In September, Eithan Osborne met Ashton Goggans and me by the luggage carousel in the Austin Airport. It was raining outside, and we were carting the 18-year-old to Waco for our Stab High event.
Eithan wore a vintage Nirvana tee over a long sleeve shirt (because 90s is vintage now). When we got in the car, both my and Ashton’s phones were dead, so Eithan plugged the Aux cord into his and took over the music. For the next two hours we listened to nothing but thrash, hardcore and a stony, doom-laden sub-genre known as mushroom metal. The fact that a hardcore/screamo scene exists, post mid-2000’s, was news to me. But I guess teenage angst and hardcore will never die.
Eithan, then a virtually-unknown aerialist from Ventura, would go on to win over everyone’s heart at Stab High. After the event, Dooma Fahrenfort, one of the event’s commentators/manager of Jordy Smith and Mikey Feb (who initially thought Eithan had no business in our air show), confessed, “Holy shit, that kid’s the real deal.”
Turns out making the finals, finishing fourth overall, and winning $20k was enough to kill skepticism dead…and earn him a wildcard slot into the WSL’s air tour.
After the final, I went to capture Eithan’s celebration—you know, for the Instagram story. As he’s not of legal drinking age (in the US), he paused for a second holding his well-deserved beer, and considered the aftermath of his public underage drinking. “Fuck it!” he laughed before shotgunning it for the dumbass holding an iPhone in front of him.
Roughly six months later, Eithan is on the upswing. He wouldn’t tell you, but from what we’ve heard he’s becoming one of surfing’s most sought after young talents – that after Stab High a mega shoe conglomerate were vying for him leading his marquee sponsor, Billabong, to up the coin in his contract. Eithan then made the final and qualified for the WSL air tour at the inaugural Red Bull Airborne event in France in October; he made the finals at the World Juniors in Taiwan, placing second to Mateus Herdy and winning even more fans with his no-fucks approach to every section that comes his way. This month, he won his first QS 3000 in Israel (where he surfed the entire finals day without his fins screwed in), and was subsequently courted by the head of ISA Israel to surf for Israel in the Olympics based off his Jewish heritage – which would give him citizenship in three countries.
He also just put out a short, “Suspended License”, that we urge you to view.
Eithan’s got no shortage of grom left in him, and we like that. So we caught up with the white-hot teen in between failed attempts to wrangle chickens at Sharks Cove on the North Shore, while he was getting ready for the Volcom Pipe Pro.
“Then I made the finals and I was like, well, you know what? I’m gonna try to win… and then I won.”
[A slightly distracted guitar riff hums through Eithan’s end of the phone as I loosely explain the goal of the below interview]
Stab: So, you’re sort of on the come up right now?
Does it feel that way to you?
Uh, yeah I guess so in a way. I’m doing better this year than I have every other year…
[Pregnant pause] Well… how was that win in Israel?
It was sick!
I wasn’t expecting to win it. I was psyched when I made the quarters and I was more psyched when I made the semis. Then I made the finals, and I was like, well, you know what? I’m gonna try to win… and then I won. [Laughs] That was my first QS win.
I heard you surfed the final without your fins screwed in?
[Laughs] Yeahhh [more laughs]. I forgot to screw my fins in the whole final’s day. I broke my fin box the day before, and they fixed it overnight. In the morning before my heat, I guess I forgot to screw my fins in.
How’d you figure that out?
I went to pack my boards later that night and I noticed my fins weren’t screwed in. I don’t know if someone did it as a joke, or if I forgot to do it in the morning. But either way, I surfed the finals without my fins screwed in. I don’t know how they didn’t come out.
You’ve been doing a lot of unorthodox airs in competition, how have the judges been reacting to you doing shuv-its and stuff in heats?
[A rooster coos loudly in the background]
Umm… pretty good. I did one of those side flip things in Israel, and I got like a high eight. Then I did a pretty good backside air and I got a nine. They were loving the airs. If you could get a big ramp, you were getting at least an eight.
Confirmed: Tail high leaps still in vogue in 2019.
You’ve always been more than apt in the air. But it looks like the recent switch from Roberts to Channel Islands has really turned on your rail surfing.
Working with Mike Walters, who shapes my boards at CI, and communicating with him has been really sick. It’s easy to tell him what I need and what works good. It’s a good relationship that I think is helping a lot.
I’ve been riding for Channel Islands for about a year now. The guys at CI are just legends. I was on Roberts for a long time and he was with me forever, he shaped my first surfboard. But, eventually it just made more sense to go over to CI. Which sucked, because I love Rob, but I think the switch is paying off.
You still have that $20k from your Stab High biggest air win, or you burn through it already?
I put it away in my travel budget. I haven’t really spent any of it yet. But I think I’m gonna buy a truck once my little brother gets his license. He’s gonna take my Volvo and then I’m gonna get a new truucckkk.
What’s been the biggest moment of your career so far?
Hmm… Stab High gave me a lot of confidence, then I went straight into Worlds and I did well there. Then winning that QS in Israel. Those three gave me a big ole boost.
Whoaaa… I just nailed a chicken with a French Fry!
[Laughs] Nice work. You qualified for the WSL’s air tour as well, right?
Yeah, that’ll be cool this year. I’m going to try and make a longer film out of those trips, too. There are three events—it’s going to be during Snapper, Keramas and France and run during the CT like it did last year.
Where out of the three stops are you most psyched for?
Keramas, for sure! Then, France is fun—but Snapper doesn’t look that good for airs. I’m not sure if they’re going to do it at Snapper, like all the scaffolding is there. Maybe they’ll do it at Dbah, is that close to Snapper?
Yeah, it’s like a two-minute drive.
Oh cool. I’ve never looked at Snapper and thought, Oh that’s a sick place to go try and do some airs.
But France is sick. It’s hard, but you can find good ramps in France. And yeah, Keramas is just gonna be nuts.
Whose surfing are you inspired by most?
Dane [Reynolds], Noa [Deane] and Chippa [Wilson]. Dane just for about everything. Then Noa for his huge straight airs, and Chippa’s just Chippa. He’s so gnarly; he’s, like, better on a soft top than I am on my regular board.
What does a good year look like to you, right now?
Well, there’s gonna be Stab High comps right?
Well, if I go to those, I want to try and win. Then I want to do good in the WSL air shows and finish top 70 on the QS. My goal initially was to make The Triple Crown, but those 3000 points from Israel helped me out a lot. So I need one more good event to get into the Triple Crown.
That seems like a good plan. This is random, but Sam Moody [Stab‘s filmguy and longtime friend of Eithan] was saying your sister is a nationally recognized trapizest?
Yeah, she’s gnarly. She’s wins Cirque Du Soleil contests and stuff. She’s actually going to a college in Canada—it’s a Cirque Du Soleil college. Dude it’s sketchy, she’s like at least 20 feet in the air holding on to a piece of silk by two fingers, upside down. It’s wild.
I have two siblings, I have a younger sister and a younger brother. My sister is 17 and my brother is 15.
Inspection of a CI whip, roadside in France.
So you’re the role model then?
I guess so, they don’t listen to me though….
Ooh, I’m gonna grab this chicken!
Yeah, I don’t know. They don’t listen to me… But we’re all starting to be friends instead of fighting and Liam [younger brother] snitching on me [laughs]. It’s funny to see your younger siblings becoming their own person. It’s sick.
Yeah, it’s nice when everyone gets a bit older. What have you been listening to, music-wise lately?
I’ve been trying to find a lot more mellow music because I always listen to grungy, agro punk shit and heavy metal. I’ve been trying to expand my music vocabulary. I’ve been listening to a lot of Spacemen 3. Then a lot Minutemen, and some old school Slim Shady stuff.
[Laughs] You mean Eminem?
Yeah! Like, the Slim Shady LP is so sick. I don’t listen to much rap. I don’t like anything new, the new stuff is such garbage. It’s not even rap, they just say the same thing over and over again. It’s just like bass drop…. “And bitches”… [Laughs]
Pretty accurate. What do you think about surfing’s inclusion in the Olympics?
I think the Olympics are gonna be good. I don’t know how they’re going to run it but if they do it right it’s going to be really cool.
You’re a dual citizen in France and the US right? You going to try and surf for France?
Yeah, I have a US and French passport. I have no chance to compete for USA and I don’t really wanna surf for France, but I might try and surf for Israel.
Really? How would that work?
My mom’s side of the family is Jewish, so technically I am too, even though I’m not religious. So all I need is to do is find my grandparents’ marriage certificate, then I can get a passport, and that’s it. Israel is different, being a citizen is based off religion. Like, if you’re Jewish you can become a citizen of Israel.
Do you think a lot of Jewish surfers are going to try and go that route and surf for Israel?
Yeah, I think so. You just need to have proof that your ancestors and you are Jewish.
How’d you find out about that?
They approached me while I was there. The dude who was running the contest was the head of the ISA Israeli Surfing Association, and they told me it was possible. So I’m going to try and do that if I can.
Surfing is getting big over there. It was overwhelming how many surfers were out when I was there for the QS
Does Israel have any successful surfers on the QS?
No, not really. They have some good surfers, but no one that’s killing it on the QS or anything.
So they’re scouting surfers to compete under Israel?
Yeah! I need to figure out the requirements and if it’s going to interfere with my year.
I guess you’d have to weigh the options, like how much will being part of a Olympic team boosts your value, versus another year on the QS. Seems like a no brainer if you can make it happen.
You’d get a lot of financial backing, just from the Olympic committee. Kanoa [Igarashi] did it, he’s getting a bunch of money from Japan. I feel like everyone is going to try and get into the Olympics anyway they can.
I don’t know, maybe I’ll blow up in Israel! [Laughs]