Drew Brophy is probably best known for his surf art. He’s worked with some of the biggest companies in the world and has been featured numerous times in books, magazines, and television features.
His art is highly recognizable and can be seen around the world. In fact, one might describe Myrtle Beach native Drew Brophy as a world famous surf artist. That description would be correct.
A native of the Myrtle Beach area, Brophy, grew up surfing local breaks like the Dunes Club on the north end of Myrtle Beach. Surfing was his passion, and art was a hobby that he enjoyed. It just so happens that this hobby has provided a lifetime of surfing.
“When I was graduating high school here, I wasn’t sure of what I would do,” Brophy recalled while taking a break from the mural he is painting for Lulu’s Cafe on Ocean Boulevard in downtown Myrtle Beach. “For me, I was good at surfing and good at art. There wasn’t a whole lot of opportunity for me to do that here.
“So, I went and followed my passion for surfing and then figured out that the art could help pay my way. Now I get to design stuff for companies all around the world. I get paid to go to different countries to work and take my family with me.”
“He was highly respected, and he was contestable in contests, but his drive was to go out in bigger conditions. He was just known to go out in challenging surf, and persevere.” longtime local surfer Chal Lester recalled. “He’s a charger. He would charge the biggest surf without any hesitation. He sat well amongst the ranks in contests but where he shined was in free-surfing.”
Surf City Surf Shop owner Mark Allison concurs, “He’s always been driven by going surfing in the most extreme conditions. He wasn’t happy unless the surf was borderline dangerous.”
That drive and competitiveness transferred easily into the art world as well.
Steve Taylor’s Native Sons apparel company was in its early days when Brophy began working there. Taylor remembers a kid that would get the job done.
“If I gave him a project to do, he always took the initiative to get it done. I didn’t have to look over his shoulder.” Taylor continued, “One of the first art projects he worked on was for the Crazy Horse. Drew said, I think I can do a crazy design for this and I said go for it. Drew put something together and the owner at the time really liked what he had done.”
Local shaper Todd Sutz worked with Brophy in Hawaii when he was just beginning to airbrush surfboards, “Drew had just gotten back from his journey to Mexico and I was living out in Hawaii. We were looking for an airbrush artist and Drew called me up. I told him to get on a plane and come out here and he could give it a shot.
“He showed up, and he started just being a basic airbrush artist with us. I tried to get him to be more than a surfboard artist, because he was that good. We were doing the top brands at the time, Rusty, Channel Islands; all the biggest names were coming to us.”
Brophy recalls, “I had never met Todd and he told me to come on out, and I stayed on his floor. I got a job and the next thing I knew I was painting surfboards for the biggest names in the world and surfing the biggest waves in the world.”
“Drew then went out to Cali to work with Bill Stewart before finally landing at Lost Surfboards. He came back to Hawaii a few years later and by then everyone wanted him,” said Sutz.
The talent that led to Brophy becoming one of the most recognizable names in surf art began early. Orlando artist Jennifer Payne remembers, “Every time we had to do any art projects in high school, he always blew everyone out of the water.”
Lester tells the story, “At homecoming in high school, they had him paint a Mickey Mouse on this huge billboard, and it wasn’t your typical Mickey Mouse, it was sort of an edgier version of it. It was his perspective on it.”
That unique perspective has allowed Brophy to surf the world and have experiences some would only dream about. But, he’s never forgotten his roots. Brophy talks about his early days, “As kids we didn’t realize how great Myrtle Beach was maybe, and now looking back on it, after surfing all around the world and being in all these different places, you realize what a cool town this is.
“I was always the kid in high school doing the stuff, pep rallies and designing stuff. It’s not that I set out to be an artist; I set out to be a surfer, and painting my surfboards and then painting boards for different companies around the world allowed me to keep surfing and traveling. That essentially was my dream.”
Back in town for a couple of weeks to paint that mural for Lulu’s Café, Brophy is grateful for the opportunity, “I’m just really happy to be able to come back here and leave a piece of my art that’s really big, and it’s nice to see all of my friends. I hope that the art inspires young artists in the town and realize that it takes a community to create a person like me. All those people that helped me get to where I was going, I just really appreciate that.
Now the young surfers, they get to see me ride big waves, and it makes them realize that they can do it to. The world is out there waiting for them.”
A humble, soul surfer that has found his path in life.
Allison says it best, “Drew is known all over the world in the surf industry. He’s like a rockstar. But, the people that grew up around him, they all know Drew as the youngest of five siblings. He traveled and took off and made a name for himself, and he’s the same guy that left Myrtle Beach. He’s got no real airs about him.”
”Locally, the surf community really helped me as a kid,” says Brophy. “When people see this mural, it’ll put a smile on their face and they’ll think of me. That’s a really unique thing to have. I’m proud that I’ve lived a life that I want to live. I pulled it off. It wasn’t easy but somehow I was able to pull it off.”Photo Credit: Gregory Letts