Mick and Mase are at it again. Get­ting cold wa­ter bar­rels some­where we can’t even be­gin to fig­ure out the lo­ca­tion of.

Mick Fan­ning is jump­ing out of his skin. It’s taken four days to get here and wak­ing to the sight of six-toeight foot A-frames un­load­ing right in front of the camp has got the three-time world champ’s blood at max­i­mum fizz. He suits up, skips down the boul­ders, jumps in a rip and is swept to­wards the im­pact zone just as the first true set of the morn­ing be­gins stam­ped­ing over the hori­zon. Col­li­sion is in­evitable. Line after line of unim­peded ocean power aims to un­load di­rectly onto the fa­mous blond cra­nium of Kirra’s favourite son. As we watch Mick get oblit­er­ated, Ma­son Ho stops wax­ing his 6’4”, re­turns it to his board bag and picks up a knifey look­ing 6’8” pin­tail. “It’s a lot big­ger than it looks out there, huh,” he says with a smile that’s all eye­brows. “Brah… the Search has de­liv­ered again!”

Where are we ex­actly? Ha! As if we’d tell. This is the Search after all. It ain’t for shar­ing se­crets, it’s for in­spir­ing you and your mates to get out into the wild and score your own lit­tle cor­ner of per­fec­tion. Look­ing around, though, we could be in any of a mil­lion places. Gi­ant scrubby plateaus stretch for miles soft­ened only by the fa­mil­iar pink hue of the soon-to-be-ris­ing sun. It could be West Oz. It could be Chile. It could be the moon… (if the moon had blue sky, pump­ing waves and a lit­tle lizard do­ing push ups on a nearby rock). This is the desert and, like any desert, it doesn’t take long ven­tur­ing into one to quickly dis­cover an over­whelm­ing sense of com­plete iso­la­tion – a feel­ing that’s be­com­ing more and more ab­sent as mod­ern life in­vades ever deeper into our per­sonal space… but sheez, let’s not go there just yet.

The tremen­dous ex­panse of the heav­ens above us and the noth­ing­ness of the sur­round­ing land­scape have noth­ing on to­day’s ocean, at least not dur­ing the day­light hours. This ragged coast­line we’ll call our home for the next week is light­ing up with dou­ble-over­head tube after spew­ing tube for as far as the eye can see. With the wind ex­pected to be off­shore for the whole week, with not an­other soul around for miles and with ab­so­lutely no con­tact to the out­side world, it feels as if this might all be a gi­ant prank of the imag­i­na­tion, but if some­thing can’t ex­ist with­out noth­ing… then right now the noth­ing is where it’s at.

Mick plays cat and mouse with the shift­ing A-frames for a good 20 min­utes be­fore he fi­nally picks a plum. Tak­ing off be­hind the peak, he knifes hard off the bot­tom, rips the hand­brake and ca­su­ally stands bolt up­right as the en­tire world spins around him. It’s goose­bumps stuff to watch, and not just be­cause the wind is 18 knots and cold enough to freeze the nip­ples off a pen­guin. This is all Mick, the kind of line and surf­ing we’ve clearly missed since he hung up the comp rashie back at Bells, and as he ex­its the tube and flies into a deep and flaw­less down carve you re­mem­ber that the style, pre­ci­sion and power of a true surf­ing mas­ter are mar­vel­lous things to wit­ness in the flesh.

Mase reaches the line-up and Mick has to be happy for the com­pany. There are seals jump­ing around all over the place and while there are no po­lar bears or killer whales in th­ese parts, there is an­other apex preda­tor with a fond­ness for seal meat and world champs born in Pen­rith. After trad­ing a few clean ones with Mick and feel­ing out the ex­tra length in his board, Mase snags an ab­so­lute bomb. Freefalling down the face he finds rail off the bot­tom and drives up into the maw be­fore be­ing spat into the chan­nel like a sour vil­lager from the mouth of a fire-breath­ing

“The seat of the soul is there, where the outer and in­ner worlds meet.” – Joseph Camp­bell

dragon – a crea­ture Mase says he would like to be one day, so he can fly to the top of moun­tains and check the surf be­fore torch­ing vil­lages on the way back home. It’s just one of the many things we’ll learn about Ma­son over the com­ing week, he’s a man who ap­proaches ev­ery con­ver­sa­tion like he does his surf­ing - an op­por­tu­nity to fire up the imag­i­na­tion and cre­ate some­thing mag­i­cal – and he knows how to get in the hole.

The two friends share bar­rels for the en­tire day. They stay in their wet­suits from morn­ing till night. As the sun sets and the camp­fire crack­les to life, they are beat to the point of to­tal ex­haus­tion. The el­e­ments and the day’s surf­ing have taken their toll, and tonight they’ll sleep like the dead in tents flap­ping so hard in the off­shore they may as well be pitched at Ever­est Base Camp.

This is what Search­ing is all about.

“My great grand­fa­ther was Chi­nese. He es­caped per­se­cu­tion in China by flee­ing to Hawaii. He was a good fish­er­man and I guess my great grandma was into that a whole lot be­cause they ended up hav­ing 14 kids and one of them was my dad’s dad, but maybe I shouldn’t tell you that in case they’re still out to get us.” Ma­son Ho is sit­ting by the fire telling us the ori­gin of his fa­mous last name, a name of ab­so­lute leg­end in surf­ing cir­cles. His dad, Mike, is one of the few surfers to have won all three Triple Crown events of Haleiwa, Sun­set and Pipe. His baby sis­ter, Coco, is on the Women’s WSL Cham­pi­onship Tour. His un­cle, Derek, is of course Hawaii’s first World Champ and a Pipe­line Mas­ter. The Ho fam­ily are out of this world stok­ers and a case could be made that Mase is the most stoked of them all, that is un­til you hear the story of the only time he ever saw his dad cry. “I’d seen his eyes go wa­tery when some­one in the fam­ily died and stuff like that, but when his boards got stolen

in France one year, I swear that was the only time I saw ac­tual tears.” Maybe the only thing the Ho’s love more than surf­ing is their surf­boards.

It’s our fourth night out in the desert and the fire has dragged out all man­ner of con­ver­sa­tion since night one. With the wind hav­ing backed off and with ev­ery­one be­ing surfed out of their brains, desert life is in full swing. Lob­sters have been pulled from their nooks no more than

30 feet from where we sit and are de­voured by the bag­ful like bowls of pub peanuts. Our skin hasn’t touched fresh wa­ter since we ar­rived and ev­ery­one’s eye­lids have that much salt crust caked on them you’d swear they’d been deep fried. The days are for surf­ing, but the nights are for tales tall and true.

In th­ese sur­rounds the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Mick and Mase, broth­ers of the Search, is some­thing to be­hold. Mick, the youngest of five, in­hab­its the role of big brother with ease. Mase, who has been but never had a big bro (he’s had 10,000 un­cles, but never a brother) views Mick in wide-eyed awe. The two bounce off one an­other with an af­fec­tion that’s gen­uinely heart­felt, right down to Mick has­sling Mase to put his seat belt on when­ever they jump in the car. At the heart of their dy­namic are sim­i­lar val­ues, a deep love of fam­ily and friends, and a mu­tual re­spect for the very dif­fer­ent ap­proach the other brings to their surf­ing. With ev­ery trip they learn from each other, both in the wa­ter and out. And they en­joy each other’s com­pany to no end.

It’s when Mick talks world ti­tles, the QS, tour life and win­ning, that Mase’s ears re­ally prick up. The Hawai­ian loves com­pe­ti­tion fiercely and wants a piece of that tour life so bad it makes his body twitch at the mere men­tion of it. When Mick is asked at what mo­ment does win­ning the world ti­tle feel best, Ma­son is lean­ing so far for­ward to get ev­ery piece of the an­swer he nearly falls in the fire. “In the shower after you get home from the heat that de­cided it,” says Mick, by the way. “Once you’ve dealt with the adrenalin of the mo­ment and all the en­ergy of the beach and the well wishes and stuff, get­ting home and into the shower is the first time you’re truly alone, and that’s when all the hard work and the per­sonal sac­ri­fice you made to get that achievement hits you… and you just fuck­ing ROAR!”

Mase leans back shak­ing his head and of­fers a closed fist. Mick obliges and bumps it with his own. “That’s pretty much as good as it gets right there,” con­tin­ues Mick. “When Joel won the World Ti­tle, he asked me after a week or so, ‘Is that it?’ And I was like, ‘Yep, that’s it, mate!’” Mick laughs and Mase of­fers the closed fist again and Mick gives it bump. “Brah,” says Mase. “I would do any­thing to feel that mo­ment. You World Cham­pi­ons are like gods to me!” Mick laughs. “Not even, we’re just an­other bare bum in the shower at the end of the day, mate,” he says.

There’s a mo­ment of si­lence as ev­ery­one’s gaze turns to the stars. Un­af­fected by light

Mase and the or­deal of hav­ing to get bar­relled for work.

Ma­son and yet an­other salty hole.

'How many sug­ars would you like in your cof­fee pard?'

How quickly do you reckon you could get your wetty on if you ar­rived at this scene?

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