Ozzie Wright On The Great Plastic Menace
What happens when six freewheeling minds of Electric Kool Aid Acid Test proportions dump the bus in San Fran and dip their blotters, bobbers and sinkers into the Ments lysergic? The result will be a film by artisan Thomas Campbell, starring Ryan Burch, Alex Knost, Bryce Young, Craig Anderson, Jared Mell and today’s subject of interest Ozzie Wright, with whom we took the opportunity to ask about adventures with Rabbit, Indo boards and the great plastic menace…
SW: So Oz, you’ve been coming to Indo for a long time. When was your first trip? Who was it with? Did you eat mushrooms? What boards were you riding?
OW: My first trip to Indo was when I came to Bali with the Australian Team for the World Grommet Titles in 1994. I was about 17 and for some reason they booked my ticket a day after the rest of the team without telling anyone. When I arrived at the airport nobody was there to get me because nobody knew I was coming. At that stage I had no idea what to do. It was such an electric culture shock and I was deadset shitting myself because this guy in a Dancing Dragon outfit came over and bit me which was shithouse because now I was terrified, not knowing where to go or what to do and I had this bite mark that was bleeding everywhere. Somehow, I remembered the name of a hotel where a mate of mine had stayed a year earlier, so I jumped a taxi, said the name of the place and just hoped I might see someone I knew when I got there. Sure enough as soon as we pull up I see Rabbit Bartholomew who was the Aussie Team Coach at that time. Everyone else on the team had gone surfing out Kuta beachy but Rabbit had other ideas.
We jumped into a bemo and went straight to the Bukit which in those days took ages because there was still no roads, just long winding super potholed dirt tracks. Eventually we got to Bingin but it was too small and Rabbit’s like “Shit. Let’s just walk to Ulus.” So we start walking through this dense scrub in the boiling hot sun and we’re getting shredded by these cactus and other thorny bushes along the edge of these huge terrifying cliffs. I’d barely even been in the country for more than a few hours and here I am with Rabbit on this psycho surf adventure. It was awesome! In the arvo on the way back to the hotel we decided to surf out Airport Lefts. We took a boat out and there was a lot more swell than either of us had expected. We got a few waves but pretty soon it was completely dark and the surf is getting bigger and bigger and bigger. Pretty soon Rabbit looks at me and says “Righto mate, it’s decision time. We either paddle way out beyond the reef and wait for the boat to come grab us, or we try get one and then paddle all the way back to the beach.” I was fucking freaking out because neither option sounded all that good to me but eventually the boat came and got us and so that was a huge relief after a pretty stressful first day.
A week later after the contest ended the whole Aussie team went and partied at the Sari Club and I got punched out by some skitzy badass Javanese guys, lost half a tooth and got a black eye, fell to the ground and then six of these guys just kicked the shit out of me and Luke Hitchings. I thought we were gonna die for sure but a local legend named Wayan Gobleg saved us. He pulled up outside the Sari Club in a getaway car and when Hitcho and I saw him we made a break for it and luckily escaped. In the morning I looked in the mirror at my beaten head and missing tooth and got so bummed I punched the mirror and sliced my hand to pieces. Seven years bad luck on top of everything else. Anyway I paid for the mirror, left Kuta behind and went and stayed for two weeks at the Green Iguana Café at Ulus. That was my first trip and every trip and to be honest, every trip since has been just as eventful. I love the place.
Indo boards, particularly Indo guns, used to be designed very specifically for Indo waves. Did you ever cop an Indo gun or ride a pintail at 15 foot Outside Corner? Do they still work?
I rode a 6’6” twinny by Joel Fitzgerald a lot last year in Indo. It was nice and chunky with a pretty gunny outline. It paddled super fast and also went super fast. I loved it and got so many pits on it but then broke it at Padang on a small day on the wave after you broke my other board. I was pretty shattered. I’ve only surfed Outside Corner a few times but never fifteen foot. I did ride another 6’6” out there though, a really wide, thick, flat thruster and so long as the wave was eight foot or bigger it went amazing. Any smaller and I couldn’t turn it. On the Sprout trip with Thomas Campbell back in the day I got to ride one of those nice Lopez guns at solid Asu. I remember pulling into a huge scary dry as fuck closeout on the end bowl and getting shredded on the reef. Good times.
Tell me, what sort of surf are you after when you go to Indo and would you pack different boards for a trip to Bali than say the Ments? What did you take on this most recent trip?
The surf I’m after is perfect, fast, down the line shallow left reefs with nobody out, but that rarely happens. There are so many kinds of fun waves over there and I like them all really. You don’t really need your extreme grovel boards that you might ride in Byron Bay, you don’t need your log, however you can always find some weird little tiny novelty spots in Indo that are so fun to surf. I love the feeling of finding some random little wave in the middle of nowhere and and the idea that you might be the first to surf it. On this trip I took my 6’6” Joel Fitz twin fin that I rode a lot last year in Indo. I also took a few nice shortboards by Mark Gnech, and all my fave Vampirate models that I drew all over, and another tiny Fitz twin fin I call my Smurfboard.
Did you do many board swaps on this trip? The asyms and logs and what not? Did you discuss boards with those guys at all?
Yeah Knost was ripping on his bonzers. I love the long drawn out bottom turn to layback power snaps he can do on them. Mell had a huge single pintail he’d made himself and he navigated it through some pretty amazing pits while being el baracho. Burch always has a beautiful quiver and he ripped it up on them. Bryce and him were on some cool little twin fin flextails. Ando had the sickest MR twin which I rode and absolutely loved. It had crazy hard edged rails all the way to the nose and it went insane. On the first day it was my birthday and Burch and I swapped boards. I had the best time at Lance’s Left on his “Period Blood”model which he named because of the dried blood red nose on it. He liked my 6’6” too. I kept meaning to try Knost’s bonzer but never got around to it.
You’ve said Ryan Burch is the best shaper in the world at the moment. Can you elaborate on that?
Well that’s a big call but he’s just so into it, so enthusiastic and the physicality of him, he’s like 6’2” long with huge arms and more energy than a greyhound. You watch him shape and it’s hilarious. He actually looks like a shaping machine he goes so hard and then pulls out these super sculptural, futuristic, organic alienish boards. I like the way he shapes all these weird curves into all the parts of the board like where the rails meet the deck. He’s always trying new things and I dunno how many boards he’s made in the last five years but it’s a hell of a lot and more out of his own curiosity than for financial reasons. His boards have a real look and feel that is all their own. I’ve ridden about ten of his fishes and only one asym and the asym was meant for a natural footer and I still thought it felt great.
All of those guys approach surfing with a lot of imagination and really unique lines. What do you enjoy about the way they surf and their understanding of what they’re riding?
They’re really feeling it and not surfing like robots programmed to hit the lip as many times as possible without even enjoying a second of the free ride they are on. Jared’s switch tuberiding is so good and he’s doing mad laybacks everywhere. It was so good to see some really different approaches at Macaronis because you tend to only see people trying to be so hi-fi out there. Knost has the same kinda wave selection as me – sit inside and catch every scrap that slips through. I like that about him, it’s fun as hell. His surfing reminds me of the old footage of Jay Adams skating around, like holding both his rails and bunny hopping, It’s so raw and personal. Burch and Bryce are so similar in that they are both really tall and skinny but surf with a lot of power and grace, can both longboard as good as anyone and do psycho carves on tiny fishes and are psyched on anything futuristic or ancient, it doesn’t matter because it’s timeless. Craig is just the super chill style master after the gnarliest pits he can find to chill out in. He’s just lookin for a slab to chill in. He’s never in a rush, doesn’t need to catch a thousand waves. He’s just happy to get the wave of the day and drink to it later. Such a good guy to do trips with. Every now and then he gets psyched when conditions are just right and he lands ten huge airs in a row and blows everyone’s minds.
When was the last time you rode what would be considered a standard outline/dimensions shortboard thruster? Did you enjoy it?
Mylee won a raffle at the Scary Good premiere at Bangas pub and first prize was an old six foot thruster rounded pintail – a hand-me-down from Creedo (Candy McTaggart). It has Creed’s art all over it and I’ve been riding it all week with Noa, trying to keep up with him. The board feels insane. Thanks Mylee and Creed and Scary Good!
Is there such a thing as an ideal Indo board in your opinion?
You can ride anything over there but as a rule I’d say narrower and thinner than your Australian quiver.
How has Indonesia changed since you first went there? Is it still a surfers paradise or do you predict it might all go to shit if surfers don’t take more interest and responsibility for the pollution and tourism that’s spreading all over the archipelago?
I read the best thing the other day ‘it’s insanity that something as fleeting as food should be packaged in something as indestructible as plastic’. It’s tragic how bad the plastic problem is for our planet. We the surfers are the ones who have to lead the charge for change. There is no infrastructure to deal with trash in Indonesia. Yes it will definitely go to shit and Bali is already in crisis with trash everywhere. It’s horrible. I feel bad to even go there because you know you are contributing to the problem.