Cain said to his brother Abel, Let's go out to the field. Maybe you’ve heard this one before, but that was code for Brother, I’m gonna kill you. Code that Abel did not understand. The two brothers both had given God presents and Cain, being a farmer, gave God his choicest of veggies, while Abel, being a shepherd, gave God a delicious lamb. God favored Abel’s blood offering more than Cain’s and this made Cain jealous. It was about that time when he told his brother they needed to have a chat in the field…and while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.
Whether you believe in this mumbo jumbo or not, perhaps this set a precedent for sibling rivalries to come. Indeed, for many a brother, life is one big field where they are continually at odds, perpetually trying to one up one another, even if face to face in the heat of battle — knowingly or unknowingly — they are staring at versions of themselves.
Romulus and Remus, Scar and Mufasa, Michael and Fredo Corleone, Evan and Eric Geiselman. Yes, in the Geiselman field of life, they’ve constantly forged their own paths, nay, their own identities, despite all the mix-ups over the years sharing that E. Geiselman ticket.
But summing up siblings as one big, lifelong battle to win a more unique identity than “So-and-so’s brother,” is just one way to look at it. Of course the other side of the coin are sibling’s profound and indestructible connection to each other. The many stories of twins or siblings feeling the pain of their other when one endures a car accident hundreds of miles away.
If such a phenomena is possible, perhaps when Evan hit his head on the Pipeline reef last year and inhaled a few gallons of Pacific Ocean, Eric felt a pang in his head and coughed, momentarily asphyxiating, a few hundred yards down the beach, instinctually realizing that something was not right in the world then. That his brother was in trouble. But we’ll get to that…
Because at the moment, ping pong in the Old World is certainly getting old, and Eric, channeling his inner-Cain says to his brother: “Gold, let’s go out into the field.” Actually, he said, “Gold, we’re out there, already!” So Evan finished his swing, grabbed his fullsuit, 5’10” and followed.
It would be battle.
All photos by Jimmicane and Scotty Hammonds.
I. A Portrait of Eric Geiselman
“Eric’s gotta be the most unique person I’ve ever met,” says Evan. “I love his perspective, how he views everything: It’s Lark’s World. He lives how he wants to live and sees things how he wants to see things. That’s what makes him unique. He’s a good time and light hearted and just has fun. I guess in a way, we’re total opposites. I’m pretty goal oriented, and if I’ve got my eyes set on something, then that’s what I’m trying to do, while Eric is kinda flying by the seat of his pants, going with the flow, along for the ride, just going for it. He’s just so funny.”
“As far as his surfing, my favorite thing about Eric’s is his X-factor. You never know what he’s gonna do and I think he really takes pride in that approach. So, at any given moment, he could do anything, any trick in the book — that’s his X-Factor.”
“Let’s fart at the same time and see if it makes lightning,” declares Eric from the backseat.
What does that even mean, you might ask? It means exactly what he asked. It is a very Lark (Eric’s nickname) thing to say. Thus, if we were to fart at the same time…would lightning strike? Odds are, no, but Eric searches for the magic in each day, explores the possibilities hiding around every corner, swoons life with his smile, ushers the day awake with his guitar. In Lark’s World, perhaps anything is possible.
As I’ve quickly come to learn, Eric is also one of those uber-creative souls that has to have his hands on something. Has to be picking, strumming, drawing, clicking, pressing, tapping, tuning and twisting something or his brain might explode.
Or his hands might clean fall off his arms.
We are in Hossegor, France, so surrounding looks of distain at Americans having a blast are about as common as shakas in Hawaii, but Eric pays no mind. Tall and blue-eyed, tan and lovely, en route a surf-check (breakfast) he plays a guitar strung around his neck like a traveling minstrel, drunk off living before 9am, coaxing the sun to rise, coaxing the day awake, squeezing a smile out of a mousey French girl walking the cobblestones to work toward us with a baguette beneath one arm.
Indeed Eric breaths life into people, makes life suddenly melodic. And f--k, he’s no slouch either. Just last night he composed a full-length track on his laptop before bed. He shared it with us earlier and the arrangement of sounds (using Abelton Live software) was impressive. A beautiful, building electronic composition that could score a moody Indo part in any surf vid of today. I asked if he’d been working on that all night and he said he’d put it together in 5…maybe 7 minutes.
Even picking up Evan on the way from the Reef house, Kai Otton shook his head thinking the stereo was on, but it was just Eric performing live background music while we all sipped Nespressos in the 7am French morning darkness.
Could you describe your brother in one phrase?
Evan: Brilliant. Yeah, I don’t think anyone could hang around him and not laugh, he just makes you feel…I dunno. Even when you’re surfing with him, anything he does, he’s brilliant at it.
What is one thing your brother can’t live without?
If Eric wasn’t a pro surfer, what would he be?
Who’s better looking?
Who’s better at surfing?
What’s Eric’s favorite website?
What’s Eric’s favorite flavor of ice cream?
How long has Eric had a fascination with music?
I’d say ever since I could remember, Eric was getting every type of instrument since he was 12 or 13. I definitely can remember him beating on the drums. [laughs] That might have been his first instrument. And he never took lessons, nothing. He’d just pick up an instrument, hear the beat, go with the rhythm; he’s musically gifted for sure.
I imagine one day Eric will put together a little band and have gigs and do it in our hometown or…I dunno, I mean he could start editing, making movies, there’s that X-Factor again: He can just do anything man. But if I could pick one thing, I could see him jamming out with our buddies in our hometown, just having a blast.
We trudge up the coastal dunes to get a glimpse of a fickle French sandbar. A light rain mists our path and the constant Atlantic wind begins to blow more sand onto the boardwalk below our feet, swallowing the wooden slats before our very eyes. The waves are pretty terrible, yet somehow there’s 50 guys out and over to our right Julian Wilson and his chick are trying to check the surf inconspicuously. Mid-strum, Eric hollers over at him, “Hey Julian Wilson, what’s up?” Seven nearby surf fans’ ears instantly prick like, “Arrrgh?” and swarm Julian for selfies and autographs. Julian, being a friend of Eric’s looks back at him and smiles like, “Thanks a lot mate,” and then poses awkwardly seven times.
Eric keeps strumming a tune that transforms into Smashing Pumpkin’s “Bullet with Butterfly Wings,” mighty pleased with his prank and happy as a clam, despite the conditions.
“Breakfast No. 2, boys?” he asks and keeps humming the tune to himself.
II. A Portrait of Evan Geiselman
“Evan’s got a really strong mind,” says Eric. “It can be hard to get in his head and crack him. From a competitive aspect he’s really good at getting into his own little realm. He’s also very competitive, so he’s got a really good killer instinct, which I think I lack. I just like to go with the flow. But he’s strong-minded.”
“When it comes to his surfing, I think my favorite thing is probably his approach and technique. I feel like his technique is pretty flawless. His timing is great, too and from a young age my parents tried to drill that form into him. He’s got really sharp fundamentals, clean and sharp from start to finish.”
Indeed, where Eric is Mr. Groovy, cruisin’ by the seat of his pants, freesurf jester, Evan is razor-sharp-focus, as this year he has his eyes on the prize. The prize being a spot on the world tour, while at the moment sitting dangerously on the edge of the QS Top 10 bubble. Still, his best year to date, winning a 6K in Japan and a 3K in Virginia Beach.
Deeper yet, where his brother Eric seems to run off chance and feel, Evan is resolute, driven and speaks with measured, premeditated poise. Oozing confidence, he truly believes he should be on that CT Tour, especially if he’s beaten guys already on it.
As Eric said, Evan is quite competitive. Ping-pong at the Reef house is all out war and Evan takes no prisoners.
What is something your brother has always wanted to do?
Eric: I think from a really early age he’s always wanted to make the WCT. And this year he’s having a really good go.
Sum up your brother in one phrase.
Little shit. Yeah, definitely little shit.
If Evan wasn’t a pro surfer what would he be?
A cook. F--k, I dunno why I say that.
Who is better looking?
Who is better at surfing?
Coffee or Beer?
Coffee and beer: Queer!
While the Geiselman brothers certainly look like siblings despite Evan being five years Eric’s junior, plus a few inches shorter, their faces are cut from the same chiseled blue-eyed Germanic stock. Evan, so put together and commercially glowing, his friends nicknamed him Gold. A goofy-footed, determined precious metal.
Before a session, I watch Evan studying the QS ratings on the WSL website, pouring over the points and Portuguese names like a kid at his chemistry set. In the water, it’s the same attention to detail, his surfing sharp and flawless with measured push and functional flare. Wrap to tail-blow to reverse-repeat, building a score without a judge but his brother in sight.
III. A Portrait of Two Brothers
When Eric was 15 and Evan was 10, the brothers had a brief paintball phase. Naturally, Evan wanted to play with the big boys and begged his brother Eric to let him partake with him and his friends. Eric said sure and walked his brother into the field with him.
Clearly, a 15-year-old can take a paintball hit with considerably more cool than a 10-year-old and once Evan got a taste of a paintball’s velocity and sting — he threw up the white flag and said he was out. But Eric didn’t ceasefire. He found the young Evan curled up in a ball on the ground pleading and continued to light the poor creature up, point-blank.
What makes a good brother?
Evan: “For me, I could look up to him. In surfing, I looked up to him tremendously, and as a person, he’s always smiling and always happy. He lets me bag on him and he takes it well; that’s Lark. He’s awesome.”
“I can remember my mom telling me that I couldn’t go surf unless it was with someone, so I always had to go surf with him. Even camping in the backyard was the same: He was like my designated adult and in charge of me or something. [laughs] But toughening me up, messing with your younger brother; that’s how it should be. Even when I was 16 and he was 21, we moved out to California and I was living with him for about 4 years together and he was my chaperone again. So yeah, I really did get to grow up with my brother and we have a blast…”
Fast forward from an adolescent Eric standing over his cowering younger brother, clutching at his welts with each gun-pop and the two are in France.
The two are at a house by a pool waiting for the tide to change, and Evan is all game-face, scurrying from corner to corner of the ping pong table, yelling at the sky when Mitch Crews gets one by him.
And Eric? Eric is on the edge of the pool, totally disinterested, playing a Jimi Hendrix riff, eyes closed, mimicking Jimi’s gestures, wagging his head, hamming it up, even if no one but me is apparently watching.
Indeed, 13 years later after the paintball incident and the two men are handsome versions of themselves — the left-brained, goofy-footed determined half versus the right-brained, regular-footed artist. The two keep each other in check, bickering, challenging, rousting each other relentlessly in the field of life.
We walk through a coastal forest in Seignosse and the autumn leaves crunch beneath our feet, the slanted wintry sunlight shooting bolts of golden, dusty beams between each ancient tree. The two harass each other and Eric recalls a story about Evan’s apparent ineptness at driving a Jet Ski, Evan taking his shit like a champ.
Beyond the dunes, the surf finally looks like it’s firing, as waves often can from 50-feet-above. The brothers are on it. Evan puts together combos on rifling lefthanders and Eric, with no pressure to compete whatsoever, seems to try and spar with Evan, attacking the lefts on his backhand with gorgeous style and precision. Florida-bred bottom turns, going 12-o’clock on the chest high lefts.
What is the most important thing your brother has taught you?
Eric: “I guess I’d say motivation. I think when we’re around each other we have this inner rivalry that I wouldn’t call jealousy…I think it’s that we’re both never really satisfied with one another or even ourselves so there’s always that motivation to keep one-upping each other. It’s never from a negative place. Sure there’s times when we’ve had enough of each other and get to our breaking points but that keeps things fresh. Just classic good ole brother style. It’s a lot of fun. Whenever we’re together or surfing with each other it’s like game-on. I guess there’s always a game between us.”
IV. A Glimpse of Life Without the Other
About a year ago, for a few harrowing hours Eric got a glimpse of what life looked like without a brother. It was chaotic and confusing and incomplete. It was the morning of the Jaws competition, so yeah, Pipe was flexing and somehow, as Eric recalls, the direction made it sort of manageable. John John, Kiron and Eli were doing stepoffs from a Ski out at Pipe that morning and pretty much getting licked.
“But Pipe’s like that,” says Eric. “If you look at it long enough, no matter how big it is, you’re gonna see one. Rain, snow, you’re gonna see one that looks fun. But to me there was also that inner surf ego going on where everyone was wondering, “Who’s gonna go out?”
Eric, Griffin, Kolohe and Dunphy watched it for about 45 minutes and Eric didn’t think the risk was worth the reward. He had a weird feeling about the surf. He had a weird feeling about the entire morning, really. The ocean looked angry and vindictive.
“Then Evan just walks out of the Reef house with a cup of coffee, all nonchalant and sees a couple of corners blowing their guts out, sips his cup of coffee and thinking nothing of it, says, ‘We’re out there boys. We’re blowing it. We need to be out there.’ And we were kind of looking at him like, it’s not that good. There’s gonna be waves…but not right now.”
But Evan was fired up and on days like that, someone’s gotta be the one to rally the boys and lead the charge of, well, risking their lives. He asked his brother if he should go 6’8” or 6’10” and Eric asked if he had anything over 7’0”. Evan was going no matter what, no one was gonna stop him, so Eric let him make his decision and walked down the beach with his girlfriend to find sea-glass until the ocean looked a little more inviting.
“I remember 20 minutes went by and John John was at Logs trying to bring the Ski in and there was so much water sucking off the reef with the rising swell that he couldn’t get the Ski in, even when waves were pushing in. I remember kind of watching that and tripping out, thinking that it’s that tapped.”
Then Eric got the call. Get down here quick, your brother’s hurt. Evan had turned on a meaty 2nd Reef double up, packed it, hit his head and didn’t come up. Andre Botha, a lifeguard out bodyboarding at the time found him floating facedown and carried him in.
Eric ran. It felt like quicksand. Like he was going nowhere. He got to the crowd at Ehukai where Evan was on a stretcher, conscious but struggling, mumbling that he needed to throw up. They flipped him on his side and he began to vomit an impossible amount of water. They shoved him back in the ambulance and Eric jumped in after him and they floored it to Wahiawa Hospital.
Like any emergency, the seconds turned like days. Eric tried to stay calm, what with the ambulance driver weaving through traffic, their mom calling him frantically and the monitor with Evan’s stats and vitals slowly dropping and becoming irregular. Halfway to Wahiawa around the Dole Plantation, Evan began going into secondary drowning and the driver pulled the ambulance to the shoulder.
“You could hear it in his breathing,” recalls Eric. “You could hear the water in his lungs. Like this weird slurping…”
They sedated him, jammed a tube down his throat and started pumping. Saltwater, inner lung fluid; it was graphic and brutal.
“For me…there was just so much emotion and it was so frightening to see my brother dying before my eyes. I dunno, if I didn’t have my brother, it would ruin my life. The way it worked out, with every single puzzle piece from Andre Botha being there at the right moment, or even how he went to the Foodland Coffee Bean for a cup of coffee, like, if he didn’t have that coffee, would he have had the same energy? Stuff like that. Andre could’ve been in a different place at that moment. Even being a bodyboarder with fins and not a surfer, which helped him keep Evan’s head up in the surf…The fact that Evan’s even here today is overwhelming. I’m just thankful. He’s my brother and I love him.”
And obviously he made it. Thanks to Andre. Thanks to all those puzzle pieces that day. Thanks to Eric, probably, too. Eric, his sibling’s lifelong chaperone, designated guardian, incidental teacher, hidden disciple, sometime-assassin…brother. One that maybe willed life back into Evan from the back of an ambulance.
And Evan after the whole ordeal? Well besides regaining consciousness, besides regaining a second chance at living, really, he also regained some perspective.
“It definitely made me appreciate situations more,” says Evan. “And to hold onto moments longer and cherish them and the people around me. I think it’s even helped me competitively. I think I owe a lot of that ordeal to having a good year so far, knowing that life doesn’t revolve around making a heat or not. When I have a string of bad events, it put things into perspective like: Well, I’m still here. I’m still living and I love the people I’m surrounded with….it’s just opened that up in me. The fact that I’m just living, that’s the point and the coolest thing.”
13 years after Eric took his brother into the field and shot him full of painballs, we’ve come to Southwest France to shoot a short film about the two. Over oysters fresh from Lac du Hossegor and crisp white wine, Eric and I finish an interview for the film.
“Not my favorite ice cream!” hollers Evan from the other room, overhearing our conversation.
Perhaps it wasn’t. But regardless, Eric had been easy on Evan, when asked to speak candidly on their relationship. And Evan — the same. Because even if in public, or the parking lot or at the ping-pong table, it’s game-on — in private — they don’t have it in them to trash one another. When all’s said and done, they’re each other’s biggest fans.
I walk into the room to find Evan and he’s watching clips on a laptop of — wouldn’t you know it — his brother Eric from past surf trips to Costa Rica. Outside, Eric begins to strum a tune, rearranging the words of Ween’s “Buenas Tardes Amigo,” and Evan hollers, “Enough, Lark!” And then clicks play on another clip of his brother’s, watching intently.