“Know Your Rights” is a semi-regular column featuring profiles of and conversations with local surfers whose love for the ocean fuels their passion, in turn inspiring a deeper connection to the Northeast Florida community and making the RIGHT coast the BEST coast on which to live
It’s a warm spring afternoon and the ramshackle compound where North Florida surfer Dane Jefferys keeps an office is customarily busy. Aside from housing the East Coast operations of perennially offbeat action sports-and-lifestyle brand Volcom, as well as all the distinctive, surf-and-skate-related ephemera those operations entail—amps and guitars, some custom art works by team rider Ozzie Wright, merch, banners, posters, and an assortment of random objects all emblazoned with the ubiquitous Volcom stone—the Mayport compound is home to homegrown skate pop-up promoters: Instaramp. Other local creatives, like artist and surfboard shaper Wayne Satterwhite, who is here today, tend to pop in and out. It’s a fitting HQ for Volcom, a brand that earned international distinction—even reverence—in the 90s and 2000s with its “youth against establishment” ethos; promoting irreverent art and music, and sponsorships of ardent nonconformists.
Since 2014, as Volcom’s man on the ground in Florida, Jefferys has been tasked with rolling the Volcom Stone, which over the course of the past 20 years become an now-iconic symbol within action sports subcultures, traveling up and down the eastern seaboard, keeping the brand relevant and connected to beach-adjacent communities through events like last spring’s Rage for a Reason, in which Jefferys more or less chauffeured professional surfers Ozzie Wright and Ryan Burch (prominent members of Volcom’s surf team) and two bands down the Atlantic Coast of Florida in a giant stone-emblazoned tour bus, visiting shops and hosting pop-up art and music events to raise money for charity.
After catching up with the folks scattered about the compound, Jefferys and I dip into his office within the warehouse. After sitting down behind his desk he picks up a rendering for the promotional materials for this year’s Matt Gray Memorial, a community-focused, surf-and-skate contest that Jefferys and his childhood friends, Satterwhite and Taylor Jensen, have organized for going on a dozen years. “Look, there’s The Poles, there’s Wayne [Satterwhite] skating,” he says smiling as he IDs details hidden in the busy pen-and-ink drawing. He laughs before exclaiming, “And there’s T-Dog [Taylor Jensen] building a fire!”
To know Jefferys is to know there may be no better acolyte for Volcom—or any surf-related brand for that matter. A talented surfer, he was a longtime shop guy, stacking the wax and rapping with customers about boards, baggies, and street wear at Sunrise Surf Shop for 13 years. Raised by educators—both his parents taught at Neptune Beach Elementary for more than three decades—he considered becoming a teacher, himself. But it’s through surfing that Jefferys has been able to connect with people, using his platform with Volcom and his broad connections to impact the local community in significant ways. And this year Jefferys was given the opportunity to impact on an even broader community of surfers, as he was named the Event Director for the 2019 iteration of the Volcom Pipe Pro, an enormously important surf contest held each February on Oahu’s North Shore: the Mecca of the surf world. It was a daunting responsibility to be sure. Besides the logistics inherent in wrangling the assets needed to put on a contest for 100-plus of the world’s best surfers at the world’s most famous surf spot, Jefferys feat was carried out with an additional sense of urgency. Jefferys’ wife, Whitney, was due to give birth the same month in which the contest was scheduled to run.
Today, it’s all good in the ‘hood of Mayport. The contest is in the bag. Jeffery’s baby girl is healthy. And luckily for me, she’s worn her dad out enough that his typically manic energy has been subdued enough for us to have a coherent chat. I asked Jefferys about his life in surfing and how a surfer from North Florida became the point man for one of the biggest contests in all of surf.
What’s your earliest memory of surfing?
My earliest memories are of just wearing a fullsuit with my baggies on underneath and hanging out at the beach all day [laughs]. I had a boogie board first. My parents said once I could stand up on it, they’d get me a surfboard. Then, I remember going to a house to buy a pink-bottom, yellow-top, quad-fin Water Weapon. My dad put Turtle Wax on the bottom because he said it would go faster.
You worked at Sunrise for a long time. How did that experience help you transition into your role with Volcom?
I loved working at the shop. [Sunrise owner] Dan [Brooks] was a great mentor and I found that I really loved just talking to people about surf and surfboards and connecting with people. Growing up, I was always a fan of Volcom. The way they had music, art, and surfing, snowboarding, and skateboarding. [Former Volcom East Coast Marketing Manager] Daniel [Terry] was a huge part of helping the brand grow here in North Florida. I would go to the contests they put on. They were the most fun contests around. There was one at The Poles where they had no tents or tables, just a couch on the beach for the judges [laughs]. I just thought they were different and outside-the-box. At a certain point I just asked Daniel if I could help with anything. He brought me on the road to MC the contests and setup, breakdown, and whatever. From there he’d bring me to the big retail events. Later he got a job as the North American Marketing Director and had to move to California. He trusted me to keep what he’d built going here.
Your parents were teachers. You saw yourself going into education. Are there times in life where you feel as if your parents’ influence has helped you succeed in your line of work?
Yeah. I remember growing up, people would always come up to my parents and say, “You were my favorite teacher,” or, “You taught me so much,” and that really stuck with me. I always just wanted to have a job that was meaningful, where I could help people and share my experiences.
So you were asked to run the Volcom Pipe Pro this year. Can you talk about what that contest means to surfing?
Yeah, it’s 144 surfers. We run four days so that we could allow more Hawaiians, more locals, into the event. It’s about giving back to the area and the people who surf that wave everyday. So that’s different. It’s one of the best waves in the world and everybody wants in the contest because you get to surf with just three other people in the water. Where, typically, there’s like 100 people out.
Is it intimidating to try to wrangle all this stuff in a place where you’re not a local?
It is but Hawaii is so full of Aloha and positivity, that–especially if you show respect and show that you’re working hard on behalf of this great event–people trust you and go along with you. We rely heavily on the local community. But Volcom’s been running this thing for ten years, so people know it and love it. Which, that was another thing: not only was this my first year running the contest; we were celebrating ten years. So that added some pressure. I just jumped on the bull’s back and rode it, I guess. [Laughs].
You’ve plenty of experience running contests and organizing events. Notably, the Matt Gray Memorial, which you’ve been organizing for 12 years. What’s that event all about?
Matt was such a rad dude and great friend. We surfed and skated together and I always thought it would be cool to pair a surf contest with a skate contest. It was really hard when he passed away. All of my friends and I had a tough time with it. The year after he died we thought, “Let’s not be down on it anymore, let’s turn this into something positive.” The first year we just had a little get together and surfed. Then we made it a contest, added a skate comp. Year five, we started raising money to give college scholarships to students from Fletcher High School. We’ve raised more than $65k to help kids go to college. Now it’s become this big thing where I’ll hear young kids who never knew Matt asking each other, “Hey, you doing the Matt Gray this year?” It’s a really cool way to keep his memory alive.
The 12th Annual Matt Gray Memorial Surf & Skate Contest will take place Sat. and Sun., April 19 & 20 at Atlantic Beach Skate park and Hanna Park, respectively. Sign at sunrisesurfshop.com.
This “Know Your Rights” column originally appeared in Void Magazine’s April 2019 issue.