4 A.M. Awake to the discordant cacophony of prayer calls and roosters. Muslims don’t sleep in. Neither do waves. Down on the beach, the thunder on the reef is stronger than caffeine. Even in the darkness. The sound of the waves. Thundering. It’s big. How to paddle out? Where to sit? When to pull out? The empty lineup asked only questions. Was it makeable? Would it hold bigger? How big was it out there already? Only one way to find out. Into the darkness. Inch by inch. Harry’s on the beach with two new boards. Big and small. Untested and unknown. Hard to know which one to paddle. Backhand single-fin barrels are difficult. And at this size…you don’t want to know. He starts with the big one. Find out soon enough. It paddles great, but the fin is too small. It slides out. Tracks sideways. Delivers him to catastrophic wipeouts. He washes over the reef with a broken leash and Joao wonders if he’ll even paddle back out. Joao wonders a lot of things. Harrison paddles back out. Small board this time. Late drop air drop sketch drop. Huge pit. Big spit. Game on. Fitzy’s on his forehand. He’s been riding single-fins since before he was born. Pioneering Indo since he was able to walk. Big waves, too. Teahupo’o and Shippies and Outside Corner. He’s in his element and he’s charging. High-line head-dips and deep streaking barrels. Speed. Son of the Sultan. And no one else out. They spend hours on the wave. Dodging the strange shifting peaks and rogue outsiders. The wave has so much power. Thick lips hurl way out to the flats. The whitewater explodes, then explodes again. When you wipe out it’s a double-bounce tumble ride across the shallow shelf and a tricky slip back to the outside. Learning. Slowly learning. The local village is assembling on the beach. No cars in this village, but four passengers for every motorbike. They carry machetes and coconuts. Wearing Spiderman and Donald Duck t-shirts, salvaged from some ancient shipwreck. And there’s this banyan tree. Right on the beach. This massive banyan tree, right at the paddle-out spot, that tilts out over the sand so that you can literally just walk right up into its branches. The village boys know this tree well. They skitter high into the branches to watch the session from the clouds. They cheer for barrels and wipeouts as though they were the same thrill. At other Indo breaks, they’re hustling happy endings and friendship bracelets, but here the thrill remains untarnished. The raw rush of seeing surfing for the very first time. It won’t last. But for now it’s beauty to behold. Proof of how far we’ve come. How many swells have passed unridden at this break. And now these new gods arrive to dance amidst the thunder. The mythology of stoke. Captured on film. Celebrations at hand. And then the realization: This town has no beer.
Published on Dec 21, 2013