From Issue 2 – you can buy it here!
Words and Photography by Jason Wolcott
Let’s start with the obvious, if you know anything about me, you already know that I normally shoot and write about surfstyle kiting. I’m not going to fake this thing and pretend that I know everything about freestyle, wakestyle, or even big air kiting. I was really happy to get the call to come down to West Oz from my lavish, opulent life in Bali to shoot with some of the best ‘spray tray’ riders in the game. (I sincerely apologise in writing if I have offended you with the spray tray thing… deal with it). I always like to cast my gaze through my Canon light and megapixel capturing devices upon things that are fast, beautiful and full of funny names like Cromob 9 or some such thing. So I jumped at the chance, even though that would separate me from my beloved wife and daughter for the better part of 11 days.
I landed in Perth and after clearing customs was greeted by free-ride legend in the making, Craig Cunningham.. After a quick lesson in the harsh financial reality of Western Australia, I bought a bottle of water for 5 dollars… really? 5 dollars! We moved south at a crawl through the snarled traffic and orderliness of the gleaming city of Perth.
We set a course toward Australia’s kiteboarding mecca, the area south of Fremantle. Craig’s secret lover, the smooth talking, omnipresent lady that calls the intricate inner working of his Samsung Galaxy S5 home, flawlessly guided us through the perilous web of speed cameras, motorists actually driving the speed limit, and strange road names that even the lady in the phone has a hard time pronouncing. The lady in the phone will play a major roll in this narrative, which you will no doubt notice.
As I had some time to kill before I could check into my digs, Craig ran me by his place, a sprawling mansion filled with some of the sports’ most distinguished protagonists. Australian Ewan Jaspan seemed to be the designated leader of the house, that is, until Canadian smart-ass and king of banter, Sam Medysky who promptly shut off the Xbox 360 and lashed out at the electronically enraptured Ewan and his digital opponent, 2013 world champion Alex Pastor. Medysky proceeded to let them know how they were wasting their collective lives and burning holes in their brains as well as the couch and to get their asses outside and go kiteboarding for f%cks sake…
At that point, the voice of reason, the amazing Colleen Carol, Dr. Cunningham’s better looking, better half, walked through the door like a fresh breeze, and who to my surprise was not at all jealous of Craig’s obsession with the talking GPS lady who resides in his phone. I would later learn about the bizarre love triangle involving Craig, Colleen and the GPS lady, and even I grew to love her for her highly informative advice and no nonsense approach to life and road directions. The fact that she knows where the gas station is when the fuel light is on was what threw me over the edge and into what has now become a strange yet delightful foursome. You see, I live in a developing country, a place that not even the GPS lady would be able to understand. Back to Ms. Carroll, she politely introduced herself, and as quickly as she appeared, she was off to set up her board for the afternoon session.
After a long early morning flight, I had to get outside and was way relieved to walk into the growing sea breeze, as my synapses were still having trouble processing the exchange that took place between Pastor, Ewan, and the comedic genius, Medysky. Craig and I zoomed off in our shit bucket rental Hyundai to what would be my home for the next week. It was a glorious 1 story home situated directly across the street from one of the best flat water kite spots in all the world, The Pond. Craig took the tour with me of my favourable locale, which was given by the lord of the manner, Dave, a man who spends a lot of time talking to underwater robots. You see he is a builder of amazing aquatic machines known by those in the know as R.O.V’s. Craig and Dave had a lot in common as they both have an affinity for artificial intelligence and kiteboarding as it turned out. I could clearly sense Craig would give up the luxuries of the mansion and trade places with me at the drop of a hat to move himself, Colleen, and the GPS lady into my newly carpeted, bunk bed equipped palace by the sea. I settled in and got ready for my first day behind the lens in W.A.
The first session started with a shade of foreshadowing as the clouds and the wind disrupted our image making. I had heard that they have a name for the wind around there called the ‘Fremantle Doctor’… I am not sure why they call it that, but as it turned out, the doctor was out sick for the week. The wind was fluky, strange, gusty, and from the wrong direction, but hey, it was still windy so we decided to shoot overshot spots from under shot angles.
The next day was when the weather really started playing games, it was strong and would shift direction every 15 minutes or so. When it finally made up its mind, it made the groin at Woodies into a protected flat-water wonderland, with a great back drop to photograph 5 time world Champion, Aaron Hadlow, the newly signed North team rider. In my mind and most others, he is the kiteboarding master of the universe. Joining Aaron where the likes of Colleen Carroll, Craig Cunningham, and Manuela Jungo. We stayed until the sun made its way over the azure blue horizon closing yet another amazing day in West Oz.
As the days marched on, the skin on my lips and the bottom of my feet began to crack from the subsequent lack of humidity brought on by the dry arid climate. My hard drive was being fed large quantities of megabits nightly and leaving me numb, tired, dazed and confused by the sheer number of amazing riders finding their way in front of my lens. At one point, I had the current world champ Christophe Tack, Liam Whaley, Mark Jacobs, and former world champ, Alex Pastor, busting out powered wakestyle tricks that I will surely need to look up in the Tricktionary. Followed shortly thereafter by a slider session with Alex James Lewis-Hughes, Sam Medysky, Craig Cunningham, Ewan Jaspan, and Elliot Drury that ended with yet another beautiful sunset. I walked home with a smile on my face all the while looking out for Brown Snakes basking in the warmth of the sandy footpath that led home
There comes a time that a change of scenery is in order and when that day arrived, I said goodbye to my house mates, a pack of raved kite instructors and a loan backpacker, and packed the car for a drive south towards my favourite place on earth, Margaret River. I was joined by two of kiteboarding’s super couples, Manuela Jungo and style master James Boulding, as well as Colleen and Craig. We made our way to the house of up and coming North team rider Billy Hampton who’s family had graciously invited us to spend some time at their hand crafted house in the woods, an architectural delight filled with warmth, art, and welcoming smiles, as well as homemade wood fired pizza and tasty coffee. We quickly unloaded unessential gear and headed out to a wave spot that I had been longing to photograph but never had the chance.
It is a hydraulic bomb of a wave slurping and slamming metres away from the wind scoured beach, with howling side-shore wind, so I quickly talked young Billy into sampling the mayhem. He rode the horrible beast with the grace and skill of someone far more experienced than any 15-year-old prodigy should be able to.
We then headed further south towards a flat water haven protected by barrier sandbars and dunes. The wind was howling, and bitingly cold, quite unlike what we were used to in Perth. We dropped a small aluminum boat in the water with a motor that should have been retired years earlier, and made the short voyage to the other side of the inlet to find butter smooth water thanks to the 1 meter high dunes that shield it from the lashing winds. We proceeded to shoot until nearly dark bagging more glorious megapixels before loading the small boat with camera gear and nearly frozen people for what should have been a 5 minute ride. Young Billy took the helm and began to pilot us home as his father, our former captain, kited back to the boat ramp.
Not long after, the motor began to act strange and rebel against the tired, cold occupants of the small craft. Something inside the outboard motor broke causing the throttle to stop working and allowing the small boat to be blown into the weedy shore. Craig and I decided to start rowing to no avail, as we were completely out of sync causing the little boat to thrash and weave left and right, and make no headway. We really needed the GPS lady at that point, she would have sorted it all out. Finally, Mark, Billy’s dad, came to the rescue letting his son kite back to dry land. We made our way upwind to the protected dunes and began to march through the soggy estuary. Having enough of it, Mark decided to have a go at fixing the broken motor. A matter of minutes later, we were back in business zooming thankfully back to the boat ramp and on to the Hampton’s house for wood fired pizza and beer instead of sleeping in the woods wrapped in kites.
The next day found us at one of the most beautiful beaches any of us had ever seen. Red granite jutting into the Indian Ocean, which was a shade of translucent aqua marine, it really has to be seen to be believed. I had been there before on the ‘filthy west’ trip with Ben Wilson, Ian Alldredge, Josh Mulcoy and Ryland Blakeney and I was delighted to be back. We had made plans to transfer my camera gear and self into the trust of the soon to arrive Ryland Blakeney who along with Dan Jones, and Rowdy had driven down for the day. The wind was already on so the crew headed out for a quick kicker session before I said my goodbyes. After getting a few more shots I jumped into Ryland’s off-road beast to head back to more familiar territory, to shoot wave kiting with the newly arrived group, who had come down to chase some waves and strong wind. We made our way to one of Ryland’s favourite spots and made the long walk up the lonely wind swept beach for a quick session.
Sadly, the long drive back to Perth would be the end of my last day shooting in W.A. as I would be heading north to Lancelin to watch the wave contest and enjoy some time on the beach getting to see some old friends and make some new ones, leaving the photography for the event photographer to capture. But damn, they had a good chopper pilot and I wished I were the guy hanging out the door…
Craig, Colleen, and the GPS lady were kind enough to make sure that I made it to the airport ending a great week and a half in WA. Just a quick thanks to all those who made my stay so memorable especially the Samsung Galaxy GPS lady.