Gregg Drude's Dream Surfing / Sailing Trip: Van Dieman Dispatch

June 26 Dispatch

Prior to departing San Diego, I did all of the research that time would allow in regards to surf spots around the globe. My efforts have paid off on some occasions, and set us up for disappointment on others.
Of course, my results were far from complete, and left plenty of gaps along the proposed route. Many of these holes have been filled in along the way by speaking with other surfers, and local people. Our latest discovery came from a tip from a most unlikely source.
We had been relaxing for days in a lagoon that you would find on the cover of any tropical travel brochure. It was pure heaven, with water as clear as the world’s cleanest swimming pool, and fish as colorful and playful as the cast from “Finding Nemo.” We had been keeping busy snorkeling and exploring the tiny island, but of course, there was one problem of the wave breaking into the pass never got bigger than waist high.

The right hander is a world class wave, but only breaks during the opposite time of year. It was killing me to ride such an average wave over the very spot where I was sure dozens of surfers before me had scored the tubes of their life. I now understand how the Grizwold family must have felt when they arrived at Wally World to find it was closed for renovation. There was no security guard we could take hostage and force to turn on the wave, so we had to take other measures to find a new spot.

I had asked around the local boogie board population about other waves in the island chain, but with my limited language skills, and their lack of knowledge of anything outside their tiny village, I found out nothing. We had picked out a few potential zones for wave exploration on the charts of the area, but two days of sailing is a long way to go on a hunch. Then, one fateful morning as Josie and I were ashore buying bread at the local market, the large woman behind the counter asked me in passable English, “Are you a surfer?”

I responded in the affirmative, and her face lit up. Turns out, she is an avid boogie boarder, and president of the women’s body board club for the entire island chain. Now, as I mentioned, this was a big woman. How she managed to get all of herself onto a boogie board remains a mystery to me, but she turned out to be the most helpful person I have met in all of French Polynesia. She proceeded to write out a list of all the islands that have rideable surf this time of year, along with a description of each.

Some of the spots were the same as the ones we had been considering, but there were a few surprises as well. Unfortunately, all of them are to windward, so it will be a mission to get to any of them. I, for one, will have a much easier time enduring the long journey knowing with some certainty that there is a good wave awaiting us at the end. I thanked the shopkeeper profusely, and then she did something which really blew my mind.

Upon learning that Josie sells Brazilian bikinis, she asked her to come back with some suits for her to try on. Josie went back and sold a few bikinis to both our friend, and her mother, who was about 100 pounds heavier! You just never know what to expect from someone on first meeting them. I really appreciated the help, but I also was glad to leave before I had to see the two ladies prancing around in their new thongs!