Notes from a Bonus Feature
Words and photos by Nathan Myers
"Look, I'm sorry about your section," I tell the old man in the seat next to me. "It's no one's fault, really. If you ask me, I'd still like to see it in the movie. But these are Taylor's decisions, not mine."
We are driving through the Sahara desert. Very much sand out here.
The man beside me is a shaman, apparently. That's what our Moroccan driver, Abdel, tells us. We were parked at yet another military checkpoint deep in Western Sahara when this guy just emerged from the desert and got into our car. We're now on our way home from a mildly disappointing mission to the furthest ends of fuck-all, and the mood in the car is somber.
The shaman needs a ride somewhere, apparently. With only one road for the next five million miles, it's safe to assume we're going his way.
His robes are gleaming white, despite the thousands of miles of red sand from which he emerged. There's gold in his teeth and a red dot on his forehead, probably some sort of desert shaman magic. But all his magic won't be enough to get Sahara its own part in Castles in the Sky.
"It's not that your waves are bad," I explain. "In fact, they're pretty good, there's just not that many of them. It was mainly just a logistics thing. Lost our cameras in Morocco. Lost our way looking for the wave. Lost the best of the tide sitting on the wrong peak. It's a tricky place, your country."
The shaman stares out the window. I think he's bummed about not getting a section. These trips aren't cheap. And it's not often that Taylor Steele visits this place. When's the next time he'll be back to the Western Sahara?
Taylor passes me his iPhone, wanting to continue our game of Scrabble. It's a long ride back to anywhere and staring at the window merely aggravates monotony. Flat. Brown. Flat. Brown. Flat.
The only word I can come up with is SAD. Three points. No double letter scores or nothing.
"Look, man," I tell the shaman. "Don't be pissed off. It's still a cool bonus section on the DVD. People watch those things. And maybe I convince SURFING to post the clips on their website."
A fly crawls into his ear and he doesn't even flinch.
Taylor kicks my ass at Scrabble again.
After an hour or so, the shaman taps Abdel on the shoulder and we pull over somewhere that looks like everywhere else. Brown. Flat. Brown.
The shaman steps out of the car without a backward glance. He disappears back into the desert and we continue down the road.
"He wasn't mad," Abdel says over his shoulder. "He just didn't speak any English."
"I know," I say.
I glance back at Mikala Jones and Marlon Gerber sleeping in the seats behind me. They both have deep brown skin and mixed ethnicities that blend in almost anywhere. They are both shaman-like amongst the waves, and very mortal when it comes to travel budgets. Both speak pretty good English.
[Special thanks to Denny Tolley at morocsurf.com for getting us safely there and back.]Most of the waves we found had never been surfed before, and may never be again. Marlon Gerber. Tea is painfully important out here. People spend most of their day preparing it. Then the flies drink it for you. When I first saw this place on Google Earth I had no idea what I was looking at…but clearly, it’s this: an abandoned cinderblock city on the beach. This local news anchor was the hottest chick in all Sahara. She also spoke, like, three words of English, which made for stimulating interviews. Our guide/driver Adbel caught a bomb. You’ll see this shot in the video. No long lens..those camels could have eaten Taylor alive. Ferocious beasts, really. Incidentally, we ate camel kabobs for dinner that night. Marlon Gerber is an amazing surfer to work with. So stylish on every turn. SURFING’s Jeff Flindt and Taylor Steele at work, and if you squint your eyes, that’s Mikala in the barrel out there. Another set-up that almost coulda shoulda woulda paid off better than it dida. The awesomeest place I never ever want to go again.