Air Force Fun

Mar 1, 2005
Outside Magazine
Grumman albatross surf seaplane

   Photo: Illustration by Arthur Mount

FOR TODAY'S SURFERS, knowing where the planet's best waves are hitting is as easy as tapping the Web for weather and buoy data. The challenge is getting there before the swell subsides. Enter surfwear mega-labels Billabong and Quiksilver, which are sponsoring the ultimate rapid-transit system for their pros: 1950s-era Grumman Albatross amphibious seaplanes. Designed for military rescue operations, the flying boats can park at offshore breaks, making them ideally suited for retrofitting with the essential tools and toys of deluxe surf missions. Slathered with logos and likely to be featured on posters and T-shirts for years, they're as much about branding as catching waves. This past fall, Quiksilver chartered an Albatross for some pioneering wave riding in the North Atlantic. Meanwhile, Billabong designers have been pimping their own plane, the Clipper, for an expedition to the South Pacific. Here's a hedonistic look at what they have in mind.

A.) A pair of PERSONAL WATERCRAFTS are available for tow-in surfing and shore transport. Stowed under the wings in aluminum-and-fiberglass pods, they can be deployed within minutes of landing.

B.) A stocked bar and galley are supplemented with beach-cuisine essentials like a CHARCOAL GRILL. The house special: surf and turf.

C.) A satellite dish provides WI-FI ACCESS to check wave forecasts—or e-mail shots of that tube ride to buddies back home.

D.) The plane's max capacity is 12, and it's equipped with foldout beds, BUNKS, and—for the last aboard—hammocks.

E.) For long flights (or long breaks between sets), a DROP-DOWN SCREEN and projection unit serve up movies and video games; the theater's also perfect for reviewing film of the day's session.

F.) A GLASS NOSE CONE delivers first-class scenic viewing and an optimal spot for gathering aerial footage.

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