Settle in for a wonderful Balinese tale!
The other day, on a what I’m certain was a pointless story, a man by the name of Dogsnuts made a comment so wonderful I simply responded “You’re hired.” Two days ago he sent in one of the better, funner, surf travel stories I have ever read. Simple, straight… wonderful! And without further ado, I present… Kristopher “Dogsnuts” McDonald!
We’ve all been there, chasing waves across the vast archipelago of Indonesia. Truly unseaworthy crafts and dilapidated planes both piloted by total cowboys really keen to find where the edge actually is. I once took a flight on a domestic Garuda bird who’s door was threatening rattle off from the plane, the flight attendants ingenuously stuffing the seal with damp toilet paper. They legit paper mached the fucking plane together.
Idyllic settings and total despair.
Lovely hosts and crooked cops.
Perfect waves and the risks getting them.
So when my no longer surfing friends decided on quick New Years Eve party inspired trip to Bali I was all in. Of course I was taking boards, but being the off season there was no way I was chasing waves. This program was set to be a serious piss drinking and fully unashamedly Aussie idiotic trashathon. Set amongst the best party spot in the entrapment of Kuta, Troppo Zone was a free for all. You want to bartend? You want to chase the staff around with the electric fly swat? You want to set your favourite ever bar essentially made from kindling on fire with errant fireworks? You want to wrestle the guitar off Wayan and guide the band through a total rock set of songs they barely know of? And for our loosest member Vuka, who we propped up in the pool comatosed with a beer in hand full Weekend At Burnies style…….Do you want to do centurion shots (one a minute for a hundred minutes) of Midori Illusions for breakfast on New Years Day until you vomit and urinate on the establishment’s temple?
We could do no wrong. At the end of the day we were jovial pranksters only hurting ourselves. But the hurt was really building, bodily functions became a running joke. I never knew if I’d be hydrated again. Somewhat fortuitously I had booked two nights in Sanur at a flash hotel for three of us, proving to be a great half time moment to recover. However with us lunatics we quickly became the half time show. Loud and boisterous amongst the retirees and polite Asian tourists we were avoided like the annoying travellers we were.
So it raised a few eyebrows when I got up from dinner at the five star hotels restaurant to try my drunken hand at the completely beautiful white grand piano. I’m not a showy guy, quite the opposite so my friends had no idea that in the months leading up to the trip I’d been teaching myself piano by ear, just a bastardised attack of classical shit I’d made up in my head and a few Tool riffs thrown in for my own amusement. Some bluesy stuff. And a particularly dark piece I’d been giving my all for to finish off. I had kept the piano playing on the down low like a dirty secret. It was embarrassing to me. When I finished my “show” I was astounded to get a healthy applause from everyone dining, some even stood and clapped and thanked me. Alcohol had won the day.
The next morning after a hellish sleep broken by beer farts and a giant wet rat running across us several times I made a vow to go at least a night sober. Jeff was on the balcony already having can of fizzy orange and vodka, informing me of some nice rights peeling down the reef. We decided that it must be Sanur Reef and with it looking better and better by the minute with few souls out I was wildly getting my shit together.
I avoided the boat rides out, I paddled the long distance like some kind of penance. The water is bloody cold at times through the Bali/Lombok straight, it got me awake pretty quick. Positioning myself in the growing crowd I found the local crew equally as cold. I did all of the typical tourist moves, paddling for the wrong waves, allowing myself to be relentlessly snaked, drifting away from the peak for some scraps only to end up on shit waves and dry reef. And last but not least my all time pet hate.
Getting in the fucking way.
I was totally kooking it. The locals knew it and being the only whitey they did not let me catch one wave. Purposely they’d burn me on waves they didn’t even want. It was frustrating but quite funny. Their wave, their rules. I decided I’d wait it out and at least catch one decent wave from the premium position. With many waves in the sets I’d wait until everyone stroked into a dreamy peak, every single time I was left by myself for a chance at a wave the set would finish. Eight people waiting? Seven wave set. Ten people waiting? Nine wave set. This went on for a long time. The pack would hunt me, getting position and mobbing me before any more waves arrived.
Briefly alone again I saw an odd lump of water, it didn’t look like anything significant but it obscured something behind it, a bigger lump chasing it, trying to overtake an cannibalise the smaller swell. The pack was racing and screaming at me and I felt that stinging anxiety I get of missing my chance. Fuck it, I will attack this wave and fuck it up on my own terms. Everyone was their best to mess me up, but they couldn’t catch it, it broke so deep and in such an A frame it was me in contention only. Now admittedly I’m not the greatest ever surfer, but after my speedy elevator drop and a steaming race out onto the rather flat shoulder a gave my all at one turn, a fast roundhouse back into the big peak I’d taken off on.
One good turn, job done I thought.
But as I hit the peak and coming around something was special was happening, the double up came to life and it would have appeared as though I was highly skilled and knew exactly what I was doing. This wave of two swells truly became one, draining so very hard on the very visable reef that falling was not an option. That was hospital.
In an instant I was completely and utterly shacked, going at top speed. I estimate at one stage at least being 20ft deep and still watching a section loom down the line, as soon as I got to that I was double backdooring it at an even greater speed. Throughout all this the entire line up were losing their shit, pointing and screaming in actual delight. Everyone I spotted on this journey was as happy as me.
Then things got ridiculous.
I cannot overstate how draining and square this wave got, at such a speed and sitting mid face on this now double overhead bomb I had what only felt like millimetres of rail and one fin engaged in the water. I felt as if I was without gravity and suspended in time. As I was sitting mid face still very very deep I became aware of an odd sensation, I was getting incrementally tilted forward, little tail lifts it turns out from a speeding foamball. Eventually and evenly I was perched on a 45 degree angle purely riding only the front of the foamball, like a dead set fucking Monkey Magic on his cloud. The brief eye contact I with another surfer during this particular moment I’ll never forget.
And not one droplet of water hit me.
Things were coming to an end, a section ahead looked like a gamble and I been buried deep for a long ride. I saw one doggy door exit and with a speedy slingshot departure from the foamball I took it. Still drawing hard on the reef I was nearly wrong footed, having to actually go uphill out of the trough and pop an olly and stomp it onto the true flats. I’d done it, but now to ride out this whitewater explosion for max street cred. It died down and I was taking this one in as far as I could, I felt something like a gravitational pull and peeking over the back of the diminishing wave I saw the entire crowd waiting and watching with craned necks.
Had I’d made it?
I let them know with joyful fully extended double salute and hollered “Fuck yeah!” They erupted and I was applauded for the second time in twelve hours.
I’ll be forever grateful to the locals that hounded me and put me in that situation.
Back at the pool I was buzzing and swimming around on my board like a dick having a good laugh with the boys. The only way to calm down and get centred was a big feed washed down by a lot of beer and a rendezvous with that beautiful white grand piano. I often think of it, and then ultimately the wave and vice versa.
Aim big, every dog has its day.