“We’d go on the longest drives looking for waves-they’d be okay, but not great, and everyone would be over it. Then we’d drive another two hours thinking it’d be better somewhere else. We’d finally get there and wish we’d stayed at the place before, but it was too late to turn back. We did this a least a few times a day.”-from “Recon: New Zealand” by Mike Losness, page XXX
You anticipate the trip for three months. You deal with a travel agent who tells you exactly the opposite of what you want to hear. You talk your shaper into putting aside his orders from local shops-the orders that feed his kid-so he can shape you three extra boards. You convince your sponsors that despite being over your travel allowance, you need to be on this trip, and could they please write a 3,000-dollar check for you? You pay your bills a month in advance and spend three weeks convincing your girlfriend that it’s a terrific idea to let you go to a country where being a prostitute is considered a good job.While checking in at the airport, you’re informed that you’ll be way overcharged for the 70-pound, eight-by-three-foot board bag you’ll be attempting to lug halfway around the world, and there’s nothing you can do about it. At the airport your flight’s delayed five hours because Chicago got four inches of rain, so you sit in some corner listening to your mini-disc player that burns through two four-dollar batteries per hour.Forty minutes into your sixteen-hour flight you realize you forgot your Xanax, and you could really use it now that the guy next to you wants to have a conversation about his personal relationship with Jesus Christ.Three island-hopper flights (one on an airplane that “barely escaped being destroyed at Pearl Harbor”), two taxi rides, and a ferry crossing later, you reach your destination. You check into your hotel, which has a sign posted that reads “Very Important: Do not lose your passport! You are in danger without your passport!” Upon opening your board bag, you discover-thanks to the permanently disgruntled baggage handlers of the world-your favorite six-four thruster is now a five-nine twin-fin. Discouraged but excited to surf, you meet up with your friends and the photographer, who tell you it’s completely flat.It starts to rain.After three days of waiting for a swell, you decide to rent a van and drive 50 miles to a break you hear is reeling. The drive takes seven hours, and on it you almost die a dozen times. When you arrive at your destination, the surf is even worse than at the hotel-which you were pretty sure wasn’t possible. On the way home you get a flat tire just as the evening rain downshifts into a torrential downpour. A week later it’s still raining, the photographer’s long gone, and you can now play “Redemption Song” backward on the guitar. You understand the truer, deeper meaning of the word “bored silly,” and you keep making parallels between your situation and the movie Papillion. At least now you realize why your mom keeps warning you about your family’s predisposition to alcoholism, and you finally understand what Arthur Rimbaud meant when he wrote in his book A Season In Hell: “I have withered within me all human hope. With the silent leap of a sullen beast, I have downed and strangled every joy.”As if God himself can’t stand the sight of the pitiful look on your face, twelve hours before your flight home a swell finally arrives. You get to surf it from dawn ’til ten, when you have to return to the ferry in order to get to the taxis that take you to the island-hoppers, which eventually land you on the sixteen-hour flight home.
The waves are small and the rain hasn’t stopped, but it’s one of the funnest surfs you’ve had in your life. It’s like that scene in Papillion where Steve McQueen’s been in solitary confinement for a year and catches a millipede, cuts it up, mixes the still-squirming pieces into his half-cup of rust flakes and horse broth, and drinks it like it’s fine winee. You’ve found heaven in hell. Or have you found hell in heaven?Don’t worry, you’ve got sixteen Xanax-free hours to ponder that one.-J.P.