In high school San Clemente-based artist Drew Brophy's guidance counselor told him, "Drew, you can't just surf and paint your whole life." Ever since, Brophy’s spent his life proving her wrong. He’s made a career traveling the world, chasing adventure and waves on SUPs and surfboards and painting artwork inspired by those travels. His painting has become one of the most influential styles in surf art and the scenes he paints, he lives. Whether surfing, standup paddling or painting, the world is Brophy’s canvas. –MM
How did SUP find you?
I was in my late thirties and I couldn't get motivated to surf all the time if the conditions were bad or there were no waves. When the waves are bad I'm moody and Ron (House) was like, "Why don't you come standup?" Immediately it was tremendous. It gave me something to do when I couldn't surf.
So you were there at the start.
Everyone takes it for granted now because it's been around for a while. But imagine in those early days, there's nobody around, just Ron and I and a couple other guys. You're just riding these waves forever and you're not even getting wet. It just expanded my repertoire of surfing. It's just another form of it.
What kinds of opportunities have grown out of it?
It has allowed me to get into other bodies of water whether it be rivers or lakes. I'm a water person. I'm bummed if I'm not in the water. Through my art, I get a lot of opportunities to travel. We went to New Zealand for a couple months and there was no one doing standup yet. My wife and son got to explore these cool rivers on them, I got to ride Raglan as long as you could possibly ride one of those waves and surprisingly, people weren't being rude to me. They were just flipping out that I could ride a wave that long.
Has standup culture developed an artistic side?
The sport didn't grow for a long time and then all of a sudden exploded. I don't think it's evolved enough. I don't think there's been enough time for artists to develop. It's taken people a long time to realize I could airbrush their SUPs and personalize their overseas boards. Art doesn't always sell so the big companies—to be successful—make their boards stiff and generic.
Talk about your Grand Canyon trip.
That was pretty much like, "Yeah, I'm gonna learn to surf so I'll paddle out at Pipeline." I was real naïve. At that point we'd only heard of a few guys that had been on the Colorado with standup boards but they all only did pieces. Nobody had done it all the way through. We did 225 miles, every bit of it. It was a super-humbling experience for me. I saw some of the gnarliest, scariest things I've ever seen. But we surfed the river, man. Big laterals coming off and you bank off of them and come down and hit these pits and come up out of it and into the next one. The river thing, I'm down.
How has standup changed your big-wave game?
I wouldn't say I set out to surf big waves on my standup but it's just turned out that way. I've already surfed big waves on my regular board and it's great but it's much more of a challenge to do it on your standup board. The same people always come out of the woodwork who really want to be there and ride big waves at places like Mavericks or Todos or Nelscott, no matter what craft you're on. All those people know who you are and you know them. They've seen you ride waves. They still heckle you but they know how hard it is.