CHRIS WARD: “I SHARED BEERS WITH KANGAROOS!”
by: Chas Smith
“I don’t need to lie. I like to do stuff and I did. I did it just to say I drove all the way across Australia and I would do it again probably just cuz I liked it so much. My favorite part was going to a liquor store out in the middle of absolutely nowhere and asking for a beer. I’d take it outside and there’d be kangaroos who would ask to share it with me. I mean, they wouldn’t ask like… what was that movie? …Kangaroo Jack… but they would ask in their own way. They would move their arms a little like they were drinking. I’d finish 3/4 of the beer and give it to them. I was sharing a beer with a kangaroo. I don’t care who you are that is fucking great.”
I saw Chris Ward five years ago on the bluff overlooking Margaret River. The contest was on and he was standing next to his rental car all smiles and tan and his smiles were so white. His rental car was not white but rather covered in bugs. Thousands and millions of little deaths. And he told me he had just driven out from Melbourne, all the way across Australia, and I didn’t believe him, at the time. But he did do it, as I found out later in many many apocryphal stories and also from Chris Ward himself. “I’d do it again, probably, too, just because I liked it that much. I love to drive.”
There is something distinctly ethnic about his face up close. That tan is not purely Caucasian. “I’m half Thai, or Indonesian,” he says. I tell him I thought he was Cherokee or some other American Indian varietal. “Cherokee? I like that. They are a strong people.” His unique features and that smile and those sparkly eyes make him a magnet for fine ladies. Also his charisma. Chris Ward is pure charisma. When the waitress comes, for example, his eyes fire and his smile works and the waitress melts into a little puddle.
Chris Ward is a story. A breathing story. Everyone is always telling chapters or paragraphs or sentences. The story spins out. Some of the elements are naughty. Some are ridiculous, like a young Ward hitchhiking and performing tricks with a cavity and dental floss at age ten. All are awesome. Here are some.
“I don’t know. I love adventure. I never want to pass something up. I want to experience everything. And it keeps the dull out of surfing. Waaaaay too many dull stick figures around. You gottta have something to back the surfing. A personality. When people sit and watch the surfing webcasts I hope they don’t think that’s what surfing is. I just want to be exciting… have an exciting life. Maybe that’s just how I am.”
“I love to go on my backhand in the barrel because you can get in different positions and learn things. Frontside you’re facing the wave the whole time. Backside there are all these variations. Looking, grabbing… different lines.”
Plots and subplots. Maybe some of this heaving backside business has to do danger. Nothing so dangerous as face planting dry reef. Does he ever get scared?
“No. You can’t get scared. You just have to charge in your life. Ahhhhhhh shit. You know, I don’t like to admit that I get scared sometimes. If something happens I go into survival mode. Like last year I was out at Morro Bay with Ashley and our boat flipped. I think it was the same set that washed through Mavericks and hurt all those people… but anyhow we were out on the boat and the ocean was cool but then it turned ugly. Beyond ugly. And a big sneaker set flipped my boat right over. Instinct took over. I bear hugged Ashley and swam down and away as fast as I could. I knew that the way you die is to get sucked down in the draft of the boat. So I bear hugged and swam down as far as I could and then out. We popped up and there was some guys on jet skis who sat with us until the Coast Guard came… Another time when I was fifteen I was on the North Shore and out on, like a… I don’t know, a 6’1 or something. It was fun but then the swell just jumped and it got huge. The sky turned black and there I was trying to duck dive 30 foot waves at Rockpiles. I think I learned the hard way. If a swell is coming up check the buoys… and…”
“I came out to San Clemente when I was seven and a half or eight from Texas. I had a boogie board that summer and then I started standing on it. When winter came I just thought I’m gonna keep surfing. So I did.”
“Ahhhh when I was ten I remember cruising down in the mornings and seeing this dude, Reola (Mike Reola co-founder along with Matt Biolos of lost), who was feeding the pidgeons. We’d chat some, then a couple years later he had just started this brand with Biolos and was tie-dying some t-shirts. So, even thought I was riding for Rusty at the time, I’d go over and smash out some t-shirts for him. I was a grom and just stoked. Then a few more years down the line they had enough money to pick me up. They (lost) weren’t like the others. They were a rager company that was different. And people liked the vids, people liked the surfing. Lost was born.”
“That hurricane that hit Mexico in 2006? Yeah, I drove through that thing three times. Reola and I wanted to go and catch some hurricane swell so we drove down Baja, drove twenty whatever hours straight down there. And when we got to the spot it was perfectly glassy barrels but only like two feet so it wasn’t really worth surfing it. So Reola and I were just filming shit and there were these big puddles everywhere from storms. I was driving my truck through them and full speed and he was filming from outside. There was this one huge one but it had deep ruts in it so my tires got stuck in the rut and I drove right into a cactus that spider webbed the whole driver’s side of my windshield. Then the hurricane blew ashore and Reola and I had to hunker down in my truck. Things were pretty bad for a while and we started really running out of water. Reola was worried that the force would blow through the windshield so he stickered up the whole inside to stop it from collapsing but I couldn’t see anything so I’d have to drive with my head out of the window in a hurricane. I tried to get us to Cabo but had to turn around and then tried to get to Scorpion Bay but it was just full hurricane. Like huge rivers running everywhere. The Baja 500 was running at the same time and they were all getting stuck so we’d look after each other. We got to this river that had busted through a road and the Baja guys said it was impossible but I told them to fuck off and ran my truck right through it. That hurricane was not supposed to hit land but it just ground up the center of Baja. Finally we got to a place where there was no way out. A giant river busted the road and we were stuck. This was in the middle of fucking nowhere. And there was a Mexican family who took us in. They were, like, farmers. I don’t speak Spanish that good and they didn’t speak English but we understood each other. So we stayed with them. They had a well. After a few days the Mexican government came in on horseback and said no way the truck is getting out for weeks. They told us we had to leave the car and hike out on foot. So we did. We walked out and then got a ride to the airport. When we landed I had to go straight to Lowers because the contest was on and I surfed and got fifth. And the very next day we went back down to Baja, to the place where the truck was and got it. I brought the farmers all kinds of lost clothes, jackets, shirts, lots of jeans. Pretty much stacked up the whole village with Lost clothes…”