Risk Equals RewardThe search for Spicoli’s.

By Adam Blakey

Wanna go on a boat trip? To the sickest place ever? You’ll be cruising a thousand kilometer stretch of virtually uncharted palm-fringed coastline in an 80-foot luxury yacht with as much food as you can eat and many beers as you can drink … the full tropical island paradise adventure!

Catches? Well, the area is kinda plagued with violent religious and civil wars, and is fully rife with malaria and dengue fever and shit, and a bloke did get attacked by a crocodile last week near one of the best spots, and the boat you’ll be on actually broke down in heavy seas midway through its last trip, and about a month ago a surf journalist got murdered for suspected treason against the ruling government in the town from which you’ll be disembarking. The good news is that hardly anyone’s been surfing there, so the potential of finding unknown waves is pretty sick. Oh, did I mention the entire coastline is super fickle because it’s not really open to any major swell? No? Well, what do you reckon? Keen anyway?

Everything in the pitch was real–the wars, the unrest, the illness, the boat, even the croc and the murder. Funny, they just seemed like a bunch of words at the beginning, but after twelve days on the boat in the middle of nowhere they started to echo at the back of your brain like ghosts in the attic of a haunted house. Who knows? Maybe there were ghosts. A village we stopped in on the second last day was still in mourning over a mass genocide that took place less than four years ago. A boat had come ashore in the middle of the night, and parties unknown butchered every man and child considered strong or able enough to pick up a gun. Motives? Out here, take your pick–although this one was chalked up to a difference of religious opinion. Considering the setting–unmarked beaches, lush green palm forests, young but dormant volcanoes jutting from the sea, a land that from sea looked all but uninhabited–all this wild aggression seemed completely out of place. But then again, there was also Spicoli’s.

Spicoli’s was a discovery. A wave, a reward, and a punishment all rolled into one. Nothing about it was predictable. A thirsty slab of dead low-tide reef, it had no back and virtually no point of entry. It sucked below sea level, mimicking Teahupo’o on takeoff, and taunted your imagination with giant spitting caves that wound off at maximum yet makeable velocity down a reef that looked hungry for flesh. It was scary and exhilarating just to look at. The very wave you dream of finding but at the same time kind of wish you didn’t.

Gabe Kling accidentally stumbled on it. It was just a mellow little right that day. A good little barrel with some ripable wall and even a few air sections, not wholly unlike HT’s in the Mentawais.

Gabe had been looking at a magazine photo of Jeff Spicoli–the stoned surf-dude hero played by Sean Penn in Fast Times At Ridgemont High–when he spotted what looked like a right point off a large island. Until then it had been two weeks of gutless (though potentially epic) waist-high lefts.

The four regular-footers on board were quick to order the hundred-foot-long Indo Jiwa to drop anchor at the off chance of surfing something frontside. A session went down. A pretty sick session. Afterward everyone assumed they’d be staying at Spicoli’s to see out the last three days of the journey. It wasn’t to be the case. The Jiwa weighed anchor and motored into the night to see if somewhere else might pick up more of the increasing swell.

Of course, the boat broke down early the next morning in a massive bay just off the ghost village. It was too eerie. The best day of waves since we’d arrived and it was going unridden just like it had since the beginning of time.

This was the flip side othe surf-exploration coin. Sure, you could spend weeks on end searching for the ultimate wave, but when you found it how did you know there wasn’t something better around the next corner? It was like passing up the first wave of a set thinking the next would be bigger only to discover there was no next wave at all.

It was agreed there’d be no looking after that. The search had been done and the wave found–Spicoli’s it was. And it only took one afternoon, one session, the last session, to wash away all pent-up frustration brought on by two weeks in an isolated land on a flat sea. Spicoli’s was genuinely all-time.

Gone was the friendly perfection, this day it roared with the best of them. It barreled the team off their heads. It had them hooting, screaming, and claiming, and it chewed up six of their boards in less than three hours. The thrill compounded with the knowledge no one else knew it existed. That joy of discovery, those rewards of risk–Spicoli’s proved it only takes one surf to make them real.

Exploration Is The Real Trip

The surf trip versus surf exploration.

It’s easy to see why so many shy away from exploration in favor of a trip. A surf trip is piss easy–it only takes a couple of phone calls, a swipe of the plastic, and next thing you’re all expenses paid, practically being paddled into those dreamy setups you’ve seen whored in the mags a thousand times over.

In comparison, putting precious time, money, and in some cases, your life on the line to voyage into the unknown on the slim hope you might get a wave seems ludicrous. Could it really be worth all the hassle and risk?

“Absolutely,” says Neil Ridgeway, international marketing director for Rip Curl and full-time head-on-ist. “Surf exploration is not about the best guys on the best waves or watching for a swell window and jumping a flight to the Mentawais ’cause you know it’s perfect. It’s about rolling the dice, getting out there and having a look around.”

It was Rip Curl and Ridgeway who took the gamble of putting three consecutive Search charters (the last of which is featured here) through a chain of islands most Indo veterans wouldn’t even spit in the direction of. Result? Just look at the photos.

“We hit gold in some areas and got nothing in others,” Ridgeway says. “Some guys got the waves of their lives, others didn’t even wet a rail. But the bottom line is they all got the full-on exploration experience.”

And just what is that experience exactly? Do you really need access to boats, jet skis, support personnel?

“It’s a lot closer than people think,” explains Ridgeway. “If you’re prepared to get off your arse and take a lash, you’ll find there’re so many undiscovered, unridden, sick waves all over the place. Finding them adds to the enjoyment. That’s what The Search is all about.”–Blako

 

 

How To Name Your Own Wave

If you’ve found a new wave, you get to name it. Eeeew! Here’s how:

1. Landmarks. This is the most obvious way to name a spot. One Palm, Cloud 9, Shipwrecks, Bulldozers, Dirty Undies–they all draw their names from landmarks that were there on discovery. Keep your eyes open for something unusual.

2. Stories. Nothing better than naming a spot after a good story. “So anyway, Ted hit the bottom, and the reef ripped all the skin off his cock. After that, we called the joint Foreys.” Other spots named after stories: Massacres, Macaronis, Sharkies, Pooduds.

3. Villages. Teahupo’o is the most famous example of a wave taking its name from the closest village. In fact, even Spicoli’s (the wave featured in this article) was in part named after its nearest village called Bekoli. But you can do better than that.

4. Appearance. What does your wave look like? Suck up, the Ledge, Bombie–the boys at Long Reef don’t f–k around with poetry. Still a little more creativity will add more mystery.

5. You. “I found it, and it’s mine.” Lance’s, Slater’s Right, Occy’s Left, and Rabbit’s prove it can work, but let someone else name a spot after you, otherwise you’re just a wanker.

is article) was in part named after its nearest village called Bekoli. But you can do better than that.

4. Appearance. What does your wave look like? Suck up, the Ledge, Bombie–the boys at Long Reef don’t f–k around with poetry. Still a little more creativity will add more mystery.

5. You. “I found it, and it’s mine.” Lance’s, Slater’s Right, Occy’s Left, and Rabbit’s prove it can work, but let someone else name a spot after you, otherwise you’re just a wanker.