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In Conversation with Micky Clarke

Interviews, Originals February 23, 2021March 4th, 2021

Interview by James Royce | Photography by Claire Murphy | Frames by Hunter Martinez

Navigating this whole surf biz of ours can be a tricky affair.

It’s a particular bit of nonsense if you’re just another young, regular-footed, twenty-something California surfer. 

Micky Clarke is so much more than just that though, thankfully. If you’ve been paying attention, you’re already well acquainted with Micky. And if not, well, Micky surely moved from your peripheries and into focus after his recent feature in the sixth instalment of Dane Reynolds’ Chapter 11 TV.      

Ventura born. Ventura living. Long-time partner in crime to Eithan Osborne, a WT favourite. Micky’s surfing’s equal parts style and grace and throw-it-as-hard-as-you-can-at-the-wall-to-see-if-it-sticks. And seeing as we’re sure he’ll be sticking around for quite a bit more time, we figured we’d drop him a line following California’s most recent, epic run of swell just to see how things are going in the Ventura Autonomous Zone. And with that:

WT: Hello Monsieur Micky! What’s up?

MC: Absolutely nothing, hah. 

How’s the day been?

Ah, pretty mellow. Just have been rehabbing a sprained ankle for the last week or so, uh, been having a tough time figuring out what to freaking do really. 

Well, good timing on your part to have that happen right when the wave tap was turned off here.

I know, it was actually the very first last day of swell! It could have been worse too, I did this perfect air and I ended up landing it. But now I have mixed feelings if I should’ve landed it or not in the first place because it resulted in this sprain. 

Well I hope it at least it was a pretty bit of acrobatics.

Yeah, I like to think it was worth it. 

Little victories, right?

Right. 

I’ve noticed your phone number is the same one you have in your Instagram bio. That seems like a rather ambitious digital maneuver. 

Wait, my phone number is in my Instagram? 

Yeah! Like under your handle where it says, “Follow,” or, “Message,” there’s also a, “Contact,” button. And if you hit contact your cell number comes up.

Holy shit! Dude… 

Sorry to bring that up to you.

No, what? Thank you! I had no idea. Boom, already fixed. Dude that’s so weird. Oh, try again later. Of course.

The Zuck won’t let you get off that easily. Anyway, why don’t we get this actually started then? Obviously most of our readers know who you are already but for the sad ones who don’t would you mind giving them a quick introduction?

My name is Micky Clarke and I’m from Ventura, California. 

Short as could be, I love it. And you’re still in Ventura, right? 

Correct. Have not moved from the same street my entire life.

And how’s Ventura been lately? Obviously the waves have been going on and on and on lately with that great run of swell and are just now tapering off…

Ventura was good! But it seems like the rest of California was centered on also going to Ventura to surf, hah. It was extremely crowded. The whole time, hahah. I was tripping on it. But there’s not really much you can what with COVID and all. Nobody has much to do, and, there’re a lot of people in California and they’re going to find the beach somehow. 

It seems like everyone has cabin fever after being locked up inside for basically a whole year now. And the only medicine is… to pick up surfing? Or at least that’s what it feels like here, hah. 

Yep! All of the sudden it’s soft top central and fun boards everywhere and mid lengths. It’s bittersweet, I guess. It’s cool to see people take notice and interest in surfing. Because it seemed like before nobody really cared. I don’t now, I could be wrong. But, it’s cool! 

There’s definitely a silver lining to the whole thing. More people are paying attention to what we do. And, I don’t know, maybe one thing will lead to another and we’ll get back to the early-to-mid-2000s champagne and caviar days with things. No idea how one thing will lead to another with that but it’s nice to be optimistic.  

Yep, that’s the way to go. 

I’ve been living in middle of nowhere San Luis Obispo county for the past few months and even here it’s been packed. Packed, packed, packed with people. 

Yeah! I’ve been hearing that up there too! Even, like, localism too is just out the door. And then the holiday weekends are, oh my god. I’ve never seen it like this. I remember it used to be it’d be bad unless it was early in the morning on a holiday weekend or something. That, or, like, in the middle of summer. But there’re never really waves here in the middle of the summer. And now all of the sudden you can’t go out even on Sundays. And then it was Saturdays and Sundays. And now it’s literally any sunny day is just packed, hah. It goes both ways, though. You could be in the middle of the country and you could be locked down or you could be on the coast in an overcrowded city. 

Yeah I guess our complaints are pretty small compared to everyone else. So, have to look at it that way. 

Yeah, it’s tough. Really tricky situation. 

Okay, moving on. I want to say congrats, well, late congrats on the happy birthday — maybe a little too late on that one — and on the Chapter 11 bit as well. How’d that all come about?

Yeah, wow, thank you! That was probably one of the best, if not, the best birthday present I’ve ever received, hah. I don’t even really know how to explain it. Since the beginning of COVID I had some footage of mine with UFA films, this guy JP who lives in the area. And I also shot over a period of time with Mini (Blanchard) and some more with Hunter (Martinez) and I felt like, wow, I have a lot of footage going on here and what to do… what to do… what to do.

Dane had pitched the Chapter 11 idea to us before all of that. I somewhat knew I wanted to do my own video as, like, a normal clip. Some personal video that I’d just put out on the internet and see what happens. So I started throwing it all together and Hunter and I were editing it and then Dane was actually in the market for a filmer and an editor to help him out with Chapter 11. So I pitched Hunter, and Dane said, “Yeah, that sounds sick!” Then he said, “I hear that maybe you guys are working on a video? Why don’t you throw something together for the Chapter 11 site and I’ll critique it and do my thing to it and we’ll see how we all work together.” And I thought: fuck, yeah, perfect! So, we finished the video. And it was coming up on my birthday — two or three weeks before my birthday hit — and we were deciding just when to launch it and then Dane said, “Hey, isn’t your birthday coming up?” And that was it. Dane was like, “Yep! Let’s put it on your birthday.” And, you know, no complaints over here with that, hah. 

Sounds like it all very conveniently fell into place. 

Yeah, it was pretty interesting. 

And how was it working with Dane? I’m sure growing up in Ventura you looked up to him. Was it intimidating? Or was it more so—

Very. When he first pitched it to me and Eithan (Osborne) a while back, we were both pretty caught off guard. Like, really shocked. And then, I don’t know, it became a, “You gotta do what you gotta do,” kind of thing. But when you get to know him (Dane) he’s just incredibly well-rounded. But it still felt bizarre off the bat: always looking up to somebody and not only looking up to them because they’re a local guy but also the pinnacle of surfing and everything you gravitated around forever and now he’s so close and we’re just like, “What..the..hell? Why me? Why my friends? Why do I even live in Ventura?” Maybe I’m thinking about it too much but it’s hard to help when the reality of it all starts to set in. And now it’s just sick. It’s a lot of fun. Too much fun.

Yeah, it seems like really worked out. Like, you have a pretty good thing going on over there. 

Yeah and we want to branch out and start doing more trips for it including more people. Not making it centered around this one group but all-inclusive of who’s around all of us as well.

I mean, you mention branching out of the group but it seems like the group you have up there — you, Eithan, Hunter, Matt McCabe, and everyone else I’m for sure forgetting — it seems like a very solid base to have grown up with. 

There’re more surfers in this area too, especially when I was younger, who are so into it. But, it’s a very core group and definitely sick to have grown up here and around those guys. Don’t get me wrong, it definitely gets boring here. I definitely have to get out of here. But, when the waves are on and the season’s here it’s sick. You become so jaded all summer long and then the wind switches one day and you go, “Oh, this is why I live here! It’s offshore and tubing.” 

And then you have times like now where it’s crowded and choppy and it takes a two hour session just to get a sick wave. Which never used to be the case. The case used to be just battling with the locals, trying to get one good wave in a two hour session, wondering when you’ll get to be the dude who just paddles out and gets good waves. But obviously the locals can still do that but it’s just different. When there’re are so many bodies in the water there’s only so much you can do. You’re not going to fight ten people. You’re not going to burn ten people. I mean, you shouldn’t fight in general but…hypothetically, hah. 

I hope you’ve been able to get out from behind the California curtain and get out of Ventura here and there at least! 

Yeah, so, I went to Waco which was a whole lot of fun. Hitting the ramp the whole time. And that was actually me, Eithan, and Matt. We went with some other friends and Rolo (Rolando Montes) as well. Hunter was filming it all with the plan to make it into a Chapter 11 edit. I don’t know when that’ll be coming out but it should be something to look forward to for sure! And then other than that I went to Mexico with Rolo for two and half weeks. We surfed down in Salina Cruz and that was probably, I don’t know, I want to say five months ago? That was a lot of fun. I had never been down there before. 

Really! Mex is always beyond lovely. Have you done much of it before or was that the first dip?

I had done it once before that. Or, I guess, three times total. But the first two times was for a surf contest in Acapulco and that was definitely not the traditional Mexico experience at all. 

That’s like the first time I’ve ever heard of a someone doing a contest in Acapulco, hah. Seems like a weird spot. Like holding a comp in Vegas. Or, Panama City Beach. 

Yeah! It was pretty hectic actually. You’re all excited and then you get there and you’re, like, fuck I actually want to get in and out as soon as possible. And that’s not fun. Before that I went to Puerto for just about a month and I got sick for about two and half weeks at the end of the trip and that was hectic. So I really only had a two week trip, then. I want to say the day before I got sick I got slapped in the face by some random boogie boarder as well. That was a little out of control. But it’s not like I was going to fuck with anyone down there so I was just, like, “Yep! Hey, I’m sorry! I didn’t do anything but I am still sorry about whatever it is you are pissed about and I will be going in.” And he was still screaming at me as I was going in. I hadn’t even caught a wave yet! I had just paddled out. Super bizarre. He was pointing a to my white shirt and saying All These People Wearing White Shirts Need To Go In. And I was like… yeah? I’m sorry? Yeah, so, after that I wasn’t necessarily scarred but timid of going back down there. 

Can understand how that’s a bit putting off. 

Yeah, thankfully Rolo speaks Spanish fluently and has buddies down there that are super sick. So Salina Cruz was a much better experience. And now I have a very different image of Mexico. A good one. A great one, hah. 

A good time in Salina Cruz can fix a lot of things.

For sure. Especially if you get good waves. Live and learn. 

So I just saw that after spending 20 years with the Mountain And Wave that’s no more. Do you mind talking about that? 

That was an odd one. I mean, I don’t really know how to go about that one. I felt like I was stuck in a rut. Same with some other sponsors of mine. Nothing against them it was more of a me type of deal. I needed to change. Needed to evolve. See what else is out there. And, I don’t know, ten years of working super hard for something and then after that I had this offer for X amount of years and I was just kinda like, you know? I don’t know if I work ten years for this. Maybe I’m wrong for thinking that but sometimes you have that feeling. That weird, gut feeling of, “I shouldn’t do this.” I shouldn’t do this to myself. And I definitely shouldn’t do this to Quiksilver. It’s the worst to be stuck in something and not be psyched. So, I was just, like, sparing myself and them. I’m stoked though. There are other things going on and I’m looking forward to the future. I mean no shade to Quik or anything but, you know, moving forward. I have not been looking back.

And you’re still riding on Haydenshapes now, right? 

Oh yeah! Super psyched on that. We’re going on the second year right now. I’m loving his boards. He’s very on it and from where I came from before… local shapers make a great board but it’s tough to keep up with the supply and demand with someone who’s trying to push surfing as hard and as far as he can. And I’m, like, not a super small person so I break my boards pretty easily. Hayden has no problem with that though and keeps up with the demand very well. It’s insane. I don’t know how he does it but he does it. 

So what particularly do you have underneath your feet these days? What’re you grabbing on your normal day to day.

So, I got this new model, the Cohort. That board has been a lot of fun. Like, a whole lot of fun. And I guess I would definitely be grabbing that. Either that or the Raven. The Raven is a super sick board as well. The Cohort is kinda like a step-down, groveler, short board thing. And The Misc is a sick one. It’s sort of a cheater fish. So those three boards are what I have at the moment. And, yeah, if my ankle was good and I was going surfing right now the Misc would be sick to rehab it. But any other day I’d be grabbing the Cohort. That board is so much fun. Just a super all around sick step-down.

So, back to the Ventura thing. Moving away from the crowd bit, which is unfortunately going to be a problem everywhere unless you live in the great Pacific north, like, north north north of San Francisco, what’re the pros and cons of having grown up there with your surfing? And how’s it been treating your surfing now?

Let’s see. Cons: Uh, you don’t go left enough. And it’s not like that’s really a bad thing in the grand scheme but I just think it’s cool and nice to have something else to work on, hah. Yeah, not going left enough and too much downtime. 

It’s always rough seeing a goofy footer in Ventura. Like Matt. It’s a real born into a family of jugglers but with only one arm situation. 

Hah, yeah. It’s pretty insane. Power to Matt and all them though, honestly. At the end of the day I’m always psyched being a regular footer in Ventura because it’s great. But then the beach breaks turn on and, all of the sudden, it’s pumping left tubes and you’re like, oh, okay, how do I do this again? At the end of the day we get consistent, mushy right-hand points but you get pumping, spitting, tubes… when it’s on. That’s cool. It’s not like you can ride a tube backside, though, either. 

And you said earlier you wouldn’t stick around there if you didn’t have to, where would you buy a one way ticket to? Let’s say you have to pack your bags be on your way next week, where are you headed? Forget those pesky travel restrictions in the equation here, obviously. 

I guess Puerto Rico is pretty insane. Portugal is also pretty insane. And then, call me crazy, but to live in Bali really wouldn’t be all the bad. Just island hop nonstop and then you’d be coming home to this environment and it’d feel so good. That sort of feeling that everything’s epic. Those three locations are pretty insane. I think Puerto Rico is number one however. 

Portugal is very lush, so, I’m leaning that way, hah. What’re your plans for the next year? 

It’s all definitely, like, very day to day. But, I mean, even when it’s day to day, day to day planning consists of planning for the future. As far as the future goes I’m really trying to work on stuff. I have two Haydenshapes projects coming up. And then I have another video with Chapter 11 that will drop soon. And I think all that will be happening between now and the end of March. So, yeah, after that I just want to read some books, play some video games and surf a lot. Try to just chill. 

So what else is there outside of surfing? 

Books, video games, stuff on the internet. Funny videos. Surf videos. Drawing, music. I play drums, I love the drums. The drums are sick. I’ve been playing them since I was like 12 or 13 years old. So we’re going on ten years now. I’ve had some brief intermissions where I won’t play them or won’t even touch them because I’m bored with it and then I’ll just be out walking one day or something and think, “WHY THE HELL WOULD I DO THAT.” And then I’ll play and just be all psyched on it again. 

Ah, love that. Are you in a band?

It mostly just for fun. Actually, when I was doing amateur surf comps, my first instinct when I lost, and everyone goes through it, is I’d get really pissed off. And I didn’t like the idea of punching my surfboards or yelling or breaking things so I instantly thought: I want to play the drums, because I want to bang shit. Just, slam the freaking sticks on the drums. And then I got into that but of course it was loud and obnoxious so I had to start on an electrical kit until I could actually learn how to play rhythm. Then I got an amp for it so I could show to my parents I know how to play the drums… now can I have a real kit? So, I got a real kit and took it on as a hobby. Eithan then got into guitar and we started to jam out together whenever things got boring around here and now, yeah. I’ve never been in band, but? Down. 

I mean sounds like you and Ethan are already halfway to a side hustle there. 

Hah, yeah! Now with Chapter 11 and stuff, if we were to make YouTube videos, to escape music rights we could just throw some shitty garage band together. Tune it up and that would be a video.

I’m really going to reach for the low-hanging fruit of metaphors here, but it’s funny because you say you like to bang shit and everything and be heavy and your surfing is definitely reflected in that. There’s much more rhythm and control on the board obviously but it’s interesting how that works out. 

Yeah, it’s bizarre. I’ve never really thought about that until I got older and started reflecting on myself a little bit more. And then I was just, like, huh, this is pretty weird. But I like to be, or at least try to be, a little more calm and collected and surf with some sort of rhythm because, obviously, Tom Curren is from this area and is as rhythmic as it gets in the ocean! But then I also love Dane. So I’m, like, holy shit those two contradict. They’re complete opposite, but also…not? They’re all flow and then fucking smash. 

Would you say your surfing is more of a product of having watched those guys and being, like, “I want to surf like that”?

It’s a combination of different things, for sure. But for the most part it’s definitely from watching Dane and watching Tom. One-hundred percent. As a kid, you’d go in the water wherever Dane was surfing and you’d see him do something fucked up and how are you not going to say, “Ah, yeah. I want to do that.” But obviously you can’t just do it. I would just continuously fall, very hard. But I would keep going at it until I land it. Or land some variation of it. And then try it again until I do it better after that. Better, faster, stronger, more rhythm.

Funny how things come full-circle there. Well, anything else you want to add? 

Enjoy the sun. That’s about it. Don’t be bitter. 

Love it. Cheers Micky. 

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