MARTI PARADISIS HAS DEDICATED HIS LIFE TO ONE OF THE COLDEST, LEAST HOSPITABLE WAVES ON THE PLANET.
In what might be the most Tasmanian thing ever, one of the first faces you see after disembarking your flight at Hobart Airport is Marti Paradisis manning the counter at the airport’s Budget Car Rental desk. That a man responsible for some of the most heroic feats in recent surfing history could spend the peak of his powers chained to a desk at an airport might seem a cruel injustice, but not to Marti.
“I have a good relationship with the people I work with there and they know how passionate I am about surfing, and they appreciate it, so yeah it’s working out,” he says.
He’s been in the gig for six years now, which has given him enough flexibility to juggle shifts and chase waves while also paying off a mortgage. More importantly, it’s allowed him to rediscover the joy of surfing without the stress of having to do it for money.
“Once the money did end, it was an interesting time. I had to change my lifestyle but I embraced these changes because I knew it was going to make me a happier person,” says Marti, who battled severe anxiety at the peak of his powers.
“I felt this huge release and from that moment on, every surf I was just having so much fun. I froth out on anything from one foot dribble to 15 foot perfection. It doesn’t matter. I still love it, I still enjoy every minute of it. I think that was a blessing to happen to me,” he says.
With Red Bull’s Cape Fear event at Shipsterns looming he’s buzzing with anticipation.
“It’s a competition, it’s gonna go down on a nuts day and we’ll do what we do on every other nuts day. It’ll pack up, the environmental impact will be minimal because it will be an online streaming live comp. I think it’s gonna be pretty successful,” he says.
Marti was 17 when he stumbled upon the secret that would change his life forever. He’d just finished mowing the lawn of neighbour and Tasmanian big wave legend, James “Polly” Pollanowski, and, eager to collect his payment - a handful of marijuana - had gone snooping around the house to look for him. He found Polly along with three others seated around a TV, “watching footage of this fucken 15 foot slab and they all looked at me and said, ‘Shut the door and don’t say a word,” he recalls.
The other men were Andrew Campbell, the Shipsterns pioneer who had been walking two hours in alone for years to surf it alone. The famous lensman Andrew Chisholm was there as was a local legend, Stokesy.
“I was like, fuck, what is this? Is that Shippies? They were like, yeah, this is Shippies. Don’t say you’ve seen this footage, keep it under wraps,” he recalls.
They agreed to take him down the next time they went. It was around a year late, by which time Marti estimates they’d probably done “another half a dozen trips” before his phone rang one mid-morning and he was told to get his gear together.
“I just packed a wettie, didn’t have any boards suited at all, we ran down there, went around in this little tinnie, and it was bombing. A beautiful 12 to 15 foot,” he recalls.
Marti quickly realised he was way out of his league.
“I don’t think I even wanted one. I was so in awe of what I was looking at and appreciating it,” he says.
“It was the most eye opening thing I’ve ever seen in my life. I was just staring into these barrels I couldn’t even fathom,” recalls Marti.
He sat in channel letting the spit canon into his face while Andy attempted to paddle it alone. After going backwards over the step on his second wave, he came up barely able to move and the boys were forced to rush in and drag him back to the boat. He made a full recovery but it was a fitting introduction to the wave.
“It’s the type of place where the wave can mutate inside itself and no matter how skilful you are it can eat you up. There’s always gonna be injuries out there,” he says.
So began a frenetic couple of years in the life of Shipsterns and Marti Paradisis. Not long after the first ever footage of the wave appeared in the film Irratika under the alias “VD Land” after Andy took his Billabong teammate Dave Rastovich down to surf it. That was followed by the now seminal Tracks Magazine trip led by current WSL commissioner, Kieren Perrow along with pro surfers Drew Courtney and Mark Mathews. The ensuing cover shot and magazine spread sent shockwaves around the surfing world. The word was out. With some of Tassie’s elder statesmen already capitalising, Marti and the next generation wanted in. It would take at least two more sessions before he made a proper wave out there but when he did it changed everything.
“You were paddling into this swell line that was so much bigger than anything you’d tried to paddle into before,” he recalls.
“This wave came through, I paddled in, stood up, went over the step, and got my line. As soon as it barrelled over me I knew I’d made it and to come out with the spit sealed the deal,” he says.
“Any time it broke from that time onwards we were all there as a pack just fucken frothing out and pushing each other. It was just something that we did for the next decade onwards. Alls we wanted to do was surf it as much as we could and push each other and just have a hell time,” he says.
Raised in a landlocked suburb of Hobart, an hour from the coast, Marti bodyboarded until 13. Daring ocean adventures are something
“I DON’T THINK I EVEN WANTED ONE. I WAS SO IN AWE OF WHAT I WAS LOOKING AT AND APPRECIATING IT”
Opposite: In his suit of rubber armour Marti Paradisis has conquered Tasmania’s fatal shores.
Below: Marti Paradisis enjoying the best view The Bluff has to offer.