Berry Liberman on Dave Rastovich
Until a few months ago, and to the great horror of a friend of mine, I didn’t know who Dave Rastovich was. Go down any street in any surf town in the world and you will see huge posters of a sun-kissed, carefree surf god curling his body around a wave in a feat of acrobatics the rest of us can only gawk at.
Dave is one of the world’s most famous free surfers. That means he no longer surfs the competition circuit. Instead, he’s sponsored to live the dream—surf on any board he likes, experiment with style—unburdened by the gruelling expectations of a commercial market hungry for male surfing stereotypes: aggressive, confident and dominant.
Dave is more your Jackson Pollock of surfing—a maverick, innovative, open and daring. He has used his celebrity to highlight the many grave issues facing our coastal waters and the life in it. He founded Surfers for Cetaceans and was involved in the documentary, The Cove. His environmental activism has sparked global movements, enabled formerly taboo conversations around whaling and dolphin slaughter to be commonplace and raised the alarm about climate change. For an unassuming, gentle and easygoing boy from the Gold Coast, Dave has become the canary in the coalmine for us all, sharing his love of the water in order to protect it.
Driving up to Dave and his partner Lauren’s home in Byron Bay, a back beach address far from the madding crowd, my husband Danny and I hear the distant roar of the ocean through the trees as we pull up to their idyllic beach shack. We’re greeted by Yogi the dog and Leonard the duck before a barefoot Dave emerges from behind a mountain of surfboards. The four of us begin a conversation over coffee and almond milk (not my favourite) that goes deep into the night.
For all his chilled, barefoot, almond-milk-drinking vibes, Dave is a deeply soulful, connected, smart and aware human being. It turns out surfing is a spiritual practice (which may be obvious to all the surfers out there) and I realise, despite travelling to monasteries in faraway places, I feel more connected to the deeper things in life talking with him than I have in any of my encounters with spiritual teachers.
One of the most beautiful aspects of Dave is his relationship with Lauren. Two free surfers who share the same values and support one another to be their best selves. This is something not a lot of people talk about: great coupling. People who, by being together, inspire and empower one another to reach their highest potential. Great coupling elevates mutual respect and intimacy as a pathway to wholeness. We hear so much about relationship breakdown and the modern condition of isolation and disconnection. Here is one team whose passionate love of the ocean and of one another is driving meaningful change in the surfing world and beyond.