It's every traveling surfer's worst nightmare. To be lying on a cement floor in a Third World country savagely beaten, bruised, and bloody. Tired and disoriented, praying that if death does come form the angry mob quickly approaching, it comes quick.
Yeah, trust me, if I had to do it over again I would have just let them keep the mask. It’s just a mask. Wasn’t worth any of this.
For 38-year-old surfer Joey Cones from Sunset Beach, Hawaii this terrible nightmare became his harsh reality last week while on a surf trip with a friend in Indonesia's surf-rich Mentawai Islands. In his first interview with the media since returning home to Hawaii, Surfermag.com was able to sit down with the surfer-turned-beaten-hostage to find out just what happened to him in the jungle.
So you're back home in Hawaii. From what the mainstream media tells us, you've had quite a week. What in God's name happened to you in Indo?
I was in the Mentawai Islands on a surf trip with my friend Stephen. [Stephen is 19, lives in Hawaii, and this was his first trip outside of the country] We were staying at a home stay over there—I'd rather not say which island because I don't want to hurt any of the local businesses with my story—when the surf went flat and we decided to go diving. On the way down to the beach we passed these two shady guys. We were friendly, talked to them, said good morning, all that stuff. Then we went out to the beach and went diving and came back to our home stay and were just cruising. That's when I found out that my snorkel mask had been ripped-off. I thought that it was probably those two shady guys I saw earlier, but I wasn't about to do anything about it without talking to some of the local people first. So I did just that. I asked the people at the home stay and some of the villagers about those two guys I thought might have taken my mask. They told me that those two were always stealing stuff; they were from another island, and that they were just kinda bad guys. So after hearing that, I figured I'd try and find them, hopefully talk to them, and get my mask back.
So this whole thing started over a snorkel mask?
Yeah, trust me, if I had to do it over again I would have just let them keep the mask. It's just a mask. Wasn't worth any of this.
So once you and your friend Stephen came across the guys who you thought might have stolen your mask, what happened?
I found these two guys in the jungle. We started talking and then arguing. Things got a little bit heated and before I knew it we were on the ground fighting. Bad news. Then, I saw about 10 to 12 villagers coming out of the jungle with these wooden sticks. Like pieces of wood you'd find on the floor in the jungle. They ran up to us with these sticks and we tried to get the hell out of there. Stephen got away, but I didn't. They beat me pretty bad for a while. I got hit in the face—above my eyes—and that opened up pretty good…I was bleeding a lot. Then I got hit in the forehead pretty hard, right below the hairline, and that was bleeding a lot, too. Then my back and ribs. They were beating me with these sticks all over. I thought I was going to be killed right there in the jungle. I passed out or got knocked out after a while.
So this was the first point in your ordeal that you thought you really might be killed.
Yeah, that was the first time. Somehow I ended up back at a local surf camp with my friend Stephen and another surfer from Argentina named Gonzalio. The owner of the surf camp who spoke English was there, too.
And that's when things went from bad to worse?
Yeah, that's when things got bad. Everyone has cell phones over there, and from what we learned, there was a whole boat full of people from another island with machetes and clubs on their way over here and they were coming for me.
So how did this whole thing spiral out of control so fast? How did you go from trying to get your snorkel mask back to being beaten by 10 people with sticks to having a whole boat full of people with weapons coming after you?
I think word was spreading that I killed someone over there. That's the only thing I can think of to have pissed these people off so bad. They must have heard that I killed someone or was just going around beating random people up or something. I really still don't know.