Professional surfing has always existed in two separate but related realms — that of the competitor and that of the freesurfer. Just as there are a number of successful tour surfers who have never made an edit worth watching, there are also a lot of talented wave riders who haven’t found success in the jersey, or who don’t have any interest in pursuing competition.
But in San Clemente, California — arguably the beating heart of the surf industry — these two sides of the pro surfing coin seem to merge into one, largely due to the proximity of the world’s most rippable wave, Lower Trestles.
Live Cam: Trestles
Instead of being in one camp or the other, the talent in San Clemente finds a way to do it all and do it well — competing with the world’s best when the circus is in town and then putting together some of the most exciting edits once the dust settles and the jerseys are put away.
Ian Crane might be the ultimate personification of this duality. A lifelong SC surf rat, he’s found success in contests, even competing on the world tour level, but he has also built a reputation as one of the most interesting characters and watchable performers in the industry.
Crane is between projects at the moment and spending some time planning out what’s next for his career, so we figured it was a good time to chat with him about life, surfing, and how his hometown of San Clemente has shaped his approach to both.
I would ditch school to go down and watch my favourite surfers compete at Lowers — those are some of my favourite childhood memories.
“Growing up in SoCal was awesome,” explains Ian. “It is an amazing place to be as a surf obsessed kid. The entire surf industry is here and there seems to be a pro surfer at every beach, so being inspired and stoked is a daily occurrence.
I had a group of tight friends who all had the same aspirations to be pro surfers as well, and we just surfed as much as we could, competing in everything and having a blast. I don't think I've ever had a backup plan for life — it was always surfing.
As a rising star in the San Clemente scene, Ian had a chance to test himself against the world’s best a couple of times. “I earned two wild cards into the Trestles CT event through a local San Clemente trial they would put on at T-Street prior to the contest coming to town. Being in the contest was a dream.
"When I was growing up, I would ditch school to go down and watch my favourite surfers compete at Lowers — those are some of my favourite childhood memories. To be able to surf with them in a heat at Lowers was a dream come true. Who wouldn’t want to surf pumping, empty Lowers with the world's best! It just felt amazing to be a part of the show and have the town of San Clemente behind me.”
Ian has focussed more on freesurfing over the past few years, but the competitive fire still burns bright. “I'm a completive person and I love all sports, but over the past four years I've taken a bit of a break and only done a few events here and there. I was burned out on the QS — it had gotten to the point where it wasn’t fun anymore.
I had a lot of stress and anger about my performances in contests and that sort of ruined it for me. I feel like I've let enough time to pass now and I’m beginning to feel more drawn to contests than I have in a very long time, so I'm looking forward to doing a few more events than I have in the past couple of years. The regional US tour looks like a good time and a fun way to push your surfing.”
I don't think I've ever had a backup plan for life — it was always surfing.
In the meantime, Crane’s freesurfing has produced some of the most exciting moments in the sport over the past couple of years. “The past few years have been pretty nonstop for me, in terms of surf travel,” he explains. I'm lucky to be in the position where people hit me up for projects and to go on surf trips. Last year I was able to put out a profile film with O’Neill (Crane Brain), where I had a lot of creative freedom to go out and make something substantial and true to me.
"I spent a lot of time in Indo and Europe filming for that, and I've been spending a lot of time in Indonesia, which is my favourite place to be. O'Neill has also ramped up their surf video production and has been sending crews all over the world for their Strike Mission series. Last year we did Indo, Chile, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Hawaii. At the same time, O'Neill has teamed up with Surfline for the new series Maps to Nowhere (see episode 1 below) and we have gone on a few mind-bending adventures to some very discrete, far away locations and scored insane surf — like proper surf exploration.”
Obviously, Ian’s plate has been pretty full lately, but he doesn’t plan to slow down any time soon. “Over the next few years, I really want to surf to the best of my ability. I feel like I'm still progressing as a surfer, and I just want to go out and rip. I want to do a few more contests and stay sharp and be competitive — I think it's healthy for me to have a bit of structure. I also love filming — making videos and movies is such a fun process.
"I definitely want to do more personal surf projects, as well as teaming up with other people who have good ideas for videos and fun trips. I have a great crew, including my girlfriend, Kolohe Andino, my cousin Jason Crane, my roommate and business partner Gabe Garcia, Nick Green, Jaco Venderwork, the Colapintos, and everyone else in San Clemente. It’s such a fun crew here that you are always motivated to do something, and that’s exactly how I’d want it to be.”
Check out some more cams from the US west coast:
| Upper Trestles | San Onofre | T Street | San Clemente Pier | Salt Creek | The Wedge | HB |