by Eugenio Volpe
Every local surf scene needs a dynamic brotherly duo. Throughout the ‘80s, the North Shore of Oahu had the Ho brothers. San Clemente not only had the Fletchers, but they also had the McNulty brothers. I think there were five of them (you know how it is with Irish Catholics). In more recent times, the surfing world has come to know the Hobgood and Irons brothers. There’s also Cory and Shea Lopez. For some reason, surfing brothers always get more media attention. We’re somehow more impressed when two people share a common shredder gene. It’s like, what are the chances? Growing up, I’d always wanted an older surfing brother, someone to compete against, a person who was both a rival and mentor. I forced this on my two best friends instead. Our favorite local surfers growing up were Joe and Pat Walsh, both of whom ripped. Pat still rips but Joe has long retired from surfing. For the next ten years or so, the South Shore wouldn’t know the excitement of having two brothers tearing apart the local lineups.
In recent years, however, brothers Dan and Steve Hassett have emerged as the area’s top surfing talents. Dan has always had both a face and voice in the New England surfing community, both in the water and on the Internet. Whether it was his early successes in ESA events or his hilarious message-bourding amongst the NESURF forums, he’s always entertained and impressed. Steve, on the other hand, has always been the low-key one. He didn’t participate in as many ESA events. He didn’t have a NESURF messagebourd name. He’s always been the kind of guy who quietly did his thing, which is ripping the hell out of waves with fast and precise turns. Steve also charges the big stuff.
Like his older brother Dan, Steve spent four plus years in Hawaii studying at Honolulu. He studied hard and surfed hard. He returned to the South Shore this summer with a degree in engineering. I hadn’t surfed with him much over the past four years. He was usually only home during the summer months so the lack of swell prevented us from getting in the water together. I’ve surfed with him numerous times since his return home and it’s been more than a pleasure to see. Steve’s one of the most progressive surfers around, but he’s also got old school mechanics. Surfing with both him and Dan is always inspirational. They both love to surf and that energy spills out in the lineup.
Another benefit of having two local brothers who rip is the argument over which brother surfs better. My friend and former Levitate Surf and Skate owner Bob Pollard introduced me to Dan and Steve when they were still groms, but even then, it was obvious that they’d quickly progress into the South Shore’s top surfers. Bob surfed with them quite a bit in those days and he’d always report on their ripping. When I finally started surfing them with myself, it was always my opinion that Dan had the slight edge over his younger brother. Bob believed the opposite. We’d argue our respective points as if comparing other famous athletic rivalries: Ali-Frazier; Brady-Manning; Occy-Curren. Surfing over the past few months with Steve, I have to admit that the comparison has become an equal one. Both brothers rip and it’s come to the point that you sometimes can’t tell them apart on a wave, especially when donned in winter gear. Given Steve’s tendency to shy away from the spotlight (he refused to be interviewed for this piece), I was pleasantly surprised to find out that he entered the recent Core Cup contest held in Maine. Steve did the South Shore proud by winning second place against some of New England’s top surfers. He’s definitely the favorite local surfer amongst South Shore groms and youngins. He’s quickly becoming this old wiseman’s favorite as well. Congrats, Steve!
Steve Hassett at Scion Core Cup in Maine, November 2011
Eugenio Volpe is a literary author currently living in Bristol, RI. He's published work with Post Road, New York Tyrant, Superstition Review, The Delinquent, Twelve Stories, decomP, and many more. He's won the PEN Discovery Award for his novel-in-progress and been nominated for Pushcart and Best of the Web prizes. He teaches writing and literature at Roger Williams University and blogs about surfing and Don DeLillo at mebeingbrand.blogspot.com.
by Mike Marks
Kevin Cunnigham turns beached flotsam into performing works of art. He's featured in the new film, One Beach, premiering Tuesday, September 20th.
More than anything else, Kevin Cunningham wants you to know that he shapes performance surfboards. Once you've got that fact in your mind he'll be pleased to inform you that, beyond performance, the materials he uses in his boards are as environmentally friendly as possible. The foam cores are recycled EPS, the rails are made from fast growing paulownia trees and the top and bottom wooden skins come from poplars. Shaping green surfboards puts Kevin in the forefront of a quietly growing movement to make the reality of surfing as eco-friendly as its image. But what really sets Kevin apart is his passion for beach trash.
Kevin likes to walk along beaches and pick up marine debris from the wrack line to reuse in his products. He especially likes tangled fishing lines, old nets and frayed ropes - he can weave those elements together to make something akin to fiberglass cloth. Casting this former flotsam in clear epoxy resin he creates surfboard fins that are one of a kind functional works of art. The results are beautiful and carry a message.
Kevin explains, "My goal is to raise awareness and show people that even though this is trash washing up on the shore, we can put a positive spin on it. People will think a little more and maybe they won't throw as much trash into the ocean."
Kevin works his surfboard alchemy through Spirare Surfboards in Providence RI. The name "spirare" comes from the root latin word for spirt, the breath of life. His passion for giving pieces of beach trash fresh life as things of beauty is now being recognized in the new film One Beach. Presented by Barefoot Wine, directed by renowned surf filmmaker Jason Baffa and produced by Farm League, One Beach tells the personal stories of people who are using creativity and innovation to help keep the world’s beaches “barefoot friendly:”
• Richard + Judith Lang (California): Collect plastic from their local beach to create large sculptures, installations, photo tableaus and jewelry
• Kevin Cunningham (Rhode Island): RISD graduate who builds surf boards from beach trash
• Barbara de Vries (Bahamas): Fashion designer who makes jewelry and fashion t-shirts from found beach plastic • Tim Silverwood (Australia): Environmentalist who founded non-profit Take 3, focused on beach health and taking the time to pick up litter
• Jim Moriarty (California): Avid surfer and CEO of Surfrider Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to the preservation and enjoyment of the world’s oceans, waves and beaches
The first installment of One Beach debuts on Facebook on September 20, 2011, with subsequent episodes posted weekly for five weeks following the premiere. To view the trailer and watch One Beach when it premieres on September 20, visit OneBeachFilm.com. Join the conversation by using #onebeach.