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Adds Dan: "If they’re trying to figure out whether it’s big waves or small waves or cold water and they’re trying to figure out who would go, they’d be, like, ‘Get one of those kids. If it’s big or small or rocks, they’ll go do it.’ "
"We love it. We’ll go do it," says Keith.
Usually, they’ll do it together. There is one entry for all three Malloy brothers in Matt Warshaw’s indispensable The Encyclopedia of Surfing. Whether they like it or not, they are indelibly linked in people’s minds. They seem okay with it, the linking part, but they do want people to understand that they are three individuals as well.
"I always tease them that they’re the guys you don’t want to sit next to on an airplane, because they’re going to talk your ears off the whole way," says Keith, who fashions himself to be the quiet one, more like his father. "We usually get along real good, but we’re normal people. We’ll scrap it out. Usually not in a fistfight, but you know. We never get to the end of the day without figuring it out and making amends, you know?"
You can see that in person, all three shooting the bull in Keith’s living room. Despite their prowess and their über competence — they are the kind of guys who can do what men are supposed to do: fix things, work things, lift things — they’re just too damn gentle to be intimidating. We’re talking story, as they say, and the brothers are regaling me with some of the gnarlier sides of being a modern-day adventurer. Like the time a few years ago when Keith was in the Spice Islands coming into a break on his boat and the water got lit up with Uzi gunfire. It was just days after Muslims had massacred 500 Christians.'Dude is that my shirt?' Dan and Chris on a surf/camp adventure in New Zealand.
"We pulled up, and these guys started firing off rounds. They jumped on their motorized canoes and were coming out and firing shots. I was thinking, I’m fucking dead in a couple of minutes." He tells of walking around Indonesia and natives wearing Osama bin Laden T-shirts with the Twin Towers blowing up on them.
On a recent trip to get footage for A Brokedown Melody, Dan found himself delirious and alone at a rat-infested hospital in Jamaica, suffering from Dengue fever. "I was so tweaked and dehydrated, and I’d be asleep and awake and asleep and awake," he recalls, smiling with gallows humor. "They call it break-bone fever. Every joint in your body and your eyes and everything hurts. Never have I sweated so much in my life."
These, though, are the risks they take in search of the golden moments, like the one Chris had with surfer, musician and Moonshine Conspiracy co-founder Jack Johnson. They were on a mission to find a never-before-surfed break in the Bay of Bengal that was just a wild rumor at that point.
"I had been talking to this guy, this crazy guy named John Callahan, who had been doing his homework on that area for years and mapping out the weather systems, and timing when he thought there’d be a swell. So we said, If we get to Thailand on this day, we can drive through the jungle for nine hours and get to Burma, where there’s a boat we can catch that goes across the river, and from that island, we’ve got a charter company that will take us across," Chris tells. "We’re sitting there with maps and it’s real old-school and for the final boat trip we got this funny English guy and his sailboat to take us out and go do it. He’d done dive charters and fishing charters before. He said, ‘Yeah, I’ll take you out there, sure. There’s nothing there, no waves.’ We said, ‘Well, we think there are.’ "Old school boards at Keith's house
They found a wave, all right.
"I remember sitting out there on the bow of the boat and the sun came up and just watching it and thinking: This is the last time this wave will ever be a virgin wave. It’s surreal, taking off on a wave that’s never been ridden before and people come out of the jungle to watch you and they’re cheering. I’ll never forget it." That session became the inspiration for the Moonshine Conspiracy’s Thicker Than Water, the first of the four films the independent-minded collective has put out in the past five years, Melodybeing the fourth.
These stories aren’t told with any dick-swinging swagger, but rather with an appreciation that the world is a sad and beautiful place — a place where people like them surf virgin waves while the locals die of malaria. They spend more time than most of their contemporaries trying to close those gaps. It’s a rare quality to find in young men, especially those who can glean the tube of a triple-overhead closeout. But once you know who they are and where they come from, it’s not surprising that the Malloy brothers should possess it.
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