“It doesn’t make sense. I feel like I’m just a thief pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes,” says Craig Anderson. It’s a warm winter’s day in Newcastle and he’s just returned from the skate park – part of the daily routine that’s sustained him since teenagehood, despite the fact he’s now 24 – and he can’t believe his luck. “You have no set calendar or rules or regulations. I have no pressure from sponsors that you have to do this or that. I kind of make it up as I go along,” he says.
Ando is a winner in surfing’s most competitive bracket: the obligation-less freesurfer. He is paid – and a handsome sum at that – not to compete, not to ride big waves, not do anything overly progressive and not even to maintain a poorly designed, seldom updated blog. Ando simply is, and people lose their shit for it. “Ando is inspired and he has ideas of how he wants to ride,” explains Ozzie Wright. “So many people just wanna shred the shit out of everything, so that anyone who does surf a bit different is absolutely refreshing and therefore valuable as a marketing tool.”
For the first 15 years of his life, Ando lived a devoutly Christian life on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth, South Africa. While there he attended one of the country’s strictest private schools, where he was a model student, and went to sleep each night with a bible on his bedside table. Still does, in fact. To those who have known him since childhood, it would no doubt come as a surprise that today he’s become the long-haired hessian overlord of the biggest alt. surfing movement since the modern era of the sport began must. Though no one is more surprised than Ando. “It trips me out everyday!” he squeals.
His ascent is more a comment on the state of surfing today than anything else. In an era characterized by diversity; where the competitive mastery of Kelly Slater, the fringe antics and stylish lines of Al Knost, and the daunting progression of John John Florence, Chippa Wilson and Dane Reynolds all have their own followings, Ando combines a bit of it all. “He is a pleasure to watch. He never rushes, he takes unique lines and can do the air spin that has taken over the world, and he also has a fantastic pig dog,” says Ozzie. His are simple skills refined to the point of godliness. Watching Ando surf is as close to the real thing as you can get without actually doing it, and at 24 it’s made him undoubtedly the premiere style master of his generation. But getting here hasn’t been easy. It’s taken the same dedication and single mindedness of any great athlete, only in Ando’s case there’s no trophy at the end of it. He’s after something far more profound: surfing’s fundamental essence – pure, unadulterated enjoyment.
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