Michael “The Texas Rattlesnake” Dunphy. Photo: Daniel Pullen
He drives a 1971 Mustang and wears a tattered leather jacket with an eagle emblem sewn over the heart. His pre-heat playlist? Bruce Spingsteen’s Born to Run album on repeat. He’ll mow your lawn, take your (of-age) daughter out for a steak, fix your car and if these damn Chinese keep trying to steal our business, he might just head over there and squash them with his bare hands. ISIS fears him. Adam Melling fears him. He is Michael Dunphy and he is an American Hero.
While that first paragraph might be a touch hyperbolic, the naked truth is undeniable: Michael Dunphy is one of the most admirable American pro surfers in the game. He’s blue-collar — working hard and surfing fast — and he’s carved a nice little niche for himself. Dunph just left longtime sponsor Hurley for a new deal with Quiksilver. “They believe in me,” the Rattlesnake says. “They’re giving me a lot of support and they’ll really reward me if I do well.” Spoiler alert: he’s doing well. Dunphy already got a big result at the Oakley Lowers Pro (Hello, WCT…) and has a spread in SURFING’s current issue. But we don’t want to spoil anything else for you, so just read the damn interview. —Brendan Buckley
SURFING: Dunphy, what’s your plan for the year?
THE TEXAS RATTLESNAKE: I’m trying to qualify for the WCT so I’ll be doing all the big WQS events, but I’m also looking to go on as many freesurf trips as I can. I want to keep on surfing as much as I can and keep on improving — I’m actually doing a trip to Panama next week.
Great canal there, check it out if you can. What have you learned from doing the ‘QS?
I've learned to not get caught up in what everyone else is doing or what's working for them. You just have to focus on what works for you. I’ve also learned to be selfish and single-minded when working towards a goal, which is great…
Sounds it. When you were 12, did you tell yourself that you wanted to be on the ‘CT?
When I was that young, my whole dream was to somehow convince people to pay me money for surfing. I didn’t care if that meant competing or freesurfing or whatever. I just didn’t want to spend the rest of my life in Virginia Beach.
Guess you’re not a lover. Once you started getting paid, did your goals become more specific?
When I was like 20, I remember thinking I'm kind of pulling this off but I don't know how I can keep tricking people into paying me. It seemed like there was no fucking way I could make the tour when I was that age. I would still compete, but it just didn’t seem possible for me to make the tour.
So when did qualification become a goal?
I got a couple of results early on last year, and I remember being at the halfway point and realizing Woah, I can actually do this. Then I ended up being like 2-3 heats away from making it. I’m taking it a lot more seriously this year and I'm more organized in my preparation for events with boards and training and all that.
Crossfit life. When you go on freesurf trips, are comps still on your mind?
Nah, not at all. It’s not good to think like that.
How would you compare the pressure of filming to the pressure of surfing a heat?
You definitely feel pressure when you’re filming, but it’s not the same sort of urgent nervousness you get when you’re surfing a heat. Still, I think I get more pissed off if I’m having a shocker filming than I do if I lose a heat.
If you make the WCT this year, can I throw you a party?
Ummmm. No. Well, maybe…