Marlon Lipke and Marc Lacomare rendezvous in the Mediterranean island of Sardinia for a date with food, drink, family and surf
By Andrew Lewis
My friend Microsoft Dictionary powered by Encarta defines the word "peak" several ways, all of which are relevant to the final day of this Mediterranean gallivant of ours. "To max out" suffices for describing our swell, which "hit [its] highest point" at around head high and was relievingly good. To "reach your zenith" works exceptionally for our entourage, which "climaxed" at fifteen men, six cars. I know these numbers because I was forced to write them down; I simply cannot commit such lofty figures to memory.
Standing by the now-familiar Lavazza espresso machine and croissant case (marmalade's on top rack, left; chocolate's on top rack, right; plain's on middle rack, left; and so on) at Lepori Bar and Gelateria, I am a bit awestruck at the crowd amassing around us. Café's in Italy – most of Europe, actually – are quite small and cluttered when they're empty, let alone when fifteen men are piling in on top of the regular crowd. That's us: The Entourage – and you better believe that we're all heading to the same spot, suiting up together, and paddling out at the same time. Then eating together, drinking together, and so on. When in Rome, I believe is what I said earlier.
We had checked this particular wave on Day One but it wasn't working. It is a momentarily problematic paddle out over deep water then dry shelf implanted with menacing sea urchins – which if I was a more enterprising sort of guy, I would have plucked from the reef and sold to the many roadside vendors who peddle the prized delicacy to passing motorists for a handful of Euros a pop. I'm not enterprising however, and am only wishing that the ill-placed pin cushions didn't exist, because what was a vomiting mass of Mediterranean two days ago is now settled under light winds and looking quite fun and shapely.
Safely outside, spine-in-foot-free, and bobbing with Marlon, Marc, Alessandro, Mauro, Gigi and the rest of The Entourage, the waves are actually better than quite fun, they're overhead and good – nothing epic, of course, but, I assure you, better than your average day in Southern California. Turns out it's like this a lot – and year round. And a heavy crowd is fifteen. Beat that Orange County.
"I moved to Australia last year," Mauro – who has been with us since Day One and who treats surfing as a frothing 10-year-old does – says to me as we wait on a set. "I was supposed to stay for twelve months, but half way through I said 'It's time to go home; the waves are better in Sardinia.'" Now, I'm not supposing that wave size is better in Sardinia than in, for example, Australia – and it should be noted that Mauro has a tendency to, let's say, over-excite on surf checks – but I don't doubt that wave consistency is the same or better here. In fact, 50-70 percent of spring and winter days in Sardinia receive fair-to-good waves courtesy of the Mistral winds. Plus, they break over copious amounts of rather perfect set-ups: reefs, slabs and beachbreaks that would produce truly world-class waves had this rock not suffered the unfortunate fate of coming to fruition in a sea rather than an ocean. So in many ways, Mauro made the right call to come home, where he can surf always with only a handful of guys. When you have that, who needs the Super Bank or Bells and their appalling crowds?
Over a lunch of paninis, which here in Sardinia are literally – and I mean this literally – the size of your head, Marco announces that we are approaching, you guessed it, the zenith of our swell. We pass on a Mexico-ish looking beachbreak with ramps everywhere much to Marlon's displeasure (surf trips are work, after all, and ramps pay the bills) for what we suspect is a Hail Mary run about an hour and a half south to a spot called Piscinas, which Marco and Mauro assure us is "the best in Sardinia today."
It is late afternoon and we are standing on a 100-foot cliff overlooking a very Mediterranean looking landscape. All around us green, unmolested hills spill into sandy canyons and riverbeds dotted with olive groves. Mountain goats graze the steepest rises in the distance. And The Entourage's six cars and fifteen men stand side-by-side and stare in silence at the sea. An unexpected grey haze has overtaken the day, along with a buggy little onshore flow, which would be great for airs if there were waves. Turns out "the best in Sardinia" today is the worst in Sardinia today.
Another vehicle pulls up – a Jeep – and a man dressed impeccably in a grey twill suit and sporting black-framed Ray Bans steps out. If Marco's the "capo", and Alessandro Dini's the "godfather", then this guy's gotta land somewhere around…oh, I don't know…"awesome". He gives Dini the customary right-cheek-left-cheek greeting then wraps one arm around young Alessandro Piu and roughs up his hair with the other. He is the boy's father and he's left work early and driven an hour just to see his son surf and to meet us – The Entourage. His name is Bruno. Perfect, I know. Sixteen men, seven cars.
Really, the waves are shit, but Marlon, Marc and Alessandro paddle out for the Hail Mary and nail a few shots in the tricky conditions. It is cold outside, damp and generally uncomfortable, but not one member of The Entourage leaves. We huddle together and watch the sleepy surf show tick tick ticking out in the water. No one is leaving, after all, because there is a pub down the road with cold Peroni, red wine, pizza and pasta. And in Italy you don't go to such places alone, you go with family.
Thanks again to Marco Testarella of Turismo Rurale Menhirs, www.turismoruralemenhirs.it/