Daniel Crockett is an English surfer/writer who is the creator of KooK, a self-published newspaper that features stories and pictures on the state of surfing today. We spoke with Daniel to get the lowdown on his life and times.
What was life like growing up?
Idyllic—full of literature and animals. The maddest old house … we only lived in half of it. The front door never had a lock and the whole place was propped up by books. It was a working farm, and we had horses and grew vegetables. There were barn owls in the roof. I used to hear them hiss when I was lying in bed. I spent most of the time outside.
Who did you look up to and admire when you were young?
My dad when I was young. He’s out there—lives in a mountain hut in Armenia. He sailed round the world for fifteen years at a time when not many people were in the Pacific. I don’t know if you ever come down from that. He gave me a love of the ocean, so I thank him for that.
What was the feeling you had when you first stood on a surfboard?
That was a bit north of Byron Bay. My cousin Andrew took us. He was a proper shredder in those days. I got so hooked I lost two pairs of glasses in a week. I haven’t really stopped having that feeling since, but I have contact lenses now.
Where did your interest in art and design come from?
I’ve been painting to escape computers. It’s a good release, kind of euphoric. Early Klee, Hundertwasser, Leonora Carrington all strike a chord. For a few years, I’ve been making little books (like Melting Pot), doing poetry collections and small exhibitions. It’s great to keep them non-commercial and a whole lot of people come out of the woodwork. We had an epic one called Gratitude in a garage with 200 paintings and another called No Surf in England where Neil Halstead played.
Tell us about your publication KooK.
KooK started with a late-night chat with Alex Rowse of A-side Studio. We agreed we were seeing so much ace stuff come out of surfing and either getting the glossy treatment or being overlooked. We wanted to document these changes—both in the Atlantic and all over the world—and give some attention to friends who we thought deserved it. A newspaper is such a perfect medium to explore surfing.
I cobbled it together and Alex applied the design to bring it to life. We got some great submissions in from all over the world. Twenty pages of pink newsprint packed full of art, culture, photography, illustration and ideas. We decided to keep it independent, get it printed locally on paper from sustainable forests. It’s not nostalgic dreaming of another era. It’s surfing right now. The editorial also takes a little poke at surfer egos, some of which run pretty free.
Of all the places you have traveled to, what place in particular stands out? And why?
The Black Sea in Russia was just a heavy trip—heroin syringes on the beach, prostitutes, mafia, bear-hunting. Some surprisingly good waves, like most wind seas.
Who/what inspires you?
Surfers like Neil Erskine and Mark Dickinson, who are so intricately woven with a place that they become part of it. Mark’s language and Neil’s art are extensions of a life so tightly bound with the sea that it becomes indistinguishable. Both are great tube riders. Whale Nation by Heathcote Williams is a book surfers should read.
What is the greatest thing you have learned in your life?
That it’s damn short. We humans know shit and are generally evolving backwards.
What are you most proud of?
I just finished a documentary about peak experience, called Without Thought, with Ollie Banks and John Eldridge. It gives me goose bumps watching it. If you could reckon my life on one bit of art so far, that’d be it and all I did was come up with the idea and ask some questions. It’s beautiful.
What meaning does surfing hold for you and how has it changed your life?
Through surfing, I’ve blown a lot of opportunities and distanced myself from a lot of people. It’s allowed me to never stop being a child. That said, I think it offers a lot of hope in teaching us how to exist.
What brings you the most happiness in the world?
My girlfriend Anna, who has my measure. Surfing wise, there’s a little estuary point at home. I feel strongly connected to the place. Nothing better than surfing that around dawn on a 12 footer with the dogs running up the point on every wave.
Who are some of the people you feel are shaping the path for surfing today?
Anyone living it as a whole process. Probably someone way out there who we’ll never hear about, who couldn’t care less. Someone like Garth Dickinson.
What is your favorite board? Your favorite surf spot?
I’ve got a versatile gathering of surfboards. Kidman instilled the virtue of a functional quiver. Right now, a little McCoy Nugget has pride of place. Most enjoying an 8’4’’ Simmons made by Perfect Trim from a Paul Gross design. My air mat got swiped in Morocco, so hopefully some kid is sleeping on it! Anywhere peeling with the hint of a tube and no people.
What’s your favorite meal?
We had a polytunnel setup at home before we decided to travel. It was magic. Anything homemade, balanced, good ingredients. I battle a sweet tooth.
What are you currently listening to on your iPod?
Joanna Newsom’s “Have One on Me” Robbie Basho’s “Visions of the Country”. And the track “Street Hassle,” by Lou Reed, for a bit of grit.
What causes, projects, organizations do you support?
I give £5 a month to the World Wildlife Fund to sponsor an elephant. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s been over a decade now. That elephant must be rich. I hope to make a positive contribution to the world through my writing.
What are you most grateful for?
The health—mental and physical—of my friends and family.
What’s next for Daniel Crockett?
California in a van from April to June with the KooK. Anna is at Santa Cruz doing sustainable horticulture. Then, up to the islands off Scotland with Ollie Banks for some space. Hopefully, some time in Berlin writing during the summer. I’m working on getting a couple of novels out there, and planning on an Autumn/Winter KooK in time for Christmas.
Find out more about Daniel Crockett at his blog here. Surfing images by John Eldridge. Exhibition shot by Nick Radford.