Nine gifts for the intrepid traveller in your life

Finding a unique and thoughtful gift for the person who has everything – and has been everywhere – can be a steep challenge.

By Phoebe Neuman 06/12/2017

Finding a unique and thoughtful gift for the person who has everything can be a steep challenge. That said, gifting them an experience — like one of the following nine over-the-top itineraries and getaways — is sure to make for a showstopping holiday season. From a supersonic plane to make their jet-setting lifestyle easier to a chance to spot the ultra-elusive snow leopard in the Indian Himalayas, these gifts are sure to please even the most intrepid globe-trotter.

And if you’re looking for more luxury gift ideas, check out the complete Robb Report Ultimate Gift Guide for 2017, which includes inspirations in every category from cars to watches to fashion, to travel, and more.

## Sail away

Price: Starting at US$2.3 ($A3) million

While plenty of cruise lines bill their ships as floating hotels, few truly live up to such lofty claims. Ritz-Carlton, however, is charting luxurious new territory with its nascent Yacht Collection, a trio of lavish liners that will soon bring the hospitality brand’s signature white-glove service and unrivaled amenities to the high seas. For one Robb Report reader, the long-awaited union of five-star hotels and oceangoing adventure will come with the ultimate in exclusivity, as Ritz-Carlton offers the rare opportunity to charter its first-ever yacht on a bespoke 5-night itinerary.

Aided by Ritz-Carlton’s yacht concierge, the recipient of this gift will be able to personalise virtually every aspect of his or her journey, from determining the vessel’s route (choosing from ports throughout the Mediterranean, Caribbean, Latin America, Northern Europe, Canada, and New England) to selecting as many as 297 family and friends to join the voyage. Each port of call will come with a host of curated on-demand experiences, from cooking classes in Tuscany and diving excursions in Belize to exclusive access to events like the Palio di Siena and Cayman Cookout.

The experience aboard Ritz-Carlton’s 626-foot yacht will be equally one of a kind, with private dinners crafted by chef Sven Elverfeld of Germany’s Michelin three-star Aqua and signature cocktails mixed by Bob Peters of the Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte’s Punch Room. Passengers will also have their run of the Ritz-Carlton Spa, three swimming pools, a pleasure cruiser, and 149 suites, the most lavish of which will be the two 175-square-metre penthouse suites (with their own private plunge pools) — no doubt reserved for the lucky Robb Report reader who sails away with this spectacular gift.

## Chic pyjamas from one of New York’s most popular hotels

Though treating a loved one to a few nights in one of the Mark hotel’s lavish new terrace suites is sure to make for a memorable gift, make their stay the ultimate getaway by also gifting them the hotel’s newest loungewear (US$400 ($A525) for the set). The New York City grande dame tapped pajama experts in Paris to design a classic unisex pajama set that is chic enough to wear both indoors and out.

The crisp cotton, long-sleeve button-down and matching pants are elevated by orange piping and bespoke monogramming, making them perfect for lounging around the suite or enjoying a nightcap downstairs at the property’s chic bar, which was designed by Jacques Grange and boldly furnished by Guy de Rougemont and Vladimir Kagan. The brave can even venture out in their set to New York’s busy Fifth Avenue for a truly unique fashion statement.

## Straight from the source

Price: Starting at US$15,000 ($A19,700)

Instead of giving the coffee connoisseur in your life a bag of beloved beans, go for something a bit more personal — and a lot more unique — by presenting them with a chance to create their very own custom blend in Costa Rica.

The plush Nayara Springs hotel will be the home base for this 5-night journey into the heart of coffee country. The recipient and a guest will be whisked far away from their local café and into a breezy villa, complete with a private infinity pool, that can be accessed from the road or via a 76-metre pedestrian bridge suspended above the rainforest. After settling in with a volcanic mud wrap at the open-air spa (one treatment a day is included), the recipients will be escorted by one of the property’s expert baristas to a local coffee farm where they will learn how the beans are harvested, roasted, and ground. Once they have tasted all of the different beans, they will create a custom blend — a fresh bag of which will be delivered to them every month for the next year.

After revving up on caffeine, they can enjoy off-property activities ranging from canyoneering to befriending a sloth at the resort’s own sloth sanctuary to soaking in the EcoTermales hot springs. They will head home both fully caffeinated and utterly relaxed.

## Track the elusive snow leopard in the Indian Himalayas

In the Himalayas, snow leopards usually live between 2,987 to 5,395 metres above sea level in a treacherous and miserably cold habitat. The mysterious cat is also endangered (with only about 3,920 to 6,390 wild cats living across 12 countries) and notoriously shy, making spottings extremely rare. But andBeyond employs some of the world’s best snow leopard trackers, and its expedition through the Indian Himalayas is arguably one of the best opportunities to try and see the elusive feline — and for those who love adventure and wildlife, it is by far one of the planet’s greatest thrills.

On this 13-day adventure (from US$6,459 ($A8500) per person), guests will set out by foot or on rugged 4x4s in search of the elusive snow leopard, exploring lush valleys and ancient monasteries along the way. After long days spotting more common wildlife like ibex, Tibetan antelope, blue sheep, and marmots while searching for snow leopards, guests will retire to luxe hotels throughout the country where they will enjoy traditional Himalayan food and unwind with relaxing spa treatments.

## Turf and surf

Price: Starting at US$40 ($A52.5) million

The azure waters of the Sea of Cortez are just steps away from this glass-encased, 930-square-metres Four Seasons Private Beachfront Yacht Villa in Los Cabos. Designed by Guerin Glass Architects to maximize the sun-drenched seaside location, the customisable home calls for a gourmet outdoor kitchen, swimming pools, and direct access to the sugary beachfront. The layout features six to seven en suite bedrooms with private outdoor decks, a sunken living room, and a formal dining room — plus, the architecture firm will work with the recipient to create a bespoke abode that matches his or her preferences. Floor-to-ceiling walls of glass overlook the sea and Sierra de la Laguna mountain range, creating a natural transition between indoors and outdoors.

Though a one-of-a-kind beachfront villa is tempting on its own, what makes this gift truly stand out is the private yacht, 30-metre dock, and captain’s quarters in the backyard — all included in the home’s price and ideal for those who crave the open seas. The recipient will also enjoy an exclusive, invitation-only membership to the Costa Palmas Beach & Yacht Club.

The villa will be located within the 1,000-acre resort community of Costa Palmas, which includes a 3.2-kilometre private beach, 250-slip marina, and Robert Trent Jones II–designed 18-hole golf course. Residents can move into the villa as early as the first quarter of 2019.

## Travel by private jet with one of the world’s best adventurers

Geoffrey Kent, founder of Abercrombie & Kent — one of the world’s top luxury travel outfitters — bleeds adventure. Born while his parents were on safari in Africa, he grew up on a farm in Kenya, and at only 16 years old, he became the first person to motorbike from Kenya to Cape Town. And yet, surprisingly, there are still places the globe-trotting adventurer is dying to go — and he’s taking just 50 lucky guests along for the ride. A roundup of places he has yet to see, the Around the World with Geoffrey Kent: An Inspiring Expedition by Private Jet (from US$150,000 ($A197,000) per person) will whisk guests to 10 destinations across the globe in a custom Boeing 757-200ER tricked out with plush Italian leather seats (complete with massage systems), a fully stocked open bar, and first-class meal service.

The 24-day trip will take guests from the lush rainforests and beautiful beaches of Nicaragua to the Swan River in Western Australia and the vibrant city of Tbilisi, capital of up-and-coming travel destination Georgia. Be prepared for countless edge-of-your-seat stories.

## A Spike in flight innovation

Price: US$100 million ($A131,500)

The Spike Aerospace S-512 Supersonic Jet will be more than fast: Its projected cruising speed is Mach 1.6, or 1,770 km/h, which, according to the company, is 725 km/h faster than any other civilian aircraft.

The boom it produces when it breaks the sound barrier will be more like a whimper by the time it reaches the ground — quiet enough to allow for travel at supersonic speeds over land masses with sound restrictions. But perhaps more impressive than the aircraft’s speed or sound will be the “view” from inside. High-definition screens will run the entire length of the windowless cabin walls, displaying video feeds from exterior cameras. “You’ll have a panoramic view of whatever is outside, as if you were standing on a beach,” says Vik Kachoria, the president and CEO of Spike Aerospace, which is based outside of Boston. “From left to right, you’ll have a view of the full horizon.” The screens will be able to display movies or other presentations from a laptop. Kachoria notes that the windowless design will also make the cabin quieter.

The cabin will accommodate 18 passengers in a variety of configurations, including a bedroom if desired, although the flight times might be too short to need one. The S-512 will have a range of 11,482 kilometres; when flying at supersonic speeds, it will be capable of traveling from New York to London in 3.3 hours and Los Angeles to Tokyo in 5.17 hours.

Spike has begun test-flying scaled-down, subsonic drone versions of the aircraft. It expects the full-size, full-speed S-512 to enter service in 2023, after the required certifications from the FAA and international aviation authorities. The early adopters, says Kachoria, “will be the first on their block — or in their country — to own the world’s fastest jet.”

## Crown jewel

Price: Starting at US$2,000 ($A2630)

Surrounded by the lush greenery and bamboo forests of Bali’s central highlands, John Hardy’s sprawling jewellery workshop is a sort of utopia for its 700 artisans and employees, where much of the food that is served at the communal lunch table is grown on-site and where endless windows and open-air spaces immerse you in nature, even indoors. That Balinese spirit is imbued in the brand’s jewellery, which is instantly recognisable for its unique textures, surfaces, and flexible forms that feel smooth on the skin. The company maintains its distinct sensibility through traditional skills that include hammering metal surfaces (a technique known in Balinese as palu), hand-weaving gold chains, and hand-carving animals and shapes. The recipient of this gift will have an opportunity to learn these approaches firsthand in the first Ubud edition of John Hardy’s Artisan in Residence Workshop Masterclass, where he or she will work alongside the company’s craftspeople to create his or her own piece of jewellery. The intimate experience will include an exclusive behind-the-scenes workshop tour and lunch with the design team and artists. After gaining a deeper appreciation for the possibilities of the various jewellery-making techniques, the recipient will again meet with the design team to collaborate on a unique piece. From a simple woven bracelet to solid-gold bangles, a gem-encrusted necklace to a statement ring — the possibilities are limitless.

The experience is enhanced by a 2-night stay at the nearby Como Uma Ubud hotel, surrounded by rice paddies and rich cultural sites where visitors can tour centuries-old palaces and temples and shop local markets that celebrate the country’s rich heritage of artisanship.

## Heli-skiing in the Alps

Price: Starting at about US$70,000 ($A92,000)

Travellers are fascinated with the idea of following in the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway, whether to a bullfighting arena in Pamplona, his former home in Key West, or a bar in Havana, Paris, or just about any other place where he ever pulled up a chair. Few of Papa’s fans, however, have thought to follow in his tracks on skis.

This gift from House Hannes Schneider in Stuben, Austria, includes a 1-day helicopter trip for four to Schruns, a resort in the Montafon Region where Hemingway skied with his young family in the mid-1920s, in the early days of the sport. The author wrote fondly about his Austrian skiing experiences in A Moveable Feast, and he opened The Snows of Kilimanjaro in the village of Schruns, where his family stayed in the still-operating-today Hotel Taube. The recipient of this gift (starting at about US$70,000 ($A92,000)) and his or her guests will stop for a drink at the Taube after a day spent skiing the Schruns backcountry with a private guide. The day will also include a picnic lunch prepared by House Hannes Schneider’s chef as well as massages for all following the return flight to the chalet.

Recently renovated by the owners of the Kristiania Lech hotel, House Hannes Schneider is a historic residence in the heart of the Arlberg. The recipient and as many as 15 guests have the run of the six-bedroom chalet — which includes a sauna, a 16-seat dining room, a butler, and a chef — for 7 nights. A private ski guide will be available to the group throughout their stay for excursions into the Arlberg, which, with the opening of the Flexenbahn cable car between Zürs and Stuben/Rauz last winter, became the world’s fifth-largest ski area.

At the end of each day, guests can curl up by House Hannes Schneider’s fireplace with a Grüner Veltliner and a good book — perhaps The Sun Also Rises, which Hemingway rewrote during one of his ski trips to Schruns.

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Watch This Space: Justin Hast

Meet the game-changing horological influencers blazing a trail across social media—and doing things their own way.

By Josh Bozin 09/07/2024

In the thriving world of luxury watches, few people own a space that offers unfiltered digital amplification. And that’s precisely what makes the likes of Brynn Wallner, Teddy Baldassarre, Mike Nouveau and Justin Hast so compelling.

These thought-provoking digital crusaders are now paving the way for the story of watches to be told, and shown, in a new light. Speaking to thousands of followers on the daily—mainly via TikTok, Instagram and YouTube—these progressive commentators represent the new guard of watch pundits. They’re actively swaying the opinions, and the dollars, of the up-and-coming generations who represent the new target consumer of this booming sector.

JUSTIN HAST

@justinhast

Credit Oracle Time

There’s something comforting about Justin Hast’s watch commentary. It could be his broad English accent; a soothing melodic chime that hits all the right notes. But rather, it’s probably his insatiable thirst for all the little things in and around watches. It jumps right off the page with anything he’s ever written, and it’s infectious if you tune into his Instagram reels, where he speaks to over 50,000 followers almost daily.

Above all, he simplifies what, for the everyday enthusiast, can sometimes be a dry, jargon-heavy topic.

“I never really trained as a writer, photographer or producer of any kind,” says Hast. “It was very much, get stuck in and see what sticks. It’s not lost on me what a privilege it is to have access to these brands, these watches, and to the shows and events. I feel like a kid on Christmas morning every Monday.”

After spending a decade researching watches, enduring the drudgery of his office job, Hast’s big break came when he met Frank Geelen, owner and CEO of the influential Monochrome Watches website, at a Bell & Ross boutique opening in London.

“I can’t remember how much Frank drank that night when he agreed to allow me to write a story for him,” he quips. “That was the starting point that allowed me to pick up a camera and explore the watch world.”

From that chance encounter, Hast has gone on to contribute influential words to the likes of Hodinkee, Mr Porter, Revolution Watch and Forbes. He is the author of The Watch Annual, which was created for watch enthusiasts in 2020 as a means of cataloguing the best timepieces of the year.

 

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A post shared by Justin Hast (@justinhast)

Listening to Hast, it’s fair to say that he lives and breathes watches, and it’s been this way for a large chunk of his life. He recalls two formative moments: the first, age 10, when he received his first red G-Shock watch from a schoolfriend; the second came with the passing down of his grandfather’s Omega Constellation Day-Date —a watch designed by Gérald Genta.

That experience goes a long way to explaining Hast’s affinity with vintage dress watches. Unsurprisingly, then, his top four picks from the recent Watches & Wonders fair in Geneva are all vintage-inspired pieces designed for the modern watch consumer: the Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept Tourbillon, the IWC Portugieser Eternal Calendar, the Vacheron Constantin Patrimony 39 mm in rose gold, and the Laurent Ferrier Classic Moon.

Hast’s motto for life is “win the day”, one that he lives by as he continues on his journey to “inspire the next generation of watch enthusiasts”. And it’s clearly a mission already accomplished.

Read more about the watch industry’s horological influencers Bryan Wallner and Teddy Baldassarre.

 

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Watches & Wonders 2024 Showcase: TAG Heuer

This year at Watches & Wonders TAG Heuer continued on its path towards high-watchmaking status.

By Josh Bozin 09/07/2024

There was a moment last year when TAG Heuer surprised the watch world (and naysayers of the brand)—you couldn’t have missed it. At Only Watch, the biennial charity auction of luxury one-off timepieces, TAG Heuer dropped the proverbial mic with its release of a unique Monaco Split-Seconds chronograph; a piece completely left of field for the otherwise mid-entry level luxury watchmaker.

It was then inconceivable to arrive at the Palexpo in Geneva, day one of Watches & Wonders, to find the very same Monaco Split-Seconds Chronograph as TAG Heuer’s hero release of 2024. Don’t mistake TAG Heuer’s intentions; this is a big moment for the brand, particularly as it endeavours to reach cult high-watchmaker status.

 

TAG Heuer Monaco Split-Seconds Chronograph

 

This new $200,000 Monaco, which is aptly released in its 55th anniversary year, is an absolute workhorse of a timepiece. Retaining all the hallmarks of its legendary racing history, the new Monaco features an open-worked aesthetic that completely draws the eye to its intricate design details and mechanics. This is, folks, the first mechanical split-seconds (or ‘Rattrapante’) chronograph that the brand has made, essentially allowing the wearer to measure two separate events that start simultaneously but have different durations.

Of course, powering such a watch is no small feat; TAG Heuer has called upon the expertise of Vaucher Manufacture Fleurier—a specialist manufacturer of high-end mechanical movements—to help craft the new TH81-00 caliber.

Available in two colour ways, red or blue, the watch also features a grade-5 titanium case (allowing for its lightness), a sapphire dial, and a neat 41 mm package that makes this a truely “wearable” timepiece—if the price tag doesn’t deter you.

If this is an indication of things to come for TAG Heuer, we’re all in.

tagheuer.com

Read more about this year’s Watches & Wonders exhibits from Rolex and JLC.

 

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Property of The Week: Swing Into Seclusion in Otago

Looking for the perfect marriage of seclusion and sophistication? This home’s proximity to world-class skiing and wine region makes it an irresistible asset.

By Belinda Aucott-christie 12/07/2024

Located in the charming hamlet of Arrowtown this six-bedroom country home offers plenty of room to breathe. With its proximity to pristine ski fields and world-class wine regions, the two-acre estate will appeal to active city-slickers seeking a sustainable tree change.

Just a putt away from the social life of the renowned Hills Golf Club, 214 McDonnell has private access to a world of laidback leisure.

Manicured gardens and luxurious minimal interiors makes 475 sqm of house feel even more expansive and cinematic. Adding to the dream is the property’s sunny north-facing position. Each of the main rooms has breathtaking views up to Mt Soho and Coronet Peak, then across to the stunning Crown Range. 

A grand entertaining terrace centres on a log burning fire with a layout that encourages indoor/outdoor dining.

Residents will never be lonely. They can expect to welcome children home for the ski season each winter, and to welcome friends to Otago’s excellent wine regions in summer.

The home’s interior has been kept minimal and maps perfectly to the awe-inspiring location. Modern integrated technology, heating and convenient fixtures deliver a fresh take on country style. Open-plan living invites easy contemplation of the mountain views, while interstitial spaces help to keep life uncomplicated.

The opulent master bedroom, with ensuite and walk-in wardrobe, enjoys a chilled L-shaped layout with commanding views of snow-capped mountains beyond the window frames. The master’s inviting nook not only caters to owners who are fans of 5-star hotels, but also situates the love nest in a sun trap perfect for reading.  

The three extra guest bedrooms and two bathrooms are meticulously presented; the fixtures and fittings recede from view with materials that meld flawlessly with the nature-first vibe.

The piece de résistance is the stand-alone guesthouse, featuring its own private entrance and terrace. Here the interior mimics the main home, with pleasant open-plan living, separate dining, kitchen and bathroom. And it boasts its own private, outdoor zone. 

The village itself is equally inviting. With a tree-lined main street featuring heritage row cottages and a good selection of restaurants, shops and cafés—you’ll never want for attraction beyond the front door. 

With the Alpine tourist hot spot of Queenstown just 20 minutes away by car, you can be at the airport in under half an hour: Either taking off on your next adventure, or collecting treasured guests to deliver back to your private estate.

Learn more from Sarena Glass at Sotheby’s New Zealand. Email: sarena.glass@nzsir.com

 

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Why BMW’s First Electric Cars Are Future Classics

Many things still feel contemporary about the BMW i3 and i8.

By Raphael Orlove 11/07/2024

In 2008, BMW committed to a multi-billion euro plot. It would retool its Leipzig plant to assemble two of the most environmentally-conscious cars ever designed, with carbon fibre passenger cells holding electric, plug-in hybrid, and gas-powered range extender drivetrains. Not until 2013 did they begin production. You could say they were a decade ahead of their time, but we’re still not ready for cars as daring as the i3 and i8.

Years before cries that EVs are too heavy and that plug-in hybrids offer a better compromise for the average car buyer, BMW poured resources into making an EV without the typical downsides of a battery electric vehicle. The idea was to make an electric car that didn’t require a gigantic battery pack, one that wasn’t perilously heavy. To do so, BMW would make the i3 into the world’s first mass-produced car made out of carbon fibre. This was no small feat.

The earliest uses of carbon fibre in cars go back to British race cars from the 1960s, and the first complete chassis to be made out of carbon fiber dates to the early 1980s. It wasn’t until the ’90s that we saw a carbon fibre chassis in a production road car, and that was with the Bugatti EB110, which cost around 3.2 million and required outsourcing the carbon work to the rocket division of French aerospace company Aerospatiale. Even in 2008, BMW’s plans for what it ultimately called the i cars really were at the leading edge.

The first of these to make production was the i3, a hatchback city car that would look at home parked in front of the Guggenheim in Bilbao. Big windows gave great visibility, and while the car was too short for four full doors, BMW squeezed suicide doors behind the fronts. With both opened up, the i3 was outstandingly bright and airy. The light interior, seats finished in wool and the dash finished with eucalyptus, certainly helped. BMW also used a plant called kenaf in the interior trim; it’s a natural fibre similar to jute. Kenaf had been used as a backing material underneath a synthetic coating. With the i3, BMW put it up front, lighter and more sustainable.

Photo: NurPhoto

BMW even sourced its carbon fibre from Washington State, where the factory could rely 100% on local hydropower. The company was using technical solutions to make a more sustainable new car.

Its styling was daring, as was how BMW put the i3 together. BMW effectively split the car in two. All of the car’s essential systems – battery, motor, suspension, crash structures, and the optional range extender – were carried on an aluminum skateboard called the “Drive module.” The “Life module” that housed the interior and framed the body panels was what was made out of carbon. The top and bottom halves were glued together, or “chemically bonded” if you want that to sound less scary.

BMW did successfully make the car pretty light for what it was, coming in between 1200 and 1300 kilograms depending on the trim. A Nissan Leaf weighed hundreds of kilograms more, a Chevrolet Volt nearly 400 kilos more.

Sticking to low-weight principles meant that the i3 was never going to have a huge battery, and the biggest available pack was still only 42.2 kWh. The EPA rated it at 246 kilometres of range. The “REX” range extender boosted that figure to 320 kilometres, with a two-cylinder engine from BMW’s motorcycle division shoehorned under the trunk. For all of BMW’s investment in the i3, these weren’t earth-shattering numbers.

Photo: picture alliance

All of its innovation was costly, and BMW’s city car ended up relatively expensive. It started at €34,950 in Germany, $61.300 AUD. That went up to $67,000 for the Range Extender model. The most expensive versions of the i3 topped out at nearly $89,000.

(Rather curiously, all range-extended BMW i3s have 10.9 litre petrol tanks. In the U.S., however, to legally qualify as a range-extended electric vehicle, the i3 could not have more range available from its internal combustion setup than its pure battery. At that point, the government would have classified the i3 as a plug-in hybrid, not unlike the Chevy Volt. As such, all range-extended i3s initially sold in America were restricted by software alone to use just 8.6 letters of that 10.9 litre tank. Only in 2017 when BMW introduced a longer-range battery could BMW digitally unlock the full 10 litres.)

Its high price meant the i3 asked a lot of compromises of a luxury car buyer just to have the most environmentally-friendly vehicle possible. A regular 3 Series cost about the same and was much easier to live with, unless you were regularly parking on dense urban streets. Most Americans don’t.

If anything, the rather practical i3 was too good at its job. All the money that BMW had invested in its technical innovations cost it its chance to make a dent in the car market.

That would have been fine if BMW continued to roll its high development costs into future models, perpetually bringing down its own prices, but BMW wasn’t interested in keeping its i thing going. Chief executive Norbert Reithofer stepped down early in 2015 and BMW canceled the car in 2022 with no second generation. The company has gone back to completely conventional ICE, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and EV options. All of its EVs share their platforms with gas-burning equivalents, saving costs in development and on the showroom floor. They sell better than the i3 ever did.

BMW i3 Photo : picture alliance The i3 Brought Carbon Fiber to Mass Production

The only follow-up BMW did to the i3 was the dramatic i8, with butterfly doors opening up into a low slung cabin, flying buttresses directing air around its mid-mounted three-cylinder turbo engine. A dedicated PHEV, the i3’s engine did actually drive the rear wheels, and an electric motor drove the fronts. What shattered the illusion was that the front motor only made 97.6 kilowatts and the rear engine only 131. It might have looked like a supercar, but it didn’t drive like one. Like the i3, its carbon construction set it apart from its contemporaries, but also made it much more expensive than they ever were. In the U.S., the i8 started at a hair under $136,000 (AUD 200,000), which was a big ask for a car with three cylinders.

Following the same troubles as the i3, the i8 looked like one thing but was priced like another. It went on sale in 2014, not far behind the i3, and soldiered on through 2020, dying without a successor. An open-topped Roadster came in 2018 but didn’t change the car’s fate. Americans bought a grand total of 6,776 i8s through its entire production run. We buy that many Porsche 911s in a single year. Sometimes twice as many.

Photo: picture alliance

Taken at face value, the i8 is still a remarkable machine. A Porsche might be better on track, but the i8 is a dream realized in production form. It looks like nothing else on the road, even now.

And there is something that still feels contemporary about the i3. Its focus on low weight and low-impact manufacturing remains honorable. The electric car vision does us little good if it only reproduces the same more-is-more excess of internal combustion that clogs our roads with oversized vehicles.

As we now watch Tesla Cybertrucks lumber down the road at over 3,129 kilograms, GMC Hummer EVs pounding the pavement at over 4350 kilograms, BMW’s post-Recession vision is as relevant as ever.

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On the Crest

Surfing superstardom came early for Jack Robinson. Now Australia’s humble hero is chasing Olympic glory – keeping his head down.

By Horacio Silva 09/07/2024

There is a video on the internet of Jack Robinson at 15. In it, the pint-sized, towheaded Robinson, who was already considered the best young surfer on the planet, sports a cheeky gap-toothed smile and blunt bob to rival Lindy Chamberlain’s. Asked what he likes most about the sport, the shy grommet struggles for words, eventually offering, “Barrels, big hacks and airs.” 

Even at this age, Robinson prefers to let his surfing do the talking. But, as his interviewer surmises, don’t mistake reticence for unpreparedness: “When this young gun hits the surf, even the seasoned pros shake their heads in dismay.”

Aaron Hughes for WSL

Sixteen years later, Margaret River-born Robinson still beggars belief with his ability to seemingly walk on water. The bowl cut is gone (replaced by a new do that Robinson got for a recent photo shoot and that he jokingly refers to as “the full GQ”), but the difficulty in getting his point across remains, though not from a lack of effort. “Sorry, I’m trying to get my words together,” says Robinson, now 31 and based on the Gold Coast. “I didn’t sleep much last night and I’m hurting.”

He quickly explains that he was not out on the town with hard-partying surfer mates—far from it. These days, Robinson and his Brazilian wife, Julia, have a five-month-old baby boy, Zen, whose behaviour did not live up to the serenity of his name.

Beatriz Ryder

“I just woke up from a nap, actually,” Robinson adds. “At this stage, I get sleep wherever and whenever I can.”

He would do well to get some shut-eye. Robinson heads to Teahupo’o in Tahiti next month, where this year’s Olympic Games surfing competition is being held. Though he is currently ranked number three in the world, he has mastered some of the most challenging big-wave conditions, including a win with a late barrel at the Tahiti Pro in Teahupo’o last August, and is tipped as one of Australia’s best chances for gold.

With good reason, says Tom Carroll, the two-time world champion and Quiksilver ambassador. “That wave is up his alley,” says Carroll, who is now a meditation teacher on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. “He knows that break in all its various moods and forms. If the conditions are not favourable on the day, when some of his biggest rivals fall apart, he can still feel it out. He assesses the conditions in a nanosecond.”

It’s that fearless ability to be in the moment, to paddle out in anything and feel at home, that Carroll first noticed when Robinson was 11. “He has an innate sense for the water and the way it moves,” Carroll continues. “It revealed itself from the get-go and to see it expressed is quite extraordinary.”

Beatriz Ryder

These days Robinson is more focussed on the ordinary. “I’m trying to keep it simple,” he offers, “to stick to the same routines, and make sure that I am in a good headspace going into the Olympics.” Beyond countless hours in the water and gym, this means time spent on meditation, yoga and breath work. “It’s a super mental sport now,” he adds. “You have to be a smart competitor. It’s not just about surfing.”

Aside from the boards, gym equipment and yoga mats, the Robinson household is all prams, toys and nappies. “It doesn’t leave room for much of anything else,” he laments. “I love fishing and cars, and really want to get into flying planes but that will have to wait.” His role as a father has given him a different perspective on his sport and his own upbringing. Robinson, like many sporting phenoms, was coached by a domineering parent (his father Trev) and concedes it wasn’t always a swell ride.

“It was challenging growing up for sure,” he says. “But to reach this level you need people in your corner. Even if he was looked at as a little crazy by some people, he gave 100 percent and then some. I have a newfound respect for that.”

Aaron Hughes for WSL

He has the same regard for his competitors. When asked about the chances of his biggest rivals, Americans Griffin Colapinto and John John Florence, he is diplomatic to a fault. “I haven’t really thought about the other guys too much,” he demurs. “I’ve just been inspired by them. Even the last event with John John”—when Florence defeated Robinson in his native Western Australia—“I was just really inspired by his performance. It makes me want to do better.”

Perhaps if the whole modelling caper doesn’t pan out, after he retires from the sport he may want to consider a career in politics. “Nah,” he admits. “Leave that to others. Maybe that’s a path for Zen.”

The Olympic Games surfing competition begins July 27. 

 

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