Sea of joy

Tracks - - Fresh Fish -

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.

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