Well before Nick Carroll became a treasured journalist and celebrated author, he was one of many red-hot surfers from Sydney’s northern beach of Newport. Matter of fact, the older Carroll brother was a two-time national champion in Australia in 79 and 81.
He was also a founding member of the Newport Plus Surf Club, one of Australia’s most powerful. Within a few short years, during the 1981 IPS tour season, Newport Plus had six surfers sitting in the Top 30.
In 1984, when Shaun Tomson and Tom Carroll came to Bells Beach for the world title showdown, it was Nick who eliminated Shaun, securing his little brother his second-straight title. Nick then got busy writing about that day’s events for Tracks, where he was the editor.
Today, at 59, Nick hasn’t slowed at a bit. He’s still surfing his brains out, and today he’s channeling his competitive fire into a variety of swim, paddle, and endurance races. He’ll be doing his seventh Molokai Challenge this summer.
Nick’s been reporting on-the-scene for more than 40 years now, gathering incredible insights into our ever-evolving culture. He’s currently working a “history of pro surfing” book with fellow Aussie journalist Sean Doherty.
I nabbed him on his latest visit to California and had a blast catching up with him for this latest episode. As a bonus, there’s some added color from Derek Hynd, a fellow Newport Plus team member. As you’d expect, the topics run the full spectrum, so strap in and get to know one of surfing’s most coveted tribal leaders.
If you haven’t checked out Nick’s last book, be sure to give it a look.
The former NSSA National Champion on being an identical twin, his relationship with the Momentum Generation, and his love of sports medicine
In the early 90s, Bryan Doonan and his identical twin brother Kent were two of Quiksilver’s budding pro stars. The dashing duo were the hottest surfing talents from LA County, a feat that’s all the more impressive when you consider they grew up deep in the Crescenta Valley.
Fortunately, their adoptive parents agreed to shuttle them around in those early years on the sole condition that they always maintained good grades. The boys complied. But being valley kids, the only rides they initially wanted were to skate parks, like The Pipeline, in nearby Upland. In fact, they both dreamed of joining the Powell Peralta team they grew up watching…until they found the ocean. After a stint at Paskowitz Surf Camp at San Onofre when they were 12, where their eyes were opened to the surfing scene, and their entire life plan shifted.
By the time they started driving they were already familiar faces in lineups from Malibu to Blacks Beach, but their primary zone of terror was Newport. That’s where they were spotted by Richard Woolcott, who signed them to Quiksilver as their amateur careers hit overdrive. With their stunning good looks, Bryan and Kent were double-dipping as international models, appearing everywhere from fashion mags to background shots on Bay Watch.
Before they turned pro, they did two years at UCSD at the urging of their parents, with medical school being their ultimate goal. But when they both won national titles through the NSSA, the idea of joining their Momentum Generation friends was too tempting to resist.
Their inevitable separation came shortly after they dropped out and turned pro. Within months, Bryan was sidelined by a heart-wrenching ankle injury. Facing a year of sitting still, he swapped his jersey in for books and started down his new path.
After graduating from UCSD he was accepted to five different medical schools, including USC, but the school in St. Louis offered him a full scholarship, so Bryan put his head down and powered through those four crazy years. After graduating, he did his residency at UCI, where he took two weeks off each year to compete in the US Open of Surfing in nearby Huntington Beach. As a resident doctor, he made it to the main event three years in a row.
Today, Dr. Bryan Doonan owns five Urgent Care centers in Southern California, as well as a Sports Medicine and Family practice. These days he volunteers his services at the US Open of Surfing and other select events. He also hands out a scholarship award each year to the NSSA college champion.
During this episode of the People Who Surf Podcast, I sat with Bryan at his office in Fashion Island to talk about his amazing journey with his brother, the choices they made as a unit, and ultimately as individuals as they decided their own separate paths. I hope you enjoy.