The Sanuk Opening Act Experience: Donavon Frankenreiter in the Philippines!

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The Sanuk Opening Act Experience: Donavon Frankenreiter in the Philippines!


Donavon who? Let’s be honest. Donavon Frankenreiter isn’t that well known in the Philippine surfing community compared to World Tour superstars Kelly Slater, Taj Burrow and Julian Wilson. After all, Donavon is a FREESURFER. That means he travels around the world and surfs without the pressure of competition, the media frenzy and the scrutiny of the spotlight. Freesurfers surf for pure enjoyment and you can literally see the flow of style and good vibes in their surfing. Rather than surfing for points, they surf for the soul and sometimes it is even better to watch freesurfers doing their stuff than to watch the calculated, robotic surfing in competitions. That said, Donavon Frankenreiter is probably one of the best freesurfers around.

Aside from surfing, another passion of his is music. It’ll be hard to categorize Donavon as a musician because there are so many styles that can be heard in his music. There’s reggae, disco, funk, hawaiian, alternative and acoustic. But one thing’s for sure, if you surf or if you dig that same vibe that surrounds the ocean, you will definitely love his songs. The term “good vibes” has been overused already, but that is exactly what you get from Donavon’s music. He has 7 acclaimed albums now and has worked with good friends Jack Johnson and G Love and has performed with an ecclectic array of musicians.

this video probably summarizes everything said above

Sanuk Brings Donavon to the Philippines

Sanuk, the brand famous for making those innovative and ultra-comfortable sandals perfect for the surf lifestyle, brought Donavon together with Sanuk founder Jeff Kelley over to the country for the Sanuk Opening Act – a surf and music event held at the surf capital of the North in San Juan, La Union to welcome the start of the surfing season. This is quite a landmark event as the Philippines rarely get to accommodate big name figures in the global surfing scene.

Luckily for us here at LokalSoul we got invited as media guests for the event and we got to get up close and personal with Donavon Frankenreiter and Jeff Kelley. We were at the press event, private performance at Gweilo, Makati and at the Sanuk Opening Act at La Union. It was epic. Who knew you’ll get to meet your surfing hero let alone talk and drink beer and get in the surf with them in real life. Wheewww. Below is our Donavon experience as told in pictures.

Press Event at The Plantation, Makati

 it’s a not so normal day in Makati


 because Donavon is here!

Yours truly interviewing Donavon and that’s Sanuk founder Jeff at my left and musician Matt Grundy at my right. Dear readers, we are going to post the interview in a separate blog post because man, I asked tons of questions. But just to give you a teaser of the interview, here’s some excerpt of our hilarious and comical conversation.

Pop Questions

LS: Are there any songs in your ipod/mp3 player that no one will believe you have?

DF: Wow there’s so many stuff in my ipod. Well you can find Justin Bieber thanks to Jeff. Jeff gave me all his songs (laughs). Seriously though I got Snoop in there, some old stuff some new stuff.


LS: If you’d become an animal, what animal would you be?

DF: Oh that’s easy. An eagle. Yeah man, I can just be up there and fly in the air and watch things from above.


LS: Best guitarist ever? Best band of all time?

DF: Whoa. Best guitarist. Let me see.  Jimi Hendrix (he is wearing a Jimi Hendrix t-shirt, has a son named Hendrix). Best band? Depends on what you like really (names Radiohead, Wilco, Led Zeppelin).


LS: Kelly Slater is about to win his 11 world title? Which would you choose: 11 World Titles or 11 Grammy Winning Albums?

DF: Hmmm (thinks deeply). I think I’d go for 11 world titles. But can I have 1 grammy winning album please? (laughs)


LS: If you’re not a surfer or a musician, what would be the day job most perfect for Donavon?

DF: Gardening. You know. Anything about the earth, the soil. I’ll be good in that. Landscaping. That kind of stuff.


During the interview I cannot help to stumble and stutter. Hey, last night I was just watching his surf and music videos then here he is right now talking to me about surfing. I first listened to him in 2004 when his self titled album came out. Never did I even thought of meeting him. Never really entertained the possibility. But after playing and listening to all his songs and watching all surf videos I can find, there he was at that day, as cool as I imagined Donavon Frankenreiter would be. Thank you Sanuk.

after the interview, i had my trucker hat signed. the hat says “I got Lei’d in Hawaii” pictured with a hula girl’s round butt. Donavon loved it and took a picture of my hat on his phone! So cool. (photo by Kage Gozun)

took this picture of surf friends and fellow interviewers Elaine and Kage. We were all stoked meeting Donavon!Elaine passionately writes about Philippine surfing in magazines and Kage is a long time surf photographer. Follow Kage’s tumblr here. (photo by Elaine Abonal)

Private Performance at Gweilo

After the interview, Donavon was set to perform at a private acoustic session at Gweilo

opening words by Sanuk founder Jeff Kelley

upcoming surfer/musician Kitya Ferrer chilled the place with her original songs

and then Donavon and Matt took to the stage. the acoustic duo performed the well loved songs of Donavon, from It Don’t Matter to Heading Home, from Free to Love, Life and Laughter.

crowd and media stormed the front to catch Donavon performing

Donavon amazing finger plucking skills


friends having a blast that night

and of course, autographs. brushingaw boys Roni with a signed Indo board and Nikko a Fender guitar!

Such a great night at Gweilo. We were actually there early enough to be able to catch Donavon on his sound check. Nobody was there yet and it was like a private performance for us! Then came the night where friends came and the venue became jampacked. Friends from the Manila Surfers Association were there and some key surf figures were to be found in crowd, namely Joey Cuerdo and Luke Landrigan.

Free beer all around. Sanuk sure knows how to throw a party. Next stop, La Union!

Sanuk Opening Act in La Union, Philippines

Sanuk on the beach (photo by Sanuk Philippines)

a great day awaits  (photo by Mica Ferrer)

Saturday Oct 22 found a sunny Urbiztondo beach. Forecast for the weekend was actually looking grim, reporting only 2ft waves. But it was blessed day that day. When we got off the bus we immediately went out in the water and paddled out to nice glassy 3 to 4 footers in the morning at the bowl and at the Point (surf spots). And would you know it, Donavon paddled out too! Cool man!

Donavon getting to surf the Philippines, L.U. style!

The day’s event started off with the much anticipated Sanuk Costume Surf Competition, an event no stranger to La Union and Manila surfers. This I tell you, Manila surfers take the the costume surf competition seriously. They surf with the most outrageous costumes and they surf so well. Check out the last Manila Surfer’s Cup Costume Surf Competition here.

Chun Li, Wonder Woman (kind of), Braveheart and Homer Simpson are few of the characters who paddled in the Sanuk surf competition. Hey, there’s two Chun Li’s in fact.

that’s Sanuk founder Jeff Kelley with Chun Li, Pocahontas, Wonder Woman, Chun Li 2,Violet of the Incredibles, Braveheart with a bamboo sword, Homer and Lilo and Stitch.

Chun Li and Wonder Woman who forgot to shave that day. Mad props to the guy.

crowd ready for some action

and LU local Menchie dazzles the crowd as Princess Jasmine (awesome photo by Kage Gozun)

that’s Tereze Lumdang, the child surfing wonder, being incredible

and the judges love it

After the competition is over, Donavon wanted to get as many surfers to paddle out and surf one wave together. And so we hurried to get our boards and join may others who wanted to participate.

a Sanuk party wave. yours truly is in the picture with an all yellow  5’7 fish 😀

After an exciting costume surf competition, the fun didn’t stop as games of Beasal and Frisbee took place. Now for hefty Sanuk prizes waiting for the winners, the beach games was as intense and exciting as the surf competition if not more.

LU boys battle each other in a game of Beasal

and while everyone else is chillin’ out in the shade, our friend Mica of Agos Pilipinas had her ukelele signed by Donavon. and much better than that, Donavon tuned and played some chords on the ukelele! awesome!

the Sanuk area where sun drenched bodies cooled off with ice cold Coors Lite beer. some even had more than others. and that would be me. again, thank you Sanuk.

After the activities, we went out and surfed again. Then as the sun went down we got back to the beach just in time to catch Donavon doing a sound check at the Sanuk stage. Not to be overly dramatic, but it was indeed a magical day for us here at LokalSoul. The sun, the surf, your friends – and Donavon Frankenreiter playing his guitar singing his songs. That is the stuff we daydream about and in that moment it is happening. Couldn’t ask for more. Surfing does have its blessings. Here is a stoke that will remain for a long time.

Donavon and Matt Acoustic Night Performance at the Beach

After dinner everyone gathered around the stage that was lit by surrounding torches. Perfect for the laid back mood that night. But before the acoustic duo of Donavon and Matt Grundy took to the stage, the guests were treated to a traditional dance performance of the local ladies of La Union. It certainly made the night more intimate.

lovely hula ladies

Awarding time! Tereze wins the Sanuk Costume Surf Competition. Wanna know more about this young surfing prodigy? Read about our feature on Tereze here. As we were told, Sanuk is about to sponsor this 7 year old (or maybe 6) and could very well be the future in Philippine surfing.

and now is time for the acoustic show

everybody chilled (photo by Sanuk Philippines)

and surfers Buji of Coast thru Life and Alf Molo got Donafied (photo by Mica Ferrer)

The culmination of the Sanuk Opening Act, Donavon Frankenreiter and Matt Grundy filled the air with music. Again we hear those songs that we played again and again on our Ipods many many moons ago. But on this night, Donavon is playing live. Dream come true right here.

Lots of things happened as the night went on. Donavon and the guys ate balut right at the stage much to the delight of the crowd. After that Donavon signed autographs and posed for pictures. If people didn’t know who Donavon was before, definitely they do have a warm connection with him right after. Donavon has a song called “Glow”, and at the end of the night everybody was indeed glowing.

Sanuk Opening Act: a memorable event made possible by the people of Sanuk Philippines

We would like to thank Sanuk Philippines for this momentous event. Much thanks to Vangie Chua and Ian Belleza for inviting and accomodating us. For Donavon and Jeff Kelley, well, being thankful is an understatement. But pretty much their visit will become part of Philippine surfing’s history and we are so glad to be part of it.

Sanuk’s mantra is to “Smile and Pass it On”. We hope that this feature made you our readers smile. And hope you could also pass it on.

*Many thanks to Kage Gozun, Elaine Abonal  and Mica Ferrer for their pictures. They are awesome people. Thanks Sanuk Philippines. Visit their Facebook page here. More power to Sanuk!

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