Exit Through The Surf Shop

All Photos: BERT
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The trail to Lower Trestles has long been the epicenter of street art in surfing. You can hardly walk three steps without laying eyes on a brilliant expression of imagination and intellect. You might read, "Mike sucks." Or "John has a chode." Or you might just find yourself stepping over a depiction of an actual chode. The port-a-potty by the tracks is scribbled with poems such as, "Poop or die."

But amongst it all, something actually makes sense. It's a painting on the I-5 overpass that shows Kelly Slater prying a Quiksilver Pro trophy surfboard from the hands of Joel Parkinson. It is thoughtful, finely detailed and worth stopping to appreciate. Turns out it was done by a street artist known as BERT, and that he does one (or more) after each 'CT event. I called BERT and he exposed more details about his interesting quest. Unfortunately, it is still unclear as to whether or not Mike truly sucks. —Brendan Buckley

SURFING: How did you come up with the idea to do this?

BERT: I started thinking about it when I began watching webcasts about 7 years ago. I've watched every single WCT contest nearly in its entirety ever since. Art and design are things that I've done since I was a grom, along with surfing and skating. I've just always felt comfortable in the water and on the streets. These worlds eventually collided one day at a flat design job when I got busted one too many times for sneaking contests on my monitor. I quit and began hitting the streets on my own terms.

How long have you been doing this for?

I started doing 'CT art immediately after the Quiksilver Pro 2013 at Snapper with the piece titled Slater Hater at Trestles, but learning the stencil design, technique and the ability to get it up in the streets without getting nabbed has been a life-long ride. I was the grom that would draw cartoon characters on the walls at school or scribble the word FUCK on playground walls. I guess I've seen blank walls as canvases for as long as I can remember.

Do you have a street art background, or was surfing your first foray into the field?

After ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop’ by Banksy came out, every kid wanted to be a street artist and so the streets became littered with shitty photocopied portraits of Marlyn Monroe on 8.5 x 11 pieces of paper. But I’d been exploring in the shadows since way before that movie came out. You create what’s on your mind. I’m stoked on surfing, skateboarding, music and the coast. All these things eventually found their way into my art over the years, but the ASP-themed pieces began a few years back as sketches during contest broadcasts. Then I got stoked on them and they eventually found their way into the streets.

At one point do you decide what you’ll paint for a contest?

I usually watch contests with a beer and a sketchpad. Pages fill with ideas as the contest moves forward, and I find the drama and humor within each event. I’ll have idea options, but it really depends on who wins — unless something crazy happens like John John's 'oop in Bali. I knew there were going to be 2 BERT pieces for the event when he stuck that. Some ideas come immediately, like when Adriano broke the Bells trophy, but others keep me up at night. Once an idea is finalized, I gather photo references and work on some vector art. Then I hit the studio where I create each life-sized stencil by hand and prep it for installation. I am also scouting and stalking walls while I do this.

What is the closest you’ve ever come to getting caught?

Getting art in the streets consistently without hitting the reef comes only after many years of learning how the streets work. I grew up skating and spending hours each day watching how the streets worked. It’s just like surfing. You need to sit and study the swell and the conditions before you paddle out. Get the right equipment and plan an exit strategy in case you slam.

What’s the typical punishment for a man who gets caught doing what you do?

Who knows. It’s always different. I guess they would show you a collection of photos of all your work. It would be a nice portfolio. I’d ask for copies.

Do you have any big picture goals with this?

Kelly puts it best: "To be the best you can be at something, you got to have a little bit of obsession.” I couldn’t stop even if I tried. I’m stoked for 2014 and hope to take the BERT project on the road following the tour.

If by chance you’re around…
WHAT: BERT ART SHOW with photos by Steve Sherman
WHEN: Friday Dec. 13 6pm-10
WHERE: 3rd Stone Surf Shop at the Waialua Sugar Mill on the North Shore

Or you can follow BERT at bertslideart.wordpress.com/