Ozzie Wright. Photo: Ellis
Ozzie Wright. Photo: Ellis

Wisdom: Ozzie Billy Pippen Wright

Professional sufer, musician, and artist; Byron Bay, Australia, 41

Some things never change. As a kid, I was non-stop drawing and skating and surfing. I was lost in my own world, played like a maniac, and got super obsessed with whatever I did. So essentially there's no difference at all between me as a kid and me as an adult.

Some surfers just aren't cut out for contests. In the '90s I was all about contests, and the best result I ever had was finishing second to Chris Davidson in the Aussie Titles. The last contest I surfed was the Padang Cup, and I didn't get out of my first heat. I had Flynn Novak in my heat, and I remember he was paddling past me super fast, and I was saying, "Go, man!" He wasn't sure if I was taking the piss or not, but I actually really wanted him to catch another wave. I was enjoying watching him surf.

Surfing is just the most fun thing, isn't it? I was surfing The Pass at Byron Bay this morning, and it's so classic to see these crazy personalities on the waves—the way they get up, the way they move. We all move differently. It's like dancing, and the board is the dance floor.

You can have so much fun on tiny surfboards. I'm not sure what drew me to them in the first place. Maybe it was because I started surfing by standing up on a boogie board. Or maybe I just felt everyone else was a bit too serious on their 6’2″ thrusters, so I started riding 5’6″s instead. Maybe I just love the sensation of standing up and flying on a magic little disc.

You never forget your first surfboard. I remember the first board I chose when I was a kid; there was this rack of white boards, then right at the end there was this one fluorescent pink, yellow and orange Pete Sheely board, and I'm like, "That's the one I want." Ever since then I've drawn all over my boards and made a mess of every board I've ever owned.

When you aren't exposed to a lot of surf videos, you have to work things out on your own. It was funny, because we didn't have a video player until I was a teenager, and "Crystal Voyager" was my first surf movie because my dad was a kneeboarder. Without anything to go off of, my first airs were more like floaters. Then I remember one day at South Narrabeen it started to click. The wind went onshore and I remember fully working it out.

What makes surfing appealing is that there are no rules, so it's fundamentally opposite to work and school and adulthood. If you can keep that childish spirit alive in yourself, you'll keep having the best time in the water. I've been messing around on longer boards and shorter boards and I've become a little more experimental, I think. With all the boards available these days, I'm realizing even more how much fun surfing is.

Fatherhood is just the best. Our little girl is about to turn 3 and our son, Rocky, is almost 9, and they're awesome. Kids rule. I think I'm more responsible now that I'm a father, and it's made me healthier because I go to bed earlier and I prepare actual meals that aren't just Vegemite on toast. For men, I think having kids is important; otherwise they just go off the rails.

I think people generally take life too seriously. I know it's easy for me to say that, because I have this job where I get paid to surf and paint rainbows and zombies. But still, life's pretty short, and if you spend it all working in a job you hate, then that's a bit depressing.

It's great to feel like you've affected the next generation. If I've inspired the younger guys in any way, I've got to be happy with that.

Life is so much fun. It's a blast. If my life were a piece of art, it'd look like the floor of my bedroom: colorful, but disorganized. But it's such a privilege to have a couple of healthy kids and a lady that you love and a job you enjoy. I couldn't ask for anything else.