Exit Through The Surf Shop

posted by / Photos / November 7, 2013

All Photos: BERT

Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast. Slater Hater – San Clemente, CA

Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast. Slater Hater – San Clemente, CA

The Incredible Adriano - Oceanside, CA

Rip Curl Pro Bells. The Incredible Adriano - Oceanside, CA

Jordy Redeems in Rio - Somewhere in San Diego

Billabong Rio Pro. Jordy Redeems in Rio - Somewhere in San Diego

Volcom Fiji Pro. Fiji’s Favorite Champ: Kelly Slater - Encinitas, CA

Volcom Fiji Pro. Fiji’s Favorite Champ: Kelly Slater - Encinitas, CA

Oakley Pro Bali. Parko Conquers The Spartan - West Hollywood, CA

Oakley Pro Bali. Parko Conquers The Spartan - West Hollywood, CA

Ace’s Pile of Severed Heads – Encinitas, CA

Billabong Pro Tahiti. Ace’s Pile of Severed Heads – Encinitas, CA

Hurley Pro at Lowers. Taj Burrow – The Biggest Grom on Tour – Oceanside, CA

Hurley Pro at Lowers. Taj Burrow – The Biggest Grom on Tour – Oceanside, CA

Quiksilver Pro France. Mick 86es Medina – Pacific Beach, CA

Quiksilver Pro France. Mick 86es Medina – Pacific Beach, CA

Rip Curl Pro Portugal. Kai Otton’s Big Catch – Solana Beach, CA

Rip Curl Pro Portugal. Kai Otton’s Big Catch – Solana Beach, CA

Jenga The Crown, The Other Falls Down.

Pre-Billabong Pipeline Masters. Jenga The Crown, The Other Falls Down.

The trail to Lower Trestles has long been the epicenter of street art in surfing. You can hardly walk three steps without laying eyes on a brilliant expression of imagination and intellect. You might read, “Mike sucks.” Or “John has a chode.” Or you might just find yourself stepping over a depiction of an actual chode. The port-a-potty by the tracks is scribbled with poems such as, “Poop or die.”

But amongst it all, something actually makes sense. It’s a painting on the I-5 overpass that shows Kelly Slater prying a Quiksilver Pro trophy surfboard from the hands of Joel Parkinson. It is thoughtful, finely detailed and worth stopping to appreciate. Turns out it was done by a street artist known as BERT, and that he does one (or more) after each ‘CT event. I called BERT and he exposed more details about his interesting quest. Unfortunately, it is still unclear as to whether or not Mike truly sucks. —Brendan Buckley

SURFING: How did you come up with the idea to do this?

BERT: I started thinking about it when I began watching webcasts about 7 years ago. I’ve watched every single WCT contest nearly in its entirety ever since. Art and design are things that I’ve done since I was a grom, along with surfing and skating. I’ve just always felt comfortable in the water and on the streets. These worlds eventually collided one day at a flat design job when I got busted one too many times for sneaking contests on my monitor. I quit and began hitting the streets on my own terms.

How long have you been doing this for?

I started doing ‘CT art immediately after the Quiksilver Pro 2013 at Snapper with the piece titled Slater Hater at Trestles, but learning the stencil design, technique and the ability to get it up in the streets without getting nabbed has been a life-long ride. I was the grom that would draw cartoon characters on the walls at school or scribble the word FUCK on playground walls. I guess I’ve seen blank walls as canvases for as long as I can remember.

Do you have a street art background, or was surfing your first foray into the field?

After ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop’ by Banksy came out, every kid wanted to be a street artist and so the streets became littered with shitty photocopied portraits of Marlyn Monroe on 8.5 x 11 pieces of paper. But I’d been exploring in the shadows since way before that movie came out. You create what’s on your mind. I’m stoked on surfing, skateboarding, music and the coast. All these things eventually found their way into my art over the years, but the ASP-themed pieces began a few years back as sketches during contest broadcasts. Then I got stoked on them and they eventually found their way into the streets.

At one point do you decide what you’ll paint for a contest?

I usually watch contests with a beer and a sketchpad. Pages fill with ideas as the contest moves forward, and I find the drama and humor within each event. I’ll have idea options, but it really depends on who wins — unless something crazy happens like John John’s ‘oop in Bali. I knew there were going to be 2 BERT pieces for the event when he stuck that. Some ideas come immediately, like when Adriano broke the Bells trophy, but others keep me up at night. Once an idea is finalized, I gather photo references and work on some vector art. Then I hit the studio where I create each life-sized stencil by hand and prep it for installation. I am also scouting and stalking walls while I do this.

What is the closest you’ve ever come to getting caught?

Getting art in the streets consistently without hitting the reef comes only after many years of learning how the streets work. I grew up skating and spending hours each day watching how the streets worked. It’s just like surfing. You need to sit and study the swell and the conditions before you paddle out. Get the right equipment and plan an exit strategy in case you slam.

What’s the typical punishment for a man who gets caught doing what you do?

Who knows. It’s always different. I guess they would show you a collection of photos of all your work. It would be a nice portfolio. I’d ask for copies.

Do you have any big picture goals with this?

Kelly puts it best: “To be the best you can be at something, you got to have a little bit of obsession.” I couldn’t stop even if I tried. I’m stoked for 2014 and hope to take the BERT project on the road following the tour.

If by chance you’re around…
WHAT: BERT ART SHOW with photos by Steve Sherman
WHEN: Friday Dec. 13 6pm-10
WHERE: 3rd Stone Surf Shop at the Waialua Sugar Mill on the North Shore

Or you can follow BERT at bertslideart.wordpress.com/

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  • yeah guy

    thanks for telling us that you were a “street artist” way before “that” movie came out.

    (Banksy is a failure). google it, read it. you’re a copy cat. get over it.

  • mark

    Wow man, this was a super inspirational piece about a real hero. I mean, who wants to hear about actual successful athletes or shapers or anyone who is actually moving surfing forward when we could learn so much from an unemployed graffiti ‘artist’ who basically draws a cartoon once in a while? I honestly still think I maybe didn’t read this right – is this dude actually worth even knowing about? He is not even really doing anything! If painting a little cartoon once a month on a wall is somehow commentary worth paying attention to, shit man, let me know when you can send over a reporter to profile me – I have been doodling waves on old envelopes when I am on sitting on the phone and I must have TONS of those around, in fact I was doing it way before it was ‘cool’.

  • Scott

    I have seen his stuff around the internet but thought he was backed by a company. All this stuff is illegal. That is awesome. Major props!!!

  • EWL

    Really? This is maybe one of the worst things I have ever read. This guy 1. has no talent and 2. No originality. I’m going to put my money on that he doesn’t even surf and never has. Why would you copy someone else’s style (Banksy) and call yourself an artist. Are you guys running out of story ideas?

    Please do not give this guy anymore exposure and let him be one of the many nameless wall sprayers who think this some sort of art by breaking the law. If you were a real artist you would have done your art on a permitted wall and donated your time to making the area beautiful. Stop glorifying criminals. If your that good I know plenty of people who would be stoked to have their boards designed graffiti style.

  • masniffur

    sorry Mark…..guess your extreme intellectual knowledge of art gives you the perception that one must be in your circle of artists to be ”cool”…who cares if someone is unemployed or not most artist are…you might think he’s not doing much in his work but how much have you done? It’s ok to feel jealous….we know you love it deep down…that’s why your a hater…because your weak….why else would you say ”shit man, let me know when you can send over a reporter over to profile me”…..your false pride smells of low tide intercostal sewage…

  • Franky

    You haters are tripping. He is one of million stencil artists. It’s a standard aesthetic used by everyone. His content and twist on a scene that has never been tapped is original. It’s like saying an oil painter is not original because Rembrandt used oil. Real artist paint on permission walls only? Serious? I guess the only real artists are the corporations designing billboards and advertisements.

  • EWL

    Actually my point again, is that spraying walls with stencil and satire isn’t original! What is original is maybe anchoring off a buoy with your art on it during an event. You can think this guys “art” is cool I just don’t think its worth all the hype. It’s not that amazing or thought provoking for that matter. And you can throw corporate in the conversation all day but it negates the fact that you at some point have owned something surf corporate. We can sit and argue “art” all day but it still won’t change the fact that he is just doing what has already been done by Banksy.

  • SuperRad

    The only reason this guy is getting attention is because that photographer Sherm likes him. To me it just looks like this BERT guy is doing a quick fame grab. The guy seems very into himself also.

  • ItsOnlyAParkinglotWang

    The trail to Trestles, the Guggenheim of surfing!

  • notroll

    I think Banksy is cool but I like surfing way more. Bert is both. That is so sick. Who cares if he is influenced by Banksy. He puts his own twist on it. He places art in daring places. How does he even do it? Don’t listen to internet trolls. Shit is awesome keep doing it Bert.

  • Rick

    i can appreciate his passion, he’s stoked on the contest scene, he took a style and made a statement, its pretty obvious that he has some skill. really i would be surprised if the industry didn’t pick up on what he was doing. i think its a cool light hearted interpretation of the current tour. keep it up


    The Taj piece is one of the best things I’ve ever seen

  • Surfahnoarty

    Yeah, Bertie. Don’t mind the trolls. Asking a surfer about street art is like asking Ellen Degeneres about blowjobs. It’s pointless for everyone involved. Surfers aren’t generally known for their, uh, how you say… diverse cultural sensibilities? I’ve never been part of a group who travels more and sees less. Well, very little beyond the limited stretches of coastline where they scrounge for hidden reef passes. So, 9 times out of 10, surfer opinions on urban art (or anything urban, for that matter) are pretty ignorant. Come do a piece here in SF, Bert. Near OB. The locals would dig it.

  • Q

    I think its cool to have a surfing “banksy” but Bert as to step up a bit because the stencils are lacking quality.

  • Joe Schmo

    Surfers as a whole are ignorant, uneducated, uncultured, selfish, losers, dropouts, degenerates, and rejects of mainstream society. Especially if you are a ‘soul surfer’ over the age of 25 with no athletic ability or competitive accomplishments. Surfers never have, are not, or ever will be respected or admired. While I enjoy surfing I’m honestly ashamed to be a surfer and never tell anyone I surf b/c there is nothing good to come of it.

  • Klonapin Keith

    Holy shit are u clowns saying anyone invented stencil art…go back to the village and track down a 1975 Pratt Skool drop out. can control is way more impressive then stenils