Ozzie Wright loves Indonesia more than any other place on earth. He first came here as a fetus in his mother’s womb. We recently picked up a coffee and dove into Ozzie’s brain and had him open the chest on his favorite Indo adventures — from the his first trip here with Rabbit Bartholomew as his guide, to the time he and Luke Hitchings got the shit kicked out of them on the floor of the Sari Club, to watching Mark Healey surf giant Desert Point.
For the entire ode on Indonesia and imagery, be sure to grab What Youth Issue 5. After the jump you’ll enjoy a vast sampling of what it means to be a youth on the run in Indonesia from the goon of doom himself.
Interview by Jed Smith
The original legend: “I grew up with (Jed) Cooney, so Steve Cooney (his dad) was the first guy to surf Ulus. I used to stay at their house from the age of seven and there were framed photos of Steve on the walls and the cover of Morning of the Earth came from (Ulus). I used to watch the film and Steven was a big hero to all of us, ’cause he was a famous surfer. I thought of it as just this magic place, just incredible. They found that wave, they had to find their way down the cliff. Steven was 15 I think, no leggie, riding a big single fin, just amazing. My parents went there a fair bit too and my mum when she was there she was pregnant with me. So I was there when I was in the womb. Pretty trippy. And Rocky (Ozzie’s son) was conceived down on the reef there at Uluwatu, too.”
Master and apprentice: “By the time I first went there I was 16 and it was for the World Junior Grommet comp. It was pretty trippy because I rocked up at the airport, because the whole team was meant to be getting on the plane and going to Bali together, but no one was there. Rabbit was the coach and I got there and I got on the plane, nup, no one there. I get to Bali and I’m like fuck, no one is here to meet me. I was so scared. But my friend Danny Shallice had been to the grommet titles the year before and I was talking to him heaps about it. And I remember him saying the name of the hotels he’d stayed there the year before, the Sari Cottages. So I got a taxi there hoping it would still be there and it was and I found them. On the first day I got my board and Rabbit took me surfing at Middles out past Kuta Reef. It was a hilarious trip. It was good to spend a bit of time with Rabbit. He was hilarious. Just to soooo funny. He took me out surfing there in the middle of the ocean, it was pretty big and I was scared shitless. Then we went to Bingin. It was like this secret spot up against the cliff but it was too small, so he was like, ‘Fuck it, let’s go to Ulus.’ And we walked there! It took us fucken two hours. It was booooiling hot. Then I remember one night we were out at Tubes (the original surf bar) and they had one of those bungee jumping running comps (where a bungee chord is strapped around your waist and you see how far you can stretch it). Rabbit was wasted and he fucken went in it. And they’re like, ‘You’ve gotta wear a helmet’ and he’s like (Ozzie puts on a growl) ‘Bugs doesn’t wear a helmet.’ He’s at the end of the rope and he hadn’t won and he wanted to win so bad, so he’s on the ground just trying to get inch by inch further away for about half an hour (Ozzie acts it out). He was crazy, a lunatic.”
Foot in mouth: “Me and (former World Tour surfer) Luke Hitchings, we had the tag team on the finals day of the grommet champs and we won. We went and got drunk and we were dancing at the Sari Club and got beat up by about ten Javanese people. Me and Hitchings were on the ground getting the shit kicked out of us by about ten people. I lost that tooth (Ozzie points to an incisor). I dunno why it happened. We were just dancing having a good time. Then I went and stayed at Ulus for ten days just in the warungs there and it was so fun to just surf all day. You could just be a kid and sleep outside up there and eat all your meals up there. The island just looks after you so nicely. It’s so accommodating. You can bring as much shit and friends and whatever and it just absorbs you and massages you (mischievous laughter) and just gets you barrelled and enlivens your spirit. But then if you go too far you get fucken smacked down. Karma is so instant here.”
Sessions: “There’s definitely been a lot of them. I did one boat trip in the Mentawais with Bruce (Irons) when he was in his hey day and Gavin Beschen. They were taking some crazy big drops and just threading the shit out of every giant barrel they could get at Nokanduis. It was the best surfing I’ve ever seen in real life to this day. Desert Point I had an epic session there with Kerrzy and Ando and Jordy and (Mark) Healey. Heaps of dudes were out there. I was surfing on my rainbow board with this psychedelic t-shirt. Healey was just looking at me going, ‘Oh duuude, you’re dressed for success!’ He was on mushies and tripping on my shirt. He went and surfed the grower (the psycho borderline unmakeable end section at Deserts) by himself and was saying it was the best surf he’d ever had. It was huge down there.”
Indo lords: “There’s the classic Australian-surf-dog-Indo-warrior-tube-hunter and they’re just awesome. They just love it and are the authority on wherever they’ve spent the last 20 years. They know every little nook and cranny on the reef and aren’t afraid to tell you about when it’s gonna be good and bad. I love those guys. There’s heaps of good people. I made a good friend in Canggu, Bob Moore, a good old artist dude that I get to hang out with and paint and play music with when I come over. Ismail Abdul, Tipi’s little brother (another local surfing identity and the CEO of the Indonesian Surf Championship) came to stay with me when we were both 16. He’s a real nice guy but it was funny when he came to stay with me. He was hilarious. Fish out of water. He had a big bag of clothes he was gonna sell on the street but he was like, ‘Where are all the people? There are no people on the street!’ He couldn’t drink the water out of the tap because it was so cold, alls he wanted was rice, he was so homesick. It was funny seeing a Balinese guy out of Bali.”
The buzz: “There’s just so much magic here. I particularly love Bali and the people of Bali and all the offerings. They’re so warm and nice, and such good waves of course. I still get the biggest buzz when I land here. I actually lose it. My head goes up in the clouds with all the endless possibilities. It feels like the Third World is your oyster (that’s a reference to one of Ozzie’s art works). I feel like that. You can do whatever you want. And motorbikes, I love riding on a motorbike. I love getting my first nasi goreng when get here and getting your first little tube.”
The Future: “I mean it’s a worry. It’s so chaotic but they’re so clever and creative. It’s hanging on by a thread but it seems to keep moving. It’s frigging crowded though. There’s six million people on Bali and its half the size of Sydney.”
Learnings: “I’ve had some big time karma lessons. When I crashed my bike I was doing stupid things. I believe in karma heavily. Try and be the best you can and you’ll be alright here.”