Behind the Scenes…

Last year I painted PANHE to be used for the cover of The San Clemente Times Earth Day edition.

To prepare for the painting, I spent the day at last year’s Panhe Earth Day celebration and learned as much as I could about the history of the area.

PANHE is a beautiful place in San Clemente that was inhabited by the ancient Acjachmen Indians and is estimated to be about 9,500 years old.   Me, Maria and Dylan go hiking back there sometimes. There’s an ancient Indian burial ground up on the hill that’s protected by law.

One of the reasons I live in San Clemente is the beautiful natural setting of this San Onofre and Trestles surfing area.

It is the LAST undeveloped, naturally intact coastal area in Southern California.  It’s filled with wildlife that you can see while walking down the trails to go surfing.

I’ve seen deer, bobcats, coyotes and giant rattlesnakes on the trails.

Then there’s the sea life:  whales, dolphins, sharks, halibut and calico bass.  I have yet to see the elusive mountain lion, but I know they’re out there.

I find it extraordinary that as little as a few hundred years ago, this valley and San Mateo Creek was filled with thousands of Indians living off the land, calling this place home.

This beauty is under constant threat of development from outsiders, who do not know or care about its wonders.  If we can get enough people to care about the area, we can keep it intact.

The painting is meant to show how special this place is and that it should be preserved for all time.  Now, this year the artwork is being used for the PANHE Earth Day Celebration posters and advertising.

THIS SUNDAY, ON EARTH DAY, the San Onofre Foundation will be holding the PANHE Earth Day Celebration at San Mateo Campground.

I’ll be there at noon, signing posters and enjoying the native dancers and story tellers.  If you are local, come on by!

Life is Good,   Drew

PS:  The original painting was sold to a local realtor, who gave it to one of her clients as a gift.

Sometimes I feel like I'm pushing through concrete

I had a conversation with a friend yesterday who has worked in the surf industry for many years.  We were discussing business, the economy and life.

He was complimenting me on my great success.  This is a man I respect.

I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I feel like a failure.

The surf industry and the private club that it has become has not been very supportive of me.  To some I am just some kook who will not go away.

I make a living despite them because real people and real surfers can see me and they know who I am.  I guess in some ways I do feel successful, but not in the terms most people validate themselves.

My career has not brought me great wealth, but has allowed me to pursue  my goals and dreams.  My life is full of adventure, with great people, a wonderful family, and a freedom few enjoy.

I would love to have more financial stability but not at the cost of what I think is right or just.

Earlier in my career, I quit the two best gigs I ever had in the surf industry;  the first tried to tell me I could not create art after work, they held my job over my head trying to try to instill fear in me and the other employees, by using me as an example.  I quit on the spot because it was wrong.

I left the second company when it went in a direction I did not approve of, with new people I did not trust or want to work with.  That was difficult to quit; I had to leave everything I worked so hard for and start over.  My so called friends there  thought I was stupid wasting my opportunities and turning down a great pay check.

Many Companies do not want to employ people like me, they want robots, yes-men and paper pushers.  That’s just not me and I am not going to change for anyone.

I want to get things done and speak my mind.  They want to use me but they do not want me in their club to tell them they have become what all real surfers despise.

It seems I have always been here on the fringe, an outsider, independent. It is a very lonely place sometimes.

I know that I am lucky that enough people outside of the industry, like my art and can see me for who I am, to stand by me.

My wife and I could not have picked a more difficult way to make a living, but we have persevered beyond the surf industry and tried to lead the way for others like us.

We have had to invent new ways to do business as an artist and it has been a benefit to all artists.   I have been a professional artist now for over twenty years and we have survived the last few years where many have not.  I guess that is success.  It has been real people who have supported us over the years, and anyone who has met us in person knows what we are all about.

Our goal is to inspire people, and from reading many of your letters and feedback it has worked.  Thank you for allowing me to chase my dreams and feed my family, it is only with your support that we do so.

 I want to leave you with this request:  Support people and companies who are up to good things.  Abandon the false role models and leaders who occupy our world.
Somewhere out there beyond all the greed, advertising, propaganda, and spin is the truth.  The world has become so complicated and corrupt that it is broken, from politics to banking to the silly surf industry, and maybe even the business that you’re in.
We are all responsible for what we tolerate, what we buy and what we choose to support.
Wake up!  This is your only true power and voice.
I owe my simple career and what my friend calls success to the individuals who decided I was worthwhile and that I was up to good things.
There are many great role models, companies, and leaders out there, they need our support to succeed.
Life is Good,

Painting in the Studio Photo (c) David Macomber, Shark Sugar

“Nobody grows old merely by living a number of years.  We grow old by deserting our ideals.  Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.”  ~Samuel Ullman

Today I turned 41.

This time last year I was surfing awesome waves at Pipeline for my fortieth birthday.

Today, I’m celebrating at home.

I wanted to share a few things I’ve discovered throughout my 41 years:

  1. BUSINESS:  You have to constantly adapt to the ever-changing world.  It seems like about ten years ago everything started changing super fast.   Things that we did last year that worked, aren’t working now.  Maria and I have to constantly change what we’re doing to adapt.
  2. THE EARTH:  Needs more respect.  There’s no one thing we can do to respect it more; there has to be a total change in the way we treat the earth.
  3. SURFING:  It’s pure joy.  I’m going to be like my friend Gary Linden, surfing big waves when I’m in my sixties.  Quality over Quantity!
  4. MONEY:  Is always coming and going.
  5. GOD:  The concept of God is kind of abstract; is there really a man-like being standing “up there”?  I think it’s more like a Universal Energy.
  6. HEALTH:  Move or Die!  (I think there’s company named that)  Stay active.  Eat less.
  7. ART:  It’s just another way to convey an idea.  It can be deep and meaningful, making art.  I just try to make people happy with it.
  8. FAMILY:  Is the best part of life.   Makes you feel like you’re not alone.
  9. MARRIAGE:  Is better than being single.
  10. HAPPINESS:  The happiest part of my day is walking Dylan over the bridge and to his classroom.  It’s as simple as that.

What have you learned in your years on Earth?  Share in the comments, please.

Life is Good,



PS:  Photo above is by David Macomber, photographer and owner of Shark Sugar, NJ.  Please visit his Facebook Page at

PERCESSION 2012 painted by Drew Brophy, Uni Posca Paint Pens on 7’4″single fin retro 1970’s Surfboard shaped by Ron House.  POST UPDATE:  THIS BOARD is SOLD!  A portion of proceeds went to SurfAid’s Board Art Benefit.

(But, you can order your own Custom Surfboard Painting, click HERE for pricing and order form.)

There are 3 things that make this surfboard painting special:

1 – I’ve painted thousands of surfboards.  But this is the first where I’ve painted both sides and wrapped the painting around the rails;

2 – The proceeds are going to SurfAid’s Board Art Benefit and will provide food and water to the people of the beautiful Mentawai Islands, a surfing paradise;

3 – The theme speaks to the end of the Mayan Calendar in 2012 and what it could mean.

THE INSPIRATION:  I’ve always been fascinated by the stories of ancient civilizations.  Most people don’t know this about me, but I’m an amateur historian.  I can tell you about the history of just about any civilization with accuracy.

But I’ve never really painted these subjects until now.

The Percession painting was sparked during a recent trip to Puerto Escondido Mexico where I flew over the Ancient Aztec Pyramids at Teotihuacan in Mexico City.

A man that I met on my flight filled my head with crazy legends of the pyramids.  His stories inspired me to want to go there and stand on the top of the pyramid of the sun.

While surfing killer waves in Puerto a local there told me more stories of ruins in the jungle just outside of town.

He spoke of how the Zapotec Indians ruled the Pacific coast and built massive cities in the area around Puerto and Oaxaca.

When they put the road into Puerto Escondido they discovered a massive sculpture of the head of Quetzalcoatl, the god of the underworld.

The sculpture was so large they could not even move it. The road would have to go around it.

The Indians there believe an awakening is coming in 2012.  One man told me about strange lights he had witnessed in a valley, balls of light of different sizes and colors emanating from the horizon at super fast speeds for over a half hour, all of this sent my head spinning as I charged giant tubes.

Who were these people and where did they go?  With it being 2012 and all I could not help but let these ideas spill out onto my painting.

THE PAINTING:  The Pecession 2012 painting depicts the center of a crumbling Mayan Calendar being overtaken by the roots of the Tree of Life.  A golden snake spirals from the sky, wrapping around the surfboard. This marks the end of days and the return of Quetzalcoatl.

The pyramid on the bottom of the board represents a re-awakening of ancient knowledge.

The waves on the top and bottom of the board represent stories of the great flood and Mother Nature’s ability to reclaim the planet.

The balls of energy emanating from the calendar are spheres of light, essentially energy, our life force.

In the final days you will either be doomed to start over, or be transformed with this awakened knowledge. It begs for an answer to a question:

How have you lived your life?


*For insight on my history of painting surfboards, please Read “What makes a surfboard special – why you should buy this board” on the Board Art Benefit Blog.

This surfboard was painted for the SurfAid’s Board Art Benefit in Solana Beach, CA.  Other artists and shapers include legend Gerry Lopez and artists Phil Roberts, Spencer Reynolds, Matt Beard, Rick Rietveld, Eric Abel, and so many more great surf artists.

UPDATE ON 3-26-2012:  This surfboard painting was purchased March 2012 by collector Greg P. of Leucadia, California.



That's me, making the drop into KILLERS

“The waves are so hard to catch, like lassoing freight trains while trying not to get run over. Out of the thirty surfers that day most only caught a couple waves.”

There are three things that I know about myself:

1 – I love my family

2 – I love to surf

3 – I love to travel


My art is a mere side effect of these three loves.

Knowing what you love and what you want is everything.  From this point of view, anything is reachable.  You just have to push yourself over the edge and go.

An epic swell marched across the Pacific Ocean last week.  From Hawaii to Mavericks and Southern California, surfers went into a flurry of activity.

Where to surf?  For most surfers, surfing the local break on the best day of the year will do.

But for professional big wave riders, their careers are made on such swells, being at the right place at the right time and  getting paid to risk their lives.

And for a few of us, dreams of giant waves inspires us to dust off our big  guns and call  friends to line up a good, old fashioned surf trip.

The Island of Todos Santos off Baja Mexico would be the best place to go.

Such trips are what fuel my art, out-of-the-way places and giant waves that only appear every few years.

This is where most people get stuck; even me.

I wanted to go, but I had things to do, a ton of reasons not to go.  The clock was ticking and the waves were on the way, either I would be there to meet them or not.

Patrick Gudauskas charging

The waves would be the biggest at Todos.  Only the surfers who want it the most will be there. The surf spot is called Killers, a deep water cobalt blue boiling monster.

Todos Santos (Mexico) is a three hour drive from San Clemente.  Once there, you have to hire a boat and it’s another hour to the island and Killers.

Just like anything else in life that you want really bad; there are roadblocks, difficult decisions and logistics to overcome and make it happen, not to mention money.

I knew there were surfers just like me doing the same mad rush to figure it all out, to be there on the magic day.

I made one phone call to my friend Gary Linden.  Gary’s a master surfboard shaper and adventurer.  He’s a 60-something year old surf stoked grom who loves to RIDE BIG WAVES.  He answered the phone and said “we got a spot on the boat for you, get down here!”

I packed my gear, dusted off my 10’6” gun and kissed Maria and Dylan goodbye and drove South to the border in rush-hour traffic.

Once I crossed the Mexican border, the roads were empty, and the sky was black.  I pulled into Gary’s place at San Miguel.  There were figures around a fire, cooking in the darkness.  A welcoming voice called to me “you made it, just in time for dinner.”

The next morning  before dawn we began our voyage to Killers.  The dock was cold and still with groups of fishermen huddled together, hoping to rent their boats out to traveling surfers.  We were the first to arrive, and then other groups who had also made the journey showed up.  All of them had to push through their own roadblocks and logistics to be there, too.

The sunrise over Baja was intense.  Instantly, we felt the huge swells and Todos Santos began to grow on the horizon.  White water slammed and exploded on its point.  Slowly Killers came into view and dreams became reality.

The flotilla of boats took their places in the channel and surfers suited up for the ultimate challenge.  With no one out it was hard to tell how big it was; just massive blue swells in an endless sea.

Rusty Long leads the way

My friend Rusty Long was the first in the lineup and the first to catch a wave.   It is amazing that a man can paddle a ten foot surfboard into such huge waves and actually ride it.  With this first wave the session began.

Everyone knew that this was going to be a magical day.

As I paddled out I realized that I know or have met almost everyone there.  We all share a similar love for surfing and the big waves seem to call to us.

As surfers, you have one of two reactions when it gets really big:

*Either you can’t wait to get out there because you’ve been waiting for these kinds of waves your whole life; 

*Or:  it strikes the fear of God in you and there is just no way in hell you would even consider going out.

There is no in between, you are one or the other.

Of course every surfer has his limit; it’s soulful to push yourself and inspiring to see others pushing even further. At forty years old I am stoked to still be pushing.

That day at Killers many great waves were surfed.  It was pure glass all day with sunny skies.  Time melted as the hours went by.  I surfed from 8:30 to 4:30 nonstop,  as did most of the other surfers.

I only caught 3 waves in those eight hours, but that was my goal.  I was lucky to get that many. The biggest waves came late in the day and huge set came right to me, it would have been my forth wave, but my first love flashed in my mind (my wife and son) and I had to let it go and be content.

The waves are so hard to catch, like lassoing freight trains while trying not to get run over. Out of the thirty surfers that day most only caught a couple waves.

Really all you needed was one wave to be able to experience the ten seconds of taming a giant, and to feel the pure joy of achievement and bliss that you were there.

I watched as my friends charged over the edge of huge waves, knowing they were feeling this same joy.  It made me feel good about myself that I was more like them.  We push over the edge and we go.

They inspire me.  The waves inspire me.  The adventure inspires me.

The group of guys that were there, they are the rarest of surfers.  The most soulful.  They live for  these moments and I’m proud to be amongst them.

In the end, I am just a guy from South Carolina who always dreamed of surfing big waves.  Those dreams have taken me all over the world chasing them, meeting adventurous people and fueling my crazy art career.

I will just keep showing up and pushing myself over the edge, Just like I always have.

You should, too.  It makes life worth living.

Life is good – Drew

PS:  (Except for my sunrise photo above)  Photos courtesy of Captain Lonnie Ryan, a photographer who pushes himself over the edge, too.  Check out his website here:

PPS:  A great article written by my friend Jason Murray about that day can be found on ESPN here:  Topping it off at Todos.