Sea of joy
Chippa Wilson tickles his fingers to test the wind and states matter of factly, “You could do an air right now.” Chippa is sitting off an open-water, left reef, which blends deep blues with turquoise patches and every shade in between. Apart from our boat over in the channel and a distant atoll, there’s nothing but bowly lefts in sight. Chippa has spent his morning tucking into the spinning kaleidoscopes of blue, but now, like a skipper plotting his next tack, he senses the wind shift to a light, cross-shore and changes his strategy. For aerial specialists the cross-shore that blows back towards the face is a magical wind that facilitates not only the gift of flight, but also makes the prospect of landing far more likely. Matt Meola paddles out, his face barely visible behind the growing tangle of beard on his face. “Is it tubing?” he asks eagerly. Most of the time Maui is ultra-windy, so Matt gets excitable when the ocean is clean and curling. Matt squeezes through a few pipes of his own but pretty soon he’s on to the wind situation too. It’s not long before he launches high beyond the ruffled blue and whirls through a skyscraper, front-side air reverse. When he lands hard and rotates out, the film crew erupts. There have been other punts, but now they have hard evidence that two fins can really fly. In response Chippa soars through a giant, straight air that has the big Duo fins knifing at the sky. As Chippa makes his way back to the boat to refuel and rehydrate he turns to see Matt paddle into a perfectly formed air wedge. Meola is riding a channel bottom, Super Brand twin that delivers him all the speed he needs as he aims up at the lip, springs like a sugar glider and rotates way out into the flats. Somehow his spindly legs absorb the impact of the landing and he rides out into the clear blue before a stunned camera crew. “That was a proper, Matt Meola air,” comments Chippa back on board, obviously inspired by what he’s seen. And so begins a seven hour surfing marathon where the surfers rotate and the filmer and photographer are too scared to move from their post beneath the searing Maldivian sun because they might miss a special moment of which there are too many to mention. Riding his coral blue, keel fin bullet, Tyler Warren looks in complete control; taking smooth drops on some of the biggest, steepest waves and arcing backside carves
out of the pocket. Every turn has the echo of a bygone era but borrows just as much from the now. His intimate understanding of his craft translates directly to his surfing and not once do I see him over-cook a turn. On one of the biggest waves I watch him lay the board all the way over so that the rail is buried deep and the outside fin is on display as he torques back into the pocket. Later, I sit with Tyler as he critiques the footage of the wave and chides himself for not putting the board even more on edge. If Tyler is carving out of the lip with consummate style, then Robbie Rickard is destroying it on his backside. Although he has experimented with other craft he really finds his range on an Ash Ward twin with glassed in fins, a jet-black spray and 30 odd litres of volume to harness his 90kg frame. Out in the water Robbie concedes that he’s finding the backside approach more challenging on the twin, but there is no suggestion that he is compromising his vertical attack. On his best wave Robbie hucks off the bottom and chucks the glassins into a hefty finner. Watching the footage later I wonder if a twin fin has ever been pushed so hard.
Tyler Warren taking in the view of a luminous, little mind-bender.
Matt Meola tickling the inside of a Maldivian tunnel.
Chippa the contortionist, nose-riding through a neat little cave.