Big thanks to local photographer Ming Nomchong for these photos of Wispy at the Pass a few weeks back. That's a 9'6" Noserider he's styling on.
Patagonia is one of my favourite companies, simply because it was founded by an old mate in California by the name of Yvon Chouinard. One crazy mountain climber. Back in 1996 he wrote the following story for his summer catalogue. What he doesn't know is I've also written about him trying to kill me on a mountain in California back in '69 in my second book 'More Stoked!'
The second book is out in October, published by Harper Collins. Chouinard and I are still mates and He's still mad!
Excerpt from Patagonia Catalogue, Page 12, Summer 1996
Bad Day at Flat Rock by Yvon Chouinard
Surfers still talk about the winter of ’69 as having the best surf of the century in California. I was renting a beach cabin in the cove at Mondos and creating and forging climbers’ equipment out of the old boiler room of the Hobs/Smith Packing Company.
Bob McTavish, the Australian surfer, was wintering in a cabin up the point and we spent a lot of time surfing together at the cobblestone point-breaks of Ventura and Santa Barbara. Conditions there were ideal for perfecting his revolutionary wide, deep “V” short boards.
He mentioned one day that he wouldn’t mind trying a bit of climbing even though he admitted to not liking heights very much. In those days there were so few climbers that whenever we went climbing, we did new routes. For his introduction to rock climbing we knocked off a fine first ascent at Sespe, which is now called McTavish. The climb turned out to be more difficult than I had expected-especially the part going over the overhang and the vertical wall above. Bob remembers the day as a horrifying adventure. He’s never climbed again. I’ve always felt a bit guilty about the whole affair. Twenty-four years later I’m at Bob’s shop in Byron Bay and we two grey hairs are talking about having a surf together for old times’ sake even though we both know that the conditions are “Victory at Sea” with howling on-shore wind and big wind waves. Bob knows a spot next to Flat Rock that might be more protected. On the way there he casually mentions that he has surfed this place 50 or 80 times and about 50 percent of those times he has seen a huge tiger shark that lives there but “Don’t worry mate, he’s never bothered anyone yet.”
Flat Rock is a reef that extends from shore and drops off suddenly in deep water. With the waves so close together the only way to get out I to go off the end of the reef but with the medium high tide, the rock is awash with white water from the waves crashing over the end. Bob waits for a lull then runs and wades and jumps off the end-and just barely paddles over the next set, leaving me alone on the rock gripping my surfboard with both arms to keep it from blowing away. Oh yeah, I didn’t mention I’d forgotten my wetsuit so all I had for protection was a flimsy rash-guard.
I couldn’t just chicken out so off I go and near the end of the reef my right leg drops into a hole up to my crotch and gets stuck. Right away I remember the warnings I’ve heard about the blue ringed octopi that live in these holes. One bite and you have mere seconds to live. I manage to get unstuck and I run back before the next wave crashes over. Now I’m really pumped but I finally get outside and it’s horrible. Just massive wind waves with no form sucking out over huge boils. As the adrenaline wears off I become aware that blood is pouring out of my leg and then my mind flashes on the shark. “Thanks Bob,” I think. “We’re even.”
Last Friday night us McTavish guys held a Bob McTavish night at the amazing Deus ex Machina shop located in inner-city Camperdown, Sydney. It was a sit-down three-course dinner for 130 punters in the great restaurant, with great beer from Stone and Wood here in Byron.
Getting me there from Telos Islands was a two-day epic involving open-ocean bash and dash, a long drive around Nias Island, then three flights all delayed by tropical storms. Everyone involved in organising was biting fingernails. Would I make it in time? I cleared customs at 7:10. Arrived at Deus at 7:33. Starting time!!
After Dare Jennings (the brain behind Mambo thirty years ago, and now Deus chief) did a brief opening, he introduced the spectacular surprise guest: none other then the amazing H G Nelson! H G did an amazing fantasy surfing piece in which Rampaging Roy Slaven and I compete in a do-or-die surf out at the Kiama Blowhole. He had the place in stitches, and my nerves started to blow out. How the hell do I follow and act like that?
All I could do was what we'd prepared. I got up on a wooden chest so the back of the room could see. I called it the barber's plank, like I needed as a kid in the barbers' chair.
I told two brief stories of the two motor bikes I owned in the sixties, to tie in the Deus ex Machina theme, then launched into the first of four design eras, the 1964 Involvement school at Noosa. (We had a board from each era on display). Next to the Plastic Machine at Keyo (1967) Then we used Alby Falzon's shots from 1969 to illustrate the Tracker, the true pointed-nose mid-six-foot short board. Finally to some unique footage of me at Lennox shot by Springhead on a classic Bluebird gun.
I quit for dinner, as the mains circulated for twenty minutes, then back up for the Q&A section. Steve ‘Monty’ Montell from Noosa/Bali handled the floor, and boomed out questions from the crowd. It was an awesome exchange, and lots of laughs clattered around the big room. All-in-all it was great fun and we wrapped it up at about 11. Many fine and fun people continued to chat for another hour, then the boys dropped me at the Mercure overlooking Town Hall and Central Station to crash for ten and a half hours! Dead.
Next days swap meet was hampered by wet weather, still many had a lot of fun talking and trading. I jumped the 3pm to Ballina, and back to Lynn and daughter Sophie's crew. Beat! Eleven days of Surfing Australia, Travel to Telos, back to Oz, and Deus. Suffolk Park looked peaceful, but drenched!
All photos courtesy Deus ex Machina
My last day at Telos didn't really deliver on the waves front, so it was a day of snorkelling, walking deserted beaches, and checking out the local Telos Village on the next island. We sat at the local, really just a few plastic chairs and a fridge full of Bintangs on the only narrow street. There are no cars at all, just an endless very pleasant parade of bikes, trikes, and Yikes! What was that?
Like the guy delivering plastic 44 gallon drums of diesel on a pushy with a platform on the side. Like the usual Asian whole-family-on-a-scooter, and the kids with bodgied-up taxis you pay 20 or 30 cents for. A few of us got lost and the kids pedalled us on forever in the wrong direction for hilarious half an hour. We were so far off track that one of our guys Alistair had to replace the kids tired legs with his own. I had three kids peddling and pushing at one stage. It was a cool way to see the real life of the happy peaceful Christian/Muslim mixed village, but the endless 'hullos' and waving wore out my 'Royal Wave'.
A great farewell dinner with 1400 shots of the week's surfing to entertain us, and I crashed to the soft slap of the lagoon under our bungalow.
This morning Dave Simons ran me for two-and-a-half hours at twenty-plus knots in a pitching sea, with an added storm to make it unforgettable, up to Nias Harbour on the south, with famous Lagundri Bay just a headland away. But no time - There the Telos guys had a cab waiting which ran me to where I'm typing this, the Gunungsitoli Airport on the north end of Nias. It was a wild trip over the sea, and then the land. The whole population lives on the only road, following the beautiful coast, just like most developing islands. The taxi guy never faltered once in doing 80 clicks with little two year olds and flocks of school kids meandering along, missing 100% by inches. Scary. Then we hit a couple of markets, and nobody gets the concept of through traffic. They just get off their scooter in front of the cab and walk away! Huh? But the road was spectacular, like Kamehameha Highway on Oahu 80 years ago.
But the average punter doesn't get that pummeling. The Telos resort guests fly out the way we came in, via an incredible chartered flight to Medan. I just had to cut short my trip to get back for the Deus night on Friday, and the journey I took today is Daves one-person exit from surf paradise. Pretty cool service I reckon.
Dave explained that the resort is pretty much fully booked till the end of the year, so think about getting on to Perfect Wave about a booking for next February. I'm certainly thinking hard about doing it again then. Where else so much surf with so little people???
Yesterday was undoubtedly one of the most memorable days of surf in my whole sixty years of waves! Early morn showed the swell had jumped overnight, and as we were munching breakfast, Tony Rae (a former Novocastrian and best surfer in our group) paddled out the front of the lodge. He blasted across a few serious waves as we loaded the boat. Our trusty surf guide Dane Pioli had us aimed for his favourite wave in the island group called GT's, after Grant Thomas, the great long boarder from the Sunshine Coast. He apparently ripped the place some years back.
A ten minute high-speed blast propelled by the twin Suzuki 150's dropped us into an idyllic sheltered cove with the sweetest wrapping barrel wheeling into the perfect sand beach. A small village hid behind the coconuts along the shore. The jungle smothered the couple of hundred foot peak forming the backdrop.
GT's is a non-intimidating very hollow wave. Tony got shacked first wave (of course!) and the rest of us had varying degrees of success doing the same. Tony and I went ashore to look around, guided by the lone Aussie living there, Luke from Lake Macquarie. Life in the jungle like Gonad man!
We headed back to the Lodge, and before we motored into the lagoon, Tony, Matthew Furguson (the hilarious wit from the Eastern Suburbs) and I jumped overboard to crack a few on the local Lodge break. Man! The first set put the wind up us, as it drew off the reef and jacked! A warning shot. The Equatorial heat blasted down as we negotiated into a few bombs. The sheer midday glass on six foot chunky barrels will remain indelibly imprinted. I got an eight wave set on the head, but it was early Sunset beach training that gave me the calm to ride it out. Matt got a screaming arc along the base up into the shelter at the top as I was being dragged. Good on him! He surfs hard, and very well.
Chilli prawns for lunch, then off to another new break for us crew. Le Ba is named after the Lennox Ballina board riders who loved the joint. It is a macking bowl sweeping down the side of a remote island - Fantastic!
Dinner of local fresh lobster AND local mud crab! Incredible day all round.
Telos is fantastic! A huge variety of waves just a short boat ride away, or else hit the power right out front! It's a surf-blokes paradise, and so far, completely uncrowded. Get in touch with Perfect Wave and book in next February while there are still spaces. Just 8 surfers at any time, and the next 12 months are pretty full up already! Stoked!
Here's a little taste of what we're taking down to the Deus swap meet this Saturday.....all hand-shaped by Bob and all will be for sale at the event.
8'10" x 21 1/2" x 2 3/4" Speedshape - 1" WRC Stringer :: Aqua tint :: Wetrub finish
8'8" x 22" x 2 3/4" Stepdeck Hotdog - 1/2" Obeche Stringer :: Coke tint all over :: Polish finish
9'4" x 22 1/2" x 2 7/8" Involvement 'Batman' - 1" WRC stringer :: Black pigment 8oz Volan all over :: Polish finish
9'7" x 22 7/8" x 3 1/8" Involvement 'Batman' - 1" WRC stringer :: 8oz Volan all over :: Wet-rub finish
9'6" x 22 3/4" x 3 1/8" Noosa '66 - 1" WRC stringer :: 8oz Volan all over :: Polish finish
8'0" x 21 1/2" x 3" Tracker - 1" WRC stringer :: Yellow tint :: Glass-on fin :: Polish finish
7'0" x 21" x 3" Tracker - Stringerless :: Majenta tint :: Polish finish
Mattys new 2013 boards heading out today....
9'3" x 22 1/2" x 2 3/4" Involvement
8'10" x 22" x 2 3/4" Stepdeck Hotdog
8'10" x 21 1/2" x 2 3/4" Speedshape Gun
7'9" x 21 1/4" x 2 3/4" Tracker
I'm delighted to make you all jealous because I'm half way through a truly special surf trip on the Telos (pronounced Telo) Islands off Indonesia's northern reaches. We flew to Singapore, to Medan on Sumatra, then by private charter plane to Telos. That plane trip alone was worth it, as we flew past volcanoes, over massive fresh water lake with an island the size of Singapore in the middle. The mountains dropping into the lake were simply spectacular. Then we left Sumatra and cruised over this group of postcard islands onto a tiny strip. A ten minute boat ride skippered by that Gold Coast ripper Dane Pioli dropped us at Telos Islands Resort, The kind of place you dream about. Just four thatch roof buildings, the lagoon lapping at their feet. The sandy beach, the coconuts, and a perfect right ripping by just out front. Fantastic.
I was greeted by the part owner/ manager my old mate and total ripper Dave Simons. He sat us down and informed us that the seven of us are the ONLY surfers in the district.
The guys thought the left around the corner would be best, so clambered aboard the fast boat and hit our first surf. It was Green Island with warm water, a great wave.
The next day and yesterday we plundered two great breaks at Schoolyards and Kindigartens. The former a long long bowling right like small Sunset Beach, including the frantic inside bowl. Kindis was more like Off the Wall, definite North Shore power. Stand up barrels dominated. Then a little zipping right like old sixties Kirra, fast 100 yards of screaming zippers.
Now I'm sitting here in the early afternoon, limbs thrashed after 4 hours of strong right kegs. Out front the right is looking great, but Dave and Dane say Bam-bams will be better, so I just have to go surfing, with a belly full of the best fish, chips and salad you could ask for. Tonight we'll have a few Bintangs and tell crazy stories, as usual at Telos Islands resort.
I've been surfing my 8'8" Stepdeck single fin exclusively, and it's propelled me at high speed over many serious walls. Cool!
The people at Perfect Wave have sure excelled themselves with this package. The connections were all perfect, and an overnight in Medan at the super Marriot took all the sting out of the journey. Cool. where else can you surf with just no other crew to share or hassle? This one's a winner!
I gotta go. The boat is leaving to the next island over to hit Bam-bams. Seeya!!
All photos courtesy www.teloislandlodge.com