There’s a theory floating around that says it can be dangerous to come in second place on the WCT. The idea goes something like this: Performing at such a high level and brushing so close to glory without actually tasting it can have adverse effects on certain people. Take four-time WCT runner-up Cheyne Horan, who went off on what most feel was “a pretty weird trip” after his fruitless run. Or Gary Elkerton, a three-time number two who angrily rejected his well-used nickname, “Kong,” only to be okay with it again years later. And what about Brad Gerlach? After ending the 1991 ASP season in second place he promptly quit the Tour and embarked on a music career.
However, the always-entertaining regular-footer doesn’t attribute his change of tune–from surfer to singer–to the second-place theory. “I’d wanted to quit for a few years,” Gerr explains. “I knew that I could crack the top five and hang with Curren, Carroll, Pottz, Elkerton, and Occy. That’s why I quit after getting second. I’d finally proven to myself that I was capable. I really felt the whole separation of competition–the ‘me against you’ kinda thing–wasn’t something that fostered good energy.”
The flamboyant moment you see here is toward the end of his rock-star campaign. “In surfing competition, my whole goal was performance and trying to surf better than anybody ever,” he recalls. “I just wanted to perform out in the water. That was a lot of the reason I got into music, because it’s performance all the time. I thought, ‘F–k, this might be a place for me to grow.’” Unlike fellow surfer-musicians (Curren, Slater, Machado) for whom music was an enjoyable sidebar to their surf careers, it was all or nothing for the Gerr. Four years went by. “I thought the music that we were creating was really, really good,” Brad boasts. “But being in a band was just f–ked.”
His hair grew long, his gut grew soft, his legs grew skinny. Then came decision time: “I looked down the line at the whole music thing and saw cigarette smoke, alcohol, late nights, rude people, being mostly indoors, touring on a budget and all that. I looked at it and went, ‘F–k, do I really want that?’ And then I looked over at surfing and pictured the water at Duranbah, that clear water and the sunshine, and being physically fit. And then I thought about all the people in surfing I disliked, and I really started thinking that those same f–king archetypes are going to be in music except there’s going to be a lot more of them.” So the band broke up, and Gerlach went surfing again.–Scooter Leonard