“Bruce Raymond and I drove down to Mexico in 1974 with Dan Merkel for a month in his big Ford F-350. Before we left, we looked around and asked him what we were going to eat. He pointed in the back and there were 50 loaves of bread and the biggest jar of peanut butter you’ve ever seen. You could have lived in it when it was empty. And that was about it. When we got down there we were sleeping in the back of his truck, and we got really, really sick after running out of food and being forced to eat dog tacos. We asked what was in them, and the guy replied, ‘Perro.’ But we didn’t care; we woofed into what I think were Chihuahua tacos. The only good thing we had was a jar of honey, and it spilled open and stuck to everything. We were swapping old Penthouses and Playboys with the local fishermen for mangoes and fish and whatever we could get our hands on. We all got the worst case of the squirts you ever had, but Merkel was powering on and we couldn’t work out why he was so healthy. We then found out he had this secret stash of nuts and berries he was hiding from us. We almost killed him. We demolished what he had left. In the end we were so sick we could barely surf, but we got great waves and were just drained every night. Thankfully the surf finally dropped and we came home.”—Mark Warren
“Do they deserve it?” asked John Shimooka with a questioning inflection.
“Do we deserve it?” replied Jake Paterson before pausing, then bursting into a rhetorical seizure. “Of course we bloody deserve it, Shmoo! This is how we roll! Trailer parks aren’t our style; six-star is our style! And we’re gonna live it up. I think I’m gonna trash the place. One thing’s for sure,” he said, pausing for dramatic effect. “It’d never happen in our day!”
It wouldn’t be the first time this line would be uttered on this trip. The two former pro surfers had just walked through the reception area of a $1,000-a-night resort in Seminyak, Bali, lamenting the fact that they were born 20 years too early. Paterson and Shmoo were chaperoning Quiksilver’s Young Guns team—Dane Reynolds, Julian Wilson, Ry Craike, Clay Marzo, and 15-year-old “mini-gun” Garrett Parkes—during the three-week filming window for the latest installment of the Young Guns franchise, and it soon became pretty obvious that nothing was going to be done by half. “A chaperone? Back in my day it was every man for himself!” barked Snake. “They’ve got me and Shmoo, entourages, people to drive them, people to shoot them. Mind you,” he moonwalked, “I can’t punt, so I’d be no good if I was 18 today anyway.”
If you could surf anywhere in the world, right now, where would it be? Where do you go when the decimal point on your budget can jump to the right at will, and where you can surf is limited only by the prevailing swell and your imagination? This was the dilemma facing the Young Guns 3 project—and it was not a bad dilemma to be confronted with. With five surfers, four videographers, two photographers, two chaperones, a surf forecaster, a partridge in a pear tree—and the full clout of a surf-industry giant, the scope of this thing was frightening.
“It had a 6,000-kilometer radius,” mused Quiksilver’s Mark Warren, the man pulling the strings on the project. “We were keeping an eye on the Tuamotus, the Carolines, Hawaii, New Zealand, the whole of Australia, and Indo.” Scarred by the experience recounted above, Warren left Scorpion Bay off the map. “The idea was to stay light and be able to jump on a plane at five minutes’ notice,” he explained. Nothing would be left to chance. Camp bookings were paid in surfing outposts just in case a swell should materialize in the region, only for these camps to remain ghost towns. “It was a case of just pressing the trigger in that window and going where the waves took us,” remarked Warren. This wasn’t fishing with a pole; it was drift-netting for surf. At the conclusion of the trip, when asked how Young Guns 4 could top the sheer scale of this venture, Garrett Parkes replied, “Does the moon have surf?”
They had a lot to live up to. Last year’s Young Guns installment was filmed aboard the Indies Trader 4 in the Mentawais and featured enough hardware to invade a small sovereign nation. The other big difference this year was no Kelly. Having provided the star power for the first two Young Guns chapters, this year Kelly Slater was busy being Kelly, leaving behind a power vacuum—and five guys trying to kill each other to get the best section in the movie. Reynolds, Marzo, Craike, Wilson, and Parkes were the pretenders to Slater’s celluloid throne.
So with the world their surfing oyster, and forecasters scouting most of the Southern Hemisphere, the group did the only logical thing: They stayed put. The first week of the project was shot on the east coast of Australia, tapping into an endless run of small, but clean, summer swell. Palm tree backdrops were conspicuous by their absence, but the crew was never going to break the golden rule of surf travel: Never leave home if the surf’s good.
And so, after a week, this costly and omnipotent surf trip found itself holed up in a trailer park at Yamba. “There were six of us in a mobile home,” recounted photographer Chris “Zaz” Carey.”[Photographer Jeff] Hornbaker slept on the floor of the bathroom with toilet paper in his ears—he couldn’t handle my snoring.”
It was an entertaining but far from auspicious start to a project of such scale. Within 24 hours, however, the crew would upgrade from two-and-a-half stars to six, move from Australia to Asia, and put themselves in the path of an out-of-season but nonetheless welcome Indian Ocean swell.
“My nightmare trip was definitely Natividad in ’85. The only way we could get there was on a milk-run flight in this old WWII era dual-prop airplane—the full death trap. We took off in Tijuana somewhere, and I remember getting on this giant scale with my boardbag, and the pilot standing there nervously checking this other guy’s math as he scribbled down numbers. Then this old, homeless looking man pulls a red wagon up next to the plane, pulls out some Duct tape, and starts wrapping it around the propeller. When we got on board everyone had chickens and dogs with them, and the crew was pounding beers. Here I am, this 16-year-old kid, going, ‘Where the f–k am I?’ The plane takes off, and it’s just rattling like you wouldn’t believe. We stop on four or five different islands, all of them with these sketchy dirt runways. Finally we get there and we end up staying in this place that was like an outhouse in the middle of nowhere. It was way worse than a tent, and there’s scorpions and snakes and dust. Not a single tree on the whole island. The only entertainment I had was Walkman and a cassette tape of Bryan Adams. (This was 1985.) I was bored s–tless. We were there for six days and got one day of average surf.”—John Shimooka
The boys had just walked through the reception area of the Balinese resort. The trip’s token snowy haired grommet, Parkesy, promptly dropped his bags and threw himself into the pool, fully clothed. “All his mates are sitting behind desks at school,” laughed Julian Wilson, “and have a look where he is. He’s high-rolling in the King Kong palace.” Finally the grommets were in the salubrious surroundings to which their fantasies were more accustomed. “The place was so big I got lost in there a couple of times,” chuckled Craikey.
“It was 18-star,” cackled photographer Carey, who was put into a room so big, his snoring no longer posed a threat to anyone’s well being. “Everyone was losing the plot. Everything from eight-course meals, a swimming pool for each room, massages on request—you name it.” Broadband toilets were the only thing missing.