As soon as the Thai Airlines 707 left the ground, my friend Mark Oswin and I each stretched out on some empty seats to catch up on some very needed sleep. As I drifted off, I dreamed of a beautiful stewardess laying a blanket over me, which I pulled around my neck and fell deeper to sleep.
We were landing sooner than I expected and switching planes to a smaller twelve-seater, which would take us a but nearer to our destination. After an hour’s flight, we landed at the village from which we would catch a boat the following day to the other side of the island.
The morning broke clear, and we were soon chugging along, the diesel engine hammering into my head even after I stuffed my ears with cotton. After eight hours the boat docked in a small village, and we quickly found the local accommodations, and I attempted to sleep except for the ringing in my ears.
The next morning the coconut truck drove us up to another village for the final leg of our trip to a fabled perfect right point break. A hired fisherman was soon paddling us down a river that slid noiselessly through the tangle of bush at its edges. We approached a large hill that the river seemed to flow directly through and the cave appeared. Dripping, Jagged teeth cluttered its yawn which the boat was drawn to. We passed slowly through the cavity, ducking and pushing the hanging pinnacles until we emerged into flat water at the mouth of the river. They’re all my imaginings solidified as a set swept across the reef outside. I nearly fell out of the boat in excitement, and couldn’t get dropped on the beach quick enough to stash my belongings in the village and head for the point with my board.
Life in the village became a routine of surfing in the morning, then eating, reading, writing, napping and surfing again in the evening. An incredibly simple existence revolving around how much energy we had to surf. Since there was little else to do and we were heading inland after we left there, surf was about all we did. The weather didn’t assist my photography, being nearly always overcast or rainy, and I was convinced the are wasn’t meant to be photographed for fear of exposure, with easy justification.
The family with whom we stayed had a young boy, Johnny , who would greet us with “Gidday mate.” The Aussies had taught him well. He was like a monkey, and would raid our food supply or get into anything his curiosity might compel him to. They also had a beautiful 13-year-old daughter who fell foolishly in love with one of her flirting smiles and long, deep looks. The father asks with sign language if I’ve brought any gunja with me, and I tell him unfortunately not. He shakes his head, too bad, and offers me a beetle nut instead.
The sisters prepared all our meals which consisted almost entirely of rice. Luckily, we had brought some essentials like peanut butter, honey, raisins, dried apricots and a tin of Milo chocolate mix. The peanut butter and honey went well on the coconut bread they baked, and when we scored a stalk of bananas, our sandwiches were complete. Occasionally they turned us onto a lobster dinner with veggies cooked in coconut milk, and with a Heineken beer cooled off in the well to top it off. We ate like kings.
Each morning I would crawl out from my mosquito net and bang my head as I walked through the low doorway, which would wake
me up smartly. A fifty-yard dash through the jungle to avoid the mozzies put us on the long beach looking at the early waves out on the point. During the one-mile walk to the beach, I was tempted to start running when a wave would spit across the reef. But a look around at the empty beach and knowing that there probably wasn’t another surfer within a hundred miles let me have a casual walk, picking up an occasional transparent pink shell on the reef was necessary. The end of the reef dropped away in a series of caves and ledges into the blue, bottomless water into which we jumped. Even at low tide, the waves broke in deep water on the level reef outside, changing slightly in characteristic to a longer down-the-line tube. Since the reef is part way inside the long bay, the swell is drawn out before it breaks, making a clean line up. These were the best waves I’d surfed since leaving Hawaii, and better since there were no crowds.
As the tide came in, the bowl at the end would wrap in more, causing an unexpected climax to the rush. Coming in over the reef at a higher tide, I turn my board and fin up and pull myself along by the scant weed in the shallower water. With my feet scratched enough, I walk on the reef as little as possible.