Weight: 135 lbs.
From: Venice, California
Sponsors: Quiksilver, Spyder surfboards, Z.J. Boardinghouse, Utopia, Merlins Energy Source
The other day I called Justin Swartz to see what was going on.
TransWorld SURF: Justin where are you?
Justin: I'm in Venice.
What are you doing?
I'm driving around in my Volvo that doesn't reverse.
A typical response from an atypical kid. Venice is a heavy town to grow up and survive in. As a young surfer, you gotta adapt to any situation whether it's with the local hoodlums or with Volvos. The town sits on the western edge of Los Angeles and is known as an eclectic place–and it's given birth to this eclectic mini human. “It's kind of crazy 'cause you can see the richest person to the gangsters to the bums,” says Justin, who was born and raised there. He's also one of the very few guys from there to ever actually try and make a name for himself in the surf world.
Luckily he has a mentor named Rick Massie–a former pro surfer and a hardcore Venice local. Massie took him under his wing and taught him how to both surf and survive on land, “He's helped me with being able to make it in Venice street-wise, and surf-wise as well,” says Justin. Another Venice local, Strider Wasilewski, got him in the industry and sponsors him at Quiksilver, not only because he rips, but because he's one of the funniest f–kers on the planet. “This is the only kid I know who talks more than I do,” says Strider. “He's a great guy and is maturing into a good young man. He's working now, giving him some drive in life and in his surfing. Being from Venice he's one of the only guys from the area who's worth watching in the water.”–Checkwood
Weight: 165 lbs.
Hometown: Lennox Head, Australia
Sponsors: Ocean & Earth, Drew Anderson Surfboards, Water Cooled shoes
Bloody hell, Walshy's story is refreshing. Amid the current media blitzkrieg of colorful fin wafts, rail-grab cutties, and hand jives, this fella's earning his stripes the old-fashioned way–respect first, then glory.
Dropped by his major sponsor last year, Walshy watched helplessly as lesser compatriots jetted from Australia to plunder the big bad WQS. A painful setback for the big man, yes, but his respite was brief. The hard-hacking goofy simply sharpened his focus and dug his heels in on the local Oz junior circuit. A top-sixteen finish by year's end was almost a certainty and good enough for a trials berth in the Billabong World Junior Championship at North Narrabeen. Sure, the focus may well have been on names like Reynolds, Centeio, Durbidge, and Barron, who all faltered, but it was Walshy who, after surviving seven heats in the rolling lefts, drew some of the greatest applause from the intoxicated gallery atop Northy Surf Club's infamous upper deck.
So did it come easy?
“F–k, no,” laughs Walsh in reply (who, by the way, is doing his new sponsors proud). “I just went as hard as I could. There's no secret to surfing Narra, but I was happy with my result.”
Then there's Hawai'i. Five seasons down and a reputation that's just now beginning to mushroom. “I had a sick session this one day at Rockpiles. The Sunset finals were on, so everyone was watching that. I was the only one out for ages.”
TransWorld photographer Hilton Dawe knows, he shot Walsh's solo effort from the beach and states bluntly: “He's just a maniac in Hawai'i, he just goes like a f–kin' maniac. Is that a good enough quote for ya?&quoot;–J.J.
Weight: 180 lbs.
Home: Sunset Beach, Hawai'i
Sponsors: Da Hui, Utopia, Drift Surfboards
Marcus Hickman absolutely blew up this winter. After surfing through the local trials in the 2003 Pipeline Masters, Marcus ripped all the way to thirteenth place, splitting peaks with Andy Irons and taking down numerous WCT surfers in the process. And then, at the Hansen's Energy Pro, he won the Todd Chesser Award, given by Chesser's mom Jeannie to the surfer who best epitomizes Todd's charging style of surfing–and his down-to-earth, warm persona on land. That's just what Marcus is: fearless in the water and a genuinely nice, quiet guy on land.
According to friend Ryan Rawson, Marcus' style of surfing goes along the lines of “go big, or go home.” Several times this contest season, Hickman went huge, nailing perfect tens at critical Pipe and destroying massive Sunset–where he also placed well at the Xcel Pro. As a matter of fact, Marcus had the highest score of any competitor at the Pipe Masters with his massive no-grab to ball-grab in the trials. “I had to do it for all my boys,” says the normally reserved Hickman.
The future is looking bright for the young Hawai'ian. “I'm going to start hitting the WQS and see where that takes me,” says Hickman. “And I always want to finish strong in Hawai'i” he adds. Look for Marcus on the wave day at a beach near you–especially if you live near Pipe.–Justin Cote