What's the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions Oman?
To most people, it's just an obscure and rather dangerous country located somewhere in the volatile Middle East. To others, Oman is a melting pot where different cultures and civilisations have been mixing and crossing paths for centuries along the fabled "Spice Route" where the Indian Ocean meets one of the driest, windiest, and hottest deserts in the world.
“‘Bring your GPS’ was all Callahan
wrote in a cryptic email he sent me
before flying to Oman”
Not many know about its unique environment, an amazing combination of history, culture, geology, climate, flora and fauna that makes this torrid place lively beyond any expectation; and fewer have heard tales about the gems hidden along Oman's coastline, an endless array of idyllic pointbreaks waiting for long-period Indian Ocean groundswell. Fewer still have been lucky enough to lay their eyes on these treasures.
Our crew of travelling surfers, lead by ace photographer John Callahan, travelled all he way to Oman willing to experience what we know, explore what we don't know, and hopefully get our hands on the prize without getting lost in the vast, empty desert.
We must look like aliens to the curious and quite confused Omanis who wonder what the hell are we doing in the middle of the Arabian desert with five boardbags strapped on the roof of a mandatory Toyota Land Cruiser. Well, maybe we are aliens to them, but at least we're one of a kind: Caribbean surf legend and pidgin king Zed Layson from Barbados, photographer and explorer extraordinaire John Callahan, Cambridge man and longboard maestro Sam Bleakley, underground ripper from Cornwall Tristan Jenkin, globetrotting photographer Emiliano Mazzoni from northeast Italy, and myself (Emi Cataldi) from Roma in Italy definitely make for an interesting crew.
"Bring your GPS" was all Callahan wrote in a cryptic email he sent me before flying to Oman. Now that we're here I am definitely glad I brought it: after just two days into the trip we already have over a dozen of good set-ups marked down along the east coast of Masirah, a large island that lies off the coast of Oman and that we choose as the first stop on our exploration.
This island is completely arid, and and the dusty landscape; mostly due to the abundance of black Ophalite stone, looks positively Martian but the thriving contrast with the surrounding turquoise waters make it one of the most beautiful and unique locations we've ever seen. From the top of a sandy hill overlooking Shelter Point in the south, we scan the horizon hoping to catch a glimpse of the mega swell that's firing all over the Southern Indian Ocean from South Africa to Indonesia, but she's been playing with us for the last four days, testing our patience and our skills to survive the ultra sharp and shallow reefs of Masirah.
Three different swell pulses hit the island over the last six days, each with a period well over the eighteen seconds mark, but still we haven't quite found what we came for. Sure we found some good waves and got some fun surf, but all its has done is making us want for more, and we all agree at dinner that night that it's time to move over to the mainland and explore its surfing potential.
After a long day of driving through the Arabian desert on Oman's excellent roads, we finally get back on the coast just in time to see the last set of the day flawlessly peeling into the natural point of Al Ashkarah, a fishing port open to Indian Ocean groundswell. That's all it takes to convince everyone that moving up here has been a wise decision. Every morning we're on it at first light to make the most of the offshore northwest wind conditions, while we spend the rest of the day driving around looking for new set-ups.
It is during these afternoon missions that we finally find what we came for in the form of a perfect sand bottomed pointbreak and a wedgy little barrel that peels over a shallow sandbank. Are they mirages or are they for real? Luckily for us, it's all real and these two waves have changed my perception of this place forever: now the first thing that comes to my mind when I think about Oman is that green wave wrapping around the headland and peeling perfectly across the bay.