Ten trips to take before it’s too late

It’s a bucket list of amazing places to see — and hopefully protect — before waning species or declining ecosystem catches up with them.

By Amanda Millin 25/04/2017

In honour of Earth Day earlier this week, we're visiting some of our favorited destinations that may not be around much longer.

Whether due to a waning species (Rwanda's critically endangered mountain gorillas; the Himalayas' rare snow leopards) or a rapidly declining ecosystem, these 10 beautiful places may soon dramatically change forever. Others may disappear altogether.

The Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Australia's northeast coast is home to the world's largest reef complex and the only one that can be seen from space. At about 350,000 square kilometres — that's roughly half the size of France — the Great Barrier Reef nurtures at least 300 species of hard coral and 1500 species of fish.

But rising ocean temperatures, water pollution, cyclones, and ocean acidification all bleach the coral reef, and scientists worry that poor water quality and high emissions won't allow it to recover.

Where to Stay: Hamilton Island's Qualia resort is our favourite way to experience the reef firsthand. Its 12 hectares, which include 60 hillside pavilions and a private beach, sit alongside the Coral Sea among fragrant eucalyptus trees.

See the magnificent reefs surrounding it — including the famous heart-shaped reef — with a helicopter tour, launched from the resort's helipad. (qualia.com.au)

The Amazon Rainforest

The "Save the Rainforest" movement took the world by storm more than a decade ago, but the Amazon — which stretches through nine South American countries and measures roughly 7 million square kilometres — continues to be threatened by deforestation and pollution.

Environmentalists have warned about the loss of biodiversity that such habitat destruction will cause; some predictions even show that the rainforest could completely disappear by the end of the 21st century.

Where to Stay: Instead of staying in one location, explore the Amazon's awe-inspiring river — the world's largest drainage system — and its heavily forested shores aboard Aqua Expedition's intimate 16-suite _Aria _.

Voyages allow guests to kayak with the river's pink dolphins, fish for piranhas, and hike on shore among native Titi monkeys. New seven-night cruises with the renowned ocean environmentalist and film producer Jean-Michel Cousteau are also available for next year, providing an in-depth look of how we can help protect the Amazon. (aquaexpeditions.com)

The Arctic

The U.S. Navy is expanding and setting up resources to be able to respond to situations and emergencies that may arise with the increasing ice melt that is projected to occur between now and 2030.

This is hotly debated, but among the numerous statistics of melting ice, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports that average Arctic temperatures are rising almost twice as quickly as the global average rate.

Regardless of future predictions, the current state of the Arctic is undeniably in decline: Coastal erosion, ice cap retreat, and permafrost melt are all well documented.

Where to Stay: The luxury French cruise line Ponant is an expert in polar expeditions, and its 132-room ship _Le Boréal_ features an internationally recognised Clean Ship label. A navigational positioning system eliminates the need to drop anchor — protecting the seabed from any contact and potential damage — and an optical and submarine-detection system prevents collisions with orcas and other cetaceans.

Arctic itineraries range from seven nights in Norway to 14 nights in Alaska and Canada, and include exceptional naturalist guides, Zodiac trips to spot polar bears or explore breathtaking fjords, and — depending on specific itinerary — immersive encounters with local communities. (us.ponant.com)

The Dead Sea

The Dead Sea is the world's saltiest body of water, and humans have been floating in its waters since Biblical times for its many believed healing properties. However, it has been reported that in the last 50 years, the depth of the lake has dropped 34 metres, reducing its surface by 30 percent.

Thousands of sinkholes, which continually and unexpectedly appear along its shores, have scientists and conservationists concerned that most of the lake will one day disappear altogether.

Where to Stay: Roughly 90 minutes from the Dead Sea, Beresheet is arguably the best resort in Israel. Its 111 one- and two-story villas — many with private pools — perfectly blend into the remote desert landscape, and activities range from horseback and camel rides to jeep excursions and mountain biking in the nearby Ramon Crater. ( isrotel.com)

Rwanda

A study conducted by more than 30 scientists around the world and released earlier this year shows that 75 percent of primate species have shrinking populations, and 60 percent are threatened with extinction.

Their decline is being attributed to hunting, farming, ranching, logging, mining, and oil drilling. In the forests of Rwanda, the native mountain gorilla population is most famous as the subject of primatologist Dian Fossey's research.

Though Fossey's work became the impetus for a widely successful conservation effort that has over the last century brought a species back from the brink, Rwanda's gorillas remain critically endangered due to habitat loss caused by human development.

Where to Stay: Encounter mountain gorillas — as well as chimpanzees and golden monkeys — while trekking through the forests of Rwanda with Volcanoes Safaris. The outfitter's six-day safaris take place at its Virunga Lodge and highlight gorilla conservation and education, as well as local culture.

The lodge also recently debuted its new Dian Fossey Map Room in honour of the 50th anniversary of the primatologist's Karisoke Research Centre. (volcanoessafaris.com)

The Maldives

As the lowest lying country in the world, the Maldives are in danger of sinking due to climate change. None of the island-nation's approximately 1200 small coral islands rise to more than 1.8 metres above sea level, and its highest natural point sits a mere 2.4 metres above the Indian Ocean on Addu Atoll.

Scientists predict that the idyllic atolls could be completely submerged within the next 30 years. Luckily, local officials are taking vital steps in the right direction, pledging to be completely carbon neutral by 2019.

Where to Stay: Located on a lush 9-hectare island roughly 160 kilometres southwest of the main island of Malé, the St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort opened late last year with a focus on wellness. The 77-villa property features an onsite Ayurvedic doctor, a 1860-square-metre spa, and the island-nation's largest hydrotherapy pool. (starwoodhotels.com)

Madagascar

Nearly the size of Texas, Madagascar is the planet's fifth largest island; its unique wildlife — including the endangered Silky Sifaka lemur and rare Ploughshare tortoise — is some of the planet's most exotic.

In fact, 95 percent of its reptiles, 89 percent of its plant life, and 92 percent of its mammals exist nowhere else on Earth. And all of them are unfortunately in danger due to poaching and deforestation.

Where to Stay: Meet Madagascar's many endemic species at the soon-to-open Miavana Island Sanctuary. Set to debut in June, the low-impact private-island resort is located on island-nation's northern tip.

Each of its 14 villas comes with snorkel gear, allowing guests the opportunity to swim among some of the world's largest coral reef systems. (timeandtideafrica.com)

The Himalayas

Experts estimate that as few as 4080 snow leopards currently exist in the wild, landing the powerful white-and-grey cat on the endangered species list. And while hunting is the biggest threat to these majestic cats, scientists say that climate change could result in a loss of up to 30 percent of their habitat in the Himalayas alone.

Where to Stay: Increasing snow leopard awareness and conservation efforts is andBeyond's 13-day expedition into the heart of Ladakh. The 13-day expeditions through the Himalayas will take travellers on hikes and four-wheeled treks specially designed to spot the mysterious cat.

Guests stay at the Snow Leopard Lodge in Ulley, and make visits to the local Snow Leopard Conservancy devoted to the species' survival and the preservation of its habitat. (andBeyond.com)

Glacier National Park, Montana

Glaciers are generally a minimum of 10 hectares in size. In 1850, approximately 150 glaciers were present in what is now Glacier National Park, and most were still present when the park was established in 1910. In 2010, the U.S. Geological Survey reported that only 25 of the park's glaciers were larger than 10 hectares.

While the impact of this glacial retreat on the park's ecosystems is still uncertain, scientists say that native plant and animal species could suffer due to a loss of habitat. Glacial retreat — and the resulting reduction of seasonal melting — could also lead to an increase in forest fires.

Where to Stay: Helping visitors appreciate the beauty and importance of the precious ice masses is the Resort at Paws Up, a 15,000-hectare working cattle ranch in western Montana. Choose from 28 luxury homes or 30 luxury tents as a home base for visits to Glacier National Park and other outdoor adventures.

This summer, the resort will also launch a new campsite along the Blackfoot River, which will feature North America's only three-bedroom canvas tents. Each of its 91- to 113-square-metre tents will offer a king-size bed, a bathhouse with heated floors and granite counters, and a private deck overlooking the river. (pawsup.com)

Venice, Italy

It's no secret that Venice is sinking. Annual floods have been taking over the Italian island for nearly a century; a submerged walk in the Piazza San Marco is even a cherished tourist activity.

Aiming to help keep the city afloat, however, is Mose, a multi-billion-dollar project that — expected to be completed in 2018 — is constructing a series of flood barriers in an effort to protect Venice. The city is expected to sink by another 1.8-metre by the year 2100; hopefully this new initiative will keep total submergence at bay.

Where to Stay: Aman Canal Grande Venice is a 16th-century palazzo located directly on the city's Grand Canal. Brimming with original Italian designs — including gilt cornices, terrazzo floors, carved woodwork, and a centuries-old fresco by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo — the hotel features private gardens that overlook the canal.

It's also a short stroll from the Piazza San Marco, where guests can wade through the ankle-deep waters that regularly rush into the square. (aman.com)

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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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