Behind The Cover: June 2013
Tasmania’s Michael Hoult is not a professional surfer. Instead, he puts a hard-earned engineering degree to use on boats around the world. He’s currently working a job on a ship that allows him six weeks on and six weeks off, and was lucky enough to be home a month and a half back surfing an undisclosed slab on a day that landed him one of the craziest surf images we’ve ever seen.
TransWorld SURF: Congrats on the cover, the photo blows everyone away.
Michael Hoult: Thanks so much. Yeah, it seems to get a similar reaction from everyone. There’s a lot going on that picture, ay? I’m really happy with it.
How many times have you surfed that wave?
That was my third session. We got there early and it was a bit grey, it kind of had a funky morning sickness, so we went and watched Marti Paradisis and some of his mates surf a wave around the corner, a little mini slab, but it really wasn’t doing its thing either. Ben Richardson and I went back, it looked better, so we chucked the skis in the water.
We got out there and it was just cleaning up and starting to turn on. I towed Ben first, and he got five or six good ones in a row. After that we switched, and that one [the cover image] was my first wave. It was a smaller one, and it drained out really badly actually. The rock is below the water normally, only when the wave comes right up on it does it drain out like that, and on that one it came completely out of the water. I had already set my line, and I was dropping into it and I saw the thing go dry, but I never thought about pulling out because it looked like I had just enough room—maybe a meter—between the rock and the wall of the wave. I set my line high which made my stance a little awkward. I was leaning right back and sitting on my ass a bit, just hoping I’d skirt by.
So once you made it past that rock, what happened?
The water was still all disturbed as soon as I got past it, but the second section of that wave was super clean—so I pulled into a really nice, round barrel and came right out. That wave is by no means perfect, the start is real dangerous and the middle section is a perfect tube, but the end section pinches real badly so if you ride deep in the barrel it’s hard to make.
How many waves did you catch after that one?
I got four total. I was riding with straps because that was a new tow board, and I hadn’t used it on my backhand. I actually had the board made for Shipsterns. As it is, you don’t really need straps for that wave, I just had them on because I wanted to make sure I had them screwed down in the right spot. It was a bit of a practice run. On my fourth wave, I got pinched in the tube and my back foot got tweaked coming out of the strap and sprained it pretty good, I’ve only surfed a couple times since—and it’s still really sore. I’ve basically been out of the water since that day, so about six weeks now.
So the straps ended up hurting you, but would you consider them a blessing on the wave that landed the cover? It looks as though they may have helped negotiate that first, completely dry section of the wave.
Yeah, maybe. It’s funny, reading through all the comments about the photo on Facebook and whatever. I know people consider straps and tow-ins and what not “uncool,” but I don’t buy into all of that. I understand at Cloudbreak or Pipeline, but we have to make due with what we’ve got down here if we want to get barreled, and a lot of the waves in Tasmania don’t allow you to paddle. But it doesn’t get to me, I’m not chasing photos or worrying about the latest fad anyway, I just want to get barreled [laughs].
So you aren’t professional, have you ever had this type of exposure?
Nah, not at all. I’ve never had a magazine cover. I grew up surfing with the Hobart crew that hit Shipsterns all the time, and they’ve all gotten a lot of publicity out of it, but with work I’ve sort of missed out on a lot of good swells over the years, so yeah, it’s cool. I’m a bit removed from the scene down here so I don’t get many people talking about it—but I see it on the internet and all that—and yeah, it feels really good.—Zander Morton