I’ve know Tony Wright (T-Wright from Oaks Flats) for more than 50 years.
Along with John Batcheladore he introduced short boards to South Africa. Through John Whitmore and Max Wettland the origianl South African Surf Legends, almost the entire surfing population were effected and influenced by Tony and his mate, John. Tony shaped me my first V bottom 7’10” stringerless. Besides that both these guys were ace surfers -authentic A grade and top of the range on anyone’s list. You can read the whole story of the 60’s evolution here: https://southafricansurfinglegends.com/archives/44
Since then Tony has spent a lot of his time on the road pursuing a life that most of us can only dream of. That singleminded ‘all in’ life choice sets up stories that are facinating and admirable.
His latest caper takes place on the west coast of Madagascar. He’s into his seventies now and still paddling into reef waves kilometres off shore. Salute an Honorary Member of South African Legends. Youre living the dream we all wanted but never quite got right.
Tony is the original Pro Nutro and bananas kid.
In my first “ welcome to Mada “ surf, my new 8 footer broke neatly in half at a big , windblown left about 35 mins offshore.…caught one life and death one , then got swamped by a mountain of white water and came up with half a board … retrieved the front a mile away downwind and donated both pieces to the next generation of little kids…some in the nude…great to see them out riding the whitewash !…like New Guinea…Samoa..like everywhere !..…..”I can laugh about it now! Especially when I see the local kids riding the halves in the shore break!
Best thing is …no cars! ..none! ..no banks, ATMs…sewerage…etc..
Photo courtesy of https://madagascar-surf-trip.com/the-gash-pack
IN TONY’S WORDS.
“ Lookin’ for adventuuuuure and whatever comes my way “…and yes Steppenwolf !….plenty of it !…
not Indo .. not The Philippines.not familiar places…looks…smells…etc…very AFRICA !..smiling, handsome, healthy and beautiful jet black faces in the fishing village…a simple diet of fish and rice…lentils…beans.!.. vibrant tin drum reggae Iike I so fondly remember from those immaculately stoked and stoned “ Durban days.” !…like yesterday !!…always seeking the elusive “your wave “ sessions… uncrowded B or even C grade lefts, somewhere warm and interesting…near the Equator ..different !…my all time favourite saying…
” I don’t always know where I’m going ..but I’m never lost !..”
Remote S.W. Mada …90 mins by speedboat to nearest town …not much info about further south !..looks like Namibia ! – huge 30 metre tides like Broome …Cornwall.. smack in the way of those big JBay swells….eating breakfast 20 steps from the ocean … warm water temps but also bit of wind chill !….almost always need rubber.. a short sleeve short John…( I used to be tough…naah mate !..).
There’s at least 100 balsa ( yes balsa ) fishing canoes like a scene from 2000 years ago…square rigged for sailing up and down the coast and out to the reefs about 3 to 6 ks…sails made out of rice bags and other scraps somehow stitched together..plenty of holes but they sail beautifully….look like a swarm of butterflies spread out to the horizon…then dragged up side by side, smelly and colourful at days end….best thing is …no cars.!..none !..no banks , ATMs…sewerage…etc. Spotty WIFI and solar….plenty of things a little “inconvenient “ ..windows into ALL the reasons we travel…to escape the mundane ?..choose your reason !..
Everyone walks up and down along the sand…the entertainment highway !….ladies with painted faces to protect their “whiteness” from the sun..depending who you talk to , or just daily , tradition…ubiquitous “massage girls “ selling beads, bangles, shells …ummm….massages !….endlessly entertaining …ladies carrying baskets of fish and every other thing on their heads …
The other arvo I noticed quite a large crowd making noise at the waters edge and walked over to see a huge Manta ray 8’ across , still alive, all wrapped up in a net ..yes, of course it mean dinner for our Mada friends but ..waa ! All I wanted to do with my National Geographic sensitivity, was cut the poor bastard free and watch it swim away !…
And yes about eating things !..haven’t eaten as many lobsters / crayfish ?, since we froze our arses off diving for them in the kelp out front of John and Thelma Whitmores house in Bakoven ( spelling ? )…had forgotten how rich they are!…not an every night thing but really good !!…no air pollution makes for amazing sunrises, sunsets and night skies…feels like you can reach up and touch the Milky Way !..stars twinkling a gazillion light years away..…and enjoying the swish and swoosh of the sea 24/7….
While not surfing as many lefts as I’d hoped, I’m enjoying a “go to “ workable, fast right a few kms offshore.. we motor out to the reefs in one of those balsa outrigger pirogues I mentioned…anchor in the channels…ride the current out .. then fight that same current back to the boat…miss a grip and you can’t swim back….there’s a cool, more “ aggressive” speedboat option for those on short term “strike missions “ that chases the swell and waves up and down the coast..staying in villages overnight etc… “sama , sama “..life’s about choices !..be a really cool thing to do with a few mates.. rely on Blairs local knowledge , then come and go at your own pace !….
In my first “ welcome to Mada “ surf, my new 8 footer broke neatly in half at a big , windblown left about 35 mins offshore.…caught one life and death one , then got swamped by a mountain of white water and came up with half a board … retrieved the front a mile away downwind and donated both pieces to the next generation of little kids…some in the nude…great to see them out riding the whitewash !…like New Guinea…Samoa..like everywhere !..…..
..A wonderful two months down ..trying to imagine Brisbane Airport in a week or so…”Born to be wiiiilllddd ..”!!!!!.. Still pounding somewhere in the background reminding me of life and times with my wonderful South African mates !.
…WHAT PRICE ADVENTURE ??? !!!..
Notes from Tony
“Yeah been here for a couple of months ..remote Sandhills and cactus country..like W.Australia..Namibia ..small fishing village ..no cars !..everyone walks the beach ..clear skies ..think you can reach up and touch the Milky Way at night..handsome very black skinned people.., friendly fishing community..take balsa piroques out about 3 ks to the reefs..pretty lively stuff in the Mozambique Channel..bit exposes to the winds but very Africa and grand adventure..everything we seek!”
This kid is terrific young piroque sailor from Anakoa.
Check out the numbers here: https://magicseaweed.com/Flame-Bowls-Surf-Guide/2751/
“Best always to my South African mates”
“Yes mate ..in our overhyped and increasingly crowded surfing life , we’re all looking for the next “ your wave mate “ experience..am still in Sumatra but keeping an eye out for a “ B grade unflogged tropical left “ I can surf for the next 30 years !..where I can live on the local version of Pro Nutro and bananas for a few months each year !” – TONY WRIGHT.
TONY YOU MAMBA.
Tony we shared a small flat with Joan at Addington in Durban SA. 1968/69. Those heady days are still vivid and I still have the aerograme you sent me from your time in Canada and the USA. The diary you kept,leaving Durban with Kim the Sychells,India,the bus you were glad you missed. These days are left to be remembered.