On the edge of an empire, on the ledge of Iberia, with their backs to the Old World, the boys stare at the sea. It is morning in Ericeira, Portugal and 18-year-old Parker Coffin looks down from a cliff at an overhead lefthander, empty and oily in the windless dawn. Parker, Griffin Colapinto, and Nic Von Rupp study the surf in silence, a silence that seems to preface some profound observation. And Parker took a crack.
Griffin blushes and protests, "I saw a topless girl laying out at Off the Wall last winter!"
"She may not have been European, though," says Parker, grabbing Griffin into a noogie-laden headlock.
Here in the Old World, the roles have reversed and Parker, once a younger brother, is now older brother to Griffin and dishes out the grom abuse in bountiful servings.
"Looks tearable out there boys. We're on it," decides Parker. Ironically, though Nic has been showing us around -- Nic being the local Portuguese pro surfer and resident national -- Parker's been calling all the shots. He's also coined the term "tearable," or waves that can be thoroughly torn apart.
And indeed the lefthander is quite tearable. Parker, Nic and Griffin indulge for several hours before Parker obliterates his board on a bizarre lowtide drainer that catches him off guard. By trip's end, Parker will have broken most of his boards. Parker gets into sticky situations like that often. Before the trip even really begun, while on the plane in the middle of the night, Parker had to use the bathroom. The man next to him was fast asleep, so Parker decided to climb over the guy by standing on the arm rests. But Parker slipped and dropped into the stranger's lap, straddling the man, face-to-face. A very sticky situation.
It's how Parker negotiates such scenarios in life that are his strong suit. Like his surfing, he's got a great recovery. From fins-sliding to fins-catching and into the next bottom turn, Parker has that quality about him -- that perpetual look of, "That all you got?"
Coming in from the surf with broken board in hand, Parker sees the castle winking at us from the distant hilltop. He points to it. "Let's go there."
Along the way, the whitewashed towns are medieval and sleepy, every chimney has its own little roof and Portuguese town folk converse halfway into the streets. We follow the signs to a town called Sintra and approach a dark and mossy forest. Along the way Parker does an impromptu standup bit, playing comedian, audience and heckler.
We follow a trail through the forest that leads us to the fortress gates. To the Moorish Castle, the majestic remains of when Portugal was once ruled by North Africans. The boys look out at the Old World from the lookout towers and discuss topics of worth on stone steps many centuries old. Topics like, "What kind of princesses and babes was this place holding back in the day?"
We take some group pics by an old window and catch Parker raising his heels against the wall to add some height. He winks and says, "Can't have the grom looking taller than me."
Through the lookout towers it is impossible to tell if any woman on the shore is or is not topless. Let alone, European.