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Longboardin’ Joe

Joe Camilleri chilling
This guys is the definition of chilled. BOMBA talks to Joe Camilleri about his laid back style. Read on...

You can instantly recognize Joe on the line-up. He’s got a huge mane of hair and a long dark beard but what sets him apart from the rest is his surf style. He seems to glide through the water as he effortlessly pushes up in the smoothest way possible. When standing he seems to ooze calmness and, even on the windiest days, he makes it look so simple.

I won’t lie, having Joey over for an overdue cookout on my roof was one of the most fun interviews for this mag… and the food wasn’t too bad either if I can toot my own horn.

Joe’s weapon of choice is a longboard. He associates himself with this style and he’s nailed it. He’s carved out his own niche reputation and his style draws respect from everyone. Malta’s waves are unpredictable but by dedicating himself to longboarding, he makes sure he gets a good slice of the action. And when he gets going, he does not stop. He joined me at my place a day after a staggering seven hour session where we shared a spot on the line-up. Watching this man operate up close and personal is a good lesson for anyone. He was pooped, but this paved the way for a very chilled evening. 

A style that chose Joe

“Yesterday was fun, man, really clean and glassy conditions which is perfect for longboarding” he opened. They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but I am pretty sure they’ve never met Joey. He’s as laid back as you get and indeed one of his goals is “to chill as much as possible.” Really wonderful goals to have in truth and if I get nothing from the interview I’ll just adopt that as a new motto.

He is laid back and that’s exactly why he longboards. “Shortboarding has a competitiveness about it and it’s just not me… I like to enjoy a long wave, play with nature in a deep way and connect to the wave as much as possible, for as long as possible… Longboarding just suits me, it’s a style that chose me.”

Joe Camilleri
Joe captured by the talented Xav Neg

“Longboarding is all about freedom,” he continues. “There’s no dropping in, no rivalry, no big airs, no sharp turns or jumps, it’s just total freedom”. While dropping in is a hot topic amongst short boarders, longboarders often share a wave and can even surf tandem. “It’s just so chilled.” he adds with a smile. 

“I get a sense of tranquility and peace from longboarding and this gives me a peace of mind like nothing else I know”

Joe talks about the spirituality of longboarding and often pays homage to the founding fathers, the Polynesians, during our chat. “They first body surfed, then used long pieces of wood to surf… it’s incredible that all they wanted was a deeper connection with the sea.” When they added a fin to the board it gave birth to the longboard of today… Joe’s favourite.

Contrary to popular and ill-founded theories, longboarding is tough. “You have to dance on the board to help it glide on the surface for as long as possible,” he explains. “There’s constant trimming and little tweaks that you need to make to stay upright… then you have the little tricks like noseriding which is always fun.”

Joe’s first exposure to the sport of surfing came as he watched a friend, Fabian, walk on water using a Stand Up Paddle. That was a life changing moment six years ago and he went home pumped. “I ran home, grabbed my camera and the relationship between me as a photographer and surfing started.”

“I then watched the movie Chasing Mavericks which features this really smooth longboarding scene and I was in love, I literally couldn’t think about anything else.” Timing is everything in life and that moment came at a time where Joe was at a crossroad. Unhappy in his full time job and ready for something new, the sport of surfing gripped him instantly. Soon he began to combine his two passions together: surfing and photography… and well, if you haven’t seen his photos, enjoy this mag, it’s decorated with them.

“My other passion is photography, and after a very hard personal time I finally got on the path I needed to be on to develop myself. I got to leave my job and focus on freelance photography and doing what I love. You have to focus on what you love or don’t bother in life. I decided the revolve my life around surf, both in photography and surf” 

As with a good few of this island’s newer generation surfers, Joe’s first lesson was with surf coach Valerio, another super surfer we feature in BOMBA! Ironically too, this was Valerio’s first ever lesson in Malta… So, as we said before, timing really is everything.

Joe in action, look at that lean!

Malta suits longboarding

Just as well as Joe suits longboarding, longboarding also suits Malta. The conditions here give longboarders a fair amount of waves and Joe surfs every two to three weeks. “I hate a flat spell, it drives me crazy, but when there’s action I lose my mind”. And he means it. “I get so dysfunctional with all the excitement that I skip breakfast, skip coffee and head out”. He’ll often miss lunch just to get more time in the water and when I asked how he prepares for a session his answer was short and simple: “I don’t.” So much for some deep advice then right, Joey? 

It’s like watching a kid at Christmas, and lucky for Joe, Christmas comes around every month here.

The best thing about the island is “the sea man, forsure.” he said definitively and, in Malta, “each wave is important, as we don’t have many.” His whole life is dedicated to surfing and Joe loves a sunset session at Għajn Tuffieħa Bay… “but that long left at St Thomas Bay is amazing too.”

The secret to his success

Joe’s secret is pure dedication to the process of learning. “Practice, like with everything else in life… but this sport gave me a direction, it resonated with me and gave me that extra drive. I got more expressive in the water, got more connected to nature and myself and the more I surf, the more I’ll connect on a spiritual level.”

Deep stuff, but all very true. Learning motivates him and he ploughs through videos and does a lot of research as his quest is ultimately to keep finding himself and having this focus is exactly what Joe needs. 

As cool as a cucumber

The one where Joe’s board was stolen

Everyone within the community now associates Joe to his gorgeous longboard, the famous Lola. Its fame comes after it was stolen from Għajn Tuffieħa in May. Yes… Some bozo thought he could get away with stealing a 9ft board. Where are you going to store that?… right, your balcony of course – which is where it was eventually spotted!

The incident was a salute to the surfing community. Our phones were non stop during that week as we all shared the story of the stolen longboard. Warning: Don’t mess with this bunch of surfing friends as we’re as thick as thieves.

Looking through Joe’s crystal ball

If you thought present-day Joe was cool, wait till you meet the 80-year-old version. My aim is to “live the surfing lifestyle every day. I want to surf every day, ideally, till I’m 80… I’ll be sunburnt and salty by then, but I don’t care less…

Look out for a medium-built man with ultra-long white hair in the year 2102 – that’s our Joe using his longboard to stay real and keep connected.

Excerpt image: @Capturefeeels

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This guys is the definition of chilled. BOMBA talks to Joe Camilleri about his laid back style. Read on...