Six over-the-top ideas for the well-to-do jetsetter

These gifts are for those in your life who love soaring above the clouds, looking for the next adventure.

By Danielle Cutler 10/12/2017

People either like to fly or they don’t. Many even love it. The six gifts we have gathered here are for those in your life who love that time soaring above the clouds, en route to the next breathtaking adventure. We highlight a jet designed to be flown by its owner, a jet card for those who prefer to be flown, a heli-skiing trip to the Alps, a ’round-the-world adventure, and more. These are the gifts your jet-setter will rush to find under the tree.

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 and watches to fashion and travel, and more.

## A Spike in flight innovation

Price: US$100 ($A131) million

The Spike Aerospace S-512 Supersonic Jet will be more than fast: Its projected cruising speed is Mach 1.6, or 1770 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 11,480 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.”

## Cutting-edge flying car

Price: Starting at US$140,000 ($A184,000)

About a decade ago, aviation enthusiast Sam Bousfield, an architect turned inventor based in Oregon, asked himself, “What does aviation really need?” His answer, ultimately, was the Switchblade — the three-wheeled, carbon-fibre flying car that his company, Samson Motors, is developing.

On the road, the Switchblade will achieve 100kms on 6.7 litres of regular unleaded automobile gasoline and will burn only 34 litres per hour when flying. At 5.15 metres long, it is slightly longer than a Honda Accord. Plus, it’s only about 2 metres wide, so it will fit in your home’s garage. Samson is offering the base-model Switchblade (including the company’s builder-assist program) as an experimental aircraft, along with a bespoke Limited Edition model (starting at $A500,000 ($A657,450)). Each LE will have a custom interior and include unique exterior features.

The Switchblade’s name comes from its wings, which swing out from the belly of the vehicle like the blade of a pocketknife. When the vehicle is in driving mode, they disappear into the body so they are protected from fender benders. The transition from automobile to aircraft is automated and will take about 45 seconds. The vehicle will be classified by the U.S. Department of Transportation as a motorcycle, but Bousfield likes to call it a flying sports car because of its street-mode capabilities: zero to 96 km/h in 6.5 seconds and a top speed of more than 200 mph. In the air, it will cruise at 257 km/h and reach a top speed of 290 km/h.

## Give the gift of flight

Price: US$224,275 ($A295,000)

Sentient Jet, the company that invented the jet card nearly two decades ago, has a new offering: the SJ25+. It’s a limited-edition, specially priced 25-hour card that guarantees you access to a Wi-Fi-equipped, super-midsize aircraft built no earlier than 2000. The card also allows you to upgrade or downgrade to a different aircraft class at a fixed hourly rate without incurring additional fees. And it includes a 15 percent discount on some round-trip travel.

The card is available through the end of this year, and its hourly rate of US$8,971 ($A11,800) is locked in for 12 months from the time of purchase. By comparison, Sentient Jet’s standard 25-hour card for newer midsize aircraft costs US$249,275 ($A327,800) and doesn’t include the option of upgrading or downgrading. The 25-hour card for older (built before 2000), super-midsize jets is also pricier than the 25+ card. It costs US$227,050 ($A298,550).

With the 25+ card, you have access to a Bombardier Challenger 300, Cessna Citation X, Cessna Citation Sovereign, Dassault Falcon 50EX, Dassault Falcon 2000, or Gulfstream G200. Like all Sentient Jet cards, the 25+ also gives you access to a benefits program that includes exclusive offerings from a variety of hotels, resorts, and luxury brands.

## 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$150,000 ($A197,200) 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 plane for your pilot

Price: US$4.9 ($A6.4) million

“It’s a pilot’s plane,” explains Michimasa Fujino, Honda Aircraft president and CEO, and the creator of the HondaJet. “It’s an emotional experience, like driving a Porsche,” he says at a recent meeting in Las Vegas. The HondaJet has been a life’s work and mission for Fujino, who first sketched the design for the advanced light jet plane in 1997. You can see his passion for this project as he describes the fruit of his labour. His ultimate vision is to bring private planes to more people, not just the uber-rich — similar to the way Honda has brought good-quality cars to the masses.

Fujino’s design is a unique one: It’s the only aircraft to place the engines on pylons above the wings (Over-the-Wing Engine Mount), which reduces wave drag for better efficiency and keeps noise and vibration out of the cabin. He also created a carbon-fibre fuselage to keep the plane light, making it faster and more fuel-efficient. And, finally, he developed the Natural Laminar Flow wing and a surprising nose shape, providing passengers with a stable ride in addition to incredible speed and efficiency. The engine placement, carbon-fibre fuselage, and wing and nose shape give the HondaJet the fastest speed, the best fuel efficiency, and the most cabin and luggage space over other planes in the advanced-light-jet category. Fujino beams when discussing how he achieved higher speeds and higher fuel efficiency, not to mention the extra cabin and storage space. “No compromise,” I suggest, and he smiles and nods.

The HondaJet comes in four striking colors and seats two crew and four or five passengers (depending on configuration) in the 5.4-metre-long cabin. It sports 0.25 cubic metres of storage in the nose baggage compartment and 1.6 cubic metres aft. Unlike many aircraft of this size, the HondaJet features a private lavatory, as well. The maximum cruise speed is 782 km/h, and the maximum cruise altitude is 13,106 metres, which the Garmin G3000 avionics suite will help your pilot monitor.

The pilot in your life will love finding this plane in the driveway (or hangar) with a bow on its very special nose.

## 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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