Donovan Frankenreiter invented the sponsored-surfer-cum-musician niche

Donovan Frankenreiter invented the sponsored-surfer-cum-musician niche
July 2, 2009 Kaja Cencelj
Guitar chops, a mean cutback and a mustache make the man

Donovan Frankenreiter : photo courtesy GoldCoast Festival


Born on December 10, 1972 in Downey, California Donavon Frankenreiter currently resides in Laguna Beach, CA among the things he loves – his wife, his son, his guitar, and the ocean.  Growing up, his days revolved around the water, surfing every chance he had. At age 13, Billabong became Donavon’s first sponsor and afforded him a role most surfers dream of, that of a free surfer – paid to ride the waves, but not required to surf in competition.
Like most in the pursuit of surf, at 14 years old Donavan ended up in Hawaii. He rented a room at Jack Johnson’s parents’ home to North Shore’s famous Pipeline. The two became instant friends. When they weren’t in the water they would learn guitar together, make up their own songs, and just hang out. When Donavon was 15, he got his first guitar but it wasn’t until he was 18 that he started playing seriously and formed his high school band Peanut Butter and Jam.

In the mid 90’s, Donavon helped form Sunchild (a five-piece “good time “rock and roll” band), which gained acclaim in Southern California for its laidback style, reminiscent of the late 60’s and early 70’s LA vibe. During its tenure, Sunchild opened for the likes of The Doobie Brothers, Willie Nelson, Ben Harper, Social Distortion and The Descendents, and earned a spot on the Vans Warped Tour.

Donovan Frankenreiter : photo courtesy GoldCoast Festival

These days Donavon approaches his music with persistence – constantly playing guitar and writing whenever he has the chance. Donavon likes to keep it simple, allowing his music to be inspired by anything that moves him, especially his surfing.

In 2002, friend Jack founded Brushfire Records. Coincidently, it was at this time that Donavon was stepping out musically, making it a natural pairing. Donavon’s self-titled Brushfire debut, out May 2004 was recorded at the Mango Tree, Hawaii and produced by Jack and Mario Caldato Jr.
Although Donavon is still revered as one of the most charismatic and soulful surfers in the world today, his focus has shifted significantly to his music. This album is about the last 10 years of Donavon’s life and the love, travel, and all the new beginnings that happened along the way. Along with bass player Matt Grundy, percussionist David Leach, Koool G. Murder (from the Eels) on keys, Jack Johnson and G.Love both appear on the album.

Donavon toured extensively throughout 2004 in support of his debut album, including trips to Australia and New Zealand where his album has reached Gold and 2xPlatinum status respectively. Along with tours in Japan, Brazil and Europe, Donavon also crossed the US three times, including the summer’s Brushfire Tour with Jack Johnson and G.Love.

Being a pro surfer for half of his life has left an evident mark on Donavon’s songwriting. His mellow, groovy and upbeat songs serve up a genuine soulfulness that make you want to feel the sand beneath your feet and the salt on your skin. The two worlds are a perfect marriage for Donavon, as he says, “the surfing thing keeps me alive, and the music keeps me grounded.”

Donavon is also one of nine featured surfers on the XBOX game, Kelly Slater’s Pro Surfer and continues to surf when he isn’t touring. Donavon’s skills have also been featured in numerous surf films, TV shows, and magazine articles. 

In 2001, Donavon found his soul mate and true love Petra. The newly weds recently had a baby boy, Hendrix in January 2003 and are enjoying the world of parenthood. Donavon feels very fortunate to have had such a blessed life so far, and is very excited about what the unknowing future will hold. With a zest for living and a will to make every second count, Donavon is the true ambassador of his future.

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