Surf Meets Art

A glimpse into the vibrant world of award-winning surfer turned artist Mike ‘Torquato’ DeNicola.

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By the age of 19, Mike ‘Torquato’ DeNicola was already surfing for the US team. Later on in his life, the surfer-turned-artist would have his work appear in Marie Claire, FOX, NBC, and Fuel TV. But it all started seven years earlier, in his hometown of Orange County when Torquato first fell in love with the sport of surfing. His passion soon turned competitive leading him to become High School League Champion and then later State Collegiate Champion. After graduating college, it was a no-brainer for the surf enthusiast to go pro.

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“I was competing with the US National Team at the time and winning on that level as well. I turned pro after college and did the US Pro Tour and traveled internationally through the 90s,” he said.

As the first pro surfer from the US team to graduate from college, Torquato was able to learn how to balance his athletic pursuits with his increasing desire for creative expression. While Torquato has always designed the artwork on his boards, it wasn’t until he started competing internationally that his work developed into the unique style he is known for today. His boards tell the story of his relationship with oceans from all around the globe. His large, colorful mixed media pieces resonate the same fluidity found in his surf style through a layered collage of rhythms, patterns, and forms.

I“I describe myself as a ‘modern primitive artist,'" Torquato said. "My work is based on observations and reflections of nature. It’s often colorful and rhythmic, I often think of my work as visual poetry. Over the years my life experience and techniques have developed, as well as my eye and the processes with which I use to create the work. It’s an ongoing exploration and pursuit to create work that inspires and motivates the viewer, as well as myself, towards something greater.”

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As an artist, Torquato has had quite a successful career already. Some of his favorite ventures have come from working with Marie Claire, The Olson Company and creating and producing Red Bull’s ‘5X’ series. Aside from that, the artist and filmmaker also produced the award-winning surf documentary, The Westsiders and most recently the feature film Chapter and Verse which was released in early 2017. His visual artwork has appeared in countless galleries, art fairs, film festivals and TV screens around the world over the past 20 years.

Even as a busy and successful artist, Mike’s passion for surfing is still very much present in his life today. 

“I’m now a 50-year-old surfer, and I love to surf," he said. "It’s in my blood, and along with my art, it’s what makes me tick. I’m still learning and growing, and it keeps my spirit young, curious, excited and engaged. It helps to balance my life, my work, my health, my priorities. This is what surfing is to me.” MM

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