What do you do when you finally ride the perfect wave you’ve been chasing all your life? For surf adventurer Anthony Marcotti, the answer was to find a new goal … Anthony Marcotti keeps a piece of reef from his favourite surf break, Rifles, in the Mentawai Islands, Indonesia, on his desk and in his car at all times. It’s symbolic of the central role that reef has played in a life devoted to the quest for the perfect wave.
As a founder and partner in one of the world's leading surf resorts, Kandui Resort, Marcotti has profoundly blurred the line between business and pleasure. He estimates he has sent around 10,000 surfers on their dream surf trips, to Kandui or as booking agent for Martin Daly’s Indies Trader fleet of charter boats.
But maintaining the ability to drop everything and chase a swell himself to one of his favourite waves has remained central to his business model. The tall, rangey, natural footer, a former school teacher from Orange County, California, has dedicated years of his life to satisfying his own appetite for exotic surf destinations. “I feel very fortunate to have gone on over 30 trips to Indonesia as well as Fiji, Namibia, South Africa, Canada, Hawaii, Mexico, Central America, and Australia and have had the opportunity to surf the best waves imaginable," he says
But it’s Kandui and the long, right hand reef that barrels down its northern flank, called Rifles, that has been his chief obsession for years. If you’re not familiar with Rifles and the Kandui Resort, it’s where world champs and bitter rivals Kelly Slater and the late Andy Irons chose to make their peace for the film, Fly In The Champagne. It’s where big wave charger Shane Dorian bases himself as resident pro every northern Summer and has scored some of the barrels of his life. And it’s where hundreds of regular work-a-day surfers scrimp and save to return to every year, in the hope of scoring a classic day at Rifles.
But what happens when that quest for the perfect wave finally delivers? After years devoted to surfing Rifles, learning the subtleties and quirks of its contours and character, of monitoring swell charts and jumping on flights at a moment’s notice, all the elements came together on one incredible wave in April, 2012. On that day, the perfect six to eight foot swell hit the Rifles reef at the perfect angle, delivering Marcotti a mind-melting, triple barrel blessing with over 30 seconds of total tube time. Kandui Resort partner and manager Ray Willcoxen, who has surfed the place more than anyone, claims it was the best wave he’d ever seen out there. “If I was to narrow down all of my surfing into one wave it would be tough but that wave at Rifles last year felt like the culmination of a lot of traveling and surfing and dedication,” says Anthony.
For Marcotti, it was both a euphoric and ultimately unsettling experience. “When I kicked out I knew that was something special and I honestly got a little sad because I felt that might have been the peak of my existence and all of my searching was done!” Anthony says. “I was afraid the only way from there was down. Fortunately, I've re-tweaked my philosophy and promptly started a new search, but it's going to be tough to beat that wave!”
That search has involved finding a new location and creating a development to rival the remarkable surfing nirvana Marcotti and his partners carved out of the Mentawai jungle at Kandui Resort. And having found that new location on Malolo Island in Fiji, Marcotti is reluctantly selling his 41.5% stake in Kandui Resort. “Kandui was a dream for me. When we first saw the site and it was just jungle it took a lot of vision to imagine it as a resort with guests staying there and all enjoying those incredible waves,” he says. “That inspired me and I have never worked with more heart to make that dream come alive to send people across the globe on their dream vacation.”
For Anthony, that one epic ride at Rifles brought the Kandui mission and adventure to completion and opened a new chapter. “I’d love to keep my stake in Kandui as it’s a big part of my history and heart but financial realities mean that for me to fully realize this next dream I have to sell down my Kandui holdings,” he says. “I am lucky because I also handle all the bookings so I still get to work on that and keep sending people to have their dream holiday in Indo while I also now work on how to turn another idea into something that people will enjoy as a travel destination.”
The priority now is to find the right new partner to take up his share in Kandui - “someone who loves surfing as much as we do and will utilize Kandui and surf out there as often as possible, and someone who is enthusiastic and understands that it's not every day an opportunity to be a partner in one of the most recognized and well known surf resorts in the world, at the best location in the world is available.”
With that experience under his belt, and new business partners behind him, the process of creating a new dream, Vunabaka, is already well under way. Those new partners include former Surf Aid CEO Andrew Griffiths, who is working to ensure the new development delivers benefits to the locals as well as investors. “We have now found another incredible site in another location and I want to do it again. We have the vision and now it’s about making it a reality,” says Anthony. “This is on a different scale and we also have a broader appeal as it’s much more than surf and much more than a resort. It’s a waterman’s paradise and has both a residential and a resort.”
To those who have enjoyed the ride with Anthony at Kandui, who might be looking for somewhere they can now enjoy with families and partners, the opportunity now exists to join him on his next adventure at Vunabaka.
Words by Tim Baker