Vagabonds

Ross Williams, Taylor Knox, and Dan Malloy travel to Barbados and beyond.

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By Ross Williams

I got an e-mail from Taylor Steele inviting me on a trip with Taylor Knox and Dan Malloy to Barbados-I was a little hesitant at first. I have a perfect memory of the place from my last trip and didn’t want to tarnish it. The last time I went there it was six feet and glassy. Barbados never gets glassy. People come up to me all the time and tell me how lucky I was to get it that good and that trip was six years ago. Taylor wanted to pop over there for just a few days to get some surfing on film for his new movie Arc. He had a lot of stuff already shot in California, so he wanted to shoot in a tropical and blue location. Dan and I decided to go.

Dan MalloyI’ve known Dan for a long time, but this was one of the first times I’ve been on a trip with him. We kind of teamed up for the trip-we shared a room and motivation throughout the trip. Dan is a positive kind of guy and always a team player. We spent a lot of time driving around looking for surf. Dan and I were constantly searching for surf and keeping everyone psyched. If it was a hassle to check a wave (like if you couldn’t see it from the front seat of the rental car), Dan and I would run down the road to take a look. I really enjoy that in people.

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Staying psyched up and optimistic is super important on a trip, and Dan was always ready to go, even in his sleep. We roomed together for a week and I witnessed his uncanny nights full of sleep-talking and such. Before we went to bed the first night, I asked him if he still talked in his sleep.

“Dude, I’m so stoked, I don’t do that stuff any more,” he replied.

“That’s cool … no biggie,” I said.”But then again, I do live alone, so I guess I wouldn’t know if I am or not.”

Sure enough, the very first night he was shouting in his sleep. “LAX … yeah LAX! … About twenty minutes! Yeah, twenty minutes.”

I was startled, but I had to laugh. He did that kind of stuff every night. Somehow he would always get to sleep before me, so I could only wait for it to happen. Sometimes the anticipation alone would prevent me from falling asleep.

At midnight on our last day in Barbados, I woke up to Dan sitting up in his bed holding my backpack. He had pulled it up onto his bed from the floor-keep in mind, he’s asleep-and he was trying to unzip my pack but having a difficult time with the zipper.

“I can’t find it. It’s in here somewhere,” he muttered loudly.

It was so funny that I didn’t even mind that he’d woken me up for the seventh night in a row. The guy put on a show. He finally got my pack open, and he carefully removed my stuff and put it on the floor.

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“No problem, dude. No worries,” he grunted.Whatever, Dan. Go to sleep. Funny guy … good surfer, though.

Taylor KnoxWhen I found out about the trip to Barbados, the waves were really bad in Hawai’i at that time, and I was itching to surf. Arc is the name of the new flick that Taylor Steele’s putting together. It’s a film about Taylor Knox-his life story and amazing “arc” approach to a wave. I’ve been close friends with Mr. Knox for a good ten years or so. We have a funny friendship. Actually, Taylor has a funny relationship with most of his friends. His sense of humor is odd, which for the most part produces laughs for himself. That’s one of the reasons I love the guy-he has no shame. He kind of just lets things come out of his mouth and then waits to see what kind of reaction he gets from you. He’s one of a kind.

One of the only times you’ll see Taylor being serious is when he’s on a wave. It’s pure pleasure watching him surf. Clean power moves all day long. His movie will be a great lesson for the kids of America. Not that airs are bad, but I’d like to see some of the kids in California mix it up and realize how “cool” it is to do a carve like Taylor. Dan and I would watch him on a wave, kind of look at each other, and go,Oh yeah, that’s how it’s supposed to look when you carve.” I learn by watching his surfing, and I love that. The Trip

Barbados surf is pretty consistent, but not usually epic. An average day at Soup Bowls is head-high and onshore … but still very fun and rippable. The first day we got there we found it overhead with no wind. We were so stoked to get such good waves, especially when the locals said it had been flat for the last month. During the next couple days the wind came back up, but it was still good size and perfect for carving.

Our last day we stumbled on this sick wave on the west side. It was a right point that peeled perfectly on a super-shallow reef. I’ve got a nice little scar to prove it. We surfed until dark-one of those sessions that you dream about: we all got barreled off our heads repeatedly. It was one of the best sessions I’ve ever had. Tom Rulon’s camera kind of malfunctioned, but we got the session on film for the movie. We felt really lucky to even find this place, let alone catch it breaking. I must have some kind of charm going on with Barbados. It makes me afraid to go back. I fear I’ll get it “average.”

New YorkOur trip wasn’t over just yet.

We changed our tickets to surf another day in Barbados. Don’t you love how the airlines always make it seem like it’s totally impossible to change your ticket? The flights had seats available … what’s the big deal? It’s funny, Taylor thought he had this huge advantage over the normal passenger, because he paid to upgrade his mileage card to platinum. His bragging had Dan totally flustered.”I fricken travel all year,” Dan complained. “How come I’m not platinum?”

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On the way to Barbados we’d all sat in first class with our upgrades, but on our return we were just trying to get home in whichever class was available-although first class would have been nice. Suddenly everyone acted nervous, wondering exactly how or when they’d get home.

After a mess of phone calls and conversations with a lady who would have us routed through Kabul, Afghanistan if she’d had her way, we finally booked a flight. The one stipulation was a twelve-hour layover in New York City. We all thought, “Cool! New York, here we come!”

It’s funny how you end up in unexpected places while on a trip far away. Hours later in a very uncomfortable seat that even Taylor’s platinum card couldn’t upgrade him out of, we arrived in the Big Apple … and it was cold! I’m from Hawai’i, yet I love the cold air, but this felt a bit nippier than I like. While leaving the airport, we filmed our parting shot for the movie in the cold night air- a solid ending to the Caribbean segment of Arc.We arrived at the hotel, dropped off our stuff, and headed into town. We ate at this Indian joint that had red chili-pepper lights hanging from its low ceiling. The place was tucked away in the East Village next to all these different types of bars filled with people who look nothing like Hog Head, a Barbados local.

Different people and atmosphere … ah, the joy of being a vagabond.We mowed through our food and headed for the bars, where we stood out horribly amongst New Yorkers dressed in uniform: black clothes, boots, and long coats. We had tan skin, blond hair, and clothes that were … well … different. We caught looks from every angle, but everyone was nice.

Being that Tom Rulon has spent the most time in the city, he became our guide. Sort of. We ended up partying with people who looked just like Tom-rockabilly types with the tattoos and wife-beaters. The places we went to were cool, though, and I really got the feel of the city. It’s so different from both Barbados and home.At 4:00 a.m. we left Tom at the bar and decided to go take a look at Ground Zero, where the World Trade Center once stood, to pay our respects. In the cold air once again, we hailed a cab. “This is fun,” I thought, not realizing how serious a place we were about to encounter.

Ground ZeroAs soon as we got out of the cab, our moods changed. A feeling of patriotism and fear and sadness all mixed together overwhelmed us. Because it was so late, the platform overlooking the site was closed. A few army guys shut down our request to look from the platform. As we turned to leave, Dan approached a group from a local church patrolling the site, and before we knew it, we were walking up the long path to the lookout point.When we reached the top, an amazing feeling came over me. I had chicken skin for twenty minutes. Oddly enough, it made me feel proud to be an American. Perseverance was the thought that came to mind.Some men from the New York Fire Department were walking by. They looked up at us and asked, “Are ya up late or up early?”Feeling kind of silly to have been out partying and having fun, we replied, “Up late.” It was as if they were looking after us. “Keep up the good work,” we said. It was tremendously satisfying to be able to pay tribute.On the plane home I looked back on our trip and smiled. You never know where a trip might lead you. It’s truly one of the greatest things about being a surfer-it’s always an adventure.s we got out of the cab, our moods changed. A feeling of patriotism and fear and sadness all mixed together overwhelmed us. Because it was so late, the platform overlooking the site was closed. A few army guys shut down our request to look from the platform. As we turned to leave, Dan approached a group from a local church patrolling the site, and before we knew it, we were walking up the long path to the lookout point.When we reached the top, an amazing feeling came over me. I had chicken skin for twenty minutes. Oddly enough, it made me feel proud to be an American. Perseverance was the thought that came to mind.Some men from the New York Fire Department were walking by. They looked up at us and asked, “Are ya up late or up early?”Feeling kind of silly to have been out partying and having fun, we replied, “Up late.” It was as if they were looking after us. “Keep up the good work,” we said. It was tremendously satisfying to be able to pay tribute.On the plane home I looked back on our trip and smiled. You never know where a trip might lead you. It’s truly one of the greatest things about being a surfer-it’s always an adventure.