity to reflect on things and get creative.
HOT SEAT: You’re married. So is your wife your biggest groupie or what?
DONAVON: Oh, for sure. This was really all her idea. She got sick of hearing me complain about spinning my wheels with other stuff, so she told me to do what I do at home in front of her. It took me a while to do it, but I came out of my shell because of her, and my son. They changed everything.
HOT SEAT: Does she have to fight off other girls now during shows?
DONAVON: Nah, not really. She cruises. She can hardly wait to go to Australia to go surfing, besides, it’s not like there’s a bunch of underwear landing on my head or anything.
HOT SEAT: What’s your son’s name again?
HOT SEAT: You decided against Elvis?
DONAVON: Well, we considered a bunch of musical names: Crosby. Neil. Ozzy. We were close with that one but we were afraid he’d be a little terror. Then when I mentioned Hendrix and my wife didn’t complain. I was just thinking, “Man, my wife is too cool.”
HOT SEAT: You’ve been pretty influential in fanning the flames of the retro movement. Are you happy to see it thriving the way it is?
DONAVON: Oh yeah, it’s insane. You know, a lot of people laughed at me early on. They were just going, “Ah, what a moron. Those things will never work.” But those guys were all missing the point. It’s not about how well you surf on those boards, it’s more about how much fun you’re having. People come up and tell me how much fun they had on this board or that, and they get it. It doesn’t matter if they’re not doing the best turn of their life. You do weird turns, and you pearl and eat shit, and stuff, but you’re not trying to be all serious with your thruster logoed up, and that’s the point.
HOT SEAT: Yet your personal crusade to bring back the short shorts is still being denied? Are you still disturbed by this fashion trend?
DONAVON: Hah! Yeah. Shit. I’ve been trying to get Billabong to make those short ones forever, but they keep shutting me down, so I just end up cutting my shorts on trips. Let’s free Willy, man! They say those things won’t sell. Apparently the world still isn’t ready for them to come back, but shit, everyone knows surf trunks are too long these days. My knees get stuck just trying to get to my feet, I hate that.
HOT SEAT: What is it about the short ones that you like?
DONAVON: It’s like surfing nude. I’m not I’m into the super tight Tommy Carroll trunks. I like ‘em short, but loose. But they have their drawbacks. You are flashing people all day on the beach and in the water. It’s all natural though! Nudity is good.
HOT SEAT: So what’s been the best part of this latest journey?
DONAVON: Well, Jack Johnson produced my album, and we recorded at his place in Hawaii for a couple months, which was insane. I met him over there when I was about 15 and he was 12, and we hadn’t spent that much time together since we were kids. Putting this album together we’d record all day and surf in the afternoons. It was just like when we were younger, but on a whole different level. Total dream come true. Actually, I don’t think either of us ever dreamed it, so it’s surpassed our dreams. That’s the best part.
HOT SEAT: Being that he’s your producer, did Jack ever bring up the fact that Frankenreiter is a mouthful of a name that might not work in the music world?
DONAVON: Shit. I’m sure it crossed his mind, but we’re going with it for now. It’ll be interesting to see how DJs butcher it.