O'Neill Blue
Tai Graham
Full name: Tai 'Buddha' Graham
Function: O'Neill ambassador


How did you become involved with the O'Neill brand? How long have you been with us? I was approached back in 2011 to help relaunch and somewhat re-brand O’Neill in Indonesia. I came on as a dual role of an athlete/ambassador & brand manager. We (O’Neill and Myself) worked on how we could work together to both benefit from the relationship. It's been a rad ride so far, the brand has achieved some great results, and I look forward for more good times to come!

Growing up in Bali - What was your first experience with surfing? What makes it so damn special? When I was a young boy, say around 3 years old I was in the Gold Coast, Australia, my dad would push me into waves and I was standing on boogie boards. When my mum re-located to Bali when I was around 7 or 8 years old I would stay out in the beach breaks near Kuta for hours. My sister’s boyfriend, who was a lot older than me, was a surfer. He used to tease me for being a ‘dick dragger’. Besides from wanting to beat him up, I wanted to surf, and surf better than him haha. I learned to surf on the beach breaks of Padma, just down from Kuta and never looked back. My mum would drop me off down the beach at 7am, she’d go take care of her business and come pick me up at sunset, around 6pm. I’d do this everyday during the holidays and everyday before and after school. Every single day. I was obsessed! I played rugby league when I was young and through my teens, I loved the team aspect of that sport and still play – but there’s nothing quite like surfing. We are very selfish creatures, we’ll travel many miles on planes, trains, busses, horse and cart and sleep in dodgy little shacks and eat the most outrageous foods – just to score a perfect wave, or hopefully score. We get obsessed with weather charts, new boards are looked at more than our girlfriends, the smell of a fresh board and fresh wax is the best smell in the world. We get one crazy wave and we’re on a high for days even weeks, we have a bad surf and we’re grumpy assholes – we’re pretty damn crazy. To me that's what makes surfing so special.

Any secret spots you can share with surfers? Any must sees or must do's while in Bali? Well they wouldn’t be secret spots if I told you now would they hahah. But there’s plenty of must see/do spots while your here in Bali, from Keramas, Canggu and Uluwatu the main three world-class surf spots to plenty of others off the beaten track. Honestly, to have this many world class waves condensed into this tiny little island is crazy. There’s always somewhere offshore and fun in Bali, always. As far as after surf is concerned, am I allowed to plug my own bar? “Haha!” . Its called Single Fin in Uluwatu, its fun for a sunset cocktail, but we’ve got one of the biggest Sunday Sessions in Bali, bands and Dj’s. There’s Barbacoa, Sea Circus, Mamasan, Revolver, Nalu Bowls to eat at. I also love going to a little place called Bo & Bun that's right by my house for rad Vietnamese food. There’s Deus, Old mans, Potato Head, La Planca and La Favela there all fun places to hang and party. You got all the shops like O’Neill of course, Drifter & Single Fin, for surf and swim. Shakuhachi, Faithfull, somewhere 50 for Ladies fashion ... gotta keep the lady happy. Man there’s really everything you need here “Ha ha!” Climb volcanoes, ride elephants, dive shipwrecks – you name it. That's why I love Bali!

Ocean plastic is becoming a big problem - how big is the problem in Bali? Have you noticed any improvement or has it gotten worse? This is a massive problem here, massive! The problem is that it’s seasonal and because we live on an Island, we have trade winds blowing one direction for 6 months and the other direction for 6 months – we only see the problem for 6 months, then it magically disappears. It’s been bad since I was a kid, especially in the wet season when the winds blow the trash into the island. In the dry season it’s picture perfect. Education is super important. We need to work with communities to protect our oceans and understand the harmful effects that this plastic is having on our environment. We grow up with a sense of pride and protection of our lands, if we see someone throw trash out of the car we get pissed off, we feel its our right to let them know that ‘hey that’s not cool’.

As a surfer, what is our responsibility to the oceans? We have a huge responsibility. Not only are some of us earning a living from the ocean in some way shape of form, but ultimately it’s our playground, it’s our go to place for inspiration, to get away and relax, to energise and exercise, it’s our second home – and we sure as hell don’t want to be living in a garbage bin!

Do you see the plastic problem effecting tourism? Is Bali in jeopardy of losing their largest industry if this problem is not fixed? Tourism is the biggest industry for Bali, plain and simply if the rubbish doesn't go away, the tourists will and so will the dollars, everyone will be affected. I’ve heard people say oh money isn’t everything. Well unfortunately the cave man days of trading stones for food are gone and yeah the foreigners can go back to their countries and start again, even some of those have their whole life here, but the locals – they don’t have anywhere to go, when the jobs stop the money stops and time get tough. I honestly don’t think it will ever go there, as there’s too much money invested here, the government will step in and consult abroad and the foreign investment companies will work out a way to save their business. So in the end it will require some really dumb moves to let it go that far. There’s some clever cat out there brewing up an idea to capitalise on this. It’s an unfortunate way of looking at it but in reality I’ve always believed that unless there’s money to be made or lost – only then will people act. Sad but true.

How hopeful are you for the future of our oceans - this includes the reef, the sealife etc? Is it too late or can we still make a change?70% of the worlds surface is ocean, they’re still discovering what’s down at the deepest depths, which shows you that its an almost ‘out of sight out of mind’ mentality. We’ve already been to the moon but we’re still exploring our own planet. The oceans are huge, we can’t see most of it. We can’t see half the shit floating around out there killing the marine life. It’s not cool and I know everyone out there has a heart, has a brain and doesn’t like it when they see disturbing images plastered across social media. But unfortunately we are consumers and competitors and we need shit, and when we’re done we throw it away. We’ve created a disposable society. Humans will do almost whatever it takes to get ahead. That goes for the Oil companies drilling, the shipping companies, fishing, plastics, even your everyday Joe! You could say that almost every single thing/product made in the world has a relation to the ocean, whether its the source, materials or the end product, it all ends up there. The ocean does filter itself we know that, but it’s not a magical place where things just disappear, and at the rate of our population growth we need to realise this. We have to all come together and understand that the world and life works in balance and if we stuff one thing up then we’re going to have to face those counter effects as well, and we may not like the outcome. Just like your surfboard, your guitar, your car and your body – let’s fix it before its too late! I am hopeful – but we need action. I have placed recycled bins, restricted water usage and tried to support green as much as I can in my business and personal life. It’s easy to point and shoot – but in the end it all starts in our own back yards. We have to practice what we preach and lead by example! Sea Shepard, Green Peace, recycling campaigns – whatever your belief, we need to get behind these people, or create alternative ways to turn trash into treasure so to speak. Let’s use our brains and our hearts so our future generations can enjoy this amazing planet we have ... and maybe go get barreled while they’re at it! Peace!