The Accidental Surf Star

Had it not been for an unwanted Christmas present, 24-year-old Dion Agius might have ended up a professional boogie boarder. When he was a kid the young Tasmanian was already earning shots in bodyboard mags, but watching his son ride prone was a sight Dion's father just couldn't abide. So one Christmas the old man presented his son with a brand spanking new surfboard—the last thing the teenager wanted. What he really wanted was a new bodyboard. "I was bummed," Dion says now.

He might have been a filmer, too. His father had been working for Surfing Australia, the governing body for Australia's maniacal bent on competition. By high school Dion landed a gig filming surf comps, editing clips and posting them to the Surfing Australia website. If the stars hadn't aligned and granted him a few good competitive results at the last minute, he would have shipped off to university to study film. As things turned out, Dion got picked up by Globe and proceeded down a path to becoming an aquatic aerial acrobat.

And even with his success in notoriety around the water, today you might mistake him for a hipster working in the fashion world. His look is honed. He's got a taste for designer gear—something that's gotten him into hot water with his clothing sponsor. He reads fashion magazines—women's fashion magazines. He hangs in Hollywood and Sydney with extended stays in Southwest France.

And yet, all of the might-have-beens add up to a genre bending athlete. With the release of the new film Modern Collective, Dion joins a small cadre of free surfers who are pushing the sport and rewriting its culture. The old, floral print surf world is just "rank." So are still shots, offshore winds, and big waves. "One-offs" and "tow-ats" are on the way out the door as well. Dion's crew is looking for onshore wedges, ramps, and winds that glue the board to the feet at liftoff. They're looking for crappy little waves to punt big airs. And they're competing for prime position among their group in a totally new way as well—via "clips" posted online, in videos, on blogs. Style is everything both online and in the water.

This is where Dion's various skills merge. Because of his previous film experience, his blog is a dance party mish-mash of surfing and ragers, exotic locales and crumbly beachies. He travels with his best friend and filmer, Beren Hall, who after earning a Master's in business, presented Globe with a interesting proposal: let Dion do whatever he wants, and Beren will film it. The result is a kind of celeb/reality on a surfer's salary.

The danger of all that liberty is that free surfers' careers often end a lot quicker that those of competitive surfers. Dion suffered an ankle injury last year, and with it, a rare lack of confidence. While re-habing, Beren said, Dion's surfing just wasn't there, and Beren worried about Dion's career. It wasn't his ankle, however, it was his head. Watching surfers like Jordy Smith continue to excel while he was sidelined did Dion's head in. And that's the rub for this intense, Internet-fed competition brewing among today's most progressive surfers. Every swell and every aerial is documented and posted, making the competition hyper-speed and un-stoppable. Beren said that he just talked Dion out of his funk. In France this fall, Dion surfed at the top of his game. But you get the sense that Dion understands the odd happenstance that made him a pro surfer at this time in space is something to be celebrated and not fretted, and that simple knowledge alone seemed to lift his surfing into the world class.