Friction Free Finless with Taylor Miller

Taylor Claire Miller is one of those stereotype defiers. She’s at once a diehard surf rat and an academic. Oxymoron? Nope.

Taylor is the daughter of famed Californian big wave surfer Rusty Miller and Canadian community activist Trish Miller, both expatriates living in Byron Bay Australia. Taylor is a an articulate writer and a graceful slider. Check out her finless experimentation in the video above and her interview about the experience, below.

Taylor helped edit The Sea Kin ‘Zine.

1. Tell us about your involvement with The Reef and how it was significant to you?

Well to give you some context – The Reef is a collaborative surfing and music project. Last month we spent three weeks in ‘residency’ off the Ningaloo coast with the Australian Chamber Orchestra (ACO) and a crew of gifted surfers. Essentially, The Reef is an amalgamation between Free Friction (finless) surfing and a variety of music types – classical to rock to indigenous – an experiment dreamt up a few years ago by Derek Hynd (amazing free friction surfer) and Richard Tognetti (head of the ACO).  The project will culminate in a 100-minute silent film with musical accompaniment and will tour as a concert series around Australia in July. Its not that simple however, there is a whole philosophical concept behind The Reef… and if I tell you I’ll have to kill you because you should go see it instead (laughs)!

Mermaid Taylor Miller

My involvement? Well, I went over to The Reef as a free friction surfer and participant of the residency. Over the weeks however, my role in the project expanded and due to unforseen circumstances I ended up with an incredible underwater scene in the film where I am diving under the Reef bomby, with whale sharks swimming around and big clouds of waves breaking over top. Jon Frank, a veteran film make,r and champion of a dude, shot it. It’s a very broody arty piece, symbolic of fragility in a harsh landscape. Anyway, It’s so nice and I’m really proud to be a part of it in every way.

The significance to me is in female participation. Coming from the surfing world, you get a lot of films idolising ‘the boys’, their mates and their egos. It meant a lot to me that this wasn’t the focus in The Reef; there were actually a bunch of girls involved such as Fran the line producer or Satu the violinist. It’s really a class act, which is refreshing. Thanks to Mick Sowry who is producing the film for cherishing this – Gnaraloo means ‘women in white’ after all.

Taylor Miller

2. How long have you been surfing?

I grew up in Byron Bay and have been surfing for as long as I can remember. It was merely one of many things we did as kids – running around in the bush and on the beach, rock pooling, snorkelling, climbing trees … surfing. I guess I didn’t get into it fully until my teenage years, as with my sister. My father was a surfing champion from the United States and he came to Australia in the 1970s when surfing was growing too commercial in California. He teaches surfing still, private lessons to businessmen and celebrities and so forth – clearly I learnt surfing from my father by osmosis; it’s definitely in the blood. Can’t go a day without it!

3. Do you have any advice for young aspiring surfers/athletes?

I guess my advice would be to find your own flow. It is tempting to replicate the actions of other surfers or sportspeople but it is important to discover your own style and pursue the joy that you find rather than that of others. Take your own line in life.

Taylor Miller - heading out to The Reef

4. What does surfing mean to you?

Surfing is like a combination of everything for me. It is a lens in which to see the world and by which to understand. While it is relaxing, it is also physical and social so it provides a good balance. It allows me to live a life that is aesthetically and spiritually beautiful. Lately, surfing has become an offbeat kind of occupation – I voluntarily co-edit for a journal called Kurungabaa, about the sea amongst other things and it’s leading down a few different avenues of late. Surfing takes me travelling all around the world from South Africa to Italy or Indonesia. Its where I meet my friends and where I get ‘stoked’. Got to be careful not to take it too seriously because if the fun-factor diminishes then what’s the point? It’s all about fun.

5. Who inspires you?

Well, there are lot of people that inspire me – even my new dingo pup ‘Buntine’ is an inspiration! (laughs) Ok, but seriously, in surfing, there are a handful of individuals that I look up to for their grace or great talent. And yes, all individuals because as I said before, you’ve got to draw you’re own line. Can I list five?

1. Derek Hynd who I mentioned before created this kind of Free Friction surfing and I respect enormously his commitment, experimentation and extremity (search YouTube Derek Hynd Jeffrey’s Bay and you’ll see what I mean).  He’s also amazingly articulate in his written and spoken word and being a bit of a writer myself I look up to that.

2. Ryan Birch, since meeting him at The Reef – he’s a funny flexible freak who flies flat chat on a simple square of foam.

3. Beau Young, also child of a champion surfer and musician too. He can surf everything – really diverse and unique flavour.

4. Rella Sun aka Queen of Makaha. She was the classic Hawaiian waterwoman back in the day who dived, surfed, swam and embodied the old Aloha spirit which surfers now need to be reminded of.

5. Ok, perhaps my dad. His luck, calm and grace in the ocean is all I hope to inherit!

Taylor’s dad, Rusty Miller, Sunset Beach, 1964. Micky Dora paddling out.
Photograph : Dr. Don James

6. What is one thing that you know now that you wish you knew when you were younger?

Let yourself just go, I guess. Just let it be and be satisfied with what you have. I wish I knew how lucky I was to grow up in Australia, it’s a pristine place … I’ve really come to appreciate it lately.

7. What do you think is a concern for young people these days?

I think there is probably too much indoor activity, like social media and computer games. Young people need to be aware of the importance of sunshine and physicality. Staying active is good for both physical and mental health and it creates good experiences. It’s a simple recipe to stay happy and not get all down and broody with your self.

Interview from


1 Comment

  1. So amazing…love the friction free surf style and this combo of music and surf speaks to me so strongly…surfing is a form of dance, after all. And Sea Kin is an amazing ‘Zine and I am so glad to have found it. Surf on Taylor and Derek.

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