Julian Wilson Reunion island
Reunion Island or île de la Réunion is that sexy lil hunk of volcanic rock just east of Madagascar and south-west of Mauritius. Best uncrowded waves in the world, too, 'cause of a bull shark infestation. Jeremy Flores went there for a two-week vacation last year and didn't wet a board. The photo here is of Julian Wilson during filming for Jordy Smith's Bending Colours in 2012. | Photo: Ryan MIller

Discovered: perfect uncrowded waves!

There's just one catch. And it's a doozy… 

Everywhere’s crowded. It ain’t even a joke. You’ll fly across the globe for 20 hours, jump a domestic flight and then an overnight boat charter and you’ll wake up to the fabled perfect waves you’ve seen in surf mags… with thirty surfers.
Who needs it!
So what if I told you there was a gorgeous tropical island, so perfect there in the southern Indian, near Mauritius, near Madagascar, that hosted dozens of empty waves. Dozens. I so don’t shit you!
If you were there today, for instance, you’d ride a perfect lefthand reef, empty, a wave that lights up through July and August by those southern-hemi winter south swells.
Where is this paradise? Okay, here’s the rub. Reunion Island. More attacks than Western Australia, Byron Bay and South Africa. Home to an infestation of rabid bull sharks, pugnacious thugs unlike any other shark in the ocean. Quick to attack, slow to let go.
In April, one of the island’s best young surfers, 13-year-old Elio Canestri was hit. Killed in front of his seven friends. Fourteen attacks, seven fatals, in the last few years. Tourism, surfing, is dead on Reunion.
But it wasn’t always this way.
For a time there in the nineties Reunion was the most exotic stop on the world tour. Difficult to access, usually via Jo-berg in South African, which was already 20-plus hours from anywhere, and being an overseas department of France meant it had a demographic that was part French and part Creole (quick lesson! Creole is the name given to anyone born on the island whatever their ethnicity, but this could be anything from Chinese to Malagasy to African and Indian).
Reunion isn’t a world different to Tahiti, mountainous, blue-water reef passes and bound up with all the good French bits (food culture, education, language) without any of the stiff French formality.
Anyway, so the tour came and went, but what didn’t change was how rad this volcanic jewel is. Waves? You’ve got ’em everywhere. Kai Neville’s 2009 movie The Modern Collective showed that it was more than just St Leu; that a short drive south you could be jumping off the biggest ramps anyone had ever seen – and no one out.
Yeah, it always had a rep for sharks. It’s the Indian Ocean. It’s tropical. Like  Madagascar. Like Mauritius. Attacks happened but they were predictable. Surfers were smart enough to avoid the east coast, to avoid surfing after rains that muddied the water and by staying out of the drink at dawn and dusk. An attack here and there, but years apart, and only occasionally fatal.
But in 2007, a 19km stretch of marine reserve was created on the west coast. Nothing could be touched, shark, coral, whatever. Shark attacks spiked. And all either in or close by the new marine reserve.
Surfers are leaving the island en masse, to mainland France, to wherever, to anywhere. The number of regular surfers and bodyboarders on Reunion has dropped from over 5000 to around 60. There use to be 13 surf schools on the island. Now there’s three. One surf shop that’d sell bodyboards in the hundreds in a season has sold three in a year.
And you know what that means? Uncrowded lineups! Perfect tropical waves where you’ll beg for another person to surf with. An old gem becomes a New Classic!
Sure, the sharks are there, but isn’t there an inherent risk every time we dive into the ocean?
Anyway, if it freaks you out too much surf on Wednesday and Saturday. Vigie requin (government employed free divers with spears) patrol popular surf spots. If a shark is spotted whistles are blown and the water cleared. The vigie requin are even trained to deal with trauma. ie. sudden amputations.
Win, win…

Rob (holding trophy)
Rob (holding trophy)

I saw Rob Machado at the grocery store yesterday

He was buying one bottle of teriyaki sauce.

He stood behind me in line with his one bottle of teriyaki sauce. I was buying lots more than that but I can’t remember what and can’t remember why I didn’t let Rob cut in front of me. I didn’t bring a bag so I had to buy one for five cents. Rob didn’t need a bag because he was buying one bottle of teriyaki sauce. We talked about the famous snowboarder Nicolas Muller and about BBQing. It was nice.

Do you think Rob Machado is one of the greatest surfers ever? He is getting kind of old now even though his hair is still impossibly full. But it has grey in it.

John John Florence backside huck

How to: Land Your First Air

It ain't just a dream! You can do it!

Cutbacks and swishing back and forth on a wave is, generally, the funnest thing in the world. At least it is until you discover the relative simplicity and ultra-satisfaction of regularly landing aerials.

Have you ever tried?

I mean, have you ever consciously forced yourself to not just throw your board away above the lip, but stay over the deck, land and ride out? Probably not.

It continues to amaze me how few surfers even try to lance the boil of monotony by taking their surfing to a different dimension.

I know you want to.

And, so to further the cause, I’ve asked Josh Kerr, a 30-year-old Australian surfer living in Carlsbad, California, the WSL surfer and one-time aerial world champ, to talk you the through the mechanics of stomping aerials. This how-to is the for the average and slightly-above average surfer.

First tip?

“Stay in the top half of the wave and stall until you see the section. You only need one good pump before you hit the section. And you want to be accelerating, you want thrust, when you hit the section. So many people race, race, race, then slow down, and lose their pop when they hit the lip.”

The pop! Listen to air guys and it’s a common theme.

“It’s crucial. If you use the right part of the wave, one pump and you can go from 10 clicks to 15 in a blink.”

A common mistake Josh sees is “People kicking their board out in front of them. They’re not staying over the top of their board and they’re putting their board flat to the beach. You’ve got to be committed to stay over your board. Don’t fall back when you’re in the air.”

And air reverses? If you’re a snowboarding kinda guy or gal, you already know what Josh is going to say. If not, add the word huck to your lexicon. “It’s all about the huck. The main technique is swinging your arms and shoulders. It’s like a golf swing. You need to have full commitment to the swing and the follow through. Twist your shoulders, twist your head and your lower body will catch up.”

As for the semi-mythical full rotator, it requires an extra, conscious, and quite a physical huck. “The foreign part is coiling your body to get that extra part of the rotation.”

Feeling it? Go! Try!

Blow a thousand waves. But that first big air you stomp? Tell me you won’t be smiling.

Even if you’re old, y’ain’t outta the game. Watch this from the nearly 50-year-old Brad Gerlach.


Best: New series on the Internet!

The faceless Australian finally gets his 15 minutes!

Red Bull has just launched a new series titled This and Nothing Else. It chronicles the men and women who have to work normal jobs in order to get their kicks. The first episode features Justen Allport, a gutsy man who works as a firefighter to put bread on the table. But what he loves is surfing nasty looking slabs. Ugly things and why? Who knows! It’s what makes for compelling viewing!

In any case, Justen totally represents the faceless Australian charger, a term famous Mt. Dew actor Taylor Paul came up with a few years ago.

Here is my story on the faceless Aussie. But, really, just watch Justen. A moving picture is worth 55,000 words!

He is big, taller than the average surfer and cut differently. Thicker. He drinks beer, has a hell time, knows swell forecasts weeks out, drives an old ute (what Americans call an SUV), and charges heaving slabs. Gut wrenching, cold water, thick-lipped slabs. He is the faceless Australian.

The faceless Australian is a legend in his hometown of Gnarabup or Boranup or Prevelly or Cowarump or Bogangar. He is a legend because he stares great white sharks right in their beady little eyes. He has never pulled back from a wave even if that wave is closing out onto a dry rock shelf. He has given himself and his best mate stiches. He buys the beer for everyone at the pub. He fights and fucks and sings of the good times. He is on every epic day even if that epic day starts at four in the morning and he was up until three in the morning fighting and fucking and singing.

The faceless Australian, whose name is either Ryan Hipwood, Dylan Longbottom, Mickey Brennan, Tyler Holmer-Cross or Laurie Towner, regularly appears on the cover of Australia’s Surfing Life magazine, air dropping into a monster, but rarely on the cover of Surfing, Surfer or Transworld. Sometimes, when he finds himself buried in the photo spreads of one of the American magazines, he is either misnamed or listed as “unidentified.” “Unidentified surfer charges the day at Shipsterns.”

And why? Why is the Australian charger faceless here? What has he done to be cast into the shadows of anonymity? He exhibits quintessentially American traits of masculinity, toughness, spirit and bravery. He is Hemingwayian, or at the very least, Plimptonian. So why?

I will posit that the American surf space is currently in an extreme pendulum swing of femininity. The surfers we know are the ones who float, daintily, in the air. We know Craig Anderson and Craig Anderson surfs amazingly but is also a ballerina. We know Rob Machado who is so lithe and flowey. We know Josh Kerr, an absolute twisty turny acrobat. We are getting to Matt Meola, very pretty. We know and care about all of the dainty flowers. The men who amaze us with their grace. They can, and often do, have power. Dane Reynolds, for instance, drops jaws and causes hoots of pleasure when he buries a rail and throws a bucket of water with one of his full bore arcing turns. But Dane Reynolds also dances in the air with the best of them.

And this era of beautiful ain’t a bad thing by any means. Surfing has never been more exciting or more fun to watch. It is just a fact. Sexy is what sells, today. It’s what turns the people on. A very particular feminine sexy. And so the macho Australian charger is left in the cold. The warm love of a camera lens or correct caption just out of his firm handshake giving grasp.

I will also posit that the American surfer does not understand slabs. Most grow up surfing the comfortable beachbreaks around their homes with the odd point break thrown in for good measure. When they travel it is to Hawaii or Indonesia and not to hunt unruly beasts. American surfers love to get barreled underneath head high lips groomed by warm breezes. They love to pretend to punt like the graceful set. They love to wear 3/2s or, rather, they don’t love that but will abide it during the winter months. 4/3s or straight 5s represent burrrrrr. And, of course, those who live in Santa Cruz or New Hampshire do what they must, donning their thick winter months neoprene, but if they had the choice wouldn’t they move to Southern California? Yes. They would.

And so, the idea of actively seeking bone crunching thrills in freezing cold water with sharks circling and the nearest patisserie 800 miles away is difficult for the American surfer to actively understand. It is not what he normally does. It is not what he even wants to do.

I will finally posit that the faceless Australian is unable to care about his lack of notoriety precisely because he is masculine and because he is Australian. It not masculine to toot your own horn. It is not masculine to have a blog and regularly update it. It is not masculine to seek praise for your hard work. Above and beyond, it is certainly not Australian to do any of those things. In Australia there exists a condition called “tall poppy syndrome.” Due to an excessive egalitarianism, those who have achieved success based upon their talents, and insist on trumpeting those successes, are cut down. The sociological explanation is long and dull but that is what happens. And so the faceless Australian cannot go and praise the giant, boil-filled barrel that he rode earlier in the day because that would make him a tall poppy. And he would be made fun of. He is stuck. Faceless. And maybe he is happy there. Maybe he enjoys his work-a-day, blue collar approach. Maybe he feels comfortable in the warm confines of Australia’s Surfing Life and Australia’s Surfing Life alone. Maybe he needs nothing but his mates and his near drowning experiences and his beer.

In any case, we applaud the faceless Australian. We at times, in fact, wish we were him (minus the faceless part and the 0 dollars).

P.S. If you want to make $55,000.00 go here.


Want $55,000.00? Make a surf film!

Fame and fortune beacon...come to the Canaries!

Who doesn’t dream of being the next Joe G or Kai Neville? Fame, fortune, models waiting anxiously in every port, children emulating your every move. “My life is an earthly paradise…” Joe G says. “I want for nothing…” Kai Neville says.

Well guess what? You can join their ranks! The Canary Islands Surf Film Award, to be given out at the 2016 Canary Islands Surf Film Festival, showers the richest purse ever (50,000 euro or 55,000 American dollars) on one lucky boy or girl. You? Why not! All that needs be done is to make a film in the Canary Islands and have surfing, bodyboarding, windsurfing or kiteboarding as the main theme!

“The Canary Islands are an international reference location for the practice of wind and waves sports. For this reason, we believe that the commitment to the water sports tourism has to go through promoting activities that represent the passion and culture that surround these nautical disciplines,” Maria Mendez, managing director of Canary Islands Tourism Board, says.

Your film must be submitted by August 1st 2016 (a whole year away!) and “capture the passion for the ocean, water sports and the islands’ lifestyle.”

And then you can be the next Joe G. Or Kai Neville.