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    An Unapologetic Story of a World Tour Overachiever

    An Unapologetic Story of a World Tour Overachiever

    Where did you grow up? Tathra, far south coast NSW Australia.

    Where's home nowadays?  Currently reside in Curl Curl, Sydney northern beaches.

    What does a day in the life look like for Kai Otton? Depending on swells. In sydney I wake early head straight to my favourite coffee shop and assess conditions. Surf forecasting is so easy these days I’ll generally have a plan in place for surfing. I’ll spend the day with my young family if waves are bad. That consists of skate parks or swimming pools.

    Who influenced you the most in your career? Prob my dad. Good and bad he was there from the start. We didn’t travel much together but he always had good advice whenever required.

     

    What made you pursue professional surfing? I was just a young kid with big dreams from a really small town. I would buy every magazine or video available. The life style looked so amazing I had blinkers for everything else.

    We noticed you have been chasing some recent slab’s. How has life been off tour? Off tour has been so great. I have chased as many waves as possible. It’s also great to not miss out on my family life. I was travelling away from family and was missing the little things. Kids grow so fast and change so quick it was hard to be away so often.

    Scariest moment while surfing? Definitely a set that came through in my round 5 heat in Tahiti 2014. I thought it was a tidal wave and was going to land on me. I’ll never forget how scared I felt but then the relief as I went over it alive ha ha

    What drives you being off the World tour? Being the best parent to my kids is my main focus now.

    What regrets do you have looking back at yourself? I regret the moments where I took my lifestyle for granted. Any professional surfer is truly blessed. Best job anyone could have.

    What advice to you have for young kids that aspire to become professional surfers? It’s a wild ride. People are going to judge you a lot. Take it in your stride and enjoy. Don’t ever forget you surf cause you love it.

    Your favorite quote? My grandad once said this about our time or energy. Give 1/3 to yourself, 1/3 to your family and 1/3 to your community. I’m angling to live this way.

    Meet Brinkley Davies - Marine Biologist, Founder of Balu Blue Organisation, Kangaroo Rescuer, Surf Goddess and Bad Ass.

    Meet Brinkley Davies - Marine Biologist, Founder of Balu Blue Organisation, Kangaroo Rescuer, Surf Goddess and Bad Ass.

    You have a pretty spontaneous  lifestyle; tell us about it!

    The beach has always been my getaway; whether I am freediving, surfing, or walking my dog the beach is where I go to clear my mind. Since I spend so much time in the ocean, naturally I’ve always had such a strong love and passion to protect it, to keep it clean, and promote wildlife conservation.

    My beach lifestyle is about fun, freedom, and looking after the ocean.

    You have a pretty spontaneous  lifestyle; tell us about it!

    The beach has always been my getaway; whether I am freediving, surfing, or walking my dog the beach is where I go to clear my mind. Since I spend so much time in the ocean, naturally I’ve always had such a strong love and passion to protect it, to keep it clean, and promote wildlife conservation.

    My beach lifestyle is about fun, freedom, and looking after the ocean.

    Marine Biology

    Since I was very young, I knew I wanted to study Marine Biology. I had a drive to educate myself in this underwater world that I loved so deeply. I completed a Bachelor Degree in Marine Biology which opened up my mind to many aspects of wildlife and environmental conservation that I wanted to work on.

    After I completed my bachelor degree, I got hands on experience by receiving diving and boating qualifications. I got to see things for myself which was the most valuable experience. The world is a changing place and sometimes we learn the most by just being there. 

    Surfing

    I started surfing at a really young age - I think about 4 years old.  My parents and my brother got me into it.

    I remember being totally hooked, from the first day, there was so much opportunity to improve, every wave was different. I felt invincible when I got my first barrel and to this day there’s still no better feeling than surfing for hours with your best friends. Growing up surfing is what kept me confident, fearless, and also humble. It teaches you to hold such a great respect for the sea. It is such a healthy part of my life, I will never stop surfing. 

    Bunji The Kangaroo

    Bunji is a survivor from a roadside accident on a country road. In Australia, Kangaroos are as common as deer are in some parts of the USA. Unfortunately, these accidents can be unavoidable at night on narrow country roads.

    Bunji survived the accident and was 2-3 weeks old, weighing 3-400g with no fur and eyes only just opening. She was tiny, so so tiny. My partner Ty and I decided, to put our heart and soul into doing our best to care of her. We wanted to give her the best chance of survival. We are so proud to have gotten her through those crucial months and raised her to be a healthy, confident 1.5-year-old roo!

    Bunji is a Euro, also known as a hill kangaroo, cliff kangaroo or Wallaroo. They’re known for strong personalities and intelligence. I had cared for wildlife before but, never something as vulnerable as Bunji. Bunji slowly progressed with bi-hourly feeding schedule, delicate care and handling, and round the clock warmth. We took Bunji everywhere with us and as she grew she started to experience the world. She began to grow fur and developed her confidence and strength. We raised Bunji over the course of a year with our pup, Ohana. They loved each other! 

    When Bunji turned 13 months, she started to want to have her own space and to be comfortable without traveling so often. Kangaroos, as joeys, spend a lot of time in a pouch - when she started spending time out of the pouch we knew we had to find a more permeant place for her to live. In South Australia, it is illegal to re-release hand raised wildlife. Bunji and I have a very strong bond, much like a mother- daughter bond.

    We bumped into a couple one day who had 4 rescues kangaroos on a property near where we live and soon enough we had the perfect home for Bunji. We fell in love with the property and the amazing owners that we decided to partner with them to create a private refuge for orphan native wildlife, like Bunji. With the help of Balu Blue Foundation, Bunji now lives at the refuge called, Two Songs Sanctuary.

    This was a slow transition for Bunji which required daily visits, sleepless nights (for me), and slowly building her trust with her new caretakers. She’s been settling in well and we are so happy to see her content and safe with plenty of room to roam. Bunji and I have a bond that will last a lifetime and although she doesn’t live with me anymore, I visit regularly. Furthermore, our organization (Balu Blue) has goals to help fund Two Songs Sanctuary to be even bigger and better in the near future. 

    What’s advice you would give to people trying to keep their beaches clean?

    There are many ways you can help to keep the beach clean, an obvious one is simply picking up rubbish. Whether it’s a plastic straw or fishing line - if you see it, just pick it up!

    The other big one, is eliminating single use plastics and spreading the message. The less we use, the less is produced, the less we see it showing up in our oceans. Some simple swaps you can make in daily life are:

    - Don't use a re-usable coffee cup

    - Don’t ever use plastic straws. You can get bamboo straws or re-useable steel straws which are much nicer to drink out of and not harmful to the planet

    - Reduce anything that’s single use or cut it out completely. For example: single use water bottles, containers, cutlers, plastic bags.  Just think when you buy, it makes all the difference! Plus eating and drinking out of plastic containers is not good for YOU. Swap it for something re-usable, like stainless steel or glass.

    - Use skincare, and bathroom products which do NOT contain micro-beads. Tthose sneaky, tiny pieces of plastic end up in our oceans as soon as you flush them down the sink and fish eat them without even knowing it.  

    Are there any immediate ways people can get involved with Balu Blue?

    At this stage, we are seeking donations for the year and soon you will be able to become a member which will help us to tackle current and new projects! https://www.balubluefoundation.org/take-action/

    We have many exciting plans for the year which are going on behind the scenes. We’re continuing to look for ongoing sponsors and support for Two Songs Sanctuary. Funds will go to things like, fencing, shelters, food, maintenance costs and veterinary bills for the kangaroos.

    Along with our #ClearTides project on marine debris and plastic pollution (which we are looking to expand), we will also continue with educational awareness, beach clean ups, and potentially a research project!

    If you are interested in hosting a Beach Clean Up, or holding a presentation / school talk, we would love to hear from you!

    Unraveling Mason Ho

    Unraveling Mason Ho

    Your favorite quote you live by? 

    “I do mind how I do mine.”

    Tell us what’s been motivating you the most as of lately?

    Lately I’ve been motivated by my friends that love to surf more than anything. They’ll make any board, fins, trunks or waves work, it makes me appreciate my job and equipment 10 times more. 

    Did you invest into bitcoin? 

    No. 

    Any pre-competition rituals?

    Copy Michael Peterson. 

    First thing you do in the morning?

    Hit it if can. 

    Who helps to push you the most?

    Cheeseburger (Keoni Nozaki) and my sister Coco Ho. 

    Favorite place to be (i.e. water, room, families house, beach). Why?

    A surf spot with nobody out or just a friend, because I completely lose myself having fun.

    Shared plates or individual orders when doing Thai food? 

    I like doing both. 

    Any new surfboards you excited to experiment with? 

    I was excited to try my new 7’8 Gerry Lopez but I broke it on my first the wave day before yesterday. Now I have a OG 1989 Derek Ho 6’0 Eric Arakawa I want to try. 

    Any advice for the younger generation of surfers coming out of Hawaii? 

    Be yourself, be respectful and represent Hawaii with true Aloha. 

    Favorite place you haven’t been to in the world? 

    Las Vegas ...when they get a wave pool. Or Jamaica.

    Favorite surfer that is no longer with us? RIP respectfully. 

    Andy irons and Eddie Aikau. 

    What qualities are your favorite in girlfriends? 

    Enjoys cooking food and funny.

    Your legendary uncle and 1993 world champion, Derek Ho, was a Reef ambassador in the past. How do you think that’s influenced you on representing Reef today? 

    When I was a kid, I’d stare at all the colorful surfboards in his board room, all with reef stickers. Then I’d go to school and draw the boards with all the reef logos hoping one day my boards will look just like his. Then bango, destiny. 

    3 Reef Ambassadors, 1 Dream Adventure of a Lifetime

    3 Reef Ambassadors, 1 Dream Adventure of a Lifetime

    Recently our favorite photographer Brooklyn Hawaii rounded up our longboard maven Victoria Vergara and our globe-trotter Anna Ehrgott for a trip of a lifetime. The three headed out to the Mentawaii Islands for surf, yoga, sun, and an experience in the midst of Indonesia.

    We asked them a few of their expectations going into the adventure, and they came back with and some favorite (and not-so-favorite) memories. Check it out.

    Have you been to the Mentawais before? What are your expectations?

    Anna: I've never been to any part of Indonesia! Coming from longboarding roots, I've avoided trips to heaving barrels over dry reef pretty successfully until now. The Mentawais are known for having some of the most perfect waves in the world and a turquoise water color I've lusted over since the first surf movies I watched featuring the island chain. I think we're all imaging those picture-perfect almond-shaped barrels, eating coconuts and papayas for breakfast, napping off the "noodle arms" in hammocks and enjoying all the sea has to offer. The waves there are a little out of my comfort zone, but I'm anticipating a little bit of an adrenaline rush. At least the forecast looks like it'll ease us into the swing of things.. starting off small and working it's way to double overhead towards the second half of the trip.

    Victoria: I've never been; it's going to be my first time and I'm super excited. I picture this place as a dream for a surf trip. Clear blue water, solid waves surrounded by islands. I’m expecting lots of laughs and an overdose on surfing.

    Brooke: I can only imagine it to be just like the photos -- waves for days, sipping on coconuts and basking in crystal clear water...

    What about the girls going? Have you traveled with them before?

    Anna: I couldn't be more excited to travel with a rad group of girls. Victoria and I have been on a few trips together, and I can only expect that we continue our giggle fests, candy feasts and lighthearted surfs. She's a sweetheart and I feel lucky to call her a friend.. Plus she charges, I always enjoy watching her surf. Brooklyn's one of my favorite photographers whom I have yet to meet. Through her images I can feel her love of the water and look forward to connecting with her on that! 


    So was it as dreamy as expected?

    Anna: The Mentawais exceeded my expectations tenfold. The wave diversity is unrivaled. To be able to surf a different wave each session for two weeks of surfing, three times a day surpassed my wildest surf dreams. It's crazy how good of shape you get in spending that much time in the water. We never took more than 10 consecutive steps (the distance from our rooms) to get meals at Alaia and about the same to walk out to the boat, but we'd go to sleep with noodle arms every night.  It's just too easy and too good to be true, yet... it is!


    Victoria: The Mentawais were paradise on Earth, as I imagined it but even better. I’ve been travelling the world all year long and I’ve never seen a place as the Mentawais, untouched by people.

    Any crazy stories?

    Brooke: You can have expectations for a trip, but you can never prepare for what will naturally unfold in your travel story!

    I expected the Mentawai islands to be remote, gorgeous, something you only see in postcards — and I was right! But what no one ever sees is the crazy adventure it takes to get to such remote destinations. Places like these are remote and untouched for a reason — they’re hard to get to! Three full days of traveling; airplanes, layovers, sleeping in airports, ferry rides, speed boat rides … traveling this way is taxing on the mind and body, and lugging around a couple of longboards was no joke! When we finally arrived at Alaia Mentawai, I was relieved to say the least and rested for half a day before I was ready to hit the surf.


    I got injured during my first surf in the Mentawais which threw a wrench in my whole plan for the next nine days … and although it was disheartening and beyond frustrating at some points, I just had to buckle down and try to enjoy the rest of my time there to the fullest.

    Anna: It was pretty remote out there! Our food for our trip came out on the ferry with us, and we didn't make any store runs after that. Brooklyn and I both got some good ole fashioned "Mentawai Tattoos," as they call the scars you get from falling on shallow coral. Scrubbing the cuts with lime is like some kind of twisted initiation to surfing reef breaks, but it kept ourbattle wounds clean. 

    And what was traveling with the other girls like?

    Brooke: Girl time in the surf there was a dream — uncrowded breaks, trading off on waves, shooting photos, laughing, crying, snacking more than usual, talking about life. It was a great experience with these fellow Reef girls, definitely an unforgettable experience!

    Anna: The girls crew was all time. We laughed till we cried a couple times, cried till we laughed, and ultimately got to surf the best waves of our life with nobody else in sight. Women's surfing is my favorite thing to watch, and the girls approach to riding waves was so beautiful and unique it was as much of a pleasure to watch the girls get waves as it was to surf first hand.

    What did you guys pack?

    Victoria: I definitely packed too many clothes… I was just wearing bikinis, sarongs, and my Reef Escape Sandals. And of course my boards.

    Anna: We really didn't need much. Bikinis, boards and Reef Voyage sandals had us covered.

     Brooklyn: Camera gear, bikinis, sarongs, and my Reef Escape sandals :)