An Interview with J-Bay’s Kamikaze Wave Pirate

Posted July 24, 2017

Stab Magazine

Recently we pointed to a vast disparity between the quantity and quality of ten-point rides at the Corona J-Bay Open.

What we didn’t mention, however, was the ninth ten of the event. Technically the wave went unscored (politics, ugh), but Youtube views don’t lie. While Filipe’s double-oop earned a respectable 50k on the WSL’s account, another ride has gone properly viral, tripling Toldeo’s number and then some.

Relive the brilliance, here:

Cocksure, balls-to-the-wall, with an undeniable style and poise. Who the hell is this guy? Gal? We had to find out.

Stab: Hello! Is this J-Bay’s notorious wave pirate?
J-Bay’s Notorious Wave Pirate: Uh, yeah, I guess…

Wonderful! Please state your name, and age, and jock-strap dimensions for the court.
Oliver Tonkin, 34, and uh… normal?

I don’t believe that for a second but let’s get into Ollie. You knew what you were doing that day, didn’t you? You’d planned this for months, maybe even years — secretly practicing the dinghy highline to secure your place in surfing history.
Unfortunately not. That was the first and hopefully last time I’ll have to ride a wave in my boat. It was 99% luck so I don’t think it I’d be so lucky if I had to do it again.

But… you rode it so perfectly — the highline through Boneyards, gathering just enough speed to dodge a crumbling section and juice it off the bottom. You know this wave like Glen Hall knows knees. So what gives? Did you crumble early in the trials? Was this revenge?
I’ve never surfed a day in my life. That was my first wave!

Uh huh… whatever you say, man. So tell me about Oliver Tonkin, the “non-surfing” wave pirate of the Corona J-Bay Open.
Well, I live in a little town called Plettenberg Bay, and I’m involved in a couple things – I’m a part-time skipper, I have a tractor business which launches our boats, we’ve got a little family wine farm, and then my actual training is as a helicopter pilot.

Screen Shot 2017 07 23 at 5.03.44 PMNot all heroes wear capes, but most of them have dogs. Oliver Tonkin is no different.

Ooooh helicopter boy! I guess that’s where we can attribute your calm, collected decision making in high-stress situations. But why were you so out of position? Surely a skipper should know his way around the surf.
We were on a skipper swap, my partner and I, and I positioned our boat in the same spot as a previous couple of days, so I thought we’d be alright there. Of course, it’s when the set of the day came through.

And the actual negotiation of the wave — was it all instinct?
When I realized there was no way to make it over the swell, I did the only thing I could do — which was ride the wave to safety. Apparently my boss was yelling at me, but I couldn’t hear anything. As a skipper, you often have to make decisions and stick with them.

What about the second engine? I heard you had to manually engage that bitch mid-wave.
Yeah, I realized we weren’t gonna have enough juice to outrun the whitewater, so I turned the second key and prayed it turned on immediately. Luckly it did, and you can actually see the boat accelerate at a certain point in the ride.

Tell me one last thing. Do you feel inclined to take up surfing after this life-altering event? Surely it was a sign from some higher power.

Nah, my surfing career is officially retired. I don’t think I could ever pull something like that off again.

So you Freddy P’d it!


(c) 2017