The Greatest Mistakes of My Life, with Sterling Spencer
“When I was a kid my mum made me cut my hair because she didn’t want me to get lice at school,” says Sterling. “She’d spray it so much with hairspray it wouldn’t move. It was just this shiny, rigid part down the middle of my head glistening in the sun.” Here, Sterling, with a slash of shears, turns cute into dried fruit. Photo: Morgan Maassen
Family: Not keeping in touch with them as much as I should have when I was doing all the travelling. When I was younger I never called my parents, ever. They were never too stressed but my dad passed away a couple of years ago so you always wish you spent more time with them.
Surfing: I should never have gone in circles doing contests and shoulda stopped being like every other surfer and just doing whatever I was into, like doing funny stuff and being me. Then I’d be like, more famous now instead of only kind of famous.
Career: Not starting an Instagram a couple of years ago. Because I started an Instagram late you can’t be as famous. And if you don’t have a good Instagram you’re barely hanging on to be a pro surfer. I saw Taj has a phone app, so maybe I could do one of those. Like, a live feed of me all day. I think I need my own webcam app or maybe a camera in my glasses so you could always see what I see. I’m watching the Olympics right now.
Mates: I’m so bad at keeping in touch. I never check my phone for some reason and people are always texting and calling me. People think I hate them but I’m just in my own world. You have to call someone near me to get me on the phone. And I always break it.
Cars: The first time I went to West Oz I got a million tickets. Two speeding tickets, parking fines, and they sent me all these things trying to take my licence away and send me to jail. I can’t rent a car in Australia anymore, I don’t think. I never paid the fines, so I guess I’m never going there again.
Travel: Going to Brazil for a surf contest. It took so much travel just to get there and then you’re in a four-man heat and somehow there are 10 Brazilians sitting on you. First heat and everyone hates you from the beginning – they all hate you. You’re stressed out and you lose and you wanna leave and you can’t understand anything, you can’t order anything, everything is against you, then you get out and you’re, like, (makes a relieved panting noise) “Oh my god.”
Investments: Friends that you let borrow money and never see again.
Contracts: Every contract I sign I’m like dammmmn! Every time you go to sign a contract they’re, like, “There’s no money, the economies really bad, we just dropped 10 people and we were going to drop you but we’re not.” And by the end of it you’re crying, so you’re, like, “Yes! I’ll take it.” And then you see them later that night and they’re tearing hundreds in half, just burning money.
Women: In middle school, I asked four girls out at the same time because I didn’t know anything and was like this is what you gotta do you. You gotta ask them out at the same time and one will pick you. And then I had four girlfriends at the same time and instead of telling them the situation and cruising out of it they all hated me.
Social media: There are a million mistakes in that world. It all seems like a mistake at the moment but nothing is ever that big of a deal. I wouldn’t really call the Jeremy (Flores) thing (where Sterling hilariously dubbed a clip of Jeremy walking up the beach at J-Bay to make it look like he refused to sign a child’s autograph) a mistake. I think the biggest mistake was when I fell on the dude surfing and it was caught on video. I did this air at Lowers and I totally landed on this dude who couldn’t really surf and it looked like I did it on purpose. The guy was actually French and was super sorry ‘cause he cut me off. He thought I did it on purpose and was gonna beat me up. And I was like, “Nah, I tried to go around you but I aired on you (laughter).” They put it on the Internet and it took off like wildfire. Suddenly it was like, “Sterling wants to eat your child, Sterling wants to burn your house down.”
Photo by Morgan Maassen
Written by Elliot Struck, for Stab Magazine.