AXEL REESE WITH WILLOW-RIVER TONKIN
This issue Kitesurfing Magazine turns to pro rider Willow-River Tonkin, one of the most well-known faces of the world-class surf break One Eye. We also asked him about the other spots on his home island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean.
Where does the name One Eye come from?
Willow-River: The legend says that way back in the ’70s, there was an old farmer that owned the land around Le Morne and he only had one eye. So when the Australian surfers came to Mauritius to explore and find some waves, on the way to the spot they ran into this one-eyed man before getting in the water. So they ended up naming that wave One Eye.
WHAT DOES ONE EYE LOOK LIKE ON PERFECT DAYS?
When it’s perfect it gets super long with never-ending, spitting barrels and steep peaks!
What does One Eye look like on a small day?
On a small day One Eye can be very, very deceiving. Many people will go out thinking it’s small and nothing can happen. But when it is one or two or even three meters, it is breaking right on the shallowest reef. So when something goes wrong, you end up directly on the reef.
And on small and medium days, it gets quite crowded in the lineup. From four to five meters it becomes more selective, right?
Yes, on small days everyone thinks it’s super safe and nothing can happen, so when it is small it gets super crowded with people that don’t know the dangers of One Eye and don’t really know what they are doing. But as soon as it gets big, there are very, very few people willing to go out to charge some gnarly waves and score a couple stand-up barrels.
So what about you, when will it be scary for you?
Once all the channels start closing it becomes very scary because I know that if something goes wrong there is no way for anyone to rescue me and it’s impossible for me to get back to the beach against the current. So that’s why I don’t really go out on days when it is bigger than seven meters unless there is a safety boat.
Your hardest wipeout so far?
To be honest I haven’t had too many bad washings. For sure I have had a couple gnarly wipeouts where I dropped my kite in the waves but I always keep myself as calm as possible and everything goes quite smoothly. The problems start as soon as you start panicking. If you panic, it will be a washing that you will remember for a long time.
What are the differences of the swell directions?
The best swell direction for One Eye is south or slightly south-south-west. If the swell is completely west, One Eye gets super fast and becomes a bit of a closeout.
Does the quite offshore wind still allow for really round turns?
Yes, on the days the wind gets really easterly, it can be quite hard to do round turns, especially backside. But generally with south easterly wind, it creates the perfect side-offshore breeze to go full power into your turns.
When the wind turns more from the east then?
Yes, good question. When the wind turns easterly, it becomes more offshore on One Eye and there is more chance of the wind dropping because of the mountain. The more southerly it becomes more side shore.
Do you know a faster wave on this planet? Ponta Preta in Cape Verde maybe? Ho’okipa in Maui?
No, I think out of all the waves and places I have traveled, One Eye has to be the fastest wave I have ridden so far. And–by the way–the longest and cleanest as well.
Tell us something about rain fronts in Le Morne. What kind of influences have do clouds have on the conditions?
Good and important question. Usually if you see rain or even big dark clouds in the area, make sure you head inside the lagoon and back to the beach as the wind can die off if it starts to rain. And die means die. Within a minute!
How much misfortune happens at this spot? How many accidents take place there out in One Eye? And what kind?
Well if we’re talking about serious cases of people getting injured or going missing; not many at all. But for sure One Eye likes to eat a couple kites for lunch.
Is there a rent-a-boat-for-our-own-safety solution?
Yes, sometimes we rent a boat if it’s a really big day for safety reasons. But usually on big days we would rent a boat anyways to get some shots!
When are the rescue boats not good for backup?
When the swell gets around four or five meters all the channels start closing out and no boats can go out to rescue people. So make sure if you see it’s really big, stay inside the lagoon because it’s not worth the risk!
The rescue boats cannot go out anymore, you drop the kite in One Eye, what options do you have? How do you handle this situation?
When I drop my kite, the first thing I do is pull my safety and release my kite. Then I try to swim away from my lines and only keep the kite attached to my safety leash. Then once the waves have pushed me inside the lagoon, I check to see if my kite is fine and then try to recover and relaunch it. But just remember, the first thing you must do if you drop the kite in the waves is to release it as fast as you can and swim away from your lines. This will save you and your kite.
Let’s take a look at the other wave spots on your home island. Manawa!
Manawa is a much more chilled wave. If you’re new to wave riding, it’s a wave you should definitely try out before going out to One Eye. It’s really slow and smooth with big open walls. It’s the best wave to get your first proper feeling of kitesurfing.
Hmm, Chameau is actually just the beginning part of One Eye. It’s the same wave with a different name.
For the filming of the new Core Nexus kites, you were traveling in the south of the island and experienced the big day of the year.
During the filming for the new Nexus, we traveled all over the island to find some unknown places that no one really goes to. We managed to score a couple great days and one or two really big days with some solid barrels. All the time that we spent hunting for the perfect wave ended up paying off quite nicely! So we have definitely other good waves on the island–beside One Eye.