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The Hoole/McCoy team had sent au­di­ences wild with their 1975/76 re­lease, Tubu­lar Swells, but with Storm Rid­ers they were aim­ing for even greater things – like an open­ing scene fea­tur­ing max­ing third reef Pipe set to the Doors clas­sic, 'Rid­ers on The Storm'. Cov­er­ing the bud­get for tracks like that wasn’t cheap, so it comes as lit­tle sur­prise to find out that Dick Hoole had mort­gaged the house to pay for what he wanted to be­come his “hero” surf film.

While Dick and Jack ex­plored new surf­ing fron­tiers with heavy­weight cam­era gear in hand, David Lourie was re­cruited to edit. By the time pro­duc­tion be­gun on Storm Rid­ers in the late 70s, Nias had long since been dis­cov­ered by Peter Troy and Kevin Lovett (back in 1975) but only a ded­i­cated few had fol­lowed the trail of whis­pers and ru­mours to La­gun­dri Bay on the is­land of Su­ma­tra. Most surfers were con­tent with Bali as their ver­sion of par­adise. The hyp­notic left reefs were still rel­a­tively un­crowded and the Hindu Ba­li­nese seemed happy to ac­com­mo­date this new tribe of wan­der­ing wave zealots.

“We didn’t have much of a sense of ad­ven­ture back then be­cause Bali was our com­fort zone,” re­mem­bers Dick.

How­ever, when Surfer mag­a­zine re­leased a 1979 is­sue with a dreamy Erik Aeder shot of Nias in­side at­ti­tudes shifted. The geo­graphic ref­er­ences in the fea­ture were vague and the lo­ca­tion al­luded to in a semi-fic­ti­tious style, but it was enough to ex­cite the imag­i­na­tions of in­trepid surfers, and filmers who were hun­gry for vir­gin footage and per­fect waves.

“Erik’s shot had sig­nif­i­cant im­pact,” re­calls Dick. “It was proof of some ex­otic un­surfed jewel ‘up there some­where’.”

At the time the Nias Surfer shot was re­leased Hoole and McCoy were still hunt­ing cream ma­te­rial for the fi­nale of their surf­ing epic. Fur­ther con­fir­ma­tion of the wave’s ex­is­tence ar­rived via a more util­i­tar­ian source than a surf mag­a­zine cover. At that stage the only re­li­able place to get your film de­vel­oped in Bali was The Bali Photo Cen­tre. Not sur­pris­ingly the pro­cess­ing lab was an epi­cen­tre of ac­tiv­ity for pho­tog­ra­phers and filmers who had be­come en­chanted by In­done­sia and its waves. In­vari­ably a few stand­out pho­tos would be slapped up on the wall. One in par­tic­u­lar stood out to Dick.

“I saw this photo of a right han­der that an over­land pho­tog­ra­pher had taken. It made an im­pres­sion be­cause it was a right-han­der and vir­tu­ally ev­ery­thing in Bali, ex­cept for Sa­nur, was a left. I saw it and knew it ex­isted, it was around about the same time as the Erik Aeder photo came out in Surfer.”

While Dick needed more footage to make Stor­mRiders spe­cial, tal­ented nat­u­ral footer, Thorn­ton Fal­lan­der, was ea­ger to chase down a right no mat­ter what the jour­ney en­tailed.

“All the goofy foot­ers were in Bali – Lopez, McCabe Terry Richard­son, Dor­ris Elther­ing­ton, Richard Har­vey and Wayne Lynch in the be­gin­ning – all be­ing at­tracted to these tan­ta­lis­ing left­handers that seemed trop­i­cal and less crowded than Hawaii,” re­mem­bers Dick. “He (Thorn­ton) was pissed off that he couldn’t get as much screen time. In Storm

Rid­ers he wanted to get some right-han­ders.” While Thorn­ton, who spoke good In­done­sian, was con­fi­dent that he and Cool Hoole could pull off the risky ad­ven­ture to the wilds of Su­ma­tra, he still had to find a way to fund the ex­pe­di­tion. At the time the no­tion of a surf com­pany pay­ing for a free-surf­ing trip was pretty much un­heard of. How­ever, Thorn­ton some­how man­aged to con­vince a much younger and less cashed-up Gor­don Mer­chant that Bil­l­abong should back his ex­plo­rative mis­sion to a mysto Indo right.

While McCoy went to G-land to shoot McCabe and Lopez, Fal­lan­der and Hoole made their first trip to Nias in 1980. Although they had a rough idea of how to get to La­gun­dri, the way Dick re­mem­bers it there wasn’t ex­actly a paved, yel­low brick road that lead you to surf­ing Nir­vana.


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