Exclusive: The Story Behind Robbie Maddison's Crazy Motorcycle Surfing "Pipe Dream" Video

Long Nguyen

Name: Garth Milan

Location: Tahiti

Years of photography experience: 18

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What is Pipe Dream? When did you hear about the project and what were your thoughts?

Pipe Dream was the brainchild of Robbie Maddison, and was also realized with the support of Jeff Taylor at DC Shoes. The pair actually conceived the idea together at a party after a few cocktails—no lie! I knew that Maddo was working on the water bike project for some time, but when I heard that he was actually going to try to ride his dirt bike on Teahupoo, the world's gnarliest and most well-known wave, I was blown away and almost didn't believe it. I expect nothing but insanity from Robbie Maddison...This was next-level even for him, though.

How long have you worked with Robbie Maddison a.k.a Maddo?

I have worked with this crazy guy for over a decade now, and like I said, at this point nearly nothing Maddo tries surprises me anymore. Robbie is a true legend and action sports hero, and one of my biggest inspirations in life thanks to his ability to brush off everything around him and focus on "the now," accomplishing the seemingly impossible while in this zone. He truly has no ego, is a world-class athlete, and is also a great family man. Nothing but respect for Robbie Maddison, and I am humbled and appreciative that he has me along on so many of his adventures.

As a Motorsports photographer, shooting in or around the water is something you don't have to do often; what were the challenges you faced?

We were challenged most by the Tahitian environment. That place nearly ate us alive! By the time we left, over half of the crew had staph Infection, and everyone there had been bitten by hundreds of mosquitoes and gotten at least one sunburn before leaving the island, at the very least. I wound up stepping on a sea urchin, as well as developing a nasty internal infection in my rectum from swimming in the water so much while shooting with the water housing. I was on six different prescriptions and had visited two different hospitals by the time I left Tahiti. As for shooting in the water, with the exception of the infection, I actually loved shooting in the water and felt like I adapted well to shooting with the Aquatech water housing that BorrowLenses.com hooked me up with. It was really fun, and I hope to do more water-involved shoots soon!

Any crazy stories from the trip?

Well, besides the last one I just mentioned, I also learned quickly that you can't get out of the way of a speeding motorcycle as quickly while submerged in water. Maddo couldn't steer as precisely, either, and these two converged to create a scary situation at one point. I told Robbie to go ahead and get as close to me as possible while speeding by at over 30 mph, but once he got a little too close and ran directly over me. Luckily, I was able to duck just in time, before his spinning knobbies hit me or my water housing. But it was close!

Gear List


  • Custom SLR camera strap system
  • F-Stop backpack
  • Canon EOS 1-Dx body
  • Canon EOS 1-D Mark IV body
  • Canon 15mm f/2.8 fisheye
  • Canon 50mm f/2.5 macro
  • Canon 16-35mm f/2.8  
  • Canon 24-70mm f/2.8
  • Canon 70/200mm f/2.8
  • Canon 300mm f/2.8
  • Aquatech water housing from www.borrowlenses.com
  • Hoya HD2 Circular Polarizer
  • SanDisk Extreme 32 Gig memory cards

Anything else you would like to share? Shout outs?

I just want to thank both DC Shoes and Robbie Maddison Entertainment for having me out to shoot this amazing project. As always, these guys made me feel like a genuine part of the crew, and they were a pleasure to travel with. Jeff, Nate, EJ, Deven, both Chrises, Bobby, Sam, Martin, and the rest of the boys from DC are such an amazing group of talented people. I also really want to thank BorrowLenses.com for the Aquatech water housing rental, as well as Sun Bum sunscreen for keeping the crew from frying too badly out there. My awesome F-Stop backpack and Custom SLR straps also helped me through the shoot. And thanks to the doctors out there for helping me out! What a crazy trip...

BTS Garth Milan Pipe Dream Robbie Maddison

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