Steffi Victorioso meets ex-professional surfer Tipi Jabrik to talk about three of his loves: surfing, music and seafood. Photos: Anthony Dodds.
Tipi, forgive us for putting it like this but . . . you’re a born-and-bred Bali brat?
Ha yes, I grew up here on the then empty beaches of Legian and the endless rice fields surrounding our house in Seminyak. My mom is from Austria and my dad is from Java, and they moved to Bali in the ’70s. Now it’s all changed. People are more into commercialism, thinking about making money from tourism. Not only the foreigners but also the locals – everyone’s exploiting this island. I hope someone can change this thing and bring back the real Bali so my kids can grow up in a better environment.
Has tourism affected the surfing here in Bali?
When I started surfing I was four years old, the beaches were super nice and there weren’t too many surfers. Now you can meet surfers from all over the world, which is a good thing, but of course this limits your chance of getting the waves you want. For myself, as a local here, I respect everyone, but one thing is for sure: I will try and take any wave that I want.
You’ve been surfing your whole life recreationally and professionally. What’s your role in pro-surfing now?
I did the Qualifying Series for ASP for eight years. Now I’m president and director of Asian Surfing Championships, which means I still travel all over Asia running the competitions. We have stops in the Mentawais, Phuket, Malaysia, Taiwan, and of course here in Bali.
Where are your favourite surf places in the world?
My favourite surf spots are all over Indonesia, especially Katiet in Mentawai. But Bali is home, so Bali is the best.
Has surfing had any effect on the way you live and work?
My attitude is that everything has to be fun, but it doesn’t have to happen all the time. It’s just like surfing: one day you will find the perfect wave and the next day there may be nothing. One great day of surfing will make your week.
You first hit the Bali party radar in 2009 throwing a weekly underground gathering called Black Dog. How did that come about?
Black Dog was more of a creative project. We never promoted it or advertised it because it was in my mom’s art gallery where my band used to practice, and I didn’t want to wreck the gallery. It was never a big thing, but it wasn’t a small thing either. We just wanted it to be like a fun houseparty every week. There were three people behind it: my brother, myself, and our friend Tai Graham, who runs Single Fin. One day Tai came and said, “Let’s do something!” In the beginning it was just the boys hangin’ out, and we’d buy two plastic bags of Bintang from Circle K, and it grew from there.
Your band also performed there?
Yes and we performed all over Kuta too. My brother, myself, and my schoolmate, Putu . . . we had a band called The Gotham, really dark, sad, shoe-gazing kind of music.
Is that your favorite kind of music?
I love any live music. Whenever I travel I always chase live performances and any type of music from reggae to rock to blues. To perform in a band, to become good in a band, it’s not like being a DJ. You really need to share the same thing with three or four people.
I heard from your bandmate, Putu, that you had really bad stage fright?
Yes, I would get nervous, but one shot of whisky usually cured that.
What’s it like to be in one of the surf movies featured in the Ombak Bali Film Festival?
I like to share what I’m doing. It’s all about fun and sharing the nature of Indonesia and Bali. Now I only really surf in Indonesia and I want people to be aware of the environment and that you need to take care of it. When people come to Bali, it’s not good to see a dirty beach.
What inspired your seafood and vegetarian lifestyle?
When I was 21 years old I got stuck in San Diego with very little money, and I survived on only Jack in the Box for a week. I made it back to Bali, and from that moment on I stopped eating beef and chicken. It’s been only seafood and vegetarian for me since.
You’re well known through your surfing and other business ventures in Bali … but what’s the private you like?
Many people think they know me from the outside, but I keep my personal life very private. Even my Facebook page is not very revealing. At the heart of it I love to be happy with friends and the new friends I get to meet. Life is all about being around people with a good attitude. A good attitude is the most important part of life for people who live here, surf here and do business here.
You call Bali “home”, but would you ever live anywhere else?
Who knows if I’ll ever need to be somewhere else. But for now, Bali is perfect. Bali is home.
Any parting wisdom?
For me, I’m Muslim, but my religion is the Ocean. This is where I find my happiness.