Ar­chive

Re­mem­ber­ing the joys of dirt­bag surf travel

Surfer - - Contents - By JUSTIN HOUSMAN

A breath of fresh air is not nor­mally how you’d de­scribe a trav­el­ogue filled with so many sto­ries of pant-soil­ing, but “Se­cond Thoughts,” a 2002 ar­ti­cle by D.C. Green based on ex­cerpts from Timmy Turner’s feral In­done­sian travel jour­nal, was ex­actly that. Turner and friends Travis Pot­ter and Brett Schwartz spent an un­told num­ber of weeks on an un­named penin­sula in West Java. They found shal­low reef-pass surf al­most too per­fect to be real; they also found mad­ness. It was the sort of dirt­bag, un­com­fort­able and down­right dan­ger­ous trip that once de­fined surf travel.

But at the time, it was an out­lier – at least in surf me­dia. In the 1990s and 2000s, surf­ing’s main­stream celebrated lux­ury In­done­sian surf va­ca­tions. Worka­day surfers maxed out credit cards, took out se­cond mort­gages on their homes, sold their cars, worked dou­ble-over­time shifts for weeks on end, pil­fered their kids’ col­lege funds, and made all sorts of other ques­tion­able fi­nan­cial de­ci­sions to spring for 10-day boat trips on big-dol­lar surf yachts. The pros were on­board too, just with­out the fi­nan­cial sac­ri­fice. Mag­a­zines and surf DVDS were filled with star-stud­ded casts of well-heeled, overly-spon­sored pros tear­ing into empty, hyp­not­i­cally-per­fect In­done­sian surf, be­fore re­tir­ing below decks, where they splayed out on leather couches, ice cold beers in hand. It was in­cred­i­ble, but also more than a lit­tle ex­trav­a­gant.

Which is why Turner, Pot­ter and Schwartz’s trip was so damn re­fresh­ing. “Not since Craig Peter­son and Kevin Naughton cap­tured the foot­loose vibe of ‘70s surf ad­ven­ture in the pages of this pub­li­ca­tion has Amer­ica bog­gled at such gonzo wan­der­ings,” Green wrote in the ar­ti­cle’s in­tro.

There was no fancy boat. They traded boxes of cloth­ing to lo­cals for live chick­ens and goats—an­i­mals they’d eat in the bush. They hob­bled over ra­zor-sharp reef with makeshift wooden spears and fished for stingrays. They drank rain­wa­ter col­lected from palm fronds. They slept out­side most of the time, of­ten in pud­dles of their own filth, wracked with a va­ri­ety of un­pleas­ant gas­troin­testi­nal nas­ti­ness. One of the most mem­o­rable pho­tos from the trip showed Turner bathing in a pea-green pond strewn with al­most more garbage than wa­ter. You can prac­ti­cally see the cholera teem­ing on the pond’s sur­face.

The trip was full of fear and home­sick­ness and lit­eral sick­ness and busted eardrums and reef rashes and night ter­rors. It weighed on them. Turner fre­quently won­dered why he was away from Jes­sica, his ex­pect­ing girl­friend back home. Was he be­ing self­ish? Was he be­ing true to him­self? Could he even trust his own thoughts? He feared he had gone in­sane at one point. “We all scored the best waves of our lives, and lost our minds at the same time,” said Schwartz.

Oh, and they got bar­reled. Did they ever get bar­reled. The trip was the ba­sis for Turner’s 2004 surf movie of the same name. It’s a kind of feral “End­less Sum­mer,” with Turner nar­rat­ing in the same excited, but dis­be­liev­ing tone as Bruce Brown did 40 years be­fore. The whole movie is like a fever dream of the best pos­si­ble sce­nario for surf on a ran­dom, un­in­hab­ited In­done­sian is­land. Ev­ery nook and cranny seemed to hold a translu­cent tube rac­ing over live coral. Turner and his crew of­ten surfed in full wet­suits, booties and hel­mets, bounc­ing off the shal­low reef below. The mind shud­ders con­sid­er­ing what would have hap­pened had any of them re­quired ac­tual med­i­cal at­ten­tion at any point dur­ing the trip. Thank­fully, de­spite an ap­palling amount of di­ar­rhea, none of them did.

The trio even­tu­ally re­turned to Orange County, for­ever changed by their ex­pe­ri­ences. And so was the surf world. For lots of surfers put off by the cost or gaudi­ness of lux­ury trop­i­cal surf travel, “Se­cond Thoughts” was a rush of smelling salts. Surfers had al­ways been will­ing to fall off the edge of the map in pur­suit of waves, but we’d grown soft and com­fort­able in our meth­ods. Turner’s crew re­minded all of us that there was value and joy to be had in go­ing truly feral. S

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