Jesse Hines and Brett Barley come from North Carolina. Pablo Gutierrez from Spain, Raine Jackson from Oz, and Damien Castera from France. Together, they thought they'd seen it all. Until they came to this place.
By Andrew Lewis
Photos by Sergio Villalba
We're running from the storm. Static-choked phone calls up north tell of swelling wadis and home-leveling winds. The outer island has been completely evacuated save for some brave Bedouins and their herds of goats and camels. The sea is pounding the coast with a steady flow of 9-meter waves — that's 29 feet for the metrically impaired. Brett Barley, who stunned the North Shore this winter with a semi-finals finish in the Pipeline Pro and who was raised in surf of the typhoon pedigree, was hoping to get a crack at this unheard of swell, but even he knows it's impossible right now. "One of those pointbreaks up north must be firing," he says during one of our many pit stops along the ruler-straight highway heading south. "I can't help but wonder."
We all can't. Wondering is the name of this game. No one expects anything more than potential here and let's face it, some stretches of shoreline in the Sultan Sea "have potential". Whether they're world class or not — well, that requires proof. And as of now, we're short on luck as we put the Land Rovers in 4-wheel and hit the beaches in search of our maiden surf. So short, in fact, that our first bit of exercise after our 8 hour run south comes from pushing two of our four Disco's out of deep, deep sand. It's nearly 100 degrees outside and the wind is howling onshore and thick with salt. "This is shit," Pablo says, squinting seaward and dripping in sweat. "We have to get out of this f—king wind."
The wind. It's the X-factor here. Anyone will tell you that, from the nomadic Bedouins who leave the coastline in the summer months for the more sweltering but less blustery inland wastelands to our Bear Grylls-esque guide Rob "Rambo" Gardner — who finds 10-day hikes in the lethal Arabian desert relaxing and enjoyable. His maps and uncanny driving ability in the sand dunes and rocky canyons promise sheltered pointbreaks and a chance at blind luck. And even better, there's no rush to find swell – there's plenty of that — we just have to find the proof. There's just too much potential for it not to be out there.