Travers Adler is a talented surfer/musician/artist from Santa Barbara, California. Whether through his art, music, or surfing, Travers possesses a unique and creative style that is at once graceful, improvisational, and full of joy. We spoke with Travers to learn more.
What was your childhood like?
I grew up with my brother and parents in an old sort-of-farm house. Not on a farm, but it was an old creaky house. Went to school nearby, joined the team sports; and got to learn some tennis. A nice lively older lady who lived down the street with her husband taught me piano. I still love playing pianos when I’m around one; I kinda have to.
Started surfing with the family and gradually got into it. Made friends who were also into it. My family did some traveling. My mom’s an artist, painting mostly, and my dad and his friend started a company called Echo that focuses on audio stuff. My mom used to play opera music in her art studio. Both of them listened to Pink Floyd in the car. And The Travelling Willburys; I just got their first album recently and it’s familiar. And I like that.
Tell us about your first surfboard
My first board was a beefy Channel Islands with green fins that my parents bought for twenty bucks from some friends. I don’t recall much beyond that. My first custom board was a Matt Moore thruster and I got to pick my own paint job; green slime dripping down a red board. Awesome! Oh, and the CI was probably when I was eight and the MM when I was 10?
What was the feeling you had when you first stood on a surfboard?
I don’t recall my first wave. I don’t think I was that wild about surfing for a while. But I guess I must’ve dug it a bit. I think my first session was probably with my brother, our friends the Parton brothers, and Brad Frohling, who took all of us grommets out and showed us the way. I remember one time he was pulling me over a wave, holding onto the nose of my board, when his grip slipped and I went back down the face backwards and ate it. Brad said Surfer Magazine was on the beach and they got the shot. I was like, really?
Another time he took us surfing, some guy on the beach decided to go skinny dipping. Brad hollered out, “Keep your nudity away from us!” And I remember my dad and his friend helping me bounce into my wetsuit. I think they were holding the arms of the suit, bouncing me into it. Suits were tough to get into. And I used to get horrible armpit rashes. Later on one of the older guys called me Rolli-Polli cuz I would tumble down the face of waves at Coral. I liked that. I got noticed!
Who did you look up to and admire when you were a child?
I looked up to my brother Will. Um… friends and peers who did stuff well. Like maybe fellow students who played handball well, stuff like that.
Of all the places you have traveled to, what place in particular stands out? And why?
Northern Baja seemed real nice. Wide open spaces, cliffs and coves. Hills, mountains. Nice colors. England; all the stone work. The pies and vinegar-y fish and chips, and how they were wrapped in paper. The little cottage among the hills and fields and sheep and their poop; and the lakes and lakeside towns. Little tea houses.
Santa Barbara still gets me. The smells.. like my brother and I drove back into town the other night and the smell of the scrub brush or something, the wild plant smells, I guess. And the waves. And mountains and fields to the north. Friends. The beaches. And there doesn’t seem to be many bugs that bite on the beaches, which is nice. Nice colors, especially around dusk.
Who/what inspires you?
I like playing music a lot, and writing songs and noodling around on guitar. The Ramones’ first album has been a big inspiration for me for songwriting. Kinda like, look how simple it can be, I guess I can do that too, er, I wanna try. Charles Bukowski; I’ve mostly just read his later years poems, and I pretty much always wanna write after reading him. Ozzie Wright for his surfing and drawings. Like, his girl drawings I dug, and I think that inspired me to draw hundreds of girls to try to figure out how to do it all simple like he does. Margaret Kilgallen. John Severson’s paintings, Ed Templeton’s lady drawings/paintings. Shawn Stussy’s handwriting. Albert Jenks’ surfing is great, smooth, playful, groovy, entertaining. Mummy encourages me to go for art stuff. Dad too. And their encouragement is inspiring. And Bro (Will). His photos, paintings, drawings, he does so much art.
Demi Boelsterli and Dane Reynolds for how they ‘ll put like everything into a turn surfing. And Demi’s art. Dane R’s writing and photos too. Jeff Johnson and Chris Malloy’s writing in the Surfer’s Journal I’ve dug; It’s encouraging, to go adventure. And Dan Malloy’s writing. And so much of Thomas Campbell’s work. Sean Tully does cool art too; Like, he does tons of art, and that inspires me. Heck, this could go on and on. Ian Mackaye. Seeing Chris and Chris at Kirkegaard Framing, how stoked they seemed on their line of work. Jack Kerouac’s loose flow of writing. Miki Dora’s wiggle groove. Derek Hynd. People who seem stoked on their line of work. Like, when they find and show the good in something. Like John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row. How he chooses to look through or look from a positive perspective. I’ll add another, Shawn Stussy’s stoke. And Robinson Robot Ferreux. Ethan Stewart’s stoke writing. Branden Aroyan’s slide show presentation I went to a while back. He was stoked. My brother’s smooth surfing. Tam Chase’s stoke to go surfing; him and his brother Robin that night before a dawn patrol, talking surfing. Drew-We Quit The Plain.
What is the greatest thing you have learned in your life?
People who have taught me how to love. Love feels nice.
Do you have any regrets or wish you had done something differently?
Well, I wish I didn’t hurt people. And I would like to move past fear to do dreams, and avoid choosing to get anxious.
What are you most proud of?
I feel proud, or confident I suppose, in some skills I’ve got to develop in drawing/painting and music, and surfing. I think I can do some good with those things.
What meaning does surfing hold for you?
Surfing’s an escape. Like a haven, I suppose. A community I get to be a part of. It can be a dance. One to develop skills like steps in, moves; or just one to get wild in, and/or a dance like something to groove with. It can feel nice. It can feel great. It can be an addiction I suppose. Exercise. I suppose it can be a performance, a way to try to entertain others. Heck, it’s a lot to me. It’s nice to sit out there, or it can be. An expression… art… a great feeling moment.
What brings you the most happiness in the world?
Ice cream. I recently found out jogging can help me feel happy. A good surf. Noodling on guitar. Singing loud sometimes. Doing art I like; finishing a piece of art I like. Fun with friends. Love.
Who are some of the people you feel are shaping the path for surfing today?
Thomas Campbell and the Malloys seem to be guys who’ve shown some extra sides of surfing. Ozzie Wright. Alex Knost. Dane Reynolds. Demi Boelsterli. Gosh, um, my uncle Tom’s books, and my brother’s photos. Hah, I feel like both their work is pretty unique and great. I suppose all the people who do their thing and do it well? Yeah. People who do good work. Like, who are passionate. Andy Irons came to mind after saying passionate. And Bruce Irons’ surfing is great too. I could go on and on again. Oh, that Ellis Ericson dude. Those are all dudes, except for Demi. Perhaps I should mention more of the ladies. I like Kassia Meador’s surfing and stoke. And to go in more detail about Demi: she’s a great surfer… she’s smooth, she’ll put everything in her turns and it’ll look good. And she does great paintings, writes songs, takes great photos, dresses casual, started a clothing company with her friends and sister. She writes simply. She does great work. And she rides all sorts of boards well. Tyler Warren. Shawn Stussy. Sean Tully – Mr. Innocnts. Ryan Lovelace. People who dig surfing, I suppose. Yeah.
What is your favorite board? Your favorite surfspot?
I’ve been working at Shawn Stussy’s little boardshop and getting to ride some of his boards, which has been a treat. Fun. Singlefins, thrusters. Neat stuff, and I like how pumped he is on making boards. I’ve got an old, er like sorta old, CI retro fish that I’ve dug very much. The first board my brother made, a rough singlefin that grooved so easily. A CI Red Beauty XTR and a Pod. And I’ve had great Matt Moore thrusters. Ohhhh. Hah. Great boards. And I’ve had fun on some Ryan Lovelace boards that he loaned me. A fun Valley Isle thruster. Liddles are neat. Fun couple seshes on a Gregg Tally/White Owl SB Stubbie. But lately I’ve been going mainly with some of those Stussy boards. Fun stuff. And favorite surf spot? Coral, Hams, Rincon.
What’s your favorite meal?
Favorite meal would be um, I like cereal a lot. My dad’s cooking. Mum’s cheesecake and crunch. Val Aroyan’s cooking. Good stuff from Trader Joes. Toasted PB and Honey sandwiches. Oh, how ‘bout ice cream on waffles? Maybe with a little maple syrup. Coffee. Oh, and a cold stout beer too, yes please! Pie, à la mode.
What are you currently listening to on your iPod?
My favorites are Gillian Welch, that Ramones CD I have. Iron and Wine; Creek Drank The Cradle album, and a bunch of home recordings of his I came across. Woody Guthrie. Van Morrison; Astral Weeks album. Otis Redding. “That Time” by Regina Spector, I been digging that one so much Um, I wanna hear more Neil Young. I’ve dug Harvest Moon a lot. Heard a neat song on the radio lately, “Hold On,” by The Alabama Shakes. I’d like to hear the Dave Rawlings Machine album. Oh, and some Creedance, yes please. I gotta hear more Violent Femmes; I’ve dug some of their stuff. Man, I could go on and on. Gillian Welch “I Dream A Highway,” that might be my favorite song of all time. And I think I’m gonna try to find a certain song Demi and I recorded.
Oh, and I got to see Tomorrow’s Tulips play a gig, and that was really cool. I liked how simple their approach was. This Best of Muddy Waters album my brother has. Dave Van Ronk. Bob Dylan. I’ve heard some Queen lately and they’ve blown my mind. Along with Weezer’s Blue Album; that knocked my socks off, blew my hair back, helped me feel stoked. Bright Eyes, I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning album. Gram Parsons. And I recently have been digging a Willie Nelson/Waylon Jennings tape. Oh and this Starbucks Vintage Country mix. Tammy Wynette knocks my socks off. I’ve only heard a couple of her recordings, but man, she’s good. Very genuine. Oh, Cat Power’s The Covers Album. Some Damien Rice and Lisa Hannigan stuff, them with that band, I haven’t heard that in a while, but yeah. Maybe the best show ever for me was seeing a couple friends’ band play back in high school. They were called Blind Story, it was kinda in a similar style to Blink 182 I guess, and they were having so much fun it looked like. It was awesome.
What are you most grateful for?
Hah, it feels nice to be asked these questions and getting to ramble. Thank you. For my parents’ love. For getting to go with Demi for the time we did. Will for being my bro. Fun with friends. Parents for guitars they’ve gifted me. Guitar. Surfing. Streaking. To and from surfing moments. Friends. Writing. Talking. Freedom… love. Oh music jams. That kinda fits in with love though, I suppose. Heh. Yeah. Dancing.
What’s next for Travers Adler?
Workin’ on songs. Back at Stussy’s S/Double shop soon. Playin guitar. Drawing. Hopefully some surfing. Snacking. Hangin’ with friends. Bedtime soon.