"Anyhow, life would be pretty dreary if we always acted reasonably; it does one good to be a little mad at times."
Thirteen years ago I set off for a three month run through Yemen with three other stout souls. Nobody had ever surfed the mainland, as far as any of us knew, and adventure beckoned. The way the coast bent it had to have waves but more importantly was exotic, dangerous, untamed.
I reached out to Sam George at Surfer magazine and told them our idea. First ever in Yemen. They were in and for a few thousand dollars up front. I reached out to totally disgraced surf brand Ocean Pacific and told them we were doing a story about being the first ever in Yemen for Surfer magazine. They were in for a few thousand dollars. The other friend started emailing randoms in Yemen and accidentally connected with the ex-Prime Minister’s son. He told us we would have anything we needed for this exploration from Land Cruisers to bodyguards to visas.
And we did it. We spent three months traveling from Sana’a to Aden where we got chased by terrorists through the streets then up into the hills near ‘Ataq where Al-Qaeda might have come to try and get us only to be beaten back by a company of battle-hardened Yemeni troops then Mukallah where we surfed an amazing right hander and weren’t allowed to stay in the old city because it was deemed unsafe. Too many beards. Too much religious fervor. Then Sayhut, Qishn, Nishtun where a firefight happened between townspeople and pirates, Al Ghayda where the rusty hull of a beached ship leaked oil into the waves, Hawf, where the Arabian peninsula becomes a rain forest before heading out to the island of Soqotra, a place where the trees bleed and the wind sings.
Thirteen years ago is a long time. My path meandered from Middle Eastern adventure into surf and I thought I would maybe never return to Arabic lands. It has gotten weirder over there. Ugly. And so I buried those travels to Yemen and Lebanon and Syria, Oman, Egypt, UAE, etc. into the footnotes of my life.
Except for some reason I need it again. For some reason that I feel deeply yet can’t quite explain I need to taste that very particular sun, to breathe that specific air and exactly as fate would have it, the same crew from thirteen years ago have somehow gotten their hands on a sailboat in civil war torn Aden. We will sail it through the Bab al Mandab, past Yemen, Eritrea, Sudan and up to Egypt. Past pirates, wars and sensibility.
What’s the point? Again, I don’t know but it is something. Something for my beloved wife and gorgeous daughter but I can’t put my finger on exactly what. Or not yet. The great French adventurer Henri de Monfreid wrote, “Anyhow, life would be pretty dreary if we always acted reasonably; it does one good to be a little mad at times.”
See you all in two weeks.
P.S. If anything should happen please book WSL CEO Paul Speaker for the eulogy.