From the Renaissance classics, to contemporary cartoons, Al Wrath has been immersed in art as much as he has the ocean from a very early age.
As many of us did, he began on two feet and took to laying down on the job later in his surfing life, but when he did. It ignited an even deeper passion for the ocean and all it can offer.
Connecting with us at Garage Handplanes, Al united his two passions, fusing art and bodysurfing in his exclusive t-shirt and handplane designs, and the results were epic. The carbon Onyx Riva model featuring Al’s simple yet superb graphics has been our fastest-selling model to date and the colab has been an ongoing success.
So who is Al Wrath? We pinned him down and picked his brain:
Garage Handplanes:When did your art begin in life & as a career?
Al Wrath: When I was 6, I remember spending a day hanging out with my Grandad. That day he had been teaching me about Michaelangelo the painter. Later on, I was going through a magazine that had a bunch of pull-out double-sided posters. I remember feeling embarrassed that when I opened one of the posters it had New Kids on the Block on one side. I turned it over out of embarrassment and on other side was Bart Simpson. At that moment, I remember analysing the poster and thinking “that’s what I want to do when I grow up; become an artist.”
GHP: Have you always been North Island, New Zealand-based?
AW: I have spent most of my life living in New Zealand. I did spend a few years as a kid living and going to School in Perth, WA as well as living at Avoca beach, NSW in 2014, but now call Auckland home.
GHP: When did surfing enter your life?
AW: I started surfing ‘97 when I was 14. I used to work for a guy across the road who sold pot plants at the markets. He used to pay me $5 an hour after school to hang out with geriatric parents filling pots up with soil. I saved up to buy a 6’3” shortboard with glassed on fins. Where I grew up rarely gets waves, so a guy named Phillip, who was a friend of a friend, would take me and my mate surfing up the coast in his 1972 Chrysler Valiant.
GHP: How did your love of bodysurfing come about and how do the two now integrate?
AW: I started bodysurfing back in 2011. I saw what Danny Hess was doing and was blown away. I spent that summer shaping my own handplanes from plywood. I had so much trial and error. I once made a hand strap from rope. On my first wave, it just about broke all the bones in the back of my hand! I then worked out shaping a handplane that worked and made about four to give to my wife’s brothers and dad. They didn’t seem as enthused about bodysurfing as I was. I spent that summer bodysurfing Copacabana and Avoca.
GHP: There's definitely a surf influence in much of your art, but also a graffiti / street style. Is that how you interpret the ocean and surf inspiration or something else?
AW: I find I get caught up creating art inspired by the things I love. Surfing has always been the common thread that has dictated a majority of the decisions in my life; where to live, what to do for a job. I find being at the beach is where I feel the most happy. It just naturally comes out in my artwork.
GHP: What's the bodysurfing scene like in New Zealand? Is it a very dedicated tribe, being colder water and so on?
AW: Ha ha, cold water!! Yeah the water here is freezing in the winter. Two years ago I surfed in the Catlins at the bottom of NZ’s south island. I have never been so cold in my whole life. There seems to be barely anyone bodysurfing there. I live in the busiest city in New Zealand and I can still surf our local beaches mid-week with nobody else to be seen. So to meet another bodysurfer would be incredible.
GHP: Where's your local wave?
AW: Where I live is only a 45-minute drive between the west coast and the east coast. Based off wind and swell I just jump between the two coasts. I recently moved to a beach called Orewa and we have a sand bar that breaks when the swell gets over one metre up north. It’s actually incredible. You can get a wave for over 150 metres on a log. My local spot on the west coast is Muriwai and my local on the East Coast is a spot called Te Arai.
GHP: What has been your best bodysurfing experience?
AW: Last April I surfed Currumbin Alley in Gold Coast. 3-4-foot, howling offshore in the most insane white out monsoon rain I have ever seen. There must have been about 100 guys in the line-up. I picked off so many long rides. At one point, I nearly made it across the river mouth all the way to Laceys.
You can find out more about Al and his artwork at: WRATHstore.com
Check out the Wrath-Signature products on www.garagehandplanes.com.au