Blood From The Road


Field notes from the Bali Issue

Mikala Jones takes on the slab

The road is long and hard. And less than an hour into our midnight trek towards some un-mentionable Indo island outpost, I've already stumbled into a concrete ditch and raked half the flesh from my leg. Shit. Indo's full of fun little traps like that. Everywhere you go, you see pretty tourist girls with puss-oozing scooter burns on their inner calves; pudgy vacationers charred lobster red except for a tank top's tale of how pasty white they were the day before; hardened tube-dudes stained yellow with Chinese medicine over their reef rashes. These are the real travel souvenirs. And stepping off the side of the road to take a mid-drive leak, I just bought mine.


Maybe this is the universe's way of telling me not to sweat the shallow reefs at the far end of our journey, 'cause you can rake yourself anywhere anyway. On the other hand, maybe it's telling me that I'm accident prone and should be more cautious. Hard to tell. The universe is ambiguous like that. Guess I'll just keep watching for more signs, and try to keep this little memento from getting too infected and really turning into an adventure.

Welcome to Indo. Leave some blood on the road to find your way home.

Everyone's got their own reason for being here on this road trip. Veteran expat Mikala Jones has his personal Indo-kid filmer along to build up his clips. Eleven-year visitor Ryan Turner has one, too, in his on-going hunt to document a 25-second tuberide. Maui-boy Hank Gaskell is searching for a couple more keepers for a possible section in Taylor Steele's Campaign III. Ian Walsh is building his section, too, even though Taylor already told him, "No more tubes for you." A now sponsorless Greg Long (since OP dropped their entire team) is taking a break from a long tour-of-duty in South Africa on his first trip to Indo. And Dustin Humphrey and I are putting together the pieces of SURFING's upcoming "Bali and Beyond" issue, so we figured a nice little road trip with a mixed bag crew of hard-chargers like this couldn't go wrong.

Boat trips are sterile, pre-packaged environments. Driving is the only way to really experience Indo. So we've loaded up the cars, piled onto the ferry's, and we're off on a mini swell-chase.

Everyone's got different reasons for being here, and then again, they're all the same one. More than the hunt for the tube, the clip, the shot…it's just the hunt itself. Going beyond what you already know, a little further down the road. It's all a state of mind. When the swell starts taking shape on the far end of the ocean, you either stay or you go. That's the only question to ask yourself. And that's the only reason we're passed out on the windy deck of this overnight ferry.

Out at the break, it's ages between sets. The predicted swell didn't quite materialize as planned and the boys drift off the crowded peak and further down the reef. Seems like this once-secret spot is getting less secret all the time. So it goes.

There's dudes who've been coming here almost 20 years. Back when you had to hike in, fish for your own food and camp out on the malaria-infested beach. You can see 'em when they surf, these dedicated tube-hunters, they know this wave better than they know their wives or kids or their buddies back home…because they have none of those things. All they have is this wave. But such is the nature of progress that now you only need a sturdy {{{4×4}}}, a couple dollars for hut on the sand, and plenty of warm Bintang and cheap noodles for between your sessions. It won't be long before they pave that road, refrigerate that beer, and "further" won't be as far away any more. So it goes.

The wave is still pretty epic. Even if conditions aren't quite as all-time as expected. It's a long ride, and mostly tube-time. But you push it too far, and you're gambling over dry reef. The boys drift past this shallow zone, to a perfectly shaped and stupidly dangerous section once famously charged only by Hawaiian hellman Shawn Briley. But that was at high tide. And few have ventured there since.

Now Ryan Turner, the most familiar with this place, leads the charge down to this questionable bit of reef. He gets slammed on his first one, but is quick to paddle back out for redemption. Ryan eats reef for breakfast. He likes it in his smoothies. Then Hank Gaskell shows ups, having just connected two tubes that would have been legendary if not for the drop-in the broke his flow in the middle. Hank slips right into a freak set, disappears for way too long and then comes flying out. Grinning ear to ear. He comes jogging up the beach smiling like a BayWatch episode, saying, "I haven't had this much fun since I was 10 years old." He jogs up the beach and paddles back out for more. Then Mikala cranks into a thicky, jamming some heavy tube-time and picking up a souvenir of his own on the reef; a nice little reef gash across his kneecap.

Just one more…
The sun is setting now. It's the universe's way of telling us "now or never." And suddenly all the boys are going for it over the crazy end section of this freakish non-wave. It's brief and sketchy stuff, but a full-on balls-to-the-wall session. Golden light. Hoots from the beach. Blood and fiberglass on the reef. Next time we come back, it'll probably be crowded down there.

That's the humbling part about traveling with these top pros; these veteran reef maulers like Mikala, Ryan, Ian, Greg and Hank. You push out to the edges of exploration, the ragged perimeter of known boundaries, where salty dogs of many nations are hunkered down in the dirt with their scarred flesh and their thousand-yard stares, and when you get there, these pro guys, they show up and push the envelope just a little bit further.

[Stay tuned for the full "Bali and Beyond" experience in SURFING's December issue, we're pushing out further and bringing home some souvenirs.]