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The SUPERbrand team pillage murky beachbreaks in the lower Clarence...

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ON A PUNCHY RIGHTHANDER RUNNING INTO A PROTECTED CORNER, CLAY MARZO HAD SEVEN CONSECUTIVE GOES AT THIS FINNER-REVERSE. HIS SYSTEMATIC APPROACH WAS UNDENIABLE – SAME SECTION, WAVE AFTER WAVE, HE’D BLAST THE FINS AND COME WITHIN AN INCH. FINALLY, ON HIS SEVENTH ATTEMPT, HE SETTLED THIS MASTERPIECE.

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LEE WILSON HAS A WELL-REHEARSED HANDSHAKE AND HE’LL READILY OFFER HIS PALM DURING INTRODUCTIONS. ANOTHER THING HIS PALMS HAVE GRIPPED MANY TIMES ARE THE RAILS OF HIS SURFBOARDS. JUST LIKE THE SLOB YOU SEE HERE – WELL-REHEARSED, FAMILIAR, COMFORTABLE, BEAUTIFUL.

ho the fuck tries something like that with that kinda speed?” someone

asked, as Clay Marzo came unstuck and submerged. After stroking hard into

a clean left-hander, drawing a high line and accelerating out of the power-

source with speed, he’d pumped twice and hit the lip, grabbing with his left

hand and throwing his fins above the section. His board flipped out of control

and he disappeared underwater. It was a fantastic dismount.

“Clay does,” answered a tall but gentle man named Paul Brewer. “And the times when he does pull

shit like that, it’s crazy. We knew that. It’s why we sponsor him.” Along with the person with whom he was having the conversation, Paul is one of the men behind Clay’s sled sponsor, SUPERbrand.

The company had rented a house in the lower Clarence. It was a white, cement-rendered house with

wooden floors, which leant against a garage with a stubborn rolladoor. The house was filled with 31 boards, on and under beds, in laundry, on floors, in garage, in kitchen. The reason for the mid-

north coast gathering was to finalise shots for SUPERbrand’s first surf film, Sorry, We’re Open, put together by Kai Neville Studio and cover-mounted on this issue of Stab.

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LOOKING AT THE MAIN SHOT HERE, YOU’D BE FORGIVEN FOR ASSUMING THIS A THROWAWAY. SUCH IS CLAY’S COMMITMENT THAT EVERYTHING IN A FINNER LIKE THIS RELIES ON HIS CORE STRENGTH. WHICH, DESPITE LACK OF TRAINING, IS IMMENSE (AS IS EVIDENT FROM RECOVERIES LIKE THIS ONE.)

ABOVE: WHAT DOES SIX SHIRTLESS MEN AND LOTS OF FOAM MAKE YOU THINK OF? FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: DANE ZAUN, LEE WILSON, DION AGIUS, MAX ASHFORD, BEAU FOSTER AND CLAY MARZO. LEFT: THE ROCK FORMATION NATE LAWRENCE SHOT THIS PHOTO OF CLAY MARZO FROM WAS MADE FOR BEHIND-THE-FIN-BLAST ANGLES. TWO METRES ABOVE WATER HEIGHT, IN LINE WITH TAKEOFF POINT AND PERFECTLY FLAT, IT WAS WHERE NATE POSTED UP AND SCORED MOST OF HIS GOLD. BOTTOM LEFT: A MOMENT OF SOLITUDE IN A CHARMED BUT CURIOUS EXISTENCE. LEFT: DION’S ATTENTION TO BOARD DESIGN MAY JUST BE ONE OF HIS GREATEST ASSETS. THE NUANCES OF A NEW QUIVER ENTHRALLED HIM MORE THAN THEY DID OTHER TEAMERS. HE ALSO WORE FRUITIER JEWELLERY THAN THE REST OF ‘EM.

On the lounge in the front room of the house sat young surfers Beau Foster and Max Ashford.

Seventeen-year-old Beau, from the Central Coast of Australia, has the look of an elf that’s been grabbed by feet and hands and stretched into lankiness. He frequently flicks silver-blonde hair

from his face. Beau’s surfing is low key – during the trip, it wasn’t uncommon to see him paste a

finner, tweaked good and hard, then hang his head as though embarrassed. Max is a little older and a touch wiser. With the torso of a Bronte Beach lifesaver (which he is), the widest of smiles and a lunging roundhouse, Max surfs determinedly. He cements intense eyes on approaching sections and wets his rails more often than taking to air. The duo holds down the junior end of the team.

The alternate hired accommodation, five houses down the road, slept, among others, half-Indonesian, half-Australian Lee Wilson. The hybrid in his genetic make-up has resulted in a curious but

endearing blended accent. Lee’s neck is tattooed and he is unbelievably friendly. He surfs well, too – Lee tries some courageous airs and, though his strike-rate ain’t always huge, he settled some of the biggest of the trip.

Also staying in the second house was the major talent of the trip, Hawaiian Clay Marzo, with

girlfriend and filmer in tow, whom he rarely travels without. Having only seen Clay surf through Youtube and Vimeo frames, my perception of his approach was that it was mind-blowing but

erratic. Over the next few days, I became obsessed with the intricacies of Clay’s surfing. It is unpredictable. It is fast and loose, like the Motörhead song of same title, but is without the consistency of the English thrash trio. In the soup, Clay is a conundrum; my first impression

was that he didn’t care about the manoeuvre he was trying, but glimpses of a methodic approach

soon discredited that notion. Three afternoons into the trip, while he surfed a low-tide righthander running into an alley, I sat with Paul and attempted to analyse Clay’s surfing in detail. While we watched, Clay attempted the same backside finner-to-reverse on six waves in a row.

He would slam, surface, then paddle back into the impact zone, straight into another wave, without pause. It was at this point that Paul first brought my attention to the skate-style

element of Clay’s surfing – like a skater, Clay often tries the same trick repeatedly until he

stomps clean. He did indeed stomp the reverse on his seventh attempt and, in echo of the previous days’ sentiment, Paul said, “Shit man, y’see that? That’s Clay right there.” Admittedly, It was one of the best tricks of the trip.

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CLAY TORCHED HITS LIKE THIS ON EVERY WAVE. AND QUITE OFTEN, FIRST TURN, STRAIGHT OUTTA THE BOTTOM-TURN. HIS REFLEXES ARE NEXT-LEVEL, AS IS HIS ABILITY TO RECOVER FROM ALL-SEEMS-LOST SITUATIONS. THE CHANGE IN CLAY WHEN HE HITS THE SOUP IS OVERWHELMING – NEVER HAS AN ON-LAND PERSONA AND IN-WATER SAVAGENESS BEEN MORE AT ODDS.

Like many other surfers who view head-growth as an irrelevant part of life, Clay Marzo’s hair is sun-bleached and uncared-for. Though his eyes aren’t hungry, he eats ferociously. On the first

evening of the trip, during dinner at the local RSL, Clay powered through a Caesar salad entree and surf n’ turf pizza main with ease. It left me wondering how there isn’t an ounce of fat on

his body, but I soon came to realise that a minimum six hours in the water most days means he has the metabolism of a Hummingbird, an animal which can consume its own weight in nectar every day

and maintain its size. After a serious knee-injury in April last year, Clay stopped surfing briefly but didn’t cull his appetite, resulting in a weight gain of 11kg (which he’s since lost).

Clay has Aspergers, a condition whereby a person finds social interaction difficult and often

becomes fixated with things – Clay’s fixation being surfing. His reluctance to fame isn’t an act. Following a morning session, I attempted to engage him in our first conversation. Asking in my

most friendly chirp, “Get a few?” I had to awkwardly repeat the question when Clay didn’t hear the first time, at which point he glanced up at me and shrugged. I was in no way offended,

figuring it’d be a good way to let him know I wasn’t an asshole. I’m still unsure whether or not I achieved my goal.

It was on the second day that the most productive session of the trip went down. After stopping at a local café with tasty breakfast and slow Internet, our motorcade arrived at an agreed-upon protected beach. Clay and Lee were straight in the water, opting to surf a little further down the beach where a jacking left bumped through. Charming American goofy-footer, Dane Zaun, was next out, closely followed by Max. I jumped off the rocks moments behind Beau while Nate set

up his camera and Clay’s filmer, Adam Klevin, readied his tripod. The water was murky, a little itchy and kinda menacing – Max later told the crew that he saw a lone, black dorsal fin at one

point, but that it wasn’t close enough to shore to warrant spooking everyone. The session was the first time I’d seen Dane Zaun surf and I soon understood why he’s on the company’s program. Every time I spun my head he was gripping a slob with height and nailing most. Brief glances up to the beach’s northern end usually meant seeing Clay torching a flip off a section most’d flee from.

Twenty minutes into the session, Dion Agius arrived, having driven down from his new Byron Bay home with filmer Beren Hall. Dion’s a clip whore. On his first wave, hair still dry, he took off

on a quick left, blazed down the line and stomped an off-axis, 270-degree rotation. All my dealings with Dion had thus far equated to some brief phone conversations and two online posts

about his most recent going-ons, so I was disarmed by how personable he was when we shook hands for the first time.

Dion let four decent waves go by while we conversed. He was generally interested in everything

I had to say and didn’t paddle away until he was certain we’d finished our conversation. This was a pleasant surprise, because Dion has a rare gift for inciting hatred on Internet forums. Any stabmag.com post involving Dion is a surf-fire way to collect a bevy of sexuality-questioning

comments, even though he has tasted more smouldering women than most angry Interwebbers will in their entire lives. Dion was the most consistent of the crew and, contrary to popular belief,

has a polished rail-game. It was odd but impressive to watch him take off and do three turns to wave’s end.

The day ended with the drinking of beer and the grilling of meat, as would every day thereafter.

In a place like the one we were in, the days begin blending together very quickly. But for such a sleepy setting, the trip was colourful and fun. Just as you’ll find Sorry, We’re Open is.

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