Dispatch From The First Official SurfPunks NFT Hoedown At The Waco Pool

by Coral McDuffee April 17, 2022 4 min read

For those not privy to SurfPunks, it’s an NFT collection with a series of 500 unique digital characters that can be bought, held, and traded on Opensea’s io NFT marketplace. 

It’s a small niche in the modern craze that’s driven blockchainers to spend millions of dollars on digital art with dreams of riding their appreciated value to the moon. And there’s big money in it, jaws hit the floor when the pixelated alien avatar Crypto Punk 5822 sold for 8000 Eth, or $23 million USD. 

Admittedly biased, I believe the pixelated version of Kelly Slater (sold for 5.5 Eth or $16,657 USD at time of publishing) has far more intrinsic value. A SurfPunk NFT from this collection grants the holder exclusive rights to the icon’s digital ledger and access to this new blockchain paradigm. The NFT also serves as a golden ticket to unique in-person activations, such as meet-ups at Central Texas’ premier artificial wave. 

Out of the 500 v.1 SurfPunks in the collection, there are 355 holders. Despite tornado warnings, roughly 70 SurfPunk owners ranging in age from 17-50, spanning across the States, made their way to Waco for their first surf and crypto mixer. There was Jee, an 18-year-old day-trading grom from Newport, Rhode Island; Cole, aka Colezilla, a young barrel-hunter from Oahu; Reece, a concept artist from Los Angeles; and a few larger players in the crypto world who preferred to remain anonymous, as that would violate the premise of digital freedom and space that cryptocurrency is built upon. 

Stoked not broke. Photo by @thekingslens

After unmasking aliases from the SurfPunk Discord chatspace, the first session was on. EDM overtook Waco Surf’s classic rock playlist, speakers pulsed, and the surfing ranged from ordinary to offensive, with a few natural talents in the mix.

Later, soaking post-surf in the spa, Reece — who was one of the standouts of the day — discussed his transition from island life to the L.A. scene. A concept artist for Trover Saves the Universe (the PlayStation VR game from Rick and Morty), he lives in a perpetual childhood dream. I asked what drew him to SurfPunks. 

“The unique part of this project is to have an aligned interest like surfing that goes beyond the NFT realm,” Reece said. “The ecosystem fostered here is productive. It’s not just bot spammers trying to flip tokens for a quick buck. There are real conversations: guys shootin’ shit, surfing, and sharing ideas. If the value appreciates, that’s great, but at the end of the day everyone is here for the community.”

There was a clear sense of connection amongst the group — even though they’d never met IRL. The engagement in Discord between the founders, shareholders, and surfers set a strong foundation for the SurfPunks community to thrive.

The author with a little crypt and nay-nay. Photo by @thekingslens

Koa Rothman and Nathan Florence, a couple of big swingers in the “Crypto Surf League,” showed up later in the morning looking a little dusty — in a triumphant sporting a cowboy hat and still standing kind of way — likely the effects of the SXSW Music Festival raging in Austin over the weekend. 

They proceeded to hit Waco’s air section with a full weekend worth of punts in one hour. While the pro window was supposed to be an expression session just for Koa and Nate, they changed plans and invited the groms to join them. After the session, Jee and Cole came out of the water looking like they had won the lottery.

Cole described the whole event as, “Pretty much a surreal experience. You’re talking about blockchains one second, then the next catching waves next to Koa Rothman and Nathan Florence.”

Throughout the afternoon, conversations veered topographically from surf techniques to portfolio strengthening tips. The members seemed no less enthralled than when they were waist-bending into tubes a few hours earlier. 

Although a fusion of the surf and crypto space seemed implausible, this event proved that it works. A lot of the credit goes to SurfPunks co-founder Andre Mataele, a surfer and entrepreneur from Oahu, Hawaii, who organized the event. 

SurfPunks co-founder Andre Mataele basking in another excuse for a day at the pool. Photo by @thekingslens

Fluent in both Surf and Nerd, Andre’s figured out how to marry the two realms. By leveraging his understanding of the crypto space and connections to the surf world, he’s created some real hype for the new blockchain paradigm.  

Lately, Andre and his co-founder Conrad Carr have been working on the recently released SurfPunks v.2 launch, which added 1,000 new characters to the mix. In v.2, the holders will be able to use their 3D Punks for a VR experience in the metaverse. Bringing to life a surf-enthused-NFT-holder’s fantasy of interacting with icons in an alternate island reality. 

So, is SurfPunks a good investment?

Crypto is inherently volatile, and NFTs are the loose-hanging fruit off the ethereum blockchain. When the wind blows, the fruit is the first to fall. A bearish investor wary of market volatility is unlikely to perceive NFTs in general, and SurfPunks in particular, a viable investment tool. 

However, even a skeptic can’t deny that ownership of a SurfPunks adds utility value. An exclusive invite to a wavepool event where holders meet fellow Discord members and some of the world’s best surfers is the indisputable selling point, and an experience that goes well beyond cashing in digital tokens for dollars.   

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