The Lowdown: Pomona-born but raised Santa Cruz, “Barney” began surfing in fourth grade after checking out local surf wonders like Vince Collier, Rich Schmidt, and Charle Heightman. At 32, he’s considered one of the most innovative and progressive surfers—whether he’s “busting flips” or surfing Mavericks, he’s making people take notice. Like his surf cohorts, Barney has his own particular style and rhythm. Heck, he’s been called a “total air freak” for his entertaining moves, often a mix of skate styles, with plenty of rolls and spins—just enough to freak people out, of course.
Q: You were in the Mavericks and Maui segments in Step Into Liquid. Tell me about it.
A: We actually shot Mavericks three times. Once, there wasn’t many waves and we didn’t have a good day for the movie. We were on call for months and months, and then we got the call but it was the last time we could shoot it before everything dies down for the season. It was one of those days nobody would paddle into it, so we towed and it was really windy, but it was definitely a good swell. But it’s hard to know where we are in the film. Earlier that year, we were in Maui and hung out with Laird and that whole strap crew. I pretty much met everyone in the surf comm., except for them. I always looked up to Laird because he is an extremely talented surfer and he’s done some other crazy stuff and was a stuntman. He’s the Real McCoy—definitely cooler than you think.
Q: In the film, they feature those funky new foil board. Ever try it? What do you think?
A: I never tried it. I would totally be into trying it. It’s not an approach to surfing I would do, but I still feel like I want to do so much with a normal surfboard. The application of that can go anywhere, because, basically, it’s such a smooth ride. It can be windy and choppy and it’s like you’re floating around in powder. There are actually fins underneath.
Q: Your now considered a surf icon. What’s that like?
A: It feel’s great as long as those happy checks come in every month. No, actually things keep working out the older I get. It’s amazing. It’s a powerful pleasure to surf anyway, let alone to take it and make money out of it. Instead of being that grommet, doing anything you can to climb up the ladder, I feel like I am not even up on the ladder—there are goals I never would have set forth that are happening. I had no idea I would surf Jaws [in Maui] and meet Laird and hang with them.
Q: What do you love most about surfing?
A: I love the fact it doesn’t matter—in my family life, in my life, anywhere—I can go grab a board, go up the coast by myself and surf, and do whatever I want and it will always be there. You can be 75 and cruise out on a longboard, and that’s kind of a neat thing. Throughout life, that’s a high, a better one than doing drugs on the corner. Being a drug addict is a cop-out. Drugs are used as an aide in life. You shouldn’t abuse them. There are others things you can use in place of drugs to take you that place. I don’t know why I’m saying all that … I’m going off on a tangent.
Q Did you like Step Into Liquid?
A: I actually like it. I like that it takes surfing, one of the oldest sports known to man, womankind, humankind—which one should I say these days? How about womankind? It’s the oldest sport known to womankind—I’ll run with that one. Anyway, there is a scene in the movie where there are surfers behind an oil tanker, and then these guys are waiting around for waves by the Great Lakes—it’s neat. You get similar feeling as you would watching a video camera tracing the swells of a hurricane—you feel the same with the surfers here and how they are chasing these gigantic rides. Surfing is a fantasy sport.
Q: Who’s been you biggest inspiration?
A: I’ve had a lot. I grew up looking up to some of the locals like Vince Collier and Charle Heightman. They really inspired me. I was just being a kid and watching these guys surf and interact and you want to emulate that to a degree when you are a young guy.
Q: Any new surfers on the horizon you’re noticing?
A: There’s always young talent in Santa Cruz … especially a lot of times, the East Side kids get good, and then, the West Side kids hold their own later. Matt Ratt is pretty sick—he’s from the East Side. Anthony Tashnick from the West Side. Those kind of guys are next in line to blow it up, but they have big shoes to fill.
Q: What do you think of Kenny SkinDog Collins’ skill?
A: Skinny is just a classic guy; since he was young. He’s quite a comic and definitely a go-getter, you know what I mean? He doesn’t have blinders on. He goes after it.
Q: What about Flea?
A” He’s a charger. He just goes …
Q: What about Peter’s technique?
A: Peter … he is just like Flea in a sense … but Peter is a more of charger. He’s even keel, but he’ll blow you a way. He’s a bit more methodical and I guess that gets the better of him—or the worst of him. You got to know them both to get the feel about them Peter is competed more than Flea, although Flea won two Mavericks titles and Peter would love to have those trophies on his mantle.
Q: So, there’s healthy competition between you guys.
A: Yeah. But when somebody is going down, we’re all still looking out for each other.
Q: How did you get the nickname Barney?
A: It’s a transition of Barron. Barney means bad surfer, like kook. Whatever … I didn’t like it, and I that’s why it stuck at first. Now I feel like call anybody anything, so that’s good.