WILL WORK FOR FOOD

SUP Magazine - - Frontside - –EU­GENE BUCHANAN

I HAD A ROUGH SPRING. A skin can­cer di­ag­no­sis (too much time on the wa­ter with­out enough sun­screen) and en­su­ing ra­di­a­tion treat­ment saw me lose 18 pounds off my fight­ing weight. But it didn’t stop me from trav­el­ing to Croa­tia just two weeks later to SUP the coun­try’s north­ern Dal­ma­tian Is­lands in the Adri­atic Sea.

For­get that I didn’t ex­actly gain any weight back on the half-a-globe flight over, which didn’t serve any food. Or how I ar­rived in the port vil­lage of Zadar too late to dine, and caught the next morn­ing’s ferry too early, as well. The real clincher came when I dis­em­barked on the is­land of Mo­lat at 7 a.m., stom­ach growl­ing, only to find the tiny vil­lage com­pletely shut down. The few restau­rants and lone gro­cery store wouldn’t open un­til 6 p.m. Up to 600 peo­ple used to live year-round on the is­land, but now it’s dropped to maybe 70—mostly re­tirees and fish­er­men. All of which means stores, es­pe­cially in the off­sea­son, are often shut­tered.

So I did what any starv­ing pad­dler would do. I went for a pad­dle around the har­bor, pro­tected from the re­gion’s three preva­lent winds— bura, maes­trale and jugo.

That’s when I saw the same winds help a beau­ti­ful wooden schooner sail into port. Two tour guides got off and be­gan un­load­ing bikes for their clients. I pad­dled over and be­friended them, step­ping off my board to help them un­load. With the whole day to kill be­fore I met my friend, Marko Mrše of Ma­lik Ad­ven­tures, I asked if they needed help lead­ing the tour around the is­land. Lo and be­hold they did! Best yet, the tour in­cluded a chicken salad lunch with tra­di­tional bu­rek pas­tries. I was saved.

That evening, I fi­nally met Marko on the lone restau­rant’s deck and watched the sun bathe the vil­lage’s or­ange-tiled rooftops in soft alpen­glow. “Sorry I’m late,” he said, as our waiter de­liv­ered fresh oc­to­pus baked with pota­toes, which we washed down with lo­cal wine (Zin­fan­del is an an­ces­tor of a Croa­t­ian grape). “Hope you found some­thing to do.”

“No wor­ries,” I replied, more than happy with the day’s pad­dling, cy­cling and … sand­wiches.

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