“You seen that Noa Deane kid?” “What do you think about Noa Deane?” “How good does that Noa Deane surf?” Noa Deane… Noa Dean… Noa Deane…
If I had a dollar for every conversation that involved the talents of Noa Deane on the Gold Coast earlier this year, I could have bought… a coffee… maybe two. Still, that’s a lot of talk about one 17 year-old kid considering that the whole pro-surfing world had collectively just invaded the Gold Coast for the Quiksilver Pro.
The questions on the lips of most I spoke to were in reference to the longevity of such a young talent, and whether or not he could go the distance in the big, wide surfing world. The short answer in my humble opinion is yes – the long one starts here.
‘Bramp, Bramp Bramp.’ An iPhone alarm screams at me to get up – ‘It can’t be six already,’ I moan. I’d organised to spend today with Noa to check out how he operates.
I jump into a car with Shane, Noa’s filmer, and strum his out-of-tune guitar as loud as I can as we drive up the hill to the Deane’s in Coolangatta – with the windows down, I figure if I have to be awake, so should everyone else.
The sun has risen just enough to make out a shitty, overcast day as we pull into the driveway where Noa’s supposed to be waiting for us and sure enough, he’s not. Shane dials his phone… it rings out. Not even a few out-of-tune bars of Stairway To Heaven are enough to rouse anyone from the house.
Shane and I agree it’s too early to be chasing grommets and retire to the nearest coffee shop for a hit of caffeine and regroup. As we arrive though, the phone rings, Noa’s finally risen from the dead and agrees to shout breakfast instead.
“Eggs Bene?” a waitress asks as we walk into Scooterini Café where they seem to know Noa by name and breakfast order. A few minutes later he is mopping up the last bit of egg yoke with his bread. Shane and I had barely finished shaking salt onto ours.
It wasn’t that long ago that Noa was a short, rakey, blonde mop of hair that circled between Snapper Rocks and Greenmount all day long. Now, he’s a lot bigger, wider – stronger and his mop’s been cropped to a more precise bowl.
When I’d last hung with the grommet, he was recovering from a torn lateral meniscus. He spent six months out of the water and half that not even able to walk. By chance Noa was sponsored by a local pizza shop and had free pies available to him all day long – he’d order several shepherds-pie pizzas a week and spent his time getting well acquainted with his Xbox. In the six months he was out, Noa grew about a foot taller and around 15 kilos heavier. It didn’t take him long to find his feet again, albeit with bigger, thicker boards and a whole lotta power.
We pull up on the grass at D-Bah – Snapper is thick with pros, cameras and Red Bull girls and Noa’s not interested. It’s howling southerly, but there is the odd wedge off the south wall and there are surprisingly few bodies in the water.
“A few punt sections,” I mutter. “I’m so over airs lately,” he replies and acknowledges the lack of wet rails in contemporary surfing. With that he pulls a 5’4” “Paddle Pop” from the boot of the car, it’s more or less a disc with fins and with Noa standing at around 5’10, I have no idea how he’ll ride it.
A few minutes later, Noa’s burying rail and sending spray skyward on a right and any qualms I may have had about his ability to carve have been put to rest – the kid’s the full package.
There’s a lot of Dane mixed through Noa’s surfing and it comes as no surprise when he later lists Dane as one of the few surfers he looks up to. Another is his old man, Wayne – notorious Gold Coast surfing legend and Australian Surfing Hall-Of-Famer.
Wayne’s influence over his son is apparent throughout all aspects of his surfing and general outlook on life – Noa seems to have a mature understanding of the pro surfing circus and it’s often arbitrary nature. On the Gold Coast you don’t have to look very far to witness both the highs and the lows of the surfing machine. In fact, if you post up at a local surf club you’ll often walk past framed photos of current champions whilst former ones sit beer-in-hand and blend hazily into the furniture. For up-and-coming Gold Coast surfers, it’s a gleaming insight into their chosen profession and a warning that good things can often come to an end, and that it helps to have your finger in a few other pies.
I ask Noa if he’s concerned.
“Surfing is not the be-all-and-end-all for me, I guess art and photography play a big role in my life as well and I also want to shape a lot more in the future.”
Noa’s recently just put pen to paper with Rusty and is working on where and how he fits. Freesurfing, contests – he’ll do a bit of both for now, but his website noadeane.com is what’s currently on his mind. His concerns centre around posting a mix of the right content, something that not only makes himself happy, but also accurately reflects his personality. He wants to basically create something that people will actually want to come back to. He takes a big hand in the website and is actively working with a filmer and posting his own artistic creations.
“Do you think it’s difficult to stay relevant?” I ask him. He responds; “Am I relevant? I just do what I do.”
What he does has attracted predicable cyber-hatred, with faceless bloggers pounding away at keyboards demanding social justice for anyone considered to be ‘cool’. He is however unfazed by the vitriol and has simply removed himself from the Internet, concentrating instead on painting pretty pictures and adding to his growing collection of vintage cameras – pursuits that afford him endless creativity that bleeds through into his surfing.
Back at Snapper, Dane Reynolds holds a wildcard to the Quiksilver Pro. Noa hasn’t been down to the contest yet, despite living about a kilometer away from it. Dane is the drawcard for Noa, so we wander over the hill to try and find a quiet seat around towards Froggies. Dane is surfing against Joel Parkinson and although Noa’s grown up surfing with Joel, Dane’s unpredictability is what’s really grabbed his attention.
Predictably, Dane’s unpredictability shines in the heat and Noa’s fixated on Dane’s approach to every wave, every turn, and every punt until the heat’s end, like he’s committing each of them to his brain for later use.
When Kelly Slater paddles out in the following heat, Noa’s attention wanders back towards the Russian 35mm camera he’s holding and he starts looking for angles and punches through a roll of film as we head back into town.
We meet up with Noa’s girlfriend, Zoe for sushi and Noa plows through half a dozen plates before realising that the shrapnel in his pocket won’t cover the bill. This pretty much sums him up. Noa Deane is wise beyond his years, he has surf savvy parents guiding his career and ensuring that the fun doesn’t take a back seat, yet behind all the maturity, the style, cool, contracts and sushi bills, there is still a blonde-headed grommet from the Gold Coast who skates barefooted through town with little worry for what’s happening in the world outside of Coolangatta, and the only thing dominating his agenda are waves.