United Surf Of America: An interview with Jonno Durrant and Stefan Hunt, creators of the fun documentary surf flick Surfing 50 States.
By Nick Jiampa
TransWorld SURF: You grew up in Australia, what about the USA interested you?
Stefan: I came to the States when I was 15, and I found it so different to the stereotypes that surrounded the USA. The media presents it so differently to how it really is.
Jonno: Yeah, everyone told us that American girls would jump us as soon as we spoke with an Aussie accent…it wasn’t true!
How’d you come up with the idea of trying to surf every state?
J: It morphed from an ‘On the Road by Jack Kerouac road trip’, to ’50 states in 50 days’, to ’50 Dates in 50 States’, to ‘Surfing 50 States’.
S: Once we ruled out ’50 dates in 50 states’ we stuck with the surfing idea.
How’d you convince Hurley to sponsor you?
S: It took so long to find someone that wanted to sponsor a few kooks that had never made a film before, but we met some cool cats at Hurley who loved the idea and our passion for it.
J: Hurley Australia were really cool and loved our idea, and I guess they thought it was so crazy or stupid that they would receive some publicity from it if we finished it, or if we crashed their Ice-Cream Truck over a cliff by accident.
Did you have an idea of what you’d do in each state before you went?
S: We’d try to find what a state was famous for and incorporate that into our surfing.
All we knew about Idaho was potatoes, so we met a potato farmer who let us surf behind his tractor thru the field and down a 15-foot pile of sugar beets. By the end of the trip we’d surfed behind horses in Texas, in a Wizard of Oz stage play in Kansas, and on a Curling Rink in North Dakota. Fun times.
J: We also wore lobster costumes in Maine.
What did you find out about America?
S: It is a very proud country. Everywhere you go, the locals want you to experience the best time. It’s as if every state thinks they’re a little better than the others, so it worked to our advantage if we met the right person.
J: Contrary to popular belief, there are a lot of really kind and generous American people!
Did America’s diversity surprise you?
S: Yes, definitely. We stayed with old and young, went to frat parties, super conservative Lutheran churches, and even had Chanukah. We met people of all backgrounds, and the funniest thing was getting them to surf with us.
J: We had heard a little about the diversity, and that’s what we were hoping we’d find; our hopes were pleasantly confirmed.
What did you learn on the trip?
S: That Americans are super hospitable. We didn’t pay for accommodation once on the whole trip. Accommodation was a challenge from the start because we were on a low, low budget, so we decided not to pay for it once and stay with the locals instead. It was the best decision of the trip. I stayed with so many people that I’d never hang out with back home, and that’s when I learned the most. The one quote I remember from the whole trip was from this guy called Chad, he lived in South Dakota and took kayaking tours down the Missouri river, a super energetic guy. He said, “If you’re bored, then you’re a boring person”.
J: Another lesson we learned was not to drive a 1987 Ice-cream truck around the country because it will break down…A lot!
Does “Seppo” accurately describe Americans?
S: Haha, no way. I mean wherever you go there’ll always be those characters who are in those Borat films. The 2% that gives a country a bad name. America has ‘em, Australia has ‘em, everywhere has ‘em. Luckily, the other 98% are rad.
J: Some people are really arrogant and full of crap, but most are just really proud of their country and want to show it off.
What was your favorite state?
S: Alaska was sick. Surfing with snow capped mountains in the backgrounds, then eating bear stew for dinner. It was nothing like Australia, or the rest of America. It’s like another country up there. Then there were places like Kansas that people said would be lame, and we saw 6-legged cows and met a guy that owned 14,000 hot wheels cars. You cant say somewhere is crap until you go there.
J: Alaska was magic!
Does your video redefine what surfing is about?
S: I don’t think it’s revolutionary in any way, but it definitely has moments that you don’t see in the average high performance video. Our video shows a diverse range of surfing, from riding waves in the Great Lakes to tanker waves in Texas, but ultimately the characters in our film are what make it so unique. Some have been surfing 40 years, some for 40 minutes, but they were all stoked on it, and that’s what it’s about at the end of the day.
J: I think we confused a lot of inland Americans as to what surfing actually was, but we think it just shows the fun side of surfing.
What’s next for you guys?
S: We have so many ideas, but it’s just about finding the coin to make it happen. We paid for the whole trip ourselves and it was kinda pricey, but worth every penny. If we can get the cash maybe we’ll go surf every country in South America or Europe. It’d be sick surfing down the street in the running of the bulls.
J: We gotta sell a bunch of DVDs so we can fund our next movie.
When and where can we check out the flick?
S: We sell the flick on www.surfing50states.com for just $15. We package it and send it off at the post office. Super independent, like the whole trip.
J: We’re also organizing an East Coast tour for the summer, so come check out the movie.