I like to wear hats. In fact, I’ve got a hat rack in our entryway that’s covered with about a dozen of my best ones. It all started in my early twenty’s, when I had noticed my hairline slowly beginning its retreat. Its retreat from what? I wasn’t sure at the time, so I just threw on a hat and went about my day.
Over a decade later, I now understand that you can’t fight genetics and I’ve simply learned to own it. But, I still like to wear hats and my son has recently gotten stoked on them, as well. He climbs onto a chair and pulls down the lowest hanging hats from my hat rack and throws them on. He waltzes around the house. “Dad’s hat,” he says.
My wife and I decided that it was time for us to purchase “Kai’s hat,” so we scored a killer child-sized Vans trucker hat at our local shop. As soon as we showed it to him and explained to him who this hat belongs to, he smiled and placed it on his head—backwards. “Kai’s hat,” he said. He likes to wear it backwards.
Now, I should start by saying that I have never worn my hats backwards. I can’t recall anyone that Kai has seen who wears their hat backwards. I’m not quite sure where he learned this, but he likes it. This is raw style in its earliest of forms. He really feels it, too. I’ll take his hat off and place it forward (like Dad) but he spins it back around and looks at me like I’m crazy.
These days, we can’t leave the house without it. On our way out the door, we’ll ask “Where’s your hat, dude?” He grabs his bare head and runs to the hat rack (where he likes to keep it) and throws it on—backwards. Always backwards.
Style is something that I believe should be your own. These are the things that you do for whatever reason; often times, you don’t even know the reason. These are the things that you should never have to explain to anybody else. And this was my first experience with Kai doing just that. It was pretty cool.
I hold a deep respect for people that run with their own style. This, for me, is particularly true in the water. A few of my personal favorites like Joel Tudor, Al Knost, Craig Anderson, and Clay Marzo — they all do their own thing, surf their own way, and it’s really nice to watch. They’ve all made their mark as style icons, and they’ve all brought their own thing to our sport. And any style-master will respectfully raise their glass and give credit to their influences, but theses guys have taken those influences and created their own version of what they think looks good — that’s the ticket.
Developing unique style requires discipline. You need to spend time learning your capabilities, as well as getting dialed into your spot. You need to study the way that certain sections on a wave allow you to do certain things. You mustn’t try to outsmart the wave and deviate from what the wave has presented to you.
Style also takes patience. As a kid, I used to slam on the gas and bounce and hop and do whatever I could to squeeze in as many turns on one wave as I could. As an adult, I wait for the wave to dictate what it’s going to allow me to do. It’s all about having respect for what you’re given, and waiting for the right opportunities.
The bottom line is this: Your style is your own. Anyone can learn to boost two air reverses in one wave, anyone can drop into a head-high wave at Restaurants and get barreled three times, and anyone can do what they feel is “The best turn of my life” on any given wave. I simply like to see people who move on their board like their comfortable in their own skin. That’s what looks good, and that’s true about anything in life. The folks with swagger are the ones enjoying themselves the most, and the ones that graciously offer their flavor to even the blandest of days, free to anyone that’s willing to look up front their phone for a moment and appreciate the beauty of being alive.
As a relatively new father, encouraging my little guy to develop his own style and identity is one of the coolest things I’ve ever been a part of. I’ve never felt cooler and more unique than being a father to an awesome little kid. This is now my style. It’s a “9p.m. bedtime on a Friday night” type of style; it’s an “all day at Doheny” type of style. As for the backwards hat — that’s Kai’s style.