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Shop Team: Icebreaker

Written by our mates at StabPhotos by John Respondek.

“I love the Shop Team idea,” says Chippa Wilson.

“Back in the day I was sponsored by Kingy Surf in Kingscliff. It was rad – they put on local grom comps, hooked the local kids up with discounts for wax and grips and it was just the coolest vibe ever. And this is similar, you just get your wax and stuff online.”

The idea’s pretty simple. Instead of using models or having to constantly wade through the legality of shooting professional surfers under contract (who can wear what, when etc), SurfStitch locked in four of the most captivating surfers in Australia and off they went. It’s coming up to winter, Stitch stocks all the rubber the boys’ sponsors product, so they shipped them off to Australia’s best catwalk/worst kept secret spot, and put them to work.

Nobody does it half as good as you, Chippa. You’re the best…

“We went down there for a week, not even,” Chippa says on the phone from his new home in Exmouth, WA. “Six full days of surfing, which was amazing for me. I’ve been out injured and hadn’t been on a surf trip like that in a year and half.”

The Shop Team’s an interesting mix on paper, but knowing the four members separately, it’s not surprising they all get along. Without sounding like a sycophant, they’re four of the best, most humble blokes you’ll come across amongst the pro surfing traps, and all seem genuinely stoked that they get to go on trips together for the foreseeable future.

Mitch Crews, still sharp as ever.

Mitch Crews and Chippa Wilson grew up within half an hour of each other and are exactly the same age, but their surfing paths couldn’t have been more different.

“We’ve just been on completely different programs,” Chippa says of his history with Mr Crews. “The only time we hung surf-wise would’ve been years back in the Pro Junior circuit. I wasn’t making heats and Crewsy was waxing people. Still is. But then we’d hang every second weekend partying and stuff as we ran in a similar crowd. But he’s such an asset to have on trips now. He’s the Team Manager and brings a huge vibe, always.”

Jai G showcasing that natural talent compensates for growing up on a right point.

Looking for some surf inspiration after a day of perfect 4ft offshore closeouts, I thumbed play on Jai G’s Electric Acid Microdose last night. It struck me the surfing is eternal. Hit play in 20, 50, 1000 years and his surfing will still be the pinnacle of surfing fundamentals. Chippa concurs, and says that watching Jai’s talent on a wave that’s not really suited to him at all, opened the mind of one of surfing’s most forward-thinkers.

“His surfing is so cool to watch for me as it’s the poler opposite of what I do,” Chippa explains. “That wave’s pretty much a tube then a big ramp, but he moulded straight into it. Every time he was in the bowl he’d hack it to bits. The wave’s not suited to carving and combos really, but he adapted perfectly.”

Benny Howard: low key on land, high as hell in the drink.

Benny Howard’s spent ample time at the wave in question and it suits the goofy fly boy with a deft touch in the tube perfectly, so it’s unsurprising that his surfing was equal part progressive and easy on the eye. Chip says that as well as good company and beautiful surfing, it’s also handy having Benny, a man who’s no stranger to heavy machinery, on the road.

“Whenever we had car problems Benny would comes and fix it,” Chip says. “The first trip we did we were at Ballina on the beach and Crewsy’s 4WD got bogged. He had 50 attempts to get it up the track and was sweating, swearing, then Benny steps up and does it first go. He’s the best, a good pal of mine who I met years ago. Just the solidest human ever.”

Chippa and this wave were made for each other. Watching him surf it is the definition of progression (despite a dodgy hinge).

Next on the agenda for the SurfStitch Shop Team, under the watchful gaze of Captain Crews, is more time on the road, more filming and, thankfully, more films.

“Yeah I’m just psyched to continue to make these movies, and progress from film to film,” Chippa says. “That’s the idea: cool films around summer/winter vibes showing off whatever’s going on at SurfStitch at the time. Crewsy’s the Team Captain, so you know good vibes aren’t going be a problem.”

The mercury’s dropping, get your fresh winter rubber here.