How Surfing Saved J-Bay Artist Stephen Bibb’s Life

Stephen Bibb describes his life as perfect. It's easy to see why; he lives a couple blocks from Jeffreys Bay and makes a living doing what he loves: creating art.

But things haven't always been so good for Stephen. {{{Eight}}} years ago, he was bogged in a deep depression. His wife had recently left him, his dog had just died, he lost his house and had been fired from his job. His days were spent lying in bed drowning in his own sadness. Waking up one Sunday morning to a breakfast of tranquilizers and whisky, Stephen prepared for another day of darkness. Eventually getting out of bed to wash the dirty dishes overflowing in his sink, Stephen realized that he had to get in the water. He needed to go surfing.

It was late. J-Bay was small and onshore, but Stephen felt better as soon as he hit the water. A pod of dolphins was out, not swimming up and down the point as they usually do but just hanging out in a group of about 20 beyond the breakers.

He caught a small sloppy wave and kicked out 15 yards from the dolphins. As he was paddling back out, one of the dolphins jumped out of the water and seemed to freeze in mid air looking at Stephen, as what he described as a ball of glowing white energy shot from the dolphin into his chest, enveloping him in a warm, white divinely powerful love that passed warmly through his veins. In that instant, Stephen realized that everything was OK, forever.

That moment pulled Stephen back from the abyss, the depression instantly lifted, his life begun turning around, and today he describes things as perfect. His new wife is pregnant, he's got a new dog, he is surfing all the time, and as you might guess, dolphins now play a huge role in his art.

Surfing Magazine: What inspires your art?

Stephen Bibb: The ocean, dolphins, Supers, plants…I get inspiration from a lot of places, basically whatever is a part of my life. But it takes more than just the inspiration to create art, creating art is this weird combination of a perfectly laid back thing but also this really competitive thing, deep inside me there is this fire that burns that really wants to make each piece perfect. It's a competitive drive with myself, so each piece becomes this struggle with myself to make it perfect, and it's stressful, and it gets intense, but it's a blessing. I like the intensity, but I have to surf to stay laid back. When I don't surf, my wife tells me I better go surf.

What does surfing do for you?

It relaxes me, it puts me in a better place mentally. But it also changes me physically, maybe more than any other activity. I think differently after I have been for a surf; it opens doors of perception. There is this other thing I do that has a similar effect, it's called the art of living, it's like a breathing meditation how to live your life thing, but it also opens mega doors of perception. It's amazing to think what would happen if the whole planet did this stuff, there'd be a lot less hostility.

How would you describe the waves you paint?

A lot of my stuff is imaginary, fantasy points somewhere. Maybe loosely based on Supertubes at JBay, but you'll never see Supers as empty as my paintings.

No, maybe we won't, but Stephen's paintings offer us a glimpse of a dream like world where empty waves peel under supernaturally beautiful skies. And his dolphins, well they all have a certain glint in their eye.