Rapid response with Donavon Frankenreiter

On heroes, family, life on the road, and why Kelly Slater will never again call him for a round of golf

Donavon Frankenreiter cruising the streets of Acapulco, Mexico; photo by Justin Cote
I recently had the pleasure of spending a few days with singer/surfer/songwriter Donavon Frankenreiter in Acapulco, Mexico. Donnie had us in stitches and was strumming his guitar the whole time before he jetted off to Brazil to do a show on the beach following the Billabong Rio Pro. As we ate tacos and sipped cervezas overlooking Acapulco Bay, we got into a range of topics …

From dawn ’til dusk, describe your dream day.
Wake up really early at home with the family, hit the river and ride the endless wave behind my Mastercraft boat, head back home and grab surfboards, go down to our secret spot with the kids and my wife, and spend the rest of the day at the beach. Then we’d watch the sunset, come home, have a nice meal, and then it’s sleep time. That’s the perfect day!

Donavon Frankenreiter jamming in Mexico with one of his heroes, former world champion surfer Tom Curren; photo by Justin Cote

Who’s in your personal hall of fame?
I have a lot of surfing heroes. People like Tom Curren, Mark Occhilupo, Andy Irons, Kelly Slater, Johnny Boy Gomes, Martin Potter—man, I don’t know, there are so many great surfers. My wife is definitely a hero and inspiration too. And my kids—they’re like little mini-heroes!

I’m not much of a reader, but I went to Aspen [Colorado] to play music and visited Hunter S. Thompson’s house, called “The Owl Farm,” to hang out and do a photo shoot. I didn’t know much about him before that, but his wife at the time gave me these books about him, his life, and people that played him in movies. He had some wild times being a sportswriter, doing stuff for Rolling Stone, and covering politics—a pretty interesting guy. It was neat to see where he lived, to see his world. I guess his dream was to be shot into space by a rocket when he died. So Chevy Chase and Johnny Depp spent a ton of money on a rocket and shot his ashes into space. I heard the funeral was phenomenal!

What are you watching?
At home I’m forced to watch “The Real Housewives” [laughs]. My wife shuts the whole house down and makes us watch that, so I know all about that show… I watch a lot of documentaries, too. I used to really be into “The Office”; that’s a funny show. One of my favorite all-time movies is “Nacho Libre”—“Get that corn out of my face!”

What’s on your playlist? Including your guilty pleasures…
When I’m at home, it’s pretty mellow—like the Sade station on Pandora, just groovy, mellow shit. Then we kick it up a notch with the kids when we want to dance—maybe play some Snoop Dogg or a pop station like Bruno Mars and get our dance on. I’ve always been a fan of the old stuff, too, like Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix. I’ve really been enjoying that Pandora thing; you put on somebody you like, then it plays similar artists. A lot of times I’ll stop and be like, “Who is this?” Then I’ll go look at the computer to find out. It’s really neat; you can listen to a lot of artists in one day. As far as guilty-pleasure listening, I don’t have any. I’ll tell people whatever I’m listening to!

What’s your world view?
Mike Campbell, the guitar player for Tom Petty, once told me, “Hey, you wanna stay married? I got a tip for you.” I thought he was going to tell me something super serious; I was like, “Holy shit, he’s going to tell me something really gnarly.” Then he says to me, “Happy wife, happy life.” And it’s true. Those are words to live by, dude. Happy wife, happy life. It’s all that matters. She runs the show, so if the boss is happy, everybody’s happy!

Dead or alive, who would be at your private party?
Elvis Presley would be fun, so for sure Elvis. [Jimi] Hendrix would be great, John Belushi, Chris Farley, my wife, and all the cast members from “The Real Housewives” so she’s excited [laughs]. A bunch of surfers—Andy Irons would be there. It would be an open guest list—really anybody that could make it, friends or family. It would be one hell of a party!

Donavon Frankenreiter hams it up for the camera while on the road in Mexico. Photo by Justin Cote

Any regrets along the way?
Sometimes I get sad because I’m on the road so much and miss little moments in my family’s life—like when I was on a trip recently, my son lost his tooth. You can never go back and revisit that moment. I work seven or eight months out of the year on the road and haven’t figured out a way to be two places at one time. Kids grow up so quickly; my one son is 11 and my other son is 7. I feel like we just had them last year!

Most embarrassing moment?
I don’t get embarrassed too much; I laugh at myself more than anything. But one time while filming the “Drive Thru” series I put my wetsuit on backwards; that was pretty lame! Pat O’Connell knew it was backwards the whole time but was egging me on to put it on all the way, so I did. The kneepads were on the back of my knee, and I was like, “This thing is killer! It’s all high tech and brand new.” That was kind of embarrassing.

Oh, and one time Kelly Slater took me golfing; it was the one time in his life he called me to go golf with him.
We were playing with some pro guy and I was horrible. I was so bad. I showed up with the wrong outfit and everything was a disaster. I was like, “Where’s the f**ckin’ hole?” and he’s like, “It’s over and across that canyon!” I had these short shorts on and they were so bummed! I couldn’t even hit it to where the ladies tee off. I lost all my balls. It was really horrendous. I don’t think I’ll ever be invited to go golfing again.

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