Up Close: Dean Morrison

Heading The Charge

“Run! Just run!” I yelled to my friend. “Head for the rocks and hide!” But it was too late-we’d been caught. I can still remember to this day the scare we had that night. We’d made plans to go the fair (at Coolangatta, just behind Kirra Point) that afternoon, and we later caught up with Dean out surfing at Duranbah. He said to drop by because he had some ride tickets at home. I thought it was too good to be true: Here we were, off at the fair, running a bit amok, checking out girls and having some fun-at least that’s what I thought, anyway. Two hours later, we were being chased down by some circus freak for having used fake tickets-Deano got us with another one of his pranks, and a good one at that.

Dean Morrison’s a 90s-style Tom Curren. With a small athletic build and low center of gravity, Dean’s style is unique, almost like he has a special connection with the swell-only going to work on the wave when he feels the need is there. His laid-back attitude and desire to forge a path on his own make this unusually mature nineteen-year-old set for the future.

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“I feel good right now,”says Dean. “I’ve been surfing down here at Cabarita for a few days, the waves have been fun, and it’s away from the crowds of the Goldy Gold Coast. I’m just cruising.”

Dean’s girlfriend Eladie has a house right on the hill at Cabarita, so I realized where his relaxed attitude comes from: “I bought a house in Cooly Coolangatta a little while back, but when I’m home I spend most of my time here at Eladie’s house.” Her pad has such a warm feeling, you can see why Dean loves the place. Even the guard-dog Rajah, a huge Rhodesian Ridgeback, makes visitors feel sleepy as he lounges round the house, stopping briefly to get a scratch while he keeps guard over his mansion.

Growing up in place like the Goldy offered Dean a variety of fun waves. On any good day at Snapper Rocks, his home break, Dean’s natural-footed grace can be seen whipping the lip into a frenzy. Surfing for Snapper Rocks Boardriders, Dean’s competition has always been at a high level-local contests could well be mistaken for a final of a ‘QS event, with names like Joel Parkinson and Mick Fanning all progressing through the club ranks.

Coming through his junior years with Mick and Joel, you could mistakenely think the three of them were planning to bust out and take over the world of pro surfing. The question now being asked is, Parko won J-Bay, Mick just won Bells-what’s Deano going to win? “I really just want to go at my own speed,” he replies. “It’s good. When the boys are doing well, it pushes us all along, you know. We’re all getting older now and don’t hang out as much as we did, but I think we’ve all got our own dreams, and we’re doing our best to live them out. I want to do my own thing-achieve my own goals.

A successful junior career lay his foundations-trading in the pens and paper halfway through year twelve, he set his sights on a goal to tackle the challenging life of a pro surfer. “Traveling’s fun,” says Dean. “Most of the time, I travel alone. Sometimes I travel with Koby Abberton-he’s a really good guy to travel with.” Nineteen-ninety-eight especially stands out in Dean’s memory; it’s when he took out the Gold Coast titles, Aussie titles, and World ISA titles all in that same year.

From the ripe old age of eleven, Dean built a rapport with ’78 World Champion, longtime hero, and mentor Rabbit Bartholomew. “Rabs lived out in the country at the time and used to pick me up every morning to go surfing,” recalls Dean. “After a surf, he’d drop me off at school. Every morning we’d drive past Kirra to check the waves. This one day, I remember seeing a construction site just over the road behind Pizza Hut. I hassled Rab to buy one of those apartment units every day after that. Eventually, he got sick of hearing me and had a look into it. He pretty much bought one straight away.”

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With peission from his oldies, Dean moved out of home at the age of fifteen under the watchful eye of Rabbit. Dean’s first big decision came at seventeen: “I was riding for Billabong at the time, and they were offering me wild cards and stuff, but I really had to do my own thing. Volcom gave me the chance to do this, so I took it. Leaving Billabong was good-I needed the change.” When asked if coverage, the media, and the spotlight are essential for a budding pro surfer, Dean’s cool reply said it all: “Nah, not really. I like being out of it. It’s good not to have attention when you’re competing-there isn’t too much pressure on you.”

With a string of titles as long as your arm, Dean’s the most proud of his fourth place at Pipeline. “Pipe’s my favorite wave in the world,” he says. “In the final of the HIC event last year, there were three of us out there, and it was good. Normally, there’re about a hundred guys on it.” Learning to surf Pipe at age twelve, Dean’s no stranger to the lineup. After his placing fourth in the 2000 HIC event in six-to eight-foot conditions, claims were made that he was the best Aussie to surf it since Tom Carroll. “This year at Pipe I rented my own place, a small granny flat,” says Dean. “It had its own kitchen and bathroom-it was actually in the back of Jamie O’Brien’s house right in front of Pipe. I wanted to surf the place as much as I could.”

Wintertime in Hawai’i can be a daunting place for young traveling surfers. The heavy local scene on the island can sometimes take a toll on foreigners who invade the lineup each year. “You’ve really got to have respect,” notes Dean. “These guys surf it every day of the year, and it’s a bit rude if people just come in and fade ’em.” Credibility in the waters of the North Shore is hard to achieve, but Dean’s well on his way: “I want to do well at Pipe and feel comfortable out there. I don’t want to go out there in my first ‘CT and have to pull back-I want to be ready first.”Back home on the Gold Coast, Dean’s lifestyle can still be seen as living on the edge. A wakeboarding trip on the Tweed River a couple of months back almost sent Dean’s career into a spin. “It felt like everything was in slow-mo,” he remembers. “Chuck was driving Eladie’s dad near the edge of the river. I knew I had to pull out, but it was too late. It was as if I bodysurfed right into an oyster bed. When I looked down to see how much damage I’d done to myself, I knew I was in trouble. It was like having two holes ripped across my chest.” Baring scars from head to toe, Dean copped 46 stitches for his troubles and ten days out of the water.

After taking on the role of an Aussie Evel Knievel the past few months, Dean’s set his sights on a berth in the 2002 WCT season: “I was happy with my performance in the ‘QS on the Coast, but unfortunately, I didn’t do too well in Western Australia. The season’s only just starting, so I’m not too worried. The next contest is in the Maldives-I’m really looking forward to that.”

[IMAGE 3]Due to a cool head on his shoulders and a laid-back attitude, Dean’s goals will soon be achieved. Being an Aussie’s good enough, but when you get guys like Dean Morrison heading the charge, it feels extra good. Go, Deano! Charge, boy!

Callouts”Two hours later, we were being chased down by some circus freak for having used fake tickets-Deano got us with another one of his pranks, and a good one at that.”

“Dean Morrison’s a 90s-style Tom Curren.”

“The question now being asked is, Parko won J-Bay, Mick just won Bells-what’s Deano going to win?”

“I want to do my own thing-achieve my own goals.”

“After his placing fourth in the 2000 HIC Pipe event in six-to eight-foot conditions, claims were made that he was the best Aussie to surf it since Tom Carroll.”

“It was as if I bodysurfed right into an oyster bed. When I looked down to see how much damage I’d done to myself, I knew I was in trouble. It was like having two holes ripped across my chest.”

o holes ripped across my chest.”