THE MOST BARRELLED MAN ON EARTH BY LEO MAXAM PHOTOS BY HAMISH
I'm hiking to the top of a hill overlooking the longest barrel in Indo. I'm hoping to find my guru: The Most Barreled Man On Earth. The Enlightened One. A monastic barrel seeker who spent the past quarter century camped out on this barren coast for months at a time. Forgoing worldly pleasures in order to surf every blessed swell that greets this miracle stretch of reef. Countless swells. Untold hours meditating deep within the spinning blue womb of this wave. Perfectly balanced between Nirvana and destruction. My guru's name is Pablo. Actually, his real name is Paul Miller – the “Pablo” thing just stuck after so many years surfing down in Mexico. The only son of Southern Baptist missionaries who migrated to South America, Pablo grew up in Brazil before finding his way to Indonesia in the early '80s in search of perfect waves. Then he stumbled upon this place. Back when there was no one here. And thus began surfing's greatest love story.
I was told to look for Pablo in a little wood hut at the top of the hill during high tide, when the assemblyline barrels vanish beneath the blanket of the Indian Ocean. When I reach the lookout, I find Pablo and his friend, Darren, reclining against the posts of the hut, lazily watching the afternoon tide make its retreat. Pablo is wearing a pair of ancient O'Neill boardies that look like they were hand stitched by Jack O'Neill himself. Discolored reef scars criss cross his leathery back. His bald head and grey beard are framed by a pair of broken sunglasses and an inward smile. Surely Pablo has much to teach me now that I've reached the top of the mountain. My questions for him are boundless: What has he discovered on his path to enlightenment? What has he sacrificed for a lifetime of barrels? Was it worth it? I have so much to ask. So much to learn. There's just one problem: my guru doesn't want to talk to me.