Donavon Frankenreiter Pro Spotlight

Donavon has the best life of any pro surfer out there. He just cruises around, goes on photo trips he wants to go on, plays music he wants to play, and lives the life he wants to lead. [IMAGE 1] He’s a character like no other. His house is a museum of old pianos, guitars, art, and classic surfboards from the 60s and 70s. His life is like a movie¿always on some surf trip, playing a rock show somewhere, or just making friends wherever he goes.

You’d be hard-pressed to ever meet someone like Donovan for one reason: there’s no one in the world like him. There’s no way you could possibly undertsand him just by reading an interview, but if you ever see him on the street, say, “Hi,” and you’ll see for yourself that Donovan is a bro.¿C.C.

Where did you grow up, and how did surfing become part of your life?

I grew up in Mission Viejo, California. All through elementary school and junior high, I’d take the bus to San Clemente. I’d surf the pier and T Street. I would watch Archy, the Beschens, Dino, and the Fletchers surf. Watching them surf when I was a kid inspired me so much that I wanted to get good. It also taught me a lot about respect, because I never lived at the beach. I’d always have a hard time in San Clemente. I would get my lunch money stolen every day, and the locals would always tell me, “Go back home.” It kind of built character. [IMAGE 2]What’s your life like right now? How do you occupy your time?

I go on as many surf trips as I can, and I play music in my band Sunchild all the time. That’s all I’m really doing¿constantly surfing and playing gigs nonstop up and down the West Coast. I’ve also been doing some stuff with Billabong. They sent the band to France, and I think they’re going to be sending us to Australia when the Billabong contest is over there.

Tell us a little about the music you play. It’s different than a lot of stuff out there right now. What drives your music?

It’s rock and roll music. I hate to say it, but it has a 60s or 70s sort of vibe to it. That’s just the stuff I like, and I pull from that genre. I think it has a modern flavor to it. It’s not like we’re completely retro. I hate it when people say we look like a retro band. We love what we do, and we really believe in what we’re doing. We’re still learning, writing songs, and I think it’s just good-time rock and roll music. Our music is about everybody getting together, having a party, and celebrating life. Nobody’s angered or pissed off, we’re just having a good time, and we try to display that through our music.

Do you consider yourself retro?

I love listening to records, 8-tracks, tapes, and vinyl. Everything in my house is like that: beads and carpets. That’s just the way I live my life. I get inspired by old art, woods, and things. I couldn’t imagine myself going into Ikea. I would rather go to a thrift store and find something trippy there. I think things that have been used and abused have character. Where has it been? Who’s sat here? What’s done this? I don’t like brand-new stuff. I can’t play new guitars. I like playing old stuff that’s been played, abused, worn in, and weathered.

How do surfing and music lifestyles tie together? Are they a lot alike?

They are. The surfing thing keeps me alive, and the music keeps me grounded. I love to surf, it cleanses me and it feels really good. Being in the water at the beach and in the sun is the most awesome thing in the world. Surfing is a thing you do by yourself, too. I don’t have four other guys on my board I have to deal with. It’s a very personal thing, and I enjoy that. [IMAGE 3] Then at night, I love to get together with my best friends, play music, and enjoy moments with people. I think the most important thing in my life is when I get to enjoy great moments with people. What inspires me in music is to just grow with people, play music with people, meet people at bars, and talk to different people around the world. Music is an international lauage. You can go and play in front of people who don’t speak English, and they can still understand what you’re saying or how you’re feeling. It’s a really inspiring thing.

Surfing and music are both an art form. Surfing is an artistic form that’s a way of life, and so is music. Everybody has a different style in surfing¿that’s their own style, and everybody listens to and plays different types of music. That’s just where they’re at or where they’re coming from.

Who do you really like to travel or hang with, in terms of surfing?

I’ll go on a surf trip with anybody. I love breaking it up. I don’t really have one certain guy I always go on surf trips with. I went to Australia at the beginning of the year with Curren. Surfing with him was amazing. Then I went over to France, and I saw all of the Top 44. That was a really big treat for me, because I never really get to see those guys. It seems like every time I see you, you’re always in a good mood. How do you always keep a positive attitude?

Every day I wake up, I’m so stoked I have my health, that I can just walk outside my door, and am able to surf or play music. I’m never depressed. I couldn’t imagine going through a day and saying, “F¿k, this sucks.” I don’t do contests or anything, so whenever I surf one, it’s not like I ever go, “F¿k, I lost,” because I don’t ever believe you lose if you surf. If you surf, you’re going to win, regardless of whether you’re in a heat or you’re freesurfing. How does the business side of surfing affect you?

It does affect me, because I’m on the phone a lot¿doing PR shit¿trying to promote, and on the phone with the band. I try not to let the business side get to me too much, because that’s the only thing in my life that stresses me out. When the trips happen and the gigs happen, it’s well worth it.

The people I’m working with now at Billabong and the sponsors I have, Sanuk and Cordell, are all really good friends. They know what I do and they believe in what I’m doing, so nobody ever calls me and says, “You’re blowing it! We haven’t seen anything.” It’s really a positive thing. There’s not too much business I have to work with; I just keep going on and moving through it.

What do you think about the clothes most surf companies are making right now?

I like a lot of the clothes companies make. I love fashion. I think girls clothes are way better than guys clothes. If they made bigger sizes in girl’s clothes, I’d probably wear those. I don’t like baggy stuff. I like to have everything tight, package all held up, and everything in it’s place.

Many times companies will see something, and a trend will happen. Then everybody will get on the bandwagon and make the same shit with a different logo. That’s fine, as long as everybody’s comfortable wearing it. I think they should expand into different areas, rather than just making baggy clothes because that’s what’s in style.

What’s the state of your surfing right now?

I trip out sometimes when I hang out with guys who surf all the time. If I surfed all the time, 110-percent, I could surf a lot better than I do now. It’s really hard to be a professional athlete and play in a rock and roll band. Those two things mix artistically, but as far as sleeping and time, it’s not on the same playing field. In surfing, you have to be really healthy, you have to stay out of the bars. Also, there’s no smoking, no drinking, and you have to be really fit.

I like to surf really good waves where you can do bottom turns¿not hop, skip, and jump to the beach. I ride a lot of old surfboards as well, which has taught me to turn on a rail and connect the maneuvers. I love watching Occy, Curren, and Potter surf. I just cruise and have a great time, and I try to display that in my surfing.

There’re moments when I could be much healthier than I am, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I just like surfing bigger, cleaner, nicer waves where you can just take off and surf. Just you on the wave and your board, where it’s more about positioning than fitness.

When you see yourself in the new Taylor Steele video Hit And Run, compared to Dorian, Kelly, or Rob¿do you feel like you fit in with that crew? For me, I was really stoked Taylor put me in that movie. I went on a trip with Kelly and Shane. I was like a kid in a candy store when I was surfing with them, because I idolize those guys. I don’t really see myself on their level, but I’m stoked I’m able to surf with those guys and they accept me for who I am and what I’m doing. It’s not like, “Oh f¿k, here he is again. That’s weak, he’s floated on this trip.”

I didn’t watch that movie and feel like I was the best surfer in it at all. It was a treat to be in the movie with those guys, and hopefully it happens again. If it never does, it was an amazing thing to be a part of. Just to knock a couple waves out with those guys is insane.

If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would you go?

Tavarua is really good. I love the Gold Coast of Australia, as well. Anywhere that has long barreling point breaks, or waves where you can wear trunks. I love Hawai’i. I don’t really care where I go, as long as the waves are good, the vibe is positive, and the atmosphere is killer. I don’t like to go on surf trips and be stressed out and worry about your shit getting ripped off. I love going to places that are relaxed and have a surf atmosphere. What’s the girl situation like when you’re traveling around?

F¿k, there’re beautiful women all over the world. I love to meet ‘em. I love talking to them. I don’t really go out of my way to hound chicks, but I love to go out, meet people, talk to people, and trip out with people. Women are a big part of every man’s life, unless you don’t like women. I love girls, and I love to have conversation with them.

Skateboarding and snowboarding have progressed endlessly. What do you think’s going to help surfing progress?

People are surfing so well right now. Ratboy and all those guys who do the airs are so progressive and so insane. The thing that skateboarding and snowboarding have is that they can go anywhere. They just had a snowboard contest at the Forum in L.A. They made the snow, and they had a couple of big hits. You can go build a wooden ramp, put an auditorium or bleachers around it, and you’ve got your Forum right there. Those lifestyles have turned into sports that are exciting to watch. You could stand there and go, “Wow, that guy is getting way higher out of the coping than that guy,” or “Wow, look at that technical move.” I think kids can really relate to that.

It’s not as exciting or intense for people to go sit in bleachers at the OP Pro, because they’re so far away from the surfers. You can sit at the beach at Pipeline and say, “Wow, he just got barreled,” but when you’re out there in the channel, it’s like, “Holy shit!” If you could take those people and sit them in the channel, it’d just be amazing. It’s really going to take something to make surfing exciting as a sport. Teahupoo is a great example, to where everybody’s on a boat in the channel¿you see and feel what those guys are doing. It’s exciting and gnarly. But you can’t take the Forum, or the X-Games, and bring that to Teahupoo. It just doesn’t work. Surfing is a tough sport to be a sport, but for a lifestyle¿it’s beautiful.

With skateboarding you can stand underneath the ramp, and you’re right there. Other people can understand it more. That’s why the X-Games and all that shit’s blowing up, because it’s so in-your-face personal. All those guys are killing it, and it’s amazing to watch those guys do what they do. Those guys are gnarly, radical people. I would love to be a skateboarder, those guys are rad.

It seems like you have an infatuation with older surfboards. Tell us about your collection and why you like them.

Old surfboards are amazing to me. Shaping nowaday and surf. Just you on the wave and your board, where it’s more about positioning than fitness.

When you see yourself in the new Taylor Steele video Hit And Run, compared to Dorian, Kelly, or Rob¿do you feel like you fit in with that crew? For me, I was really stoked Taylor put me in that movie. I went on a trip with Kelly and Shane. I was like a kid in a candy store when I was surfing with them, because I idolize those guys. I don’t really see myself on their level, but I’m stoked I’m able to surf with those guys and they accept me for who I am and what I’m doing. It’s not like, “Oh f¿k, here he is again. That’s weak, he’s floated on this trip.”

I didn’t watch that movie and feel like I was the best surfer in it at all. It was a treat to be in the movie with those guys, and hopefully it happens again. If it never does, it was an amazing thing to be a part of. Just to knock a couple waves out with those guys is insane.

If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would you go?

Tavarua is really good. I love the Gold Coast of Australia, as well. Anywhere that has long barreling point breaks, or waves where you can wear trunks. I love Hawai’i. I don’t really care where I go, as long as the waves are good, the vibe is positive, and the atmosphere is killer. I don’t like to go on surf trips and be stressed out and worry about your shit getting ripped off. I love going to places that are relaxed and have a surf atmosphere. What’s the girl situation like when you’re traveling around?

F¿k, there’re beautiful women all over the world. I love to meet ‘em. I love talking to them. I don’t really go out of my way to hound chicks, but I love to go out, meet people, talk to people, and trip out with people. Women are a big part of every man’s life, unless you don’t like women. I love girls, and I love to have conversation with them.

Skateboarding and snowboarding have progressed endlessly. What do you think’s going to help surfing progress?

People are surfing so well right now. Ratboy and all those guys who do the airs are so progressive and so insane. The thing that skateboarding and snowboarding have is that they can go anywhere. They just had a snowboard contest at the Forum in L.A. They made the snow, and they had a couple of big hits. You can go build a wooden ramp, put an auditorium or bleachers around it, and you’ve got your Forum right there. Those lifestyles have turned into sports that are exciting to watch. You could stand there and go, “Wow, that guy is getting way higher out of the coping than that guy,” or “Wow, look at that technical move.” I think kids can really relate to that.

It’s not as exciting or intense for people to go sit in bleachers at the OP Pro, because they’re so far away from the surfers. You can sit at the beach at Pipeline and say, “Wow, he just got barreled,” but when you’re out there in the channel, it’s like, “Holy shit!” If you could take those people and sit them in the channel, it’d just be amazing. It’s really going to take something to make surfing exciting as a sport. Teahupoo is a great example, to where everybody’s on a boat in the channel¿you see and feel what those guys are doing. It’s exciting and gnarly. But you can’t take the Forum, or the X-Games, and bring that to Teahupoo. It just doesn’t work. Surfing is a tough sport to be a sport, but for a lifestyle¿it’s beautiful.

With skateboarding you can stand underneath the ramp, and you’re right there. Other people can understand it more. That’s why the X-Games and all that shit’s blowing up, because it’s so in-your-face personal. All those guys are killing it, and it’s amazing to watch those guys do what they do. Those guys are gnarly, radical people. I would love to be a skateboarder, those guys are rad.

It seems like you have an infatuation with older surfboards. Tell us about your collection and why you like them.

Old surfboards are amazing to me. Shaping nowadays is very machined. Everyone still hand shapes, but back then it was an evolution. People didn’t know which way they were going. There was the single fin, then Simon Anderson came up with the thruster, and then the twin fin. I love to ride them, check ‘em out, feel them, and wonder, “What was that guy thinking when he shaped this?” or “When this guy shaped this in ’67, did he think someone would be riding it in 2000?” It’s so cool to feel these boards and see where those guys were at in their time. When you ride these boards, they’re so fun.

They’re all little pieces of art to me. They’re all hanging around, but they all have wax on them¿I ride them, I ding them, and I tweak them. I’m not collecting boards to have a collection and sell it in twenty years. These things could burn up in a fire, and it wouldn’t matter. I have my friends come over and borrow boards and surf on them. Old surfboards are something I love because I love surfing. I idolize a lot of the older crew: surfers, shapers, and their ideas. Who do you like to watch in terms of surfing style?

I love watching Curren, Occy, Slater, and all the guys in the Top 44. I also love watching old movies with Terry Fitzgerald, Rabbit, and Tom Carroll. They took the carving single-fin type of surfing and made it more powerful, quicker, and gnarlier with thrusters. They surfed so good in big and small waves.

Then people like Laird Hamilton blow my mind. When I was over in France, I saw that new footage of him at Teahupoo towing into that 50 billion-foot wave. To me, that kind of stuff is some of the most amazing things in surfing. He’s an amazing athlete, and those kind of people are timeless. It’s cool to be alive when things like that happen.

What do you think an average fifteen-year-old grom from Mission Viejo could learn from you¿the way you live your life, your style, and the path you’ve taken? What advice would you give them?

I think if you’re a grom, you should travel as much as you can, and be humble. Learn what it’s like to have a lot of respect for people and people’s things. Surf as much as you can, and enjoy what you do. I remember when I was sixteen, I thought my life was going to end when I was 21.

Life’s really short. You’re young when you’re sixteen. Stay in school, graduate, surf a lot, enjoy your life. Don’t abuse things, don’t become a drug addict; dibble dabble in somethings, but don’t be stupid and go down the wrong path. Just be a positive kid and surf all the time. If you’re like that, you’ll go places. If you love what you do, and you’re not out there doing it because it’s a hip thing, you’ll become successful. Being a grom is the best thing in the whole world, you just have to enjoy it.

Are there any bands you could turn some young kids onto?

They should look out for Jack Johnson’s new CD, which should be coming out soon. The best thing to do is to buy a record player, then just go to thrift stores and buy albums you think look interesting or cool. Listen to tons of variations of music: jazz, hip-hop, rap, rock and roll¿Danzig, and Ozzy. Trip out on everything. I like all types of music: techno, rap, blues, latin, and funk. I just love music; it’s a great international language. Do you have any thank yous to give out?

I need to give a thank you to this restaurant in Mission Viejo called Santora’s and the owner Chris, who’s been letting Sunchild play there for the last eight years. They have great food and the best hot wings in the business. If you get a chance, stop by the restaurant and say hello to Estella.

Do you still wear patchouli oil?

All the time, every day.

Sidebars

Tell us about this piano.

The piano is from 1866. This lady was advertising it in a newspaper ad. I went over to check it out, and I bought it. This is the oldest thing I have in my house. It’s awesome to sit and play a piano that’s over 100 years old. It’s very bizarre. I don’t think the guy who built this thought some kid in the Year 2000 would be sitting and playing it. It was made in New York, and the story goes that it came over here on horse and carriage before cars were invented. If it could tell stories, I’m sure it’d have some good ones.

And the jukebox?

This jukebox plays 100 different 45 records. There’re over 200 different selections. You put a quarter in, and you get two plays. It’s like a CD player, but for records. Some guy was advertising it in the newspaper, so I went to check it out, and sure enough, it was great, so I bought it.

Guitars?

I love going to pawn shops and guitar shops, and just buying different guitars and playing them. I have 30 different guitars. I love old guitar amps. The guitars are awesome. They’re almost like surfboards, but for music.s very machined. Everyone still hand shapes, but back then it was an evolution. People didn’t know which way they were going. There was the single fin, then Simon Anderson came up with the thruster, and then the twin fin. I love to ride them, check ‘em out, feel them, and wonder, “What was that guy thinking when he shaped this?” or “When this guy shaped this in ’67, did he think someone would be riding it in 2000?” It’s so cool to feel these boards and see where those guys were at in their time. When you ride these boards, they’re so fun.

They’re all little pieces of art to me. They’re all hanging around, but they all have wax on them¿I ride them, I ding them, and I tweak them. I’m not collecting boards to have a collection and sell it in twenty years. These things could burn up in a fire, and it wouldn’t matter. I have my friends come over and borrow boards and surf on them. Old surfboards are something I love because I love surfing. I idolize a lot of the older crew: surfers, shapers, and their ideas. Who do you like to watch in terms of surfing style?

I love watching Curren, Occy, Slater, and all the guys in the Top 44. I also love watching old movies with Terry Fitzgerald, Rabbit, and Tom Carroll. They took the carving single-fin type of surfing and made it more powerful, quicker, and gnarlier with thrusters. They surfed so good in big and small waves.

Then people like Laird Hamilton blow my mind. When I was over in France, I saw that new footage of him at Teahupoo towing into that 50 billion-foot wave. To me, that kind of stuff is some of the most amazing things in surfing. He’s an amazing athlete, and those kind of people are timeless. It’s cool to be alive when things like that happen.

What do you think an average fifteen-year-old grom from Mission Viejo could learn from you¿the way you live your life, your style, and the path you’ve taken? What advice would you give them?

I think if you’re a grom, you should travel as much as you can, and be humble. Learn what it’s like to have a lot of respect for people and people’s things. Surf as much as you can, and enjoy what you do. I remember when I was sixteen, I thought my life was going to end when I was 21.

Life’s really short. You’re young when you’re sixteen. Stay in school, graduate, surf a lot, enjoy your life. Don’t abuse things, don’t become a drug addict; dibble dabble in somethings, but don’t be stupid and go down the wrong path. Just be a positive kid and surf all the time. If you’re like that, you’ll go places. If you love what you do, and you’re not out there doing it because it’s a hip thing, you’ll become successful. Being a grom is the best thing in the whole world, you just have to enjoy it.

Are there any bands you could turn some young kids onto?

They should look out for Jack Johnson’s new CD, which should be coming out soon. The best thing to do is to buy a record player, then just go to thrift stores and buy albums you think look interesting or cool. Listen to tons of variations of music: jazz, hip-hop, rap, rock and roll¿Danzig, and Ozzy. Trip out on everything. I like all types of music: techno, rap, blues, latin, and funk. I just love music; it’s a great international language. Do you have any thank yous to give out?

I need to give a thank you to this restaurant in Mission Viejo called Santora’s and the owner Chris, who’s been letting Sunchild play there for the last eight years. They have great food and the best hot wings in the business. If you get a chance, stop by the restaurant and say hello to Estella.

Do you still wear patchouli oil?

All the time, every day.

Sidebars

Tell us about this piano.

The piano is from 1866. This lady was advertising it in a newspaper ad. I went over to check it out, and I bought it. This is the oldest thing I have in my house. It’s awesome to sit and play a piano that’s over 100 years old. It’s very bizarre. I don’t think the guy who built this thought some kid in the Year 2000 would be sitting and playing it. It was made in New York, and the story goes that it came over here on horse and carriage before cars were invented. If it could tell stories, I’m sure it’d have some good ones.

And the jukebox?

This jukebox plays 100 different 45 records. There’re over 200 different selections. You put a quarter in, and you get two plays. It’s like a CD player, but for records. Some guy was advertising it in the newspaper, so I went to check it out, and sure enough, it was great, so I bought it.

Guitars?

I love going to pawn shops and guitar shops, and just buying different guitars and playing them. I have 30 different guitars. I love old guitar amps. The guitars are awesome. They’re almost like surfboards, but for music. some kid in the Year 2000 would be sitting and playing it. It was made in New York, and the story goes that it came over here on horse and carriage before cars were invented. If it could tell stories, I’m sure it’d have some good ones.

And the jukebox?

This jukebox plays 100 different 45 records. There’re over 200 different selections. You put a quarter in, and you get two plays. It’s like a CD player, but for records. Some guy was advertising it in the newspaper, so I went to check it out, and sure enough, it was great, so I bought it.

Guitars?

I love going to pawn shops and guitar shops, and just buying different guitars and playing them. I have 30 different guitars. I love old guitar amps. The guitars are awesome. They’re almost like surfboards, but for music.