Clay Marzo doesn’t care if you know who he is. It seems as though he’s slowly making his way out of a very deserving limelight into one of obscurity–probably because he has Aspergers, a high-functioning form of autism.
Marzo’s surfing career began early. After a childhood filled with struggling to understand regular social cues and facial expressions, Marzo found that he felt more at home in the water than in his own skin. At the time, his half brother Cheyne Magnussen was surfing for Quiksilver, and at his urging, Marzo cut together a clip of himself surfing and sent it in. The Quik exec who picked it, Strider Wasilewski, was floored. “It was like someone had sent me the instructions to create the first nuclear bomb, he told ESPN. “I knew I’d received a package that would change the face of surfing.”
Soon after, he found himself on a boat in the Mentawais with Dane Reynolds, Fred Patacchia, Ry Craike, and Kelly Slater. Every single one of them was in awe. After a few years of battling with everything that comes with his Aspergers–including intense social anxiety and being overwhelmed in crowds–Marzo just wanted to surf. Trips and contests became nearly impossible, and he was eventually dropped by his sponsor. But Marzo is still one of the greatest surfers in the world. Case in point: the clip above, shot back in 2012, just before Quik dropped him and when he was still coming back for a horrible knee injury. Even injured, Marzo shows a level of commitment, talent, and sheer brilliance that no one else in the world has.