From Stab issue 58: How about we get some exotica in that bloodstream of yours? A dirty desert reef that ledges like a brick wall, a blimp pimp in South Africa by Jules Wilson (biggest air ever!), very picturesque offshore Brazil, some Samoa with single-fin wielding Ford Archbold and the fury and determination of an ex-world champ* (*She’s now back on the throne). And, that’s only like two-thirds of the material contained within. How do we do it? It ain’t money (we spent it)!
Julian Wilson, dentist chair jam, Sunshine Coast, Australia. Photo by Nathan Tyack.
When he’s at home on the Sunshine Coast, Julian Wilson likes to ride anything but his normal shortboard. Why? “The waves are pretty gutless there,” he says. “I always just try and find something different to ride ‘cause you get worn-out trying to ride a high-performance shortboard there.” Jules usually rides a 6’0” or 6’1”, but the little thang he’s whipping here, a Luke Short-shaped Renegade, is a few inches below that. “That one’s a 5’7”. It’s epoxy and has two foam stringers in it. They sit either side of where a normal stringer would sit and just even it out a bit. It’s set up so you can ride it with three, four or five fins – whatever you like (during this session, Jules was running a quad setup). It’s wide and good for airs, there’s a lot of board to land on.” Though he digs riffing on it, Julian ain’t too hot for epoxy when it gets over three foot: “I just don’t think it sits on the water the same way when the waves are bigger – it just kinda sits and hovers on top.”
Noosa Heads, pictured here, is a famous logging wave and one of those “gutless” waves around Julian’s home. The 2011 Christmas period on the Sunshine Coast was the most fruitful that Julian can recall. “It was the first time I can remember that there’s been a swell for Noosa on Christmas day,” says Julian. “Usually it’s westerly and one foot and I go surf across the road from my house on a longboard, but this year there was actually swell. It worked out pretty sweet as a Christmas present.”
During this session, Julian sat at First Point at Noosa, where the wave turns into a beachie. One of the perks of surfing at home during Christmas break is, in a word, freedom. Never mind juicing every possible turn outta each wave. On this particular wave, Jules flew around the first section, choosing instead to detonate on the closeout. “He went around that first section and got heaps of speed off his bottom turn,” says Nathan. “Then just gave it to it.”
Jay Thompson, sheltered from the raindrops on the dirty ol Central Coast. Photo by Luke Shadbolt.
During his big league days, Jay Thompson travelled with the reigning prince of the Central Coast, Mr Ace Buchan. But no man is immune from the brutality of an arbitrary scoring system and the mid-year cutoff in 2010 kneecapped Jay. It’d been a while since Jay’d seen Ace so, when a swell hit a couple o’ months back, he bolted down for two days of what turned out to be some of the best waves of his recent memory. After this remarkable session at a reef slab, he lit up a six-to-eight-foot beachbreak. “Straight out of this session and into stand-ups with five other guys out. It was, literally, a 24-hour day of perfect waves. It was seriously fucking pumping.”
What turns us on about the photo here is the depth of the rider, the raindrops painting the surface of the water and the backless nature of the wave. One of those joints where if y’don’t backdoor the toob you’re shoulder hopping. Not for the weak of heart, ain’t that the truth, and Jay recalls paddling over waves he wanted nothin’ to do with and then seeing local ripper Dom Wills throw himself over the precipice.
Mitch Coleborn, oasis toob, South Australia. Photo by Che Chorley.
Nine hours from the city of Churches and a lifetime on dirt roads will land you in the carpark fronting this world-class, but still relatively untarnished, lefthander. Three things you might wanna know about it: it’s a crazy toob, although that y’might’ve guessed from the girth of the tub Mitch here is standing in, two, Great Whites tend to frequent the area, stealing the life of one surfer a decade ago and threatening the existence of plenty of others before and since and, three, the local cats don’t exactly have a reputation for being bubbly and inclusive.
In mid-April, the joint turned on the day of the year: consistent at six feet with eight foot waves mowing anyone down who might’ve started to feel comfortable. An offshore rang from dawn til 11. The carpark was stacked with 40 cars. A rumour had gone through the nearby town that Kelly Slater was on his way – in the end, he chose Indonesia.
But, Mitch Coleborn and Craig Anderson, whom you can make out on the shoulder, showed and word on the beach was the pair took off just about as deep as anyone has out there. And, best of all, after the session, the pair went and thanked the locals for letting ‘em surf their wave on the best day in forever.
“The locals were sweet, they seem to love us down there,” says Mitch, himself so in love with the area he’s been scouting out blocks of land. “It’s so cheap down there and we’ve been there twice and scored twice so it’s definitely consistent. I could see myself spending more time there when I was older. Surf trips where you can get away from people are pretty rare.”
And, the wave? “It all happens pretty fast. It’s a wave you can’t get crazy deep on ‘cause it pushes across the reef so fast. Y’takeoff the peak, backdoor, and do as much as you can do get as deep as possible. It’s a barrel, no turns are getting done out there. It’s not the gnarliest wave in the world but it can throw you around.”
And, the wildlife? “It was like surfing at fucking Seaworld. The water’s so clear, there’s dolphins, a seal popped up so close y’could touch it. I felt pretty safe. In water that clear, you could definitely see a shark coming.”
Julian Wilson, petrol price float, Ballito, South Africa. Photo by Ryan Miller.
“That was the highest I’ve ever been in the air, doing an aerial,” says Julian Wilson of the extreme float pictured here. You shouldn’t be surprised to hear this. The waves during the Mr. Price Pro, in Ballito, Durban, were some of the best that Stab, Julian, or photog Ryan Miller (who shot this) have seen at a qualifying event. Fast, punchy, hollow and, according to Julian, not dissimilar to “six-eight foot Kirra. Some of the best I’ve ever seen. It was amazing. So much stuff got missed and if you weren’t there, you really weren’t able to appreciate how good the waves were.”
So, getting height like this was no problem? “The waves over there are really punchy with a light wind into it and you can just go really fast and get really high. It’s perfect for airs.”
When Julian took flight in this moment, Ryan was alternating shots between the contest and the freesurfing area. But, how? “The event was running at one peak and, 100 metres to the right was this little ramp inside of a cove,” he says. “You could watch both from the competitors’ area. The contest was running and I was sitting in the competitors’ area for the laughs, but shooting the little ramp down the way. Julian punted this thing and when he got that height I was thinking for sure he’d kick it away. Nope. The guy decided he was going to stick it. He came pretty damn close to stomping this thing. If he stomped it, I think he would have gone through his board or gone through a knee or two. The boys in the competitor’s area were going loony, saying it was the biggest air they’d ever seen. He told me later at J-Bay that he had a bit of water in his eyes from the hard wind blowing into the wave, so he was flying blind for most of that punt.”
Despite the vision impairment, Jules says watching where you’re going is key on the big hucks: “As soon as you get in the air, you’re trying to spot where you wanna land and how you wanna land. It’s actually easier when you’re higher ‘cause you’ve got more time to suss it out before you land and you can see whether it’s worth trying to land or not, before you actually try and stomp. ‘Cause sometimes with smaller ones, you’re going for the rotation and you’re just hoping that the landing’s alright.”
But, surely, if you’re this high, there must be a flash of hesitation, a lightning premonition about how this could play out, like a buckled knee or ankle and a ruined year? “You don’t think about injuries, stomping on your board from that height,” says Julian. “Usually, if you’re going for airs that big you’re feeling good about your body. I think you just put in the work on land and get your body feeling good and confident so that you’re not thinking about those things. When you are thinking about that stuff, it never pans out that well. You end up hurting yourself if you’re trying to protect something.”
The lesson? Commit.
Asher Pacey, water ball jockey, NSW North Coast. Photo by Matt Lackey.
This reef that created this salty calzone is the go-to wave for the Gold Coast’s bodyboarders. Just across the border NSW, it sticks out on a kink on the coastline that makes it offshore during winter-time north-westerlies. It’s a ledge that’s easy when y’gots flippers and stomach rash but very difficult if your chosen craft requires you to get to your feet thus making it a boogieboard ghetto (and ain’t nothing wrong with that, either).
This day, howevs, was six-to-eight feet and a radical east swell, not south-east, so the waves were hitting the reef side-on as opposed to stroking along its curves. Kinda super nuts, y’might say. The only takers were Asher Pacey (paddling) and Joel Parkinson (jetski step-offs). When pro bodyboarder and occasional photographer Matt Lackey saw the waves, saw the crew and realised the potential for photos, he got a ride out on a ski and jumped into the drink with his Canon 7D with the wide-angle zoom taped at 14mm. “I knew there was going to be some big pits so, I figured, oh fuck, guess I gotta get in there and shoot a couple.”
How about this moment? Yeah, you can see beauty, but keep staring and start to feel the power and the speed. Look long enough and you’ll begin to debate the strategy of just how a man gets through a backdoor like this.
Mitch Coleborn, frontside blimp, Fernando de Noronha, Brazil. Photo by Tom Carey.
So many elements to get high on here: the hunk of rock in the background, the huck of Mitch’s in the foreground and the immediate realisation that unlike a ton of other surf shot, y’gots no idea where it is.
Fernando de Noronha is a group of 21 islands 300 clicks off the Brazilian mainland. It’s so pristine (“The clearest water you’ve ever see,” says the photographer) that even the dithering UN got off its sky-blue ass to throw a World Heritage Site protection on it. And, can y’believe it was a former prison for political prisoners? So much to see, so much to think, so much to do!
Anyway, great photo, but it almost didn’t make it back to mainland USA with photographer Tom Carey. While he was checking in, like literally at the check-in desk back in Sao Paulo, a thief made off with a bag containing two camera bodies, lenses, a computer and all the memory cards – a haul with a retail value of 20-large, probs two or three at street level.
But, Mr Carey, ain’t one to be defeated. In the camera he was holding, it contained a memory card with all the shots of the session y’see here deleted. But, with a lil help from the program Lexar Image Rescue, he scooped this shot off the supposedly empty card. And, despite the theft, Carey can’t get enough of Fernando de Noronha. “It’s like the Caribbean but with better wind, better waves and a mellow crowd. It’s had to believe it’s Brazil and not Puerto Rico.”
“Y’get barrelled when it’s big and when it’s small there’s sick little wedges everywhere,” says Mitch. “You drive around in dune buggies, eat acai and drink coconut water. It sure is island paradise-y.”
Ford Archbold, outboard in trim, Alex Knost-shaped one-fin on a plane, Samoa. Photo by Tom Carey.
How’s the feeling when you’ve lined up a dream team for an exclusive photo shoot in the Pacific and then you discover that one of your star players has arrived with a board that clearly ain’t for performance? And, then, in the middle of a premium fidelity session at a reef pass, actually rides it? Ford Arcbhold, semi-obscure San Clemente ripper, came on this trip with Coleborn, Oz and Mason Ho with a one-fin shaped by the much less obscure Alex Knost. Tom Carey, the photographer, nearly fainted. “I told him, I don’t want you riding that board unless it’s barrelling, unless it’s appropriate for the wave. I didn’t want him cruising, but he ended up frickin’ rippin’ on it, no leash, in the middle of the ocean at a reef pass. That kid is… stylish.” The board comes from Alex’s label Brown Microwave Television, measures approximately six feet from stern to beak and, according to Mr Archbold, “smelled of mushrooms.”
Evan Geiselman, floor stomping trademark, Fernando de Noronha. Photo by Tom Carey.
Well, hello! Welcome back to Fernando de Noronho! Did we tell you earlier about when it was a French possession in the 18th century they called it the Dolphin Islands? And, how, when it was a prison, all the trees were ripped out so the poor devils couldn’t hide or build rafts? Y’care? How about we tell you about water warm enough to make rubber a memory? Or about the string of wedges that’ll get you so much lift you’ll think you’re Mason Ho at Rocky Point? The photo y’see here is Ev Geiselman, our pal from our Canaries wavepool trip a year-and-a-bit ago. Oowee, kid must be nearly 19 now, all grown up, discovering gals, the forbidden fissures of his own body etc. We were actually considering a moratorium on running shots of Ev’s frontside finners but when this thing came in, it was so in-your-face, we had little choice but to drench two pages in its colours. Obviously, communication is impossible between editor and reader, but, right now, I do believe you can almost feel like you’re there, paddling out, smiling a little, and looking for your own wedge.
Stephanie Gilmore hands over the crown to Riss Moore at the ASP ball. Photo by Steve Sherman.
Here’s something. Most great moments are so fleeting it’s only the 1/50th second of a camera’s shutter that can seize the happening before it passes. Regard this photo closely and you’ll see two gals at the top of their game, physically and athletically. But, what else do you see? How about the game of young vs old, the highly touted Hawaiian kid grabbing the crown off a gal who was heading, or so she thought, to Beachley’s record of seven? Look at the tightness of Ms Gilmore’s shoulders (looking away from the parabola of her bosom for a moment) as she walks off compared to the easy looseness of Ms Moore. If you could steal Ms Gilmore’s thoughts, what do you think you’d find? Fury? The fire of determination? Four events into the new seven-contest year, Ms Gilmore has won two, Ms Moore zero, and unless a leg or a heart breaks and puts her outta the game, you can reverse the photo above come February 2013.*
*Times, they change! Since the issue that these images were taken from went to print, Ms Gilmore scooped title number five. So, this scene will indeed be flipped at next year’s ASP Ball on the Gold Coast. How ’bout that?