I need to be more generous. I’m not spending enough time with my family. Why can’t I find the right woman and settle down? Maybe I have found her, but I keep running away. It’s time to be more responsible. I gotta start saving for a house. I’m gonna quit smoking. I’ve gotta start surfing more. I analyze everything too much. I drink too much. That’s gotta stop. Why am I so hard on myself? F-k, I gotta start surfing more. It’s so simple when I’m just surfing.
It was over a mile from the village to the point and that gave a man too much time to think. And thinking too much in that part of the world was dangerous, especially at high tide when the beach disappeared and you were forced to use the track. The track, which also doubled as the village toilet and was littered with human land mines. Too much scrutinizing of your life and how it related to the world at large and not enough scrutinizing of the path that lay ahead was a guaranteed way to literally put your foot in it. How strange then that in this isolated tropical paradise, with no modern comforts to distract you, no pressures and no responsibilities, it took something like treading in shit to slow you down, make you laugh and realize the answer to everything you’ve been worrying about might simply be to just take one step at a time. But then, you might not realize anything. You might just cuss real loud, hurl your sandals into the sea, and head-butt the nearest rock instead.
Brett Schwartz had said it one afternoon on day six (or was it day five?), “Everyone loses it out here eventually, it’s just a matter of time.”
He should know. Along with Timmy Turner and Travis Potter, Brett makes up “the” à…ber-trio of ferals-three childhood friends from Huntington Beach, California, who annually ditch work, their girls, and life in general to camp out on the Panaitan Islands for months on end. They surf the hottest part of Indo in full-length wetsuits, eat goat, drink stale swamp water, risk infection by all manner of disease, and endure incredible bouts of mental anguish (“I want to kill myself,” said Timmy in a Blair Witch-like moment from the trailer of his film The Ombak, even going so far as to make a noose one wave-starved day). They do it all without photographers, without magazines, for no better reason than to get the barrels of their lives.
It’s an inspiring story to most surfers, yet few can (or would want to) relate-which is sad. It reflects the modern-day surfer as too lazy, too busy, or too spoiled to take risks and chance a real adventure. Certainly, mention Potts, Brett, or Timmy to anyone familiar with their legend and you get some strange When I told one friend I was going on a trip with them, he babbled on with all sorts of strange shit: “Dude, those guys are f-king crazy! They don’t eat for days on end. They’re all full-on yoga freaks and health fanatics. I heard one of ’em got his teeth filed flat so he could marry a Muslim. They don’t drink beer either, man, they f-kin don’t even drink beer!” Don’t drink beer? MY GOD, WHAT HAD I GOT MYSELF INTO? But it all turned out to be crap … well, some of it.
In truth, the story is far more interesting when you learn just how (and I use the term loosely whenever applying it to any surfer) “normal” these guys are. They love their food, they smoke the odd ciggy, they adhere to no strict health routine, and they do indeed enjoy a beer.
They also have their limitations. They’ll go just as mental as the next guy who has to sit in the stinking heat for three days straight with not a wave in sight and flies, flies, and more flies burrowing their heads into every hint of open cut or sore on the body. And that was pretty much the exact scene come day six (or was it day five?) of this trip. Too flat to surf. Too hot to move. Patience deteriorating. Brett could see it all happening, and time … well, time was standing still.