Boat trips are epic for surf films and terrible for magazines.
Why? Because amazing surfing on film never goes out of fash, and good surfers in good waves always yield results, but, on paper the Mentawaii’s boat trip has been shot to bits. It’s gotten to the stage that unless the surf’s 10ft and your boat sinks, no-one’s interested. No one wants to read that the waves were perfect, everyone was ripping, the chef didn’t poison anyone, and then we all went home best friends. Luckily for us, this wasn’t one of those boat trips.
Surfing’s an absolute bastard child of a sport. It’s no wonder that this curious activity has driven grown men to blows on beaches and in carparks around the globe. Scoring waves is literally one of the hardest things you could try to do, add being a professional surfer to the mix, and you’re trying to score good waves, in good light for photos, with minimal crowds so the talent can catch enough waves to perform, and what you end up with is a clusterfuck of expectations. We thought sending seven of the most eclectic and well-rounded (best?) freesurfers in the world, to the most consistent chain of islands in the world for surf would be a guaranteed page filler: Craig Anderson, Dane Reynolds, Ozzie Wright, Taj Burrow, Noa Deane, Creed McTaggart, Dion Agius on a boat, in the Ments, what could possibly go wrong? Well.
“The coming together of that crew was just insane,” says the perpetually chirpy Craig Anderson. “That’s legit my six favourite surfers right there; and with Dane jumping onboard at the last minute too. But with the cast locked in and the forecast (which looked really, really good), something had to go wrong.” The thing that went wrong, was scurvy. Well, of sorts. One by one the crew got knocked out by illness, like eternally bed-ridden, groaning at your own reflection illness. “I don’t want to point any fingers, and I fucking love the dude, but I’m pretty sure it was Creed,” laughs Craig. Creed was apparently contaminated before he got on the boat, and his cabin mates, Dion, Noa, and Taj got struck down first.
Ozzie thought that sickness might be the first sign of the immanent apocalypse, and duly wigged out. “I started getting fully paranoid,” says Oz. “It happens sometimes in Indo, you start to think that everything’s happening for a reason. I put a picture of Mylee (Oz’s lady) on the wall next to my bunk and then a picture that Rocky’d (Oz’s son) done. I looked and Rocky’s picture was like a stick figure holding a gun, and I just went, “Fuck, I’m making a tomb for myself!” I made this edit a few years ago of me surfing Macaronis too, and because I used Hey Hey My My (Rock ’n’ Roll will never die) by Neil Young I called it, ‘Ozzy Wrong will never die.’ There was no thought put into it at all, but I thought I’d jinxed myself and I was going to die by the hand of a tsunami at macaronis,” cackles Oz. His remedy? Surfing his brains out. It wasn’t all bad though. The gang actually scored some pretty good waves, as the photos attest, and best of all, thanks to the sickness, stepped off the boat model thin. “ I was 73kgs when I got off the boat,” says Oz. “I’m usually up around 85,” (laughs).
Like pretty much everywhere the Mentawai’s is now officially crowded. It’s bad enough trying to paddle-battle adequate surfers for scraps in the islands, but imagine this, the super boat, rocking up and seven of the best surfers in the world flopping over the side. “We’re definitely conscious of not ruining people’s surfs,” says Craig. “ But we surfed Maccas pretty good for two days straight, and everyone had smiles on their faces. It was crowded by Indo standards—maybe thirty guys out—but not too bad. I think everyone was pretty stoked. Guys like Dane, and especially Taj are pretty much heroes to everyone, and in one session they were just going ballistic. Surfing like that’s just a treat to watch, and you can guarantee that the first thing that anyone who was out that day would’ve told their mates about when they got home was the session where Dane did the biggest backside air they’ve ever seen. From the water that stuff’s crazy.”
One of the rad things about surfing (there are some) is that if you’re good enough, eventually your hero’s become your peers. That was pretty evident on this trip. If you’re currently an Australian freesurfer, then it’s a given that Taj Burrow and Ozzie Wright were your favourite surfers growing up. Having both those guys onboard was clearly gave the young dudes a bit of a kick; you’re never truly rid of your 13-year-old self. On the other side, the old boys, Oz and Taj, were stoked to be on board with the ankle biters. “I stopped eating cakes a few weeks before the trip, and was fully doing beach runs and shit in preparation.” says Ozzie. “But I just got way too excited surfed my brains out for the first few days when it wasn’t that good, then it started pumping and I got nothing. I’m pretty sure I saw everyone’s best waves though,” continues Oz. “I saw Noa paddle out when he was still sick, and he looked like he was half asleep. He waited for a big set and then took off with his eyes closed, and he kinda looked a bit awkward, but then he did this huge pump and I thought shit he’s gunna get axxed here, and then he got soo tubed and came out way down the line, it was sick.”
For Craig, getting to do a trip with Taj and Oz is a serious high-five for his teen self. “Before I moved to Australia from South Africa I was into Machado and Parko maybe,” he says. “But then I got pretty into Ozzie and Taj. Doped Youth was a pretty big deal for me, and then Sabotaj and Montage. Oz and TB were the two dudes who were putting time and effort into movies, and they were so freely available compared to what I was used to. Ozzie’s surfing is still so infectious. I always watch him and then get caught up trying to do four airs on the same wave, and it’s just, not the same.”
One thing that thankfully looks to stand the test of the ages is getting really shit haircuts on boat trips. There’s been some beauties over the years, and the boys did them proud. “I think they were my idea actually,” says Ozzie matter-of-factly. “We were all pretty pissed on the third night, jumping off the top deck, and haircut seemed necessary. I’m actually really stoked with mine. I finally got rid of that stupid do that I’ve been rocking for years.” Craig Anderson, perhaps one of surfing’s most famous hair farmers, got a trim in the second sitting of Ozzie’s salon, and opted for the rather fashionable ‘bob.’ “I used to care about my hair,” says Craig, “but now I don’t really give a shit. I got a bob, Creed got a Mohawk, Ozzie got bangs and a weird fringe.” “And everyone got sick, apart from Dane, but he didn’t get a haircut,” finishes Oz, alluding to the fact that missing out on a hair cut was way worse than getting sick.
Taj Burrow undoubtedly made off with haircut of the trip, and surf MVP too according to Oz and Ando. “Taj with the Mohawk was epic,” says Ozzie “It was like new/old Taj, no more tour, he looked like a seventeen-year-old again. It was the first time I’d been on a trip with Taj since Seven Days Seven Slaves too, pretty wild, that was 2001, 15 years ago!” Ando echoes the Taj’s-still-got-it sentiment. “TB got a mohawk and then literally dived straight off the boat and started tearing. It made so much sense, he’s a fucking legend.”