Photos and interview by Nathan Myers
Marlon Gerber doesn’t have time to celebrate. It’s 8 a.m. Monday morning in Kuta and there’s just enough time for one victory beer before he heads to the airport. Breakfast of champions.
He’s just secured the 2011 Indonesian Surfing Championship on Rote Island, but he’s bailing his own award ceremony for Thailand, where he’ll compete for the Asian Surfing Championships. Just one quick Bintang before it’s back to the heat.
All this rushing around and jersey-wearing stuff is very un-Marlon. Here’s a man who appreciates his beauty sleep, chilling for hours on The Balcony veranda, and walk-able afternoon sessions at Kuta Beach. Marlon likes to cruise.
He does it well, too. And with a style that’s every photographer’s wet dream, Marlon’s become one of Indo’s best-known photo pros, with cover shots, Taylor Steele video parts and more coverage in the international mags than most of the local boys. This is the good life…and he’s passed up modeling and acting offers to keep it that way. Simple. Pure. Cruise-y.
But winning contests? Not so much.
Until the end of last year, Marlon had never really won anything. Then this year, he pretty much gutted the tour wide open…winning the ISC title before the season was even over.
So what changed? It’s clearly not a dietary thing…
SURFING: The press release from Rote said you were “taking it one heat at a time” — did you read line that off a cue card or what?
MARLON GERBER: You know, I don’t think I even said that. I think they just pick those quotes from a list sometimes.
Yeah, I’ve got that list in my wallet. So how did it really go down?
Well, that’s pretty much how I approached it. That’s how you’ve got to do it. Not get too far ahead of yourself.
After you won the first event this year you told me you were planning on winning the title this year.
Did I say that?
You did. But after that, it was like, “Let’s never speak of it again.”
Totally. There’s always that fear of jinxing it. But I really felt like I could win it this year.
What changed to make you start winning?
Just believing in myself. I always knew I had the ability. I just didn’t have the confidence to win.
Simple as that?
Rizal [Tanjung] was also a big part of my winning. He’s been kind of like a coach to me this year. Right before my heat he texted me and said, “Just surf. Don’t think about anything else. Just surf.” I remembered that in the water and it helped.
Riz has a lot of experience. He’s a former Indo champ himself, right?
Yeah. He’s a really smart competitor. So much experience. And he’s my brother. The board I won on was his. I liked it and he said, “Take it.” He calls it my Money Maker board. Always says, “Save your Money Maker for the contest.”
A lot of top surfers are using coaches these days.
Yeah, Taj, Parko…lotta guys. There are so many good surfers around now that’s it’s almost more of a mental game. Anyone can win on the right day, but to put it all together in a heat for 25 minutes with the pressure on…it’s not easy.
How did it go down in Rote?
I almost lost my first heat because it was four-man and not many waves came through. I was just really nervous, too. Even the head judge came up and said, “Man, you were sucking out there.” I appreciated his honesty. The next day was a totally different story. I feel more comfortable in the man-on-man heats.
How was the final?
The final was with Cabul [Raditya Rondi]. He’s really good in any conditions. I pretty much won it in the last ten seconds. I needed an 8 and I got the score.
With an air?
Couple turns, an air, then two more turns.
That’s what it takes to get an 8 on the ISC, right? Full-on combo waves.
Oh yeah. It’s harder than the WCT. Lee [Wilson] was boosting something on every single wave. One wave he did a turn, a straight air, then an air reverse and scored a 9.5.
If you took the bottom 15 guys from the WCT and put ‘em on the Indo Tour, you think they’d get smoked?
Yeah, probably. For sure we’d have a good chance of beating them. The surfing on this tour is really good.
Do you watch the WCT events?
Not really. I watched some of New York to study how guys were winning heats, but I didn’t really learn anything. I already knew what I had to do. I just keep it simple. Try to get two good waves.
Did you realize that winning this event would secure the title for you?
No. I hadn’t done any calculations. I didn’t even want to think about it like that.
Just taking it one heat a time?
Normally pretty reserved, Marlon was still a bit giddy with his competitive success this year.
We’ve barely started the breakfast victory party and it’s already time to go. “People keep asking how it feels to be champ,” says Marlon, sliding the Money Maker board into his boardbag, “but I haven’t even had time to think about it. I don’t feel anything, really.”
For some people, it just takes a while to set it. For others, being champ isn’t really a defining experience. For Marlon, it’s never been a matter of points or fame or titles…it’s just the best life in world. Traveling. Surfing. Chilling.
It’s nice to know you’ve left a mark somewhere, but my suspicion is that in a few months you’ll have to remind Marlon that he was ever Indonesian Champion at all. He’ll be cruising up at The Balcony or chasing peaks down on Kuta Beach and someone will be like, “Hey, remember when you were The Champ?”
Marlon will pause for a second, think about it, then smile that easy-going, money-maker grin and say, “Oh yeah, that was pretty cool.”
And then he’ll go back to cruising. —Nathan Myers
Congratulations, Marlon. Check out www.isctour.com for photos, video and made-up press release quotes from the event.