Flynn Novak finished fifth at Pipe this year. Kelly Slater gave him huge props on his Innersection. And he's the only surfer in the world currently pulling legitimate backflips.
He also has no proper sponsor. No travel budget. No savings. And no emo art-guy surf blog marketability plan. He has really spiky hair.
He's a 27-year-old pro surfing lifer who never quite made it big.
But he landed another backflip at Padang today. He may just land one tomorrow, too. The Kustom Airstrike practically owes him $50,000. And this just might be his big shot.
If there's any brand out there who needs a hardworking, Pipe surfing, North Shore team rider with too-spiky hair who can do backflips into the barrel — please call 808-555-FLIP. Operators are standing by. —Nathan MyersSPONSORSHIP
SURFING: Are you sponsored?
FLYNN NOVAK: Ahhh… [laughs] Sponsors, huh? What's your definition of sponsored? There's no paychecks, if that's what you mean. XM runs ads and gives me leashes and grip. Matuse wetsuits. Futures fins. Jeff Bushman surfboards when I can get 'em.
So, how do you survive?
Basically I've been surviving off my equal 5th at Pipe last year, which paid nine grand. That's the last money I had, and that's all spent on this trip for the Padang Cup. I don't know. Sitting around isn't gonna help anything, so I'm spending my last pennies to keep it going.
Why don't you have a major sponsor?
A lot of people blame the economy, which I think is bullshit. I've been shopping myself around for the last three years to every single major company you can think of. Why don't I have a sponsor? No idea.
Do you think a lot of guys who have big-label sponsors don't deserve them?
Yeah, if you wanna get edgy with it. There's a lot of examples of guys who are given everything and don't appreciate it. But I'm not going to hate on anyone. More power to them. But hopefully, the bosses who are funding laziness eventually see how much more they could get for their buck if they had a workhorse like myself.
You think it's easier if you live in California?
Probably, but then the credibility isn't there. Hawaii is where the credibility is. There are so many guys who are hungry as shit over here. If you gave me or any of them the opportunity, we'd put the rest of their team to shame.
Is hard work more valuable than a marketable image?
Yeah, but there aren't that many people who are very on it. The guys who have everything are usually the laziest. The only exception I know is Jamie O'Brien. He's working every single day. He's directing his own movies. He's creative and edgy. He's been doing it his whole life. I'm not jealous of him, but I definitely admire his position.
And even Jamie was down to just Red Bull last I heard. Why is that?
I think the companies worry about guys' image too much. At the end of the day, exposure shits on image. If you're getting exposure, if you're getting their logo onto magazines and movies and stuff, that's just free advertising. I think you should be paid for that. But these guys worry if a guy is emo enough or artsy enough…but if you sponsor someone who fits your image and they only get one spread a year, is that worth it?
You're 27 now. How much longer can you keep this up?
That does weigh on my mind sometimes. But I'm gonna run with it. Thirty is the new 20. Guys used to retire at 28 on tour, but that's probably the average age now. As long as you're taking care of yourself…but I definitely try to think of Plan B.
You sound like you don't even have a Plan B.
[laughs] There's some options that I just don't like thinking about. So I don't. I just put them away. I don't want to dwell on negative shit. I'm trying to stay positive. I have faith.
Faith is what it takes to land a flip.
It is. Totally.
Part 2 of the Flynn Novak interview will be posted tomorrow.Submissions for the 2010 Kustom Airstrike must be in by August 31. Here again is Flynn Novak's entry: