Donavon Frankenreiter is a talented California surfer/musician who truly lives the dream. In between surfing exotic locales, he creates soulful, laid-back music. Once described by Joel Tudor as a “true original,” we caught up with Donavon to learn more.
What was your life like growing up?
I grew up inland from the beach with amazing supportive parents, and they let me do whatever I wanted to do. So they got me a surfboard and I practically grew up on it. Anyway I could get to the beach, I would. I grew up riding BMX bikes and being obsessed with surfing!
When did you get your first surfboard?
At the age of 10 from Santa Claus. He is real, isn’t he?
What was the feeling you had when you first stood on a surfboard?
It was like no other feeling I’ve ever felt! I went faster than I’d ever ridden on anything before, in the ocean, and it was the most incredible feeling. I haven’t stopped riding since!
Who did you look up to and admire when you were young?
Definitely my dad—I still do. And when I got into surfing, Tom Curren, Occy and Kelly Slater. When I started playing guitar, I looked up to Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and many more legends.
How did you get involved in music?
I went on a surfing adventure with friends. We were at one of my buddy’s houses and he had a guitar leaning up against his couch. He taught me three chords. The rest is history.
What is your process for creating your music?
I have no process at all. It just happens when it happens! I never plan it. I let the process happen naturally. Sometimes ideas come to me when on I’m on a plane, or a boat, hanging out with my family. My kids or wife may say something and it sparks an idea. It varies from song to song.
You like to mix things up. Tell us about your ever-changing quiver.
99% of my quiver you can see at my Mexican restaurant in Maui! I have over 100 surfboards hanging up in the rafters and my quiver now consists of whatever Jeff “Doc” Lausch shapes me—all different types of boards. Come see my boards at my restaurant (Donavon Frankenreiter’s Margarita House). Stay a while. Drink a margarita. Relax.
Of all the places you have traveled to, what place in particular stands out and why?
Iceland was really great. I was one of first people to adventure all around Iceland, many years ago, and surf a bunch of spots that had never been surfed before. I experienced icebergs, volcanoes, the aurora borealis and incredible waves all in one day!
Who or what inspires you?
Every day people. Life in general. And my family.
What is the greatest thing you have learned in your life?
To treat people with a lot of respect and enjoy every moment because life happens very quickly.
Do you have any regrets or wish you had done something differently?
I have no regrets and I think if there’s anything I’ve failed at, it’s a great thing because I’ve learned from it. I told myself at an early age that I never wanted to wake up 10 years from now and say, “Man! I wish I’d done that!’ I’ve had a lot of successes and failures, but I’ve learned from both. No regrets.
What are you most proud of?
That I’m a father and a husband.
What meaning does surfing hold for you and how has it changed your life?
Surfing has introduced me to everything I have in my life, including music. Surfing changed my life in every way and is everything to me. Surfing is my life and music is my religion.
What brings you the most happiness in the world?
Pushing my kids into their own waves and watching them surf into the beach.
Who are some of the people you feel are shaping the path for surfing today?
Kelly Slater, Jordy Smith, Laird Hamilton, Greg Long and Dane Reynolds
What’s your favorite meal?
Any home cooked meal that my wife prepares for me.
What are you currently listening to on your iPod?
Old Bob Dylan and Neil Young, and some bootleg Jimi Hendrix
What causes or organizations do you support?
The Surfrider Foundation, the Plastic Pollution Coalition, SurfAid and anybody who wants to help clean up the ocean! Also, one of my favorites, the Love Hope Strength Foundation, which is a music-centric cancer charity which provides support for cancer centers and inspiration to those affected around the world. They use funds to purchase medical equipment and supplies, raise awareness through special events, documentaries and media, build cancer centers and find bone marrow donors. I just got back from hiking Mt. Fuji with them. It was a group of musicians and cancer survivors—such an inspiring experience.
What are you most grateful for?
My wife and two kids, and that I do two things I truly love for a career. I am grateful that I get to live this life that I live. It’s very dream-like!
What’s next for Donavon Frankenreiter?
I’m going to pack up my tour bus and hit the road for the next year and a half to promote my new record, Glow, anywhere and everywhere that I can!
Find out more about Donavon Frankenreiter here. Photo credits: (1)Brian Bielmann, (2) Noah Adams, (3) Pat Stacy, (4) Brian Bielmann, (5) Noah Abrams. Special thanks to Doug Oswandel of Q Prime for making this interview happen.