Did you wonder how a 100kg machine stayed afloat long enough to conquer Teahupoo?
Yesterday morning, shortly after we posted Robbie Maddison’s Teahupoo clip, I got a droll phone call from the most practical man I know.
Miles Pitt builds movie sets for a living and is responsible for a ton of similarly gimmicky surf shoots (flares on Bruce Irons and Jordy Smith’s boards, laser lights in a wave pool). He also owns a sunglass label that is stupidly successful (Rihanna and Lady GaGa wear ’em.) Click here etc.
He said, “You know this is fake don’t you?”
When he explained all the physics behind keeping a motorcycle afloat, I felt quite dense that I hadn’t even questioned it. We soon realised that the curtain was going to be lifted on this elaborate prank at the world premiere, Wizard of Oz-like, that was happening… now!
I immediately called Chas Smith who was at the premiere. Chas spoke to his old friend Raimana Van Bastolaer, who was the Tahitian fixer behind the shoot, inspected the motorcycle, and called back.
“It’s real,” he said.
And so it was.
The bike is a KTM250 SX modified with skis that have little fins at the bottom to act as rudders and a paddle steamer-like back tyre. Maddison chose a two-stroke ’cause it was less likely to freak out in the water as opposed to a four-stroker.
The bike was first tested on an eight-mile ride in San Diego’s Mission Bay. But San Deigo ain’t Tahiti and Mission Bay ain’t Teahupoo.
At one point, Maddison hit a west bomb, one of those kinky straight-into-the-barrel waves only the best surfers dare challenge, and nearly died. Maddison told Rolling Stone, “There I was on a motorcycle, with the worst thing that could possibly happen… My friends and crew were completely rattled, having thought that I had drowned in the wave. It’s the gnarliest thing I have ever been through.”