Rip Curl's Postcards From Morgs Featuring; Mick Fanning, Tyler Wright, Owen Wright And More!
27/08/2020

Rip Curl's Postcards From Morgs Featuring; Mick Fanning, Tyler Wright, Owen Wright And More!

Or… How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Go On The Search!

By Morgan Cibilic

I'd never dreamed I would qualify for the World Tour. I'd never actually had a dream that it could happen to me. See, I was born in Lismore, which if you don't know, is a rural town in NSW mostly famous for having a lamp parade down the main street once a year and for flooding any time it rains. That's not to say it doesn't have its charms, it's a cool town and I do love lamps, but it's about as close to the surf as Penrith out in the Blue Mountains behind Sydney… Hang on. Isn't there a famous surfer that comes from Penrith, again? What's his name? Remind me later.

Anyway, shortly after I was born Mum and Dad moved us to what's known as The Morning of the Earth region of the New South Wales North Coast. By age three Dad was already pushing me into waves. I was totally hooked and if Dad ever went surfing without me (usually only when it was too big)

I would absolutely lose my banana, kick my tricycle over, spit out all my veggies, fall straight to the ground and head butt the dirt until he got back.

Even then I knew that all I wanted to do was surf.

As the years went by I slowly began to navigate my way along the well-worn path that so many surfers from my little town had walked before me. I'm not gonna name any spots here, but my mates and I enjoyed an embarrassment of riches in terms of the quality and variety of waves we could surf on any given day. We had points, slabs, wedges, beachies, bombies, breakwalls and if you really wanted to let it all hang out, there was even a nude beach. More than that though, we had a town full of legends, corelords, alternatives, and burnouts like no other. Some had been there since the earliest days of Albe Falzon, Nat Young, and Baddy Treloar, others had moved to the area seeking a country soul way of life away from the cities, but many, particularly from my era at least, had been born and bred on the reefs and shifting sands of the region. The lineage of amazing style and limitless bravado in the big stuff was matched only by the unique characters of the surfers themselves who populated every shop, every trade, every trawler, and every seat at the pub just about every arvo. Might seem a bit old fashioned but I absolutely loved growing up in a fair-dinkum true-to-life surf town.

That was until year 7 when I walked in the front door from school one day to be told by Mum that we were moving to Newcastle. Deadset, I was so devastated I went to my room and cried. I said to Mum "Fuck, this is going to be the shittest thing ever." to which Mum replied, "Swear jar Morgan!" So on top of having to move, I also had to fork $2 out of my pocket money for the swear jar as well. Talk about the worst day ever.

I wasn't an extremely shy kid, but I wasn't the coolest kid in school either. I'd settled into high school ok, and now I had to do it all again. Thankfully, within six months of moving to Newcastle, my mind had been changed completely.

I discovered that the people were just as welcoming and down-to-Earth as they had been up the coast and the waves and the level of surfing going down in the Steel City were absolutely world-class. I instantly fell in love with the energy of the place. The crew had your back, they looked out for one another, and having a sense of community was something the entire city appeared to be super proud of. I didn't want to be there for the first six months but by the end of the year, I didn't want to go home.

The other thing that made it unreal was going surfing with Dad. Every day we'd go searching for waves up and down the coast no matter what. Then one day he took me to Merewether Boardriders. "You should sign up! First comp is free. You don't have to pay for entry. Just put your wetty on and have a go." As it turned out my heat was already paddling out but I ran into the dunnies, got changed, quickly paddled out, and won the heat. Just like that, I'd entered a whole new family that would have a huge impact on the person and the surfer I've become to today.

At Boardriders I surfed in two divisions, my own and the division above mine, for no other reason than I wanted to be out in the water and pushing my surfing every chance I got. As I got older I moved into the Opens but the standard was pretty intense. Every heat was like QS and you'd have to go as hard as you could just to get noticed. All of that competitive energy was fueling a desire in me to do well in the junior Series and maybe have a crack at the Qualifying Series one day, but the World Tour wasn't even on my radar yet. It seemed like another universe with aliens surfing on it. You'd watch comps and see Mick and Owen and the surfing they were doing and it didn't even appear to be real. But while I couldn't imagine surfing against those guys in heats, surfing alongside them was something I dreamed about all the time.

Ever since I was a little kid the idea of going on surf trips and being in surf movies seemed like the ultimate way to live. I'd watched every Search clip ever made and frothed out so heavily on the idea of sharing waves with my heroes. Traveling to nowhere to surf the unridden. Are you kidding me?! Fuck yeah that was the dream alright. How to make that a reality though seemed even more unlikely than qualifying. Still, at least I was thinking about it.

A few years passed I suddenly found myself almost out of high school but I still couldn't even win the Open division of the local boardriders. To make matters worse I was going shit on the pro juniors as well. I knew I surfed as good as the kids my age but for some reason, I just kept getting knocked out in early rounds. It got to the point where I basically started to think about other career options. The pro surfing thing didn't appear to be working out. Then in my last two pro juniors, I got a third and a first. That was all the confidence I needed to give the Quewey a crack and from there, things kinda just fell into place. Don't get me wrong the first half of the year I copped a heap of setbacks and I was close to quitting a couple of times, especially when I injured my knee, but I had a dream run through the tail of 2019 and by year's end I'd done enough in Hawaii to secure a spot on the 2020 World Championship Tour.

I'm not gonna lie, nobody was more surprised than me that I qualified. As I said, it had never crossed my mind that I was good enough to make it. But one thing I had done throughout that qualifying year made a huge difference and began a domino effect of positive energy and good results and that was making a conscious decision to stop worrying about what other people were doing and start worrying about what I could control. I'd just tell myself.

"Get the best couple of waves. Smash the fuck out of 'em as hard as you can and you're a chance."

That's pretty much how I got through every heat. And it worked! Ha.

After Hawaii and the buzz of making the CT, the entire offseason went by in a bit of a blur. Everyone was so excited for me and there was a lot of energy coming my way. And then all of a sudden, my first CT heat was just around the corner. Or at least it was supposed to be because as we all know now, the pandemic hit and shortly after that the entire 2020 tour got thrown out.

Which brings us to now. It's been a weird time, an anxious and sad and uncertain time for so many people. There are so many questions and so few answers, but one thing I do know for sure is that there is no way I would have been ready for that first CT had the first comp run at Snapper when it was supposed to. I was so undercooked and I think I can look back now and admit that I probably would have gotten trampled. At the time I had a lot of second-guessing going on. There was shit I needed to sort out and lockdown presented me with a fantastic opportunity to make some major adjustments. There was nowhere to go and nothing to do but surf and the waves in Australia were absolutely pumping. So I surfed six hours a day, every day. I did coaching sessions with Jay Bottle Thomspon and began to feel stronger and more confident. I got my boards completely dialed and my anxiety about surfing that first CT heat became anticipation. It no longer felt intimidating. I wanted to rip the shit out of it! And it was right at that moment the phone rang and I was being asked to go on the Search. Somehow in the midst of all of this chaos, my dreams were still coming true.

Postcards from Morgs is a pretty straightforward Aussie road trip I reckon. It's Mick Fanning, Tyler Wright, Owen Wright, Matty McGillivray, Molly Picklum, and Mikey McDonagh surfing a bunch of East Coast points and beachies over a 10-day window. We spruiked up the action with a bit of acting like we're in Home & Away which I'm pumped on and hopefully we get to make people laugh while all this other crappy shit is going on. It's not autobiographical but it does kinda sum up the past few months of my life in a very exaggerated way. No tour, no travel, what else can we do but make up our own Search trips? Anyway, it was a lot of fun, not the best surf we got on the East Coast this winter but a lot of really good waves none-the-less.

For me the real highlight was being in the water with Mick and Owen, to spend time with those guys, and to see how they approach their day was amazing. Best of all, to realise they're normal blokes like me was awesome.

I'd never done a trip with Mick, I didn't know him well at all, but watching dismember six-foot walls is probably the best clinic on rail surfing you'll ever see in your life. When you're watching it on a video it looks so simple and so easy, but then actually being out there and seeing how much speed he has and how much all the elements are pushing against him turning his board at the speed he's traveling, and how he cuts through with the most intricate body movement and timing. It blows ya bloody head off! His frontside hacks and carves have so much variety, he can draw them out or pull em tight just by moving an arm or pivoting his weight. We surfed for seven hours one day and every turn I saw him do was pretty much perfect. If he's not the best rail surfer in the world right now I'll roll myself in molasses and feathers and start clucking around my back yard.

Mick and Owen are both so helpful too. If I wanted to ask them something, like, "Hey, how do I do this or do that? Or what boards do I need?" They'd help me out. And if there's anybody you want to copy with your surfing, it's going to be Mick or Owen, right?

They're technically perfect. So, that was something that I really took away from this Search trip. Especially when thinking about J-Bay or Bells. And as for Owen, well everybody tries to copy that backside vert to tail release. Nobody does it better. You don't even know how crazy it is until you're there watching it.

The other notable thing about surfing with O is that his small wave game has never been better. Not that you hear crew talking about it all that much because what he does at Chopes and Fiji rightfully dominates any conversation, but when we were at all those beaches, his completion rate was fucking second to none. He was making so many and they were all crazy as well.

"I grew up watching Owen, I had posters of him doing airs in my room"

It was pretty sick to see that he's still doing them because you don't really see it enough and he adds so much speed and power to those. His carves are ridiculous too... I think all the surfing I saw him do over those 10 days combined with his performances on the reefs left me in no doubt that he'll be challenging for the World Title again if or when the tour kicks off. He's that good.

The best thing for myself and Matty McGillivray (who's also a tour rookie on the CT) being on the Postcards From Morgs trip was the experience of being with Mick and Owen and knowing that we deserved to be surfing alongside them. Which is pretty crazy. They're guys I grew up watching and dreamed of surfing with, but every time I paddled out with them, every surf I went for in that 10 days, I wanted to be on their level or better. I was like, "Fuck, I've got to show them I can surf just as good as them." I was trying as hard as I could. If we had a three-hour surf I'd be paddling back out at the end of those three hours as hard as I could, and surfing as hard at the end of the session as I was at the start. Matty was the same. That's how you improve.

It was an amazing trip. We had barrels, big fucking carve sections, sick air sections, and in those 10 days, we got a lot of really fun days of surf. It makes me laugh that my first Search trip was just outside my front door, but I wouldn't change it for anything. I surfed with my all-time heroes. I surfed as much as I possibly could. And I walked away knowing that this is where I'm meant to be. The Search is what you make it.

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