Corky Carroll

Billabong picked the right dude

Donovan FrankenreiterFor quite a long time now I have been a fan of Donavon Frankenreitter. This is a dude who successfully transcended professional surfing and into the forefront of the music business.

Yes, it is true that that are a number of Rock Stars who are surfers, some of them good surfers at that -- Eddie Vedder and Jackson Browne to name a couple. But those dudes are musicians first and they happen to surf. And there have been a few top surfers who have attempted the music business with mixed success. I know, as I am one of those dudes.

Kelly Slater and Rob Machado would also fall into that group. We are surfers first and happen to also be musicians. It is a very difficult bridge to gap. There really have only been two guys to pull it off. Donavon Frankenreitter and Jack Johnson. And yeah, I am also a big fan of Jack Johnson.

I am a fan of these guys for one reason -- because they really are the real thing. Both are top surfers and both have made it big time in music. But also I am a fan of both their surfing and their music. And lastly, because they started out to be and have remained totally cool dudes even in the light of such huge success.

The reason I am writing about this right now is that the mega surfwear giant Billabong just announced the release of the new Donavon Frankenreitter line of surfwear under its label. It was released Wednesday and will be in stores by the time you read this column. I saw some photos of some of the pieces and it looks very cool and casual. Seems like a perfect fit to this dude's career and also to Billabong.

Donavon grew up surfing the San Clemente pier and carving up the faces of waves all up and down the Southern California coast. An eventual sponsorship by Billabong led to the ultimate dream, the ability to be a free surfer - paid to ride the waves but not required to surf in competitions.

He started playing music at 17 and quickly developed a passion for it that equaled his love of surfing. In the mid 90's, Donavon helped form Sunchild (a five-piece "good time "rock and roll" band), which gained acclaim in Southern California for its laidback style, reminiscent of the late 60's and early 70's LA vibe.

During its tenure, Sunchild opened for the likes of The Doobie Brothers, Willie Nelson, Ben Harper, Social Distortion and The Descendents, and earned a spot on the Vans Warped Tour.

Donovan FrankenreiterLater he formed his own band with a couple of friends that he borrowed from his pal Ben Harper's bevy of band members. In the past few years Donavon has soared to the top of the music business. I hear his stuff every time I turn on the television or the radio these days. The dude has gone huge.

His first solo album fully established him at the leading edge of the current acoustic folk/rock genre. His recent second CD saw him stretch out into other musical areas and show just how extremely versatile this man is as a singer, songwriter and overall musician. These are three intense and very separate talents.

There are many great singers, many great songwriters as well as many great musicians. To be great at all three is a real accomplishment. I can see why Billabong chose him to come up with its new surfer/designer line of surfwear. Well, I guess it would be surfer/singer/designer. Like I said earlier, it all fits. From the look of the line I would say that will also fit nicely.

"The collection embraces my surfing philosophy and the musical side of my life and everything that surrounds it," says Donavon. "It is a reflection of my life over the past 15 years."

What a cool life it would seem. I always said that if I couldn't be me I would like to be Jimmy Buffet. I love that guy's approach to just about everything. But recently I am tempted to change that.

If I couldn't be me maybe being Donavon Frankenreitter wouldn't be all that bad either. Totally successful singer, I wish I could say that. Paid to surf and not have to compete, I wish I could say that too. When I was paid to surf it meant that I had to compete. And now a cool new clothing line. And he is only like 30 years old.

Yep, I wanna be him.

Originally posted December 13, 2008 at the OC Register.