The Home Coast
Noah Wegrich and Willem Banks north of Santa Cruz
You could compare Noah Wegrich to the Santa Cruz surfers of old. The Barneys and the Fleas and the Rats, as much characters as professional surfers. Or you could liken him to Nate Tyler. Stylish goofyfeet with long blonde hairs and big airs. But Noah Wegrich is very much his own man — hilarious, kind and earnest. The other day I heard him tell a friend that he was brave for reporting a crime to the police. But at 22-years-old he’s only technically an adult, with a Peter Pan innocence guiding his every cup of coffee, every beach day, every spontaneous fit of laughter.
You’ll often find Noah in his dusty Ford Ranger, scouring the coast between Santa Cruz and San Francisco with his partner in crime Willem Banks riding shotty. Willem is 19 years old and grew up in Bonny Doon, a small community 20 minutes north of town. “I was raised a little mountain child,” he says. “Biking, riding motorcycles, climbing trees, hiking and finding reptiles under logs. I could never live in a city.” This is a coastline he and Noah know well. Sneaky reefs and beachies and wedges galore. They often surf alone. And that’s how they like it.
These days, they film nearly every session together, teammates both on Rip Curl and in life. After surfing they’ll retreat to the Banks family property to unwind, ride mountain bikes and skate the half pipe. And while most California pros struggle on the ‘QS before “deciding” to pursue a career in freesurfing, these two know their path, and it doesn’t involve a jersey.
And if you think this Slow Coast existence is too sleepy or monotonous to last, know that they’ve got something much bigger up their sleeves. A week after shooting this feature with Peter Taras, the two of them paddled out to Maverick’s for opening day. It was Noah’s first time, Willem’s second. Each got his share of waves, each got pounded, each came in grinning wide. I saw Noah in the parking lot, buzzing. I asked how he liked it and he looked at me and said, “I can see why you guys love this shit.” –Taylor Paul
All photos by Peter Taras
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