White Dove: The Creed McTaggart Pro Spotlight
How Creed’s blossoming career took flight from a song
By Zander Morton
When it rains it pours. There's that old, tired adage again. Talk about cliché. But for Creed McTaggart, 19, from Margaret River on Australia's raw and rugged West Coast, nothing could be truer. Covers! Trips! Chicks! Bam! Rather than slowly gain steam, Creed's career just suddenly…happened. In less than four months time, he's gone from relative obscurity to full-blown surfing superstar—a point proven last month when he simultaneously landed the front page of both What Youth and Stab.
So what changed? According to Creed, nothing at all: "The last six to eight months I've just been doing the same shit I've been doing for years. It's almost like I was just called up recently. I've been really lucky. It's crazy; I haven't had a second to think about it all."
Circle back to early March. Creed was at home in WA doing the "same shit" as always—full-rotation alley-oops, slaying big North Point pits—when he stumbled across an interview in Soggybones (a magazine run by his friends in WA) with a band called Sleepy Sun. After delving into their music, he fell in love with a particular track, titled "White Dove," and decided to build a 10-minute edit around the song. Together with his friend Jay Grant (who cut the edit), he did exactly that, and so Abyss—and a blossoming career—was born. It's a web edit that bleeds quality, and the world took notice—rightfully so. If you've not watched, do yourself a favor and look it up.
Shortly after Abyss went viral online, I sat down with Creed at his home in Margaret River. Over the course of one hour and four beers, we had the following conversation. I came away a big fan of his honesty and humility, and hopefully those qualities resonate.
Your 10-minute short, Abyss, has close to 40,000 views. I think that clip kind of blew people away; it was a coming-out party of sorts. How much time did you spend making it?
There are so many clips going up these days and they're sick, but it's sort of just the same two- to three-minute things. I thought it would be cool to put a little more effort into it and try to make something special.
We filmed for about a month, but the big thing was having it premiered with the band playing live to the edit. So we did that in Perth. There is actually a live clip coming out that the band [Sleepy Sun] is putting together. It took a while to organize because they are from San Francisco, so we had to get them over here. As it turned out they were already doing a tour in Oz. I e-mailed them and they were coming to Perth to play at this art festival, and when we showed them the clip they were really excited. So they played at the art festival, and the next day I got to meet them and take them all surfing. It was sick. Then that night we had the premiere and it went really well.
Did a lot of people show up?
Yeah. I think there were roughly 400 people there.
Is this place [a house in Margaret River he shares with his dad] where you grew up?
Just for the last nine years or so. My dad designed this house. At the time he was married to this chick. She had two boys already and then they had a daughter together, so we had a pretty big family here. Where we're sitting was the boys' area, so I shared a bedroom with one of them who was my age. The other was a bit older, and he had his own room. But after about seven years of all living together, my stepmom and my dad split up and they all moved out. So now it's just me and my dad.
Do you still have contact with your ex-stepbrothers?
Yeah, a little bit. Both of them moved to Perth and they had stuff going on up there, so I really didn't see them for a couple years. Recently they have been coming down a bit more.
And you're 19?
Yeah, I'm 19. It was cool growing up in a big family because we are all so different. None of them…well one of them kind of surfs, but not a lot. He's more into skateboarding. And the oldest, he was a drummer in a metal band and into carpentry. Then my sister on my dad's side, she's younger and she's just a little wizard in school.
Those are all stepsiblings?
Yeah, I don't have any full. I also have a stepbrother on my mom's side; she had a son with this other guy before I was born. He's a lot older than me. I actually used to live with my mom full time until I was 10 years old. But I started getting really into surfing, which was hard for my mom because she was a single parent, so I started living with my dad since he's so much closer to the beach.
And my mom had another daughter and she's the same age as my dad's daughter here, so they get along and go to the same high school.
Are you all close?
Yeah. It's a big, complicated, stretched-out family, but we all get along. It was a good upbringing.
So you started surfing at 10. Was pro surfing always your goal?
It all happened naturally. I've just always loved surfing. I was into a lot of other things, but surfing I was always more psyched on. Then I got sponsored by Billabong, and things have sort of just happened from there.
Who were your biggest surfing inspirations growing up?
I used to watch a lot of surf movies. When I was younger my dad had a massive collection of old Jack McCoy movies, and I loved watching Occy and Curren. Once I got a bit older Kai Neville was doing edits for ASL, and they would come out each month in the magazines. I bought every single one, and I would just watch them over and over and over. Also, Doped Youth would probably be my favorite; it's one of my most watched movies. I was fully into Ozzie Wright and Dean Morrison and all those guys. I used to play football, and at the end of the games, if you played well, you got a certificate to the local video shop and they had surf videos in there. They had Momentum: Under the Influence, so every time I went there I got that one. I watched it a thousand times. It's funny because surf videos were so valued at that time because there wasn't the Internet.
Did you surf around guys like Taj Burrow much?
No, not really. Even Yadin [Nicol], I didn't surf with him much and he grew up more down this way. But there are always good surfers out down here.
You have to be a good surfer here. Other than South Point there's not many easy waves.
Yeah. A lot of people that come over here trip out on that. It's hard. If the waves aren't firing, which it's not all the time, it's hard to get shit done because the waves are so powerful and it's so extreme, windy, and cold. There are just so many variables. It's definitely easier to learn on the East Coast.
Did you have a favorite surfer growing up?
No, not really. I've never really had a surfer that I worshipped or anything. I sort of just like everyone's surfing. I liked the old Volcom movies when I was younger, and I hadn't really watched them in a while. The other night I put on Stoney Baloney and I got so psyched on Gavin Beschen.
Was that the movie that had Gavin ruling big North Point?
No, that wasn't the one. I can't remember where I saw that, but that was probably some of the first footage I saw of North Point when I was younger. Gavin getting barreled the whole point, like on the foamball the whole way. I was tripping. It was a different angle on the outside of the bay looking into the tube so you could see everything. I still remember that clip; I just don't know what movie it was in.
Do you recall your first surf out at North Point? How old would you have been?
I think I was 12 or 13 and I went out with Russell Ord. It wasn't that big—probably just a bit bigger than today. I remember taking off and just going straight on like five waves because they would zip past me too fast. Then I got one and made a little barrel and I was so stoked. At school, if you were surfing North Point you were pretty gnarly. It was street cred for sure. [Laughs]
Would you consider North Point this area's Pipeline in a sense?
Yeah, there and the Box. If you said you surfed Box growing up kids would be like, "What? Really?"
Have you copped some intense beatings out there?
For sure. I remember the first time I surfed there, I got destroyed first wave. I paddled out with Yadin and Dino Adrian—it was just us three out and it was like four- to five-foot and really windy. I sat out for like half an hour and didn't catch a wave, and all the boys gave me shit. Finally I paddled into this one and nosedived and was like, "Fuck! I'm falling in front of Yadin, Dammit!" I got so worked. But it was good, getting it out of the way, because I paddled back out and got a good one. It was the first barrel in my life where I took off and fully didn't think I was going to make it but pulled in anyway and drove all the way through and got spit out. I was in disbelief.
Western Australia is also notorious for sharks; have you had any sketchy encounters?
Honestly, no. I've never been in a situation where I thought, "I'm f—ked. There's a shark out here." I've been in the water when someone has seen a shark and everyone goes in. But you'll always go down to the beach and you'll be checking the waves and some old boy is talking about how there was a five meter white pointer here yesterday.
It never used to be bad when I was younger; sharks were never really an element. Now it seems like there's a shark sighting every day. When I was younger when you heard of a shark sighting you kind of thought, "Whoa! That's crazy," but now it kind of doesn't mean much anymore. But there's definitely been many times where I've gone to go surfing where no one is out and the waves are pumping, and thought, "F—k, should I go out or should I wait for someone to come down and join?"
Who are some of your biggest non-surfing influences? I know you're really into music.
I don't know if I'm really influenced by other people. I think I'm just more interested in them. I watched the Daniel Johnston documentary a couple weeks ago. It's called The Devil and Daniel Johnston, and I was really psyched on that. I listened to his music every day for a while. Also, I used to be really obsessed with Jean-Michel Basquiat. I watch all his movies and documentaries and I love his art. Then again, the art I do looks nothing like his.
In the last couple years, I've gone through so many different phases of music and interests. When I was 14 I was obsessed with Dustin Dollin. I loved him. I dyed my hair black and tried to dress like him. Then I got super into The Doors and The Beatles and I would wear tie-dye shirts and put incense on. I don't know. I've gone through so many different phases in the last couple of years. It's weird. I guess as a teenager I like trying different things and experiencing it all.
We've only hung out for three days, but I get this sense of you being super comfortable with yourself, which is not something a lot of 19-year-olds would be able to say. And I just noticed this [a piece of paper titled "Top Tips For A Better Life" tacked to his wall]. Does this inspire you?
Definitely. I actually had that given to me by a homeless person. I was surfing at Rivermouth, just a local beachbreak, and I came in and this homeless dude—or maybe he was just kind of a transient—he had a bike and a matching backpack and I don't even think he surfed, but he was like, "Hey, man. You were surfing really good out there. You should have this." He handed this paper over and told me to read it every day. I was really young at the time, maybe 15. I read it every day, and it's been hanging there for years. [To read the note, grab the September 2013 issue of TransWorld SURF]
Do a lot of people comment on it?
Lots of people. And it's not that stereotypical hippie kind of shit. It actually makes sense and is really logical. It's been a big inspiration in my life, definitely.
Funny that it came from a homeless guy.
For sure. He just happened to be down there watching me surf. I think I was the only one out that day too.
Are you comfortable becoming a bit more recognizable? Your career is definitely taking a major step forward.
Yeah, but I haven't really thought about it much. The last six to eight months I've just been doing the same shit I've been doing for years. It's almost like I was just called up recently. I've been really lucky. It all sort of just came together and molded into something that I really take seriously now. Now I see surfing as a career—not just a passion. It's crazy; I haven't really had a second to think about it all. In the last couple months I have met so many good people. I guess that's how it happened. I don't reckon it's my surfing at all. I think it's that I get along with people and made really cool friends and it happened more that way. I'm no John John or Jack Freestone. It sort of happened in a different way for them as it has for me.
When I was younger my dad always used to say to me, "If you are a good surfer, it doesn't mean you are a good person. You have to treat everyone the same, Surfing is just one little piece of your life."
To read the interview in its entirety, pick up the September (and final) issue of TransWorld SURF, available on newsstands now.