Martin Daily is best known as the captain of the Indies Trader fleet, and for exploring the Mentawai islands. It is often said that Daly has discovered more high-quality surf breaks than anybody in the world.
Martin Daily took the Rip Curl crew on the first filming trip to the Mentawais for The Search Film #2. They were the first to document the Mentawai's in film and magazine articles. Tom Curren rode the fish at Bawa.
The very first trip with Martin Potter, Tom Carroll and Ross Clarke-Jones was to Enggano Island, not the Mentawai. The trip in 1992 was the first chartered trip to the outer Indo islands that resulted in a leaked photo to the magazines.
Martin Daily is said to be as impenetrable as the steel hull of his ship. There's no way around it, while we are researching some data for an upcoming interview, we are, once again, reading up on his background, all the things that lead up to him becoming the most adventurous surfer. As they become increasingly rare to find we're not skipping the opportunity to learn something new, or at least walk home with a few tips on how to live life and keep chasing those dreams. If you are not into reading, or watching grainy old footage, feel free to simply enjoy the 18 minute long documentary produced by GoPro in stunning 4K quality.
Daly was born (1957) in Sydney, and began surfing at age eight, at Narrabeen, on an old balsa board. In his teens, while living in Queensland, Daly got crewing job on fishing boats working the Great Barrier Reef. Daly later said that watching Alby Falzon's 1972 surf movie Morning of the Earth, set partly in Bali, inspired him to look for warm, empty, exotic surf in Indonesia. "That was the whole focus of my life during my late teens," Daly said. "But I didn't actually get there until I was 23."
Albert Falzon’s 1972 masterpiece, Morning of the Earth, is internationally renowned as being one of the greatest surf films of all time. The film’s audio visual tour de force redefined the cinematic experience and became an instant benchmark of avant-garde cinema. A fantasy of surfers living in three unspoiled lands and playing in nature’s oceans, Morning of the Earth tells the story of a group of friends exploring the measures of all things beautiful as they live the simple life throughout Australia, Bali and Hawaii; shaping their own surfboards, building their own homes and living off the land in harmony with nature. With an original rock soundtrack, and spectacular surfing sequences featuring some of the world’s best, Morning of the Earth is a must-see and pre-requisite for any surfer and cinephile alike.
This trailer was edited using temporary 4K scans of the 16mm Kodak/Atlab release print, courtesy of the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia. The source material for the fully remastered version (coming summer 2020) will be the superior camera originals, which make up the original 16mm A&B rolls.
Original Story by Andrew Lewis.
In 1971, a 16-year-old Martin Daly dropped out of school and left his family home of Townsville, a wave-starved Great Barrier Reef enclave in northern Queensland. The reason? "I wanted to go overseas and explore," Daly remembers.
He'd heard the waves were good in New Zealand, so that was his first stop. He leased a gas station in Pauanui, a sleepy resort town popular with weekenders from Auckland, where he sold boards and filled scuba tanks. But when the Iranian Oil Crisis hit in late 1978, and the New Zealand government shut down the country's gas stations on the weekends, Daly cashed out and then spent much of his time surfing the North Island.
Meanwhile, Martin had gotten wind of commercial diving work on the oilrigs in South Asia, so he borrowed $70 from a former girlfriend and took off once again. Within weeks he was in Manila, scraping oil rig bottoms for $120 a day. The job lasted three months before he took off yet again -- this time to Sumatra, where he promptly "went feral." The year was 1981.
From Medan, Daly caught a local bus to Lake Toba. Chickens cackled. An elderly lady vomited in his lap. And when he finally got to Nias, he found 30 guys camped on the point. Daly hardly caught a wave from the crowd, many of whom were off their chops on some crazy Sumatran weed. But the place itself was stunningly beautiful -- white sand beaches, clear blue water... Daly stayed a month, caught malaria and nearly died.
Some time later, Daly made his way to Jakarta, where he linked up with mates Jeff Chitty and Ross Hannon. The trio scored a contract diving the Ardjuna oilfield in the Java Sea. One day, they met an Australian "scrap pirate" named Dave Barnett on one of the rigs. Barnett was making a fortune in illicit salvaging or, as Daly puts it, "ripping off anything underwater that was lying around unattended." Once Barnett came up on a salvaging dry spell, he took a contract cleaning platforms from his boat, an old trawler aptly named the Rader.
In 1983, while on a break from work, Daly, Chitty and Hannon asked Barnett if he'd like to take a trip to Sumatra's offshore islands. He was game, and the crew discovered setups like One Palm, Panaitan and others. They never saw another soul surfing anywhere. "It was epic," Daly says. "The hook was set."
The crew swore an oath of secrecy before returning to Jakarta and heading back to the rigs. One day in 1986, Barnett got wind of a big wreck. "There was some controversy, disputed waters," Martin says. The story made the cover of Tempo, a Jakarta-based weekly, with a cartoon of Barnett running off with a treasure chest, which might as well have been a photograph, because Barnett really did split with his millions to Perth (where he still lives today -- right down the road from Daly, his wife and their two children). But on his way out, Barnett sold the Rader to Daly. "The boat was so hot that I needed to disguise it," Daly remembers, "so I painted it blue and re-registered it." He also extended its name to "Indies T-Rader."
Daly started a commercial diving company while continuing his work on the Ardjuna. But in order to fund his surfing trips on the side, he needed surfers. He offered his services to a select few individuals in the expat surfing community around Bali -- so long as they "swore on a pack of Bibles" that they would tell no one where they had been taken. The deal worked... for a while.
In 1992, one of his acquaintances in Bali asked to charter a trip with a few unnamed mates. Daly reluctantly obliged. "I needed to know for the port authorities who the crew was, and it was getting down to the wire," he remembers. Finally, the names came through: Tom Carroll, Martin Potter and Ross Clarke Jones were at the top of the list.
They left Merak Harbor at midnight and motored out into six-foot seas. At a lefthander far to the north, Daly witnessed the biggest waves he'd ever seen. "Tom and Ross were doing crossovers," he says. "Pottz had the most amazing drop. I now knew the difference between them and us mere mortals."
Later in the trip, at a wave that would eventually be known as "Lance's Left," Carroll hung back on the boat while everyone paddled out. "I hear this screaming and think, 'Oh my God, someone needs help," remembers Carroll. "So I run out on the deck and see Martin on this perfect left, high-lining, wearing these overalls with booties that look like tennis shoes, and he's screaming at the top of his lungs. I'm going, 'This guy's out of his mind.'"
Daly was indeed out of his mind. After nearly a decade roaming around the Mentawais, this was the best surf he'd ever seen. But the thrill came with a heavy price. Within months, a photo of Carroll turned up in the Australian surf magazine Waves. Meanwhile in Jakarta, Daly remained naïve to the fanfare. "We didn't read the surf mags," he says. "We were completely isolated from that stuff."
Back in Australia, Quiksilver's Bruce Raymond was beginning to see the marketing potential of boardshorts pictured in perfect outer Indonesia. Once he heard Daly was passing through Bali, he rushed to meet him. "Martin didn't want to see happen to the Mentawais what happened to Hawaii and Bali," says Raymond. "And I wanted to do right by him, so our surfers weren't allowed to bring cameras, and everyone signed a confidentiality agreement. We did it right for about five years."
For Daly, the relationship with Quiksilver meant freedom from a gritty life in the oilfields -- and a future of full-time surfing. It also sparked in him an idea for another escape plan. "It was Martin's view that surfers were not very adventurous," Raymond says, "that they only really surfed within about 60 miles of international airports, that there had been no impetus to go and do a marine exploration for surfing."
After having a few beers one afternoon at G-Land, Daly and Raymond hatched the "Quiksilver Crossing." Daly envisioned it as a travel slush fund between all the major surf companies in which the mission was simple: discovering perfect waves. Ultimately, only Quiksilver bit. In order to pay the bills, the Crossing became one part Martin's dream and three parts floating ad campaign -- a compromise Daly begrudgingly accepted. "I didn't sign up for Rio harbor cruises," he says, "but I got paid for seven years to drive around the world looking for surf. I lived all my dreams and surfed my brains out."
Seven years, 27 countries, 160,000 nautical miles and some 100 new waves later, the Crossing made its final official stop in Oahu during the winter of 2005-06 for the Eddie's opening ceremony. With the Crossing finished, Daly set off for the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific, a destination so remote he never got the chance to go. What he found was, as he puts it, "the most pristine marine environment that I've ever seen."
Since 2007, Daly has run his charter operation out of Majuro, the Marshalls' capital. He also partnered up with renowned windsurfer Keith Teboul to create Marshall Waves Experience, an operation that is as much about diving the island's World Heritage-listed marine sites as it is about offering surfers an opportunity to ride perfect waves in solitude. "I just returned from an exploratory trip from there to Fiji," Daly says. "I love that kind of adventure."
While he has no illusions about the hazards of offering charters in untouched wave gardens, Daly insists tourism is carefully managed in the Marshalls, where the only other sources of revenue are copra and fishing rights. "Their marine environment is their largest asset," he says, "and their only hope for self sustainability."
And this time, the inherent isolation of these islands might actually work in keeping these secrets safe. It’s basically to inspire people to explore and not get discouraged. There are still heaps and heaps of uncrowded, perfect surf out there. You just have to get off your lounge chair and look for it. I’m basically allowing the next guy to come along, pick up the stone and feel like he was the first one to discover it. What I do want to achieve, is not to spoil it for the young, feral guys who get the maps, can still do it on their own.
Click here to learn more about Martin Daly’s surf charters.