The surf exploration business, let me tell you, is an emotional rollercoaster. Days and days adrift in a swell-less ocean, chasing your tail trying to find a rideable wave with 10 big, stinky, hairy men sharing cramped living conditions, the tropical sun frying your brain, coming perilously close to running out of fresh DVDs to watch, or a remotely drinkable red table wine. Such are the perils of the modern wave explorer.
Every now and again, though, all the hard work, sacrifice and perseverance pays off. For the last two days, Kelly Slater and crew have been enjoying a perfect right point break wrapping down one side of a totally pristine, deserted tropical island. Dense jungle lines the break, the pulsating chirp of crickets and other mysterious jungle noises drifting out over the break.
In this timeless setting, the latest Crossing crew have staged a staggering display of futuristic aerials and good old power surfing in the kind of idyllic circumstances all surfers dream of. Whether paddling in in the customary style, or using jet-skis and footstraps to fling each other into outrageous high-speed aerial manoeuvres, performance levels have been out of this world.
Dave Kalama is repeatedly blowing minds with his strapped in airs, loops and flips. Kelly has been pulling a few aerial loops of his own without the aid of straps. Young Ry Craike is routinely landing air 360s. Pete Mel is laying down some of the biggest gaffs of the trip. Ross Clarke-Jones is thriving on the tow-in gig, carving outrageous cutbacks. Tom Carroll is continually going upside down off the top on his backhand. And young Dylan Graves is pulling serious grab rail cutties on double overhead boomers.
The mood in the water is raucous, as this group of elite professional athletes de-evolve into a pack of screaming, frothing schoolboys, calling each other into waves, hooting the most spectacular moves and urging each other in mock Hawaiian pidgin to “Do somet’ing”.
You can sense that the six-time world champ Kelly is starting to wind up in the remote, heavily charged environment and late this afternoon successfully landed a full aerial 360 loop on the back of the wave, to wild cheers from his surfing mates. As each day progresses, standards rise as this heavy team of surfing talent egg each other to ever greater heights.
As the sun set, schools of tiny purple and gold fish schooled around us in the takeoff spot while the dusk sky put on a spectacular light show. At the end of a hard day’s surfing, relaxing on the rear deck with a chilled Bintang, watching a lightning display over distant mountains, it is very easy to feel like everything is right in the world.
Our boat crew, meanwhile, titillate us with tales of other waves in the area which may come alive if a serious swell arrives. They wear the cagey grins of men in the possession of deep and precious secrets and a delicate trust dictates whether or not they will choose to share this region’s most precious jewels. Secret spots are the most treasured prize in the world of surf exploration and these hardened, salty sea dogs generally regard the modern pro surfing world with some suspicion. But as this trip evolves, and the promises of maintaining secrecy at all costs are made good, and trust builds, their attitude softens and our chances of gaining admittance to their sacred, private wave havens increase.
With serious swell still a week away, it remains touch and go whether our mission will uncover the real gold we seek.