By Evan Slater
When you ride the waves of your life - and trust me, someday you will - I have one word of advice: let yourself enjoy it. This is especially true at a "new" spot, a place yet to be touched by surf camp operators, wandering tube gypsies or a heavy local contingent. A place where you know it will only be a matter of time when planeloads of surfers will show up with the same idea in mind. A place that stands all the risk of being "ruined."
You'll read a lot about one of these spots in our second annual "On Location" issue - this time in Africa. Earmarked from space in our Google Earth Challenge and confirmed during a three-week stay on land, Skeleton Bay is proof that we've still only scratched the surface in the "Dark Continent." With unlimited time and a Landrover full of cash, there's no doubt you can find dozens of Skeleton Bays along the untracked regions of Africa's west and east coasts. As Greg Alder notes in his essay (pg. 100), it's clearly the first and last frontier, a Mentawais with landmines.
But the harsh realities of travel don't factor in the equation when you're pigdogging through your umpteenth numbingly long sand-bottom tube. No, when emotions get stripped this raw, it boils down to two reactions: pure bliss and its inevitable side effect. The bliss part was easy. It started as soon as we rounded the bend on "Magic Monday" and continued well into the day - hours after I'd hooted myself hoarse. What came after it - what seeped in like a neurotoxin and polluted our systems by that night - was something far more difficult to accept: paranoia. "Chris Burkard just emailed Mendia and he says he knows where we are!" worried photographer DJ Struntz. "I just heard an entire film crew from Capetown is coming here next weekend!" someone else freaked. "And you know Surfline's going to pop their head up from one of these dunes any minute!"
It went on like this for a while, conjectures and concerns, blood pacts and secret oaths, until the raging stoke of the day turned into mere embers enshrouded in thick, black smoke. I guess this is inevitable - human nature in its most primal form. And looking back at that night now, I realize we were being selfish, silly and delusional. Fortunately, my memories of the place are again restored to behind-the-curtain euphoria. But I swear, if any of those bastards on our trip spill the beans, they're barred for life.