Jimbo Pellegrine: Always 100 Percent

Interview: Leo Maxam / Balibelly.com
Portraits: Nathan Lawrence

Opera had Pavarotti. Hip-Hop had Biggie Smalls. Comedy had Chris Farley, John Candy and John Belushi. Big-ass dudes whose hulking size was surpassed only by their larger-than-life reputations. In the often-eccentric world of surfing, we have Mr. James Scott Pellegrine, better known as Jimbo.

If you don’t know Jimbo, you better ask somebody – or just look for the 400-pound dude shredding on a surfboard. From silk boxers, to a new Mayhem board, to a villa rental for the week – Jimbo’s got you covered in Bali. His Jimbaran estate is also the unofficial embassy for surfing’s black sheep when they visit the Island of the Gods. Among Jimbo’s more recent house guests: a posse of Norwegian surfers who got busted selling illegal moonshine to their classmates at the international university in Jimbaran; and a rampaging Chris Ward, whose wake of destruction Bali is still feeling the effects of. Even if your delinquent ass has been banned from every hotel in Kuta, you can still get the five-star treatment at Jimbo’s compound (provided you’ve got the rupiah).

The following interview took place poolside at Jimbo’s luxurious Jimbaran villa, surrounded by exotic half-naked women and platters of tropical fruit.

This is a kick-ass pad, Jimbo. How did you wind up living like Scarface in Bali?

I came here for surfing. Two thousand three was my first year up in the game here, and I had a really good year. Came for a month, stayed for six. Got some of the best waves of my life. I loved it and I wanted to stay. I went into the silk business that year, started making silk boxers and later sheets. The name of my company was Always 100 Percent. I put Jamie O’Brien in my silk catalog and it kinda took off. Then I branched out into private orders for Tamba, Pipeline Posse, Seedless Clothing and Venice Originals. And I stayed, and I surfed hard, and I had an incredible time.

What’s the best thing about living in Bali?

The waves, bro. The surf is the best thing. But I’m not surfing so much now, so just the lifestyle of surf in general and the freedom.

When’s the last time you surfed Padang?

July of last year, right before I did my knee in.

Did you tweak it while surfing?

No, I did my knee in on the dance floor at The Cave. My ACL, my meniscus, and my ligaments, all in one.

Were you trying to do ‘The Worm’ or something?

I was going hard and I was dropping it hot. My body went one way and my leg stayed there, and it just went crunch. I went down, and it was bad. I tried to get up, but went down again. And it gets worse. I had four guys helping me across the street to my car, and on my way across the street I got hit by a fucking car. A drunk Indo guy came flying straight at us, and the guys carrying me saw him coming and just dropped me in the middle of the road. I was on one leg trying to get away, and he just took me out right into a fuckin’ wall. I put a big dent in the side of his car, and he got out and starts yelling, “You dented my car!” and calling me a big sapi. And I’m like, “Are you kidding me bra? You just ran me over in the middle of the street!” Then security came and grabbed him. I was too fucked up to do anything, but I would have cracked him if I could have. I couldn’t even walk the next day.

What’s the worst thing about living in Bali?

Being broke (laughing). That’s the worst thing about living anywhere! Nah, uh… traffic. Traffic is the thing that gets on my mind most now. I have to go from here down to the office in Kuta, and if you don’t time it right, you’re fucked. Pretty much anything after 3 pm, leaving or coming, it’s fucked. Anything before 11 am, you’re fucked. There’s no need to get up at 8 o’ clock. You’re just gonna sit in traffic for two hours.

Does “island fever” exist?

Yeah, I get it. I think I’ve been here so long I’ve grown out of it now. But I get it, where you sit in your car screaming at the fucking roof, “I gotta get the fuck out of here!” I don’t have kids and a family like a lot of the guys over here, so it makes it different for me. A lot of my peers here have two kids already. Every one of my friends is going family, and I’m like Rodney Dangerfield the fucking bachelor over here. (Rodney Dangerfield voice) “I get no respect!”

At the same time, wouldn’t you say Bali is perhaps the best place in the world to be a bachelor?

It’s the best, brah! When a fuckin’ 400-pounder like me has a plethora of ladies to choose from daily, you’re in good hands. That’s another good thing about living in Bali, the beautiful women and the good times.

I take it you’re a fan of Asian women?

Love ’em. Gorgeous. Beautiful. Incredible.

Where are the most beautiful women in Indonesia?

Every island has beautiful girls. They’re everywhere. I don’t want to ruin it for myself. Some chick is gonna read this and say, “Hey, you lied to me! You told me I was the best!”

Best meal in Bali?

I eat everywhere. Mannekepis has an incredible steak. I do a lot of Balcony, the jumbo burger there is probably my favorite burger on the island. And, of course, Cacho’s Sunset Grill is pretty much my favorite place. But he’s really fuckin’ tight on the beans in there, if you haven’t noticed. Like a teaspoon’s worth. Tell him to put some fuckin’ beans on the plate.

Above: Jimbo at Padang. Below: Wardo & Jimbo, playmates. Photo: Hendy

What was it like playing host to Chris Ward while he was in Bali for two months?

You mean Hurricane Ward? That was an experience. Nobody’s done anything like Ward yet. I thought the Archy years were bad until I saw Hurricane Ward pull into town. Hurricane Ward kinda fell into the same routine as the Hawaiians normally do: go to Desert Point on the swells, and then back here for the party in-between swells.

Some incredible surfing went down at Desert Point. I think everyone who was there for those swells can testify that Ward threw down the Bible of Backside Tuberiding – which helped to make up for the amount of pillage and plunder that went down when the swell was over. You could kinda forgive him for going as Richter as he did when you remember how he was weaving backside through those endless barrels, not even grabbing rail. It was amazing to see. But yeah, he ran up a 53 million rupiah tab. I’m still getting people coming around with bills. The motorbike guy came around just yesterday, and he wasn’t happy.

The motorbike got damaged?

Wardo rode the motorbike to Desert Point – a scooter! Ward is a different kind of character. He’d get drunk at 4 in the morning and start yelling, “Jimbo, let’s go to Deserts! We’re going to Deserts!” and I’m like, “Dude, I’m going to my bedroom.” He goes, “Well I’m taking the scooter then!” Ok, suit yourself. See ya. Then I get a call at seven, he’s on the ferry: “You blew it dude! I’m on the ferry, it’s gonna be firing!” Right on, bro. So he didn’t pay all the bills, and I covered them. But we’re gonna make it back. The Ward Stories premiere is gonna be great. Look for the Bali premiere probably sometime in early October.

Other highlights from Wardo’s stay?

There’s a Norwegian girl waiting outside the villa and a Russian girl waiting in another part of the house, while Ward’s inside his room with his model girlfriend that he brought over from California. And he’s looking out his bedroom window, signaling to me, “Hey, don’t let any of those girls in the villa.” I’m trying to cover for him, telling the girls, “Yeah, Chris is sleeping tonight, sorry.” And the one is outside screaming, “Chris! Chris!” And the other is inside the place, like, “Where’s Chris?” So, of course, his girlfriend figures it out, and then the first fistfight of the trip goes down.

Chick fight, huh?

Oh no, she starts beating Chris down! Another highlight was when Eddy Predator put Chris through the DJ rack during reggae night at Single Fin. Then Chris comes back at Eddy through a fresh window. In total, Hurricane Ward blew through two doors, three windows and one car. Plus four fistfights – three with other paying guests, one just random.

Wow, Wardo’s trip sounds like WWE Summer Slam.

Yeah, I went three rounds with him as a tester. We were all drunk after the Eddy Predator brawl and I’m like, “Let’s see what you got. See if you can get through me first, then we’ll see if you’re ready for Predator.” He’s like, “I got technique, man!” First round we were slap fighting in the courtyard in front of everyone and he tapped me out. He thought he was all bad, like, “See, I got technique. Look at Big Boy over there.” Second round I gave him cracks. He stepped right into a fuckin’ right – shut his eye.

Third round he starts throwing kicks in the air. He’s half Thai, so he starts all this “Thai Kung Pao, bra! You’re fucking dead!” Throwing all these wild kicks in the air, saying all this Thai Kung Pao shit. But he gets me again, tapped me out. “See Big Boy, you shoulda never done that. I told ya!” The next morning we wake up and he’s all pissed about his black eye. “Fuck, everyone’s gonna think Eddy Predator shut my eye!” He was all bummed.

The other highlight was the 53 million rupiah bill he left me when he left.

Have you sent the bill to Lost?

Yeah, they’re like, “Your deal with Chris is your deal.” They’re not planning on paying it. The best one was, “Well, Chris just got into a bar fight here and I had to pay his bail, so it looks like you’re not gonna get paid.” I’m like, “What? What do you mean? Leave his ass in there! Pay me!” The Hurricane Ward Fund was tapped out.

Above: Jimbo with his 7’0 x 24 x 4 shortboard. Below: Big Boy ploughing through a foamy one.

So compared to Wardo, Christian Fletcher’s stay was a tea party then?

We had Christian here for over a year in ’07 and ’08. It was incredible. He’s a ball of excitement. There was a lot of hard partying going on. Three to five different girls a week coming out of the villa. Desert Point got lit up by Christian too. The guys were night-surfing Deserts – six-foot, full-moon Desert Point. Getting barreled. They had a big spotlight down on the beach, but it kept going out because they didn’t have big enough generators for it. But the moon was so bright that night, you could still see guys driving through the barrel.

That trip got really hardcore. We had another friend staying here, and he died in my bathtub. The guys were night surfing Desert Point, came back here and he drowned in the fuckin’ bathtub. His name was Parker and he was a good friend of mine. He was Christian’s really good friend. Him and Christian went through a lot together, and Christian brought him over here and he was killing it. He had a chick modeling over here and he was doing pretty well. We had a business we were gonna do together, Jimbaran Jet Reefs, doing mini cigarette boat trips to Deserts and day trips in Bali. That business was about to crack off and next thing you know he drowned in the bathtub.

Christian left me with a $10,000 bill and a dead brother. It was really hard. The one silver lining was Parker’s mom was here for Thanksgiving, so she got to have Thanksgiving with her son and see him in Bali before he died. Hopefully Parker is in a better place.

Heavy. Did you have a ceremony after that?

We had to do a cleansing ceremony to get rid of all the bad spirits. The Hindu priest came in here and flowered the place out and brought the incense. We did it twice, actually. One time was for Parker and one time was for me, after I got hit by lightning here on the night of Nyepi (the Balinese “Day of Silence”). I had some Swedish guys staying here making a surf movie, and my girlfriend over. I was playing guitar right here on this porch and it was the dark part of the night, when you gotta be silent. We had candles lit, and I was just playing a little guitar when I shouldn’t have been, and a lightning bolt came down and picked me up over the stairs and knocked me straight through that fuckin’ window there. Snapped the guitar head, all 12 strings. I’m smoking, the guitar’s smoking. And my chick’s screaming, “YOU GOT HIT BY LIGHTNING!” The guys run over and they’re like, “Dude, can you hear us? You’ve been hit by lightning!” I was smoking, dude. I got fried. I’ll never play guitar on Nyepi again!

Tell me about Christian’s pet monkey, the one that lived with you guys.

Her name was Medusa. She would cruise with Christian on the motorbike everywhere, on his head, holding onto his mohawk. It’s a bummer we lost her. We left her in the upstairs of the house, and when we came back later she had gone over the roof and got out. She probably didn’t know what to do. She just wanted to cruise. She was a cool monkey. She liked everybody, she was stoked on the house, had plenty of food. But, fuck, you know how monkeys are, they just wanna do their own thing. You know what I mean?


And we never found her again. Christian was devastated.

What’s your fondest memory of Medusa?

Pissing on my head. I’m driving down the street in the car, and Medusa climbs up on the seat and gets up on my head and takes a piss on me.

I think that’s how some primate species show affection. So tell me about this photo I’m seeing of you everywhere, painted blue, on a motorbike with two stunning Indo babes?

That was classic. Ashley Bickerton called me up and was like, “Hey, I want to use you in my new collection.” I didn’t really know anything about the art world. I knew Ashley was a big artist. I’d surfed with him before and I’d heard stories. Cacho was telling me about him: “Yeah, Ashley gave me a $50,000 painting for the remodel of the restaurant.” Now I know, he’s an incredible artist.

Ashley said he’d give me a couple hundred bucks an hour to be in the shoot. I thought, killer! Wow, I’m huge. Ok, I’m a model now. He didn’t really tell me what was gonna happen. He just said, “You’ll be working with some girls, but I don’t want you getting crazy on my set.” So as I walk into the studio I see two hot Indonesian chicks, and they’re in g-strings and six-inch stilettos, and they’re oiling each other down. And I’m like, “Hey, this is my kinda shit! Are we doing porn over here? I didn’t sign up for this, but I’m down!” Then Ashley walks in and says, “I told you not to get crazy on my set.” And I’m like, “What do you mean? I’m not getting crazy. Look at them!”

So he says, “Alright, we’re gonna paint you blue. We’re gonna get you on the scooter with these girls, and were gonna do a bunch of different stuff, but first we need to make you blue.” No worries. So they painted me up blue and I looked killer, all blued-out. The only problem was the water-based paint wasn’t staying on because of my sweat factor (as he mentioned earlier, Jimbo sweats a bit). So they had to repaint me with oil-based paint. And I got kinda high from all the fumes and because it was all in my skin!

Yeah, you’re shiny in that thing.

Yeah, that was the oil-base. That shit just shot out. It took me a while to get it off though. The water-base came right off in the shower, but the oil stayed on for a while. Ashley had assistants and they were rubbing me down with acetone, trying to get that shit off. My dry skin was gnarly for like a week after. I had to lotion up more than I ever have before. And I smelled like fuckin’ gasoline for at least three days. It was kinda heavy, but it was still way worth it. Ashley’s entire collection was released in May, and it was a hit everywhere it went: Switzerland, New York, Italy, France.

Think you’ll do any more modeling?

One of the girls in the shoot is also a photographer, and she makes pretty good money doing what she does. She has her own website with her own art, and she was talking to me about doing some stuff. She was actually talking about putting me in drag. “I want to work with you next time,” she said. “I’ve got great ideas for you. I’m going to put you in drag, put whips and chains on you, and walk you around the room, and we’re gonna shoot it.”

Is that something you’d be into?

I asked her, “Is that the same kind of money as here?” And she says, “I’ll give you more!” So, fuck, I’m down!