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AquaSkipperUK Ltd.

The Maltese Bouncer

12 May 2007

With a trip to Morocco cancelled in March the need to film a promo for AquaskipperUK was pressing. Clearing a week from a busy schedule of book writing, house moving and business creating, I gave Simon Thorpe a call.
“Si mate, how would you feel about a week in Malta. I have a promo that needs filming…”
“I’d feel pretty good about it,” says Si. And that was that, life is very easy if you know the right people.

Rewind a year and a half, I was chatting to Simon on the phone for the first time, discussing his interest in applying for the position as team cameraman for an upcoming trans-Australian skate journey. Si got the job, kept a smile on his face and did an awesome job as he filmed me pushing a longboard across what can only be described as a really big country, and that, as they say, is history.

Landing in a sunny Malta in mid April we were both full of optimism. I’d internetted a nice deal in the northern resort of Mellieha Bay and was looking forward to spending a week bouncing around in blue waters. Four days later the optimism had waned. Heavy winds and gloomy skies weren’t at all ideal for AquaSkipping or filming and Si and I had been confined to our hotel room, bemusedly descending to the lounge each night for a couple of pints. The youngest residents at the hotel by several decades, it got to the stage where we were actually considering joining the Granny Line Dancing Sessions. Dear God, we were not at all happy.

Going to bed on Saturday night, with no filming in the can and a flight home on Tuesday approaching a little too hastily, I was starting to panic. If we flew home on Tuesday it was not only a few hundred pounds down the drain, but it would be much harder for Si and I to get together to film a decent promo in the UK. When the only benefit of a week in Malta for two people in their twenties is the heart-thumping excitement of a half-hour Bingo game you know things aren’t going well. Bugger bugger bugger, it wasn’t looking good.

Then, Sunday morning. Sunshine! The wind still blowing but with much less strength than previous days, Si and I walked three kilometres across to the west side of the island. And there, almost unbelievably after the uncertainty of the week so far, was the beautiful, sheltered Anchor Bay. The water glistened turquoise in the sunlight, so clear that from our vantage point way above the bay we could easily see the seabed. As if that wasn’t enough, Anchor Bay is so named because it is sided by a colourful, ramshackle village, which was specifically created as the set of the Popeye film, made decades earlier with Robin Williams as the star.

Jutting out into the middle of the bay was a long, concrete jetty. At the very end of it steps were cut into the rock, creating a perfect launch point for the AquaSkipper. Si filmed me putting Skippy together, then I pulled a wetsuit on and pushed off. It had come a little later than expected, but finally I was bouncing free off the coast of Malta. The original plan had been to Skip around for a week and before flying home make a decision on what challenge to undertake on the AquaSkipper, but with the clock ticking our priority was to get a promo made. So I set about skipping across the bay, getting further and further with each attempt, liberated by the open water and now for the first time able to change direction and keep on going. Several embarrassingly rubbish back flip dismounts and a bit of foot-to-foot bouncing later, we packed up delighted with the day’s work. On a couple of occasions I’d managed to skip several hundred metres in one go, easily crossing the bay. Si had bagged almost two tapes worth of film and we were happy that there was enough material to create a promo.

One thing nibbled at me though, I hadn’t had a chance to master the beach start. Internet videos showed people running into the water and leaping upon the AquaSkipper, initiating the rhythm and bouncing off before it sunk, a completely different proposition to the standard launch from a raised platform, and something I longed to achieve before heading home. With crossed fingers I hoped for good weather on Monday, our final day.

Thankfully it came, and this time I launched off in slightly choppier waters in front of our hotel. With a forceful current to battle against I learned to lean against a turn, pulling up the inside edges of the AquaSkipper’s hydrofoils, which naturally tilt deeper into the water when veering off in a non-linear direction. Skipping directly into or with the direction of the waves was far easier than having the waves hit me side on, but anything other than near-calm waters posed a significant message to my thoughts about a long distance journey across a potentially violent body of water.

I managed to pull off the beach start from the hotel’s private beach, holding the AquaSkipper with left hand on the standing pole and right hand on the crossbar, just above the foot stands. Two swift running steps gives the AquaSkipper enough momentum to lift to its maximum height, and then the main challenge is jumping aboard – one foot, then the other – without taking any more steps, which as the water gets deeper just reduces the AquaSkipper’s inertia. With several pensioners peering over the hotel wall, I stumbled three or four times before managing to jump aboard and bounce off for the first time. Although it didn’t take as long as learning to launch the Skipper from a standing platform the satisfaction was just as high, not least when the small group above started to clap and cheer!

As a final shot for the promo, Si ascended to our hotel room and asked me to skip all the way down to the main beach, some 200 metres away. Riding with the waves made life easier, and as Si filmed me passing beyond some majestic palm trees I realised I could start surfing the small waves that broke towards the beach. Looking behind for the next wave that was to catch me up, I realised that I was moving a little faster than the waves now, and just as I tried to slow up the front of my AquaSkipper drove into the sand. Because I was looking behind I hadn’t realised that the water was getting shallower, and still about 50 metres from the beach I found myself flying over the handlebars, my head ploughing effortlessly through the foot-deep water and into the seabed. My body crumpling down in concert, I naturally rolled and took the full weight on my shoulder before popping back up above the surface and thanking my lucky stars it wasn’t a rocky bed. I was going to be pulling sand out of my head for the next three days.

Sadly, Si hadn’t captured all of the fall, but just before a tree blocked his view he filmed my legs flying through the air, following my body in a circular wave before the ensuing carnage disappeared behind palm leaves. Typical!

So, all said and done, we got the promo done – it’s now showing on the AquaSkipper website and on You Tube, and with a bit of open water experience under my belt it won’t be too long before a challenge is set. Watch this space.