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Chippa Wilson

Coast to Coast to Coast

pro surfer surfing a large wave

Check out a map of Australia and draw a line between Cabarita on the NSW north coast and Scamander on the Tasmanian east coast, and then another one across the continent to Exmouth in the far north-west.

It would be hard to find three points on the vast Australian coastline further removed from, and more at odds with each other, from sub-tropical to semi-Antarctic to arid.  But these three disparate locations have one thing in common – and that is the mercurial migrations of free surfing phenom Chippa Wilson. The diversity in environments reflects Chippa’s eclectic personal style – the wild tattooed aerialist with a fetish for restoring vintage motorbikes and trucks, and a deep love of gardening, the natural world and remote adventures.

“Motor bikes were like a mid-life crisis, or quarter life crisis,” Chippa laughs. “Dad’s always been into bikes. I’ve been collecting old vintage Harley Davidsons and Triumphs and restoring old trucks.”

man standing outside in the hot sun pouring water over himself

From coastal breaks to untapped waves

Chippa grew up at Cabarita and refined his wildly innovative aerial surfing at the popular local point break and abundant Tweed Coast beachbreaks, before migrating 2500 km south to Tassie to explore its lonely coastal wilderness for untapped, coldwater surf. Then he moved again, this time over 5000 km northwest to the harsh, dry environs of the Ningaloo Coast, better known for whale sharks than waves.

His rare and creative surfing talent was always destined to rise to prominence, but Chippa’s surfing career has taken an unconventional path. At 21, he won an on-line surf magazine competition for submitting the best compilation of surfing clips. Sponsors quickly clamoured to affix stickers to his varied quiver of surfcraft and soon he was travelling the world as a professional free surfer.

man in car smiling and looking away from camera

Chasing waves and finding roots

“You never knew back then if you’d get the Willy Wonka golden ticket,” he says. “I’ve been everywhere in the world since then. I do the odd specialty comp, but it’s pretty laid back. I won Stab High (aerial surf contest), in Texas at the wave pool, couple of movies of the year at Surfer Poll, a few magazine covers when they were still a thing.” But career success made for a hectic schedule.

“I was just travelling for three weeks of the month. Caba was getting busier and busier, more chaotic than being on the road,” he recalls. “I went down to see a mate in Tassie and saw a little property for sale and just jumped on it.” For four years, he revelled in Tasmania’s sense of freedom and open space, from his base in Scamander on the east coast.

“I did a lot of hiking into spots to find waves, and got heavily into gardening and landscaping,” he says. He converted his acreage property into a natural wonderland but then, with that four-year mission complete, he ventured west and settled in Exmouth on the edge of the stunning Ningaloo Reef to ride out the Covid pandemic. If you were going to be locked into your home state, the wide expanses of the WA coastline seemed the ideal place to do it.

close up of man surfing

Chippa’s favourite Dometic camping gear

“I jumped over here through Covid and fell in love with the joint,” he says. “There’s okay waves but they’re scarce, maybe two days a month.” But there were other attractions to life in the north-west. His partner Brinkley Davies is a free diver and animal activist who used to take tourists diving with whale sharks for a living. Exploring the wonders of Ningaloo and the surrounding coast became his new obsession. Ningaloo is what’s called a fringing reef, unlike the famed Great Barrier Reef of the east coast, which means you can wade straight off the beach into  its underwater wonders. “It’s just like an aquarium as soon as you jump in.”

Now Chippa and Brinkley take off every chance they get, discovering remote waves and pristine campsites far from civilisation. His collaboration with Dometic seemed almost pre-destined. “I’ve been a fan of them forever. They make the coolest stuff for sure,” he says. “A friend introduced me, and it just goes hand in hand. As soon as you leave the property here you need quality gear.”

He has two separate setups for short and long road trips, both kitted out with Dometic’s essentials for outdoor and remote living. “I’ve got a Troopy (Troopcarrier) fitted out with a 75 litre CFX3 fridge/freezer, big enough to have a frozen section, the Dometic Go compact table, icebox, drinkware, solar panels. It’s really good,” he says. “We can head to Gnaraloo, and I can be on the road for two weeks easy.”

“Around home we load up the old Toyota Landcruiser, ex-military, with the Dometic lithium battery, small fridge, the Dometic hub and the Pico inflatable swag, for two-day missions,” he says. “It’s the harshest conditions ever, so you need good gear.”

Now the adventure-seeking couple get away every chance they get, while tending to their menagerie of domestic pets and two acres of recently planted trees. “There’s lots of balancing. We’ve got a pretty big fur and feather family,” Chippa laughs. “We try and get away every second week. You get FOMO, my partner and dogs love it. Close to home, we like to explore Ningaloo. If we take the dogs, we go to straight to Gnaraloo.”