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An explosion of energy – with Valerio Cicconi

Valerio Ciccone
Valerio, or Cicco, came to Malta with a mission... and he's loving his life here so far!

He’s a little nuts and is instantly recognisable by a grin that is wider than his face. Besides being one of the most energetic guys you’ll meet, Valerio Cicconi lives and breathes surf. If he’s not surfing he’s shaping, if he’s not shaping he’s gazing at charts, if he’s not charting he’s editing, if he’s not editing he’s talking and if he’s not talking, well… he’s sleeping.

That man doesn’t stop. Lucky for us all however, he’s worth the ear-ache and next day’s hangover too. Cicco’s energy is contagious and the truth is even if you live miles away from the sea on top of a mountain, he’ll make you fall in love with this sport.

Cicco
He’s not hard to spot – by Joe Camilleri

Valerio was the first person I approached when I conceived the idea of BOMBA! Truth be told, I was not prepared for such a wild reaction. It was like I had given a kid an unlimited amount of candy and his vibes hyped me up massively – we even came up with the name there and then. (I say we, my first idea was crappy, so he threw this word in like a bomb)

The day after, we agreed to meet at his place and my only regret is that I didn’t have four ears. It was a fun, enriching night talking about everything from life, trips, philosophy and a little bit of surf here and there.

Island life

Put this into perspective. This is a man who has surfed around the globe, from Rome to Australia, via Hawaii and has even tasted ocean waves… but yet he’s chosen to dedicate this phase of his life to this tiny Mediterranean island. “My dream has always been to live on a small island. I come from Rome, but I am not a city-boy. I don’t like to drive and want to be close to the sea. I want to be able to open the window, see the sea and feel that special breeze.”

It’s a connection which he enjoys every day from his Bugibba flat. His rooftop is a bird’s nest, giving him views of St Paul’s Islands. “When it’s rough at that spot.” he says pointing “I know Marley’s is working and I’m on my way.”

“Island life is more relaxed and Malta is unique, wild and raw… I came to a place where I can realise a dream and open my own Surf School.

Valerio came to Malta 2014 and anyone will tell you that in the past six years this island has undergone rapid change. Buildings grew taller, life got faster and businesses expanded but he still feels “the island has a lot to offer, it’s got its own vibe. You can find yourself alone, at one with yourself in the countryside one day, and be surrounded by people the next day.”

Valerio Ciccone
Cicco gliding – by Raffaela Colachecci

Respect the locals

When you meet Valerio you’ll quickly realise how good he is with people. He’s charming, funny, loud and handsome. When you do meet him he’ll most likely be wearing a black t-shirt with the words Respect the Locals written at the back and this is a summary of his philosophy. It’s his branding for his Surf School, Malta Surf School or Cicco’s Surf School, but the words mean more to him than most. It’s a philosophy that has taken him a long way.

“Of course, this is the most important aspect in surfing and in life.” he jumps. He goes on to explain the nature of this expression, adding that earning people’s respect takes time, patience and practice. 

“In surfing it’s all about respecting the local surfers, not dropping in on them, giving them priority, giving them space…” and well, since sport is one of life’s purest reflections “the same goes in your everyday life, out on the street, in a shop, or wherever you are.”

“It’s useless being a cowboy in life as you’ll only end up disrespecting others and ultimately yourself.”

This disciplined mentality helped him build Malta’s surf community to a huge degree. A decade ago, surfing here was practiced by a niche crowd, real pioneers. Before the age of social media the community wasn’t united, and surfing was hardly talked about at all. “Now we have competitions, lessons, hangouts, events, chats, meetings as we have the same passion.”

It is impossible to move forward without respect. This approach opened doors for him. He took his time, studied the scene, talked to locals and never judged anyone. It’s a system that is working well for him.

A match made in heaven 

Malta is now Cicco’s home and frankly it’s a match made in heaven. “I surf here because I love it here. In this small island in the water, you feel a strong sense of community amongst the surfers.” who have become a second family to Valerio.

“There’s something special about islanders. People have a better connection to nature, not just through surfing.”

This island has a magical way of impacting our lives. “Malta is a super trampoline for surfers to learn all about the sport in a safe way… but it has given me much more”

“I can say I found myself here in Malta and discovered a side of myself I love: I am a professional surf coach and this has made me more calm.”

Finding yourself in life is vital. “After seven years here I finally found myself. I feel calm now that I have a bigger understanding of the local environment, the people and I believe in myself a lot more.” This is Valerio’s life mission and vision and he’s locked in on living this incredible dream.

“Malta made me grow”

Cicco
A summer session captured by Raffaela

Malta’s surf

The waves here are playful sets. “Intermediate surfers who want to have fun, surf in a warm place will love it here.”

But it’s not just the surf which Valerio loves. “Malta has a lot to offer… there are fantastic swim spots, cliffs, history, good food and people come here to have a blast.”

The waves are forgiving and Malta is the perfect nursery before a surfer is ready to take on the ocean waves. “If you know how to read the charts well you can come to Malta and have a super surfing holiday… the waves are not too advanced, spots are easily accessible and, as I keep saying, the community is amazing.” 

“When there are no waves you can try SUP, find some caves and chill out, or go on a historical tour. The locals are welcoming and you won’t have a bad experience”

Yes, this man can sell meat to a vegan, but he’s right. All of the above is true about the Maltese Islands. 

“Vale, what is your fav–?”

“I LOVE FAJTATA!” he shouted when I barely finished asking for his favourite spot while launching off the sofa to his desk. He showed me all his surf notes on sticky notes dotted around his Mac. It’s organised chaos, just the way he likes it.  

Fajtata is named after the tiniest of kiosks perched right near the launch zone. It is in Marsascala near another good surf spot, St Thomas Bay.

“I love a perfect Fajtata – the left is super fast with a big turn and right is a nice drop, hollow and a big section awaits the inside.”

Offshore winds there make it a powerful spot with an East South East swell. 

Any weird waves that would make Vans proud?

This made me chuckle. Somehow Valerio managed to ride a wave while launching off a wall near the Cavalieri Hotel in St Julians. His video of this is a thing of beauty, and in fairness complete madness. It’s incredible. “The police came and we laughed so much bro” he said in between bursts of laughter. “Seriously, there are waves anywhere, I wish Vans saw us that day!”

Where there’s a will, there’s a wave.

Valerio flying – snapped by Joe Camilleri

Living to surf

“Surfing is my whole life” Valerio admits when I ask him just how much time he dedicates to his sport. His days are designed around the surf, and he’s got his daily routine all penned in a scruffy notepad. 

Being a professional surf coach, Valerio’s life is totally dedicated to his sport. I spotted about 15 surfboards in his house and another 10 on the roof. He’s constantly at it. Shaping, studying, admining (yes, that’s a word) and surfing.

Studying is something crucial to Valerio. He is an ISA pro surf coach and that is no joke. You’ve got to pass annual fitness tests, achieve life-saving certificates and keep yourself constantly up to date. His certificates are hanging in his living room like wallpaper and his pride is hanging on his facial expression as he points them out to me. 

Mentally, Valerio finds it quite tough when the waves he will have predicted don’t come in, so he works on his mindset often to keep sharp and ensure his school runs smoothly. 

Looking in the crystal ball

His future plans are big and, knowing Valerio well, I can bet my house he’ll achieve every single one of them. 

Right now he’s focusing on the glowing community. He coaches surf on Riviera Bay and Surf Skate, a catching trend in the surfing world but his ultimate aim is to help the sport grow by organising more competitions. He also does SUP tours and he’s your one stop shop for all things surf related.

Next, he jumped off his sofa, landed right near a box and whipped out a pile of newspapers. He was glowing as he showed me articles from the Times of Malta that showed hundreds of people enjoying the spectacle. “Malta’s first competition… Look, it’s me!”. Time for another one perhaps?

The love for his sport pours out. It’s pure, it’s definitive… It’s Valerio!

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