Eric Dranginis is a surfer from Cape Cod, Massachussets, a place more known for its picturesque lighthouses, beaches, and seafood than the waves themselves. Cold water, solitude, and a lack of a surf culture might not be for everyone, but it treats Eric just fine.
What was your life like growing up?
My life growing up was quite different than most surfers. Although my parents had me on a sailboat at three days old, I lived two hours inland until I was 18. I surfed as much as possible when I was on the coast, but it wasn’t until I moved to Cape Cod that I surfed full-time. Before that, my life was a pretty typical suburban lifestyle. I lived in close proximity to mountains and good snowfall, so I was on the slopes and enjoyed a lot of outdoor sports before I knew what the ocean had to offer.
When did you get your first surfboard?
I got my first real board when I was 13. My brother and I messed around on a used 80’s Spyder thruster for a while, but it was too small to properly learn on. Luckily, we still have it. The board is a classic shape from that era, with bright neon logos all over and full deck traction. It reminds me of an 80’s music video! The design of that thing isn’t too far off from what a lot of guys are riding today as their small wave thrusters (i.e. dumpster divers). My first real board was a 6’10” Pride Surfboards egg that my dad got for me while in Virginia Beach.
What was the feeling you had when you first stood up on a surfboard?
I remember it pretty vividly. Like most kids, I rode a boogie board first and was used to being so low to the water. When I finally stood up, I couldn’t believe how high up I was! I never went back to the boogie board after that moment.
Who did you look up to and admire when you were a young boy?
Due to the fact that I grew up away from the coast, most of my idols were baseball players, which I was pretty into playing and watching growing up. My grandparents lived in Ft. Myers, Florida where the Twins had spring training. So for some reason, my idol was Kirby Puckett. I had all his cards, autograph, jersey, whatever was out there. I also was a comic book fan growing up. So aside from the super heroes they drew, I admired comic artists and emulated their work in my own sketch pads.
Who or what inspires you?
Today, some of my greatest inspiration comes from skateboarding. The amount of talent both the pros and local groms have these days is unreal. Watching a skate vid gets me more amped to surf than most of the surf porn we have out there today. I don’t know why, but I relate more on a personal level to a guy skating a bowl than a surf pro sitting in a flawless Indo barrel for the 100th time. Skating is harder for me, and still blows my mind. My girlfriend’s brother, artist/skater Silas Finch, is a pretty inspiring skateboarder to watch. He sees something he wants to do and just does it—pure power skating. I saw him do a huge wall ride transfer into this super tight quarter pipe, first try, and was blown away. He said he’s the only skater who does it. Mostly just the BMX guys attempt it.
He blows minds on a skateboard, then goes to his studio creates some of the raddest, most original art I have ever seen (www.silasfinch.com). Guys like this are inspiring, and I happen to find more people of this nature in the skate world than in surfing. There are no kooks in skateboarding. They get filtered out pretty quickly. Can’t we do this somehow with surfing?
What does being a New England surfer mean to you?
Being a New England surfer is incredible. You are fully immersed in the change of seasons. We have so much variety on our coastline that I get to ride every type of board. Heavy beachbreaks, long points, slabs, reefs … you name it, we’ve got it. The beauty of it all is that finding the spots isn’t the easiest thing in the world, so that—paired with sub zero water temps come winter—and you are surfing perfect waves alone. If you are into solitude, New England is the place to be. It would be hard for me to call somewhere else home. We do have flat spells that sometimes seem endless, but that’s why God created skateboards, fishing rods and beer.
There is no scene here whatsoever, at least in my part of New England, which is a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because you are forced to be original. There is no one to emulate in the water. Most of the time, I surf alone outside of the summer months. It is a curse because being surrounded by high quality surfers allows you to see a different approach to a wave, and can allow you to learn and bring new ideas into your own surfing style. Surfing in a crowd of skilled surfers might not be the most fun thing in the world, but you can learn a lot out there just by watching.
What is the greatest thing you have learned in your life?
To do your own thing. When you try to follow trends and mimic your life after others, life just isn’t fulfilling. You can put on a persona in the public, but you can’t lie to yourself. Doing what you love, and letting that flow naturally, makes you a solid, happy person.
What are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of sticking to my passions and, through them, creating a life that is full of enjoyment. It’s tempting to get a “real job,” but my friends who have done this seem to hate their lives and will probably live this way forever. Sometimes it’s a struggle, but I am proud that I have persevered and lived a lifestyle that allows me to do what I love most … which is riding waves.
Of all the places you have traveled to, what place in particular stands out and why?
Ireland. Without a doubt. Even without surf, I would go there again in a second. The people, architecture, landscapes and history are amazing. It also doesn’t hurt that you can camp next to an old castle with perfect left and right-hand pointbreaks surrounding you. Top your day off with a pint of Guinness from the local pub and you’re in heaven.
What meaning does surfing hold for you and how has it changed your life?
Surfing has brought me to places and allowed me to meet people that I otherwise never would have. These people and places are what mold the way I approach my life, so I guess surfing has changed everything.
What brings you the most happiness in the world?
A 10 pound largemouth bass hitting a surface lure is pretty exciting, but a solid day of friends, family, my girlfriend and dog makes me happy.
Who are some of the people you feel are shaping the path for surfing today?
I feel that Joel Tudor played a huge role in what surfing is today, and will continue to do so in the future. He has opened the general surfing population’s eyes to all different types of wave-riding equipment. Whatever piece of equipment he’s riding, he does so with impeccable style. He has been a huge influence to me, as well as the surfing population as a whole. The new “Duct Tape” events he is organizing sound like a great way for today’s longboarders to get together and not have to surf to a set criteria.
Most importantly, shapers such as Matt Calvani, Jeff McCallum and Chris Christensen who are taking the design and functionality from boards of the past and blending them with a modern twist to adapt to our current surfing standards. I feel like surfboard design is in the best time period ever right now—from new versions of classic logs to mini Simmons-inspired short equipment to even shaped planks of wood. We’ve got it all! The shapers who are making this equipment are quite literally shaping the path for surfing today.
What is your current favorite board? Your favorite surf spot?
My 9’6” Bing Elevator is the best board I have ever ridden. Its noseriding capabilities are truly amazing. It’s one of those boards that I will have in my quiver the rest of my life. I just got back from a trip in which I got to take it out in a reeling pointbreak. I didn’t have to come off the nose the entire wave. On the shorter end of the spectrum, the 5’6” Bing Dharma, which is a mini Simmons-inspired shape, has been unreal. It has the benefits of a mini, but can be ridden comfortably in any type of wave with no limitations.
My favorite surf spot is a right-hand point north of the U.S. border. The wave has a perfect pocket from start to finish, and is surrounded by tall pine forest-covered peninsulas. My first session there was just me and my buddy. Eventually, a sailboat went by, but that was it for crowds. There are truly live ordnance in the vegetation leading out to the point so be careful if you go wave hunting.
What’s your favorite meal?
My mother and sister are both amazing cooks, so anything they make is my favorite meal. Anything with hot sauce and I’m golden.
What are you currently listening to on your iPod?
My musical taste is all over the place. I listen to music all day every day, so I hit a new genre every few hours.
What are you most grateful for?
I am grateful for my family. I am lucky enough to have parents that I still enjoy hanging out with, as well as my brother and sister. I fish with my dad, SUP with my mom, surf with my brother, and do all of the above with my sister and her two daughters. We’ve got a good thing going and for that I am grateful. I am also grateful for my parents deciding to move to the coast. Otherwise, who knows what I’d be doing—probably not an interview with Liquid Salt!
What’s next for Eric Dranginis?
I’d love to knock some places I’ve always wanted to visit off the “To Do” list: Morocco, Caribbean, Galapagos and more of Europe. Between travels, just keep enjoying riding solid boards on both the long and short end of the spectrum, and experimenting with both. I’ve always had the dream of working on a video project that portrays the reality of what being a New England surfer entails. Hopefully, this is next.
All photos are by Luke Simpson and Nick Lavecchia.