His friends call him Yeti. A feral big-footed creature living mysteriously out in the wild — a fair description of Dave Rastovich. As a surfer, as an activist, as a human being, Rasta’s never been afraid to get dirty, go feral or live his own mythology. Over the past few years he’s led one of our sport’s most impactful environmental groups, starred in an eclectic array of film projects and discovered at least three world-class surf spots that remain entirely uncharted. For all his visceral physicality and animalistic activities, one might expect Rasta to be some idealist wild man. But in person he is humble, humorous and entirely human-like. —Nathan Myers
RASTA: Can we just drop the stupid colonist idea of naming something that’s already been named by the locals? At this wave we just surfed in the Mentawais, it was really cool to surf a new world-class wave for a few days and then leave it with no name.
George Greenough lives up the road from me and I’ve heard him say a million times, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” For me, the experience of surfing a wave that’s never been surfed is unrivaled in surfing. So I’m willing to put a little risk into the situation if there’s that potential.
My dad comes from an island between Italy and Croatia called Vis. It’s a group of tiny islands and virtually everything’s done by boat, so they’re real water-people there. I’ve heard Croatia has one of the highest rates of professional athletes per capita in the world, and something like that about super-models as well. I have a sister that’s 6’0” and another who’s 5’10,” but when we went there everyone was pretty much our size or bigger.
With my land on the Gold Coast, I’ve set it up here with such a humble situation — literally just a 10 x 12 foot cabin and a little tepee out back — I can easily walk away from it and it looks after itself. I lived on a farm when I was little, so it feels like a return to my roots.
I think regardless of your area of expertise — even something as abstract as being a paid freesurfer — you can use that for a purpose that you’re passionate about. I didn’t go to university. I barely scraped through school. But it hasn’t stopped me from meeting some pretty amazing humans and taking part in some amazing projects. Like at the Al Gore Summit I attended a few years ago, I was meeting politicians and environmental ministers from around the world, just blown away.
I’ve weathered a lot of different stuff over the last five years and I think that’s turned me into a man rather than this little boy that gets paid to go surfing and thinks only of himself.
If you listen to any great artwork, you see that there’s light and there’s shadow. Any great song, you have a bit of space between the notes to make it a piece that you appreciate. So for me, doing environmental work that often keeps me away from surfing has been amazing, because when I finally get back to the beach it’s fresh and exciting.
I don’t have this scheduled, linear year like the tour does, with 10 set stops and all this machinery driving it along. So I’ve got to come up with things in my own world that are exciting and adventurous and purposeful.
You go to any World Tour event, and it’s all about exclusivity. Fencing off the supposedly better people and putting them in these special boxes with security guards. To me, the whole energy of that isn’t very cool. But with this film tour — and all our Surfers for Cetaceans trips, really — one of the core values is that it’s inclusive. When we’re out at sea or doing something on the beach, we want people to come and join in with the activity. If too many people show up and it gets out of hand, wow, that would be the best thing ever.