Sand. Sweat. Women wearing rhinestones on their sweaty, sandy faces. Coachella might sound like hell to some, but it sounds like heaven to others. Balaram Stack — like many other pro surfers — is the type who sees it through pearly gates (or at least the foggy window of an over-crowded RV). We hung out with him both before and after 2015’s dance in the desert, you know, to see what Coachella does to a man. Find out below. [Interview by Leo Maxam]
SURFING: What are we doing at the RV Park in Newport?
Balaram Stack: We're picking up my third annual Coachella RV to drive out to the desert and cause havoc and have the time of our lives.
So this is a tradition?
It's becoming one, yeah. We go to the Vestal Village, park our RV, get everything set up, and let loose for the next three days.
For someone like me who's a Coachella virgin, what happens there?
Some people go strictly for the music and make sure they see the bands they want to see. But with so many bands playing on different stages, there are always bands you want to see playing at the same time. You can try and plan it out with a schedule, but it's hectic and variables always come into play. There's a party over here, and friends you want to meet up with over there, and everybody's off their heads. So I say just go in with no expectations and you'll have the best time ever.
Who is on your "can't-miss" list to see perform?
Action Bronson would be sick to see. There are a lot of new electronic acts I want to see, too. I heard Caribou plays a good live show. And Flosstradamus is really fun to party to. They're crazy trap, mosh pit stuff. I saw them in New York and it was the best time ever.
Who's the crew this year?
It's gonna be myself, Ian Crane, Pat Schmidt and my friend Stevie Patsis from New York.
And everyone's a Coachella veteran?
Pat is the only virgin. We're gonna show him a good time. He's really excited and really scared at the same time.
What's a triple stack?
So the Sahara tent is the big EDM tent and every year we try to do triple stacks where one person gets on somebody's shoulders, and another person gets on their shoulders, so it's three people high. You're in a sea of people and you have the best view in the house. I was on the top a couple of times and every time the bottom guy gives out and you eat shit on 20 people, and everybody just throws you back in the air.
What's the best thing about Coachella?
I'd say the best thing is bringing together your favorite crew from all over and having the best time of your life to great music. You don't get that diverse a crew together in that kind of environment anywhere else in the world.
Is there a "worst" thing about Coachella?
The worst thing about Coachella is leaving. We're having such a good time, we're saying, "Oh, we're coming back next weekend. This is amazing!" And by Monday morning you're like, "OK, get me home."
I've heard you hold the world record for most iPhones lost in one year.
I don't know if I have the record. I just know that this is my 21st iPhone and people seem to think that's a big accomplishment. This one's been fixed twice already. Hopefully it survives Coachella.
His phone survived. His beloved black New York Rangers hat was not so lucky. We sat down, hatless, to watch those New Rangers engage in a game of Stanley Cup Playoff hockey. Chips were dipped, beers were swilled and a formal interview would not have been right. Bal shared stories from the foreign land, but nothing sounded too crazy. More or less, he seemed subdued — maybe not like an animal on a tranquilizer but more like a man who’d just sweat every mineral his body owned out into the hot sands of California’s desert. He was heading off to surf a WQS in Martinique the next day and I hope he wins. —Brendan Buckley