N: 52° 5′ 34.3536” E: 5° 6′ 16.1280”
I recently sat to talk with Richard, the founder and creative force behind the unique surf company Kakkalaka. He is an incredibly talented artist, musician, craftsman and surfer who has recently launched the environmentally conscious clothing section of his brand. Kakalakka, much like surfing, is a lifestyle. He aims to inject the raw Rock n’ Roll energy that surfing was best known for back into the community through his paintings. Through his paintings we witness the adventures of his signature cockroach character. Each painting reflects the outdoor lifestyle of music, fishing, cold beers and sea water that all surfers are in love with.
Who is behind Kakalakka?
Kakalakka itself is a recently new company, making its big debut in January of 2019. However, Richard has been practicing his craft and developing his involvement with surf culture for quite some time. His inclination towards the creative arts took him to art academy as a teenager where his skills were honed. However, the unwavering structure and creative restraints of academia did not agree with his beliefs on how art should be taught. Art to him is not something that needs to be constantly rationalised rather it is about the feeling you get when you look at the canvas. Once he left art school he gave up painting and instead found a different creative output, Music.
Richard states: ‘I didn’t paint for 20 years, do you want to know why? It was because, I was fulfilled doing music because I was making it for myself, I had no reason to paint for others or how they wanted’. His main instrument is the guitar, especially gypsy jazz, however this wasn’t always the case. He was part of a prominent electronic group in the 90’s known as Rocco Man.
The group produced their own music and were in many ways early pioneers of the electronic music scene. Sampling and electronic production is common in todays music scene however in the 90’s it was a select skill only practiced by a few. The grungy and humorous work of American funk-metal band Primus were a major inspiration to Richard during his early skating years. There raw rock feel mixed with light hearted lyric made a lasting impression as he now implements these themes into his painting.
What is Kakalakka ?
Where did the name come from ?
“Me and my wife were on holiday in France. We were sat drinking at a bar, thinking of new ideas as we always do. Their was a kind of chocolate milk called ‘Cola Cao’, I turned to my wife and said ‘now that’s some funny s**t. Suddenly its Kakalakka and its a cockroach and I’m going to make t shirts.” I think this story is a perfect example of the light-hearted and good vibes atmosphere of Kakalakka.
T shirts became paintings and before he knew it, Richard was painting this little cockroach in as many different surf scenes as he could possibly think of. He adds, ‘I’m a certain kind of person and I thought that little creature had a lot of similarities with me, so the experience I’ve had with surfing and music I get to make him do’.
What is the aim of Kakalakka?
“When I was surfing, I missed a little bit of the rock n roll. If you look at skating even though they evolved from the same thing, it has more of that street thing going for it, its more progressive. Surfing its become a lot shinier and glittery and glam, everybody is surfing now but I worry about losing that special feeling it has.”
What is it that makes surfing so special ?
“I’ve been surfing for 8 years 45 now so I started when I was 37. What I have realised is that what surfing gives me is a gift. As soon as you start learning your given a gift, that’s what they mean by stoked I think, all of a sudden you whole world opens up, its the same as if you learn a really cool new instrument, there’s suddenly this new thing in your life”.
He adds,”I love the challenge of surfing, the waves are always different and the conditions are always changing. Its constantly pushing you forward and making you want to go forward and while your doing that its making your life better”.
What are the similarities between Surfing and Painting ?
“When your surfing you never think about anything there’s no time for that. Your either trying to catch that wave or your trying to float, when you get a bit better then there’s a little bit more time to think about. Painting takes you out of your head in the same kind of way”.
He adds: “At school they always want to explain why and why and why but for me its not about the why its about doing something , being productive and creating, its nothing more and nothing less”. In many way surfing is the same, its wild and its only limitations is skill and creativity just like painting.
Richard has realised that surfing and painting are both about emotion and feeling and not rules. They are both personal and therapeutic. Therefore through Kakalakka he aims to unify the similarities in both of these worlds. He told me about his first time surfing: “The first thing I thought was ‘oooh this is totally just like painting’, it is not a sport but a way of life, it didn’t have much to do with the sport. Rather, I want to know what surfing is and what it means to me. I want to know what its like to have this kind of relationship with the ocean”.
The Future of Kakalakka
The liberating indepence of creating just for himself is comparable to the freedom we all feel when we surf. It will become clear that Richard has always been a surfer even before he started surfing. This is because of the attitude of artistic freedom he brings to Kakalakka and how he brings together all aspects of surf culture into one painting.
Richard characterised his paintings as simplistic. However, I feel that this is somewhat underselling what he is doing. He is recreating a feeling when you look at his work, a feeling that you have felt when you’ve sat round a campfire with some beers, waiting for your wetsuit to dry. He does this all just through the adventures of a little cockroach. There is nothing simple about that feeling. Personally, I love his message and his painting. Bold colours, interesting stories and a certin charm makes these painting special. I certainly hope to have one on my wall one day but until then I am more than happy to have it on my t-shirt.
Keep an eye out for Kakalakka in the future as there are some big plans coming. A children’s book, furniture and an exhibition are all future plans that I’m certain will happen quicker than Richard is expecting. As for his surfing, he is a skilled long boarder and he hopes to continue honing this craft for the foreseeable future. Kakalakka is only just beginning but it has a long future ahead, don’t miss its journey and head over to his website: www.kakalakka.com