Hanging loose isn’t exactly the picture of luxury, but lately, with VIPs like Gisele and Justin Timberlake shredding it around the world, surfing has hit a wave of popularity with affluent athletes and travelers. And one man, Australian surf coach Ross Phillips, is at the forefront of the sport’s luxe treatment with Tropicsurf, an outfitter that leads personalized heli-excursions and private yacht charters for surfers of all levels.
“I took some clients overseas to chase their perfect waves,” Phillips tells DuJour, recalling the organic beginning of his business. “The more I did, I found that these people were typically professionals who were seeking an element of style and comfort on their holidays. At that point, a simple lockable room with air-conditioning was the biggest luxury available to the surfing market. Most guys stayed in basic jungle bungalows. But it didn’t work so well if they wanted to bring along their partners and families. So I launched a specific brand—Tropicsurf—with these guys in mind.”
His company has since partnered with a host of luxury properties (Four Seasons, One&Only and Anantara) around the world, with the newest outposts at One&Only Palmilla in Los Cabos Nicaragua’s Mukul. Here, Ross tells DuJour what goes into building the first name in luxury surfing and his favorite three spots for breaks in the world.
How did Tropicsurf start partnering with resorts?
In 2002, I approached the Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa to take on one of our surf guides. They did not think it would work, but eventually agreed to give it a go. Now surfing is a significant contributor to their overall revenue stream, and many, many happy guests have been through that property with the sole purpose of a luxury surfing holiday.
What do you look for in these hotel partners?
It’s all about wave quality, wave consistency and how crowded the waves are. Then I approach partners with a great resort quality and access. Safety and climate—ideally warm and tropical—are also factors.
Where would you like to go next with Tropicsurf?
How do you find your secret surf spots?
It’s a combination of whispers and rumors and lots of time on Google Earth. I use surf maps, surf books and sometimes get hold of Naval Admiralty charts. Ultimately, though, I have to go check it out for myself. That’s my favorite part. I’d never send a client anywhere unless I have personally recon-ed it myself.
Where are your favorite breaks?
I love some of the waves in Tahiti. They’re so intense and scary with these stunning backdrops of mountains in the clouds. It’s paradise. My top three spots are Red Buff in Western Australia, Coffins in Maldives and a secret one in Western Papua.
What’s your favorite board to ride?
I love my Tom Wegener wooden alaia. It’s a flat piece of timber with no fins and very reminiscent of what the ancient Hawaiians used to ride. It kind of looks like a wooden ironing board. I love it because it’s so darn difficult, and I love to be challenged.