I was on my wedding/honeymoon. So I was trying to contain my surf lust the best I could for the sake of my soon to be wife. We had a few things we needed to accomplish. We needed to find the perfect spot to be married. We also need to find the place to stay and celebrate the marriage. We needed to satisfy our craving for culture and we need to spend a couple days just chilling in post nuptial bliss – or as we referred to it, “Neck deep in the pool bar.” So I concentrated on getting those taken care of so I could just surf the rest of the trip. We were there for a month. So I figured I was safe.
We arrived on the tail end of a good swell. I squeaked a session at Uluwatu in the fading swell and bulbous crowd. I didn’t catch any really good waves. The next day was flat. The marginal conditions only fueled my desire to get pitted off my scone. I was there. I was walking through the cave. I was chilling in the warung swatting the hives of persistent Balos. So close…
Yeah, it looks kinda fun I guess.
But my wife pounced on the chance to search for the best spot to get married. I knew since it was flat, that it was my best shot at getting this done and getting back to the surf. Not that I was bummed to go find the place I was to marry this beautiful woman. It’s just that as a goofy-footer who grew up watching surf videos, I was freaking the fuck out.
We bailed up to Ubud after a couple of flat days and fell in love with the area. Any place that has a monkey forest is good in my book. We hiked, and searched and perused for days until we found our spot. It is called the Alam Inda and it is amazing. We had a crazy beautiful house that seemed like every inch of it was intricately carved. The front door alone was a 12 foot wide and six foot tall pocket door who’s every inch was detailed in a way only the Balinese can do. The bathroom was sort of outside. There isn’t a roof over the shower and the walls are carved stone. This made it seem like you were outside in a rainforest instead of in a bathroom. Upstairs, the bedroom had a beautiful window seat and and a hand carved posted bed with mosquito net draped around it. It looked like a scene out of a really old movie. It was perfect.
My wife before she realized she married an idiot and would have been better off with her admiring monkey for a life partner.
We had our day in the sun and a few more days basking in the warm-fuzzies. Ubud treated us well and we had a great rhythm there. But when the only bar in town that served VB (Victoria Bitter) ran out thanks to us, we decided to head back down the hill to the beach.
While I was love drunk in Ubud, a swell had come. A good one. And I missed it. I wasn’t bummed cuz the commitments were over and the Mrs.. and I were on a mission to chill. I still had almost three weeks left. So things looked good for me. My wife, Kristi, loves nothing better than to be left alone on a hot beach with a book and a drink. I love nothing better than to go surfing. What could go wrong?
Between injuries and illness is knucklehead times.
Some good friends of ours, Jean Pierre and his wife Reagan were in Bali too. I contacted them so JP and I could surf and the girls could do what ever they wanted to do. They were posted at Nusa Dua and the wind was supposed to be light. So I agreed to roll over there early to get some empty waves.
JP and I ended up walking for miles down the beach trying to find a boat to take us out to the reef. It was so hot I was kind of tripping out. We just kept walking. And walking. JP had a hat and rash guard on. I had no shade. After an eternity we finally found some boats and got the ride out to the peak. The waves were a lot larger than it looked from the beach. That was probably because the waves were out in the middle of the freaking ocean. I almost immediately broke my leash and spent the next two hours trying to not lose my board in the top-to-bottom right hand tubes. We got some really good ones, but I was taking it really easy. I didn’t even want to imagine trying to swim for a lost board out there.
The session wore on and it eventually dawned on us that the boat wasn’t coming back. So we agreed that we would just head in. I had reef booties on. I did offer one to JP, but he politely declined. We spent the next hour gingerly tip-toeing across the reef. The whole time I couldn’t stop thinking about how frustrated I was and once I had a leash on my board was gonna fucking destroy the next wave that dared to cross paths with me.
We finally made it to the beach but still had the grueling miles-long hike through soft sand in the midday Indonesian sun. When we finally made it to the hotel we found the ladies in the pool. As soon as I got in I new something was wrong. I was freezing. Loosing my mind. Quivering, shivering, chattering-ass frozen. So we moved to the hot tubs. Bad move. I started to really feel weird there. I wasn’t cold anymore, but I was getting dizzy and disoriented.
By dinner I was starting to lose control of my mind and I had almost violent fits of chills. Before dinner even arrived I had to excuse myself. JP walked me back to their plush hotel room. It was a short walk but during it, I fell out. The last thing I remember was entering the room and having convulsions. The air con was set to a ridiculously cold temperature and when I hit that air my body gave out. All I wanted to do was get the fuck out of that room. JP didn’t want me to since I was burning up. I think the convulsions convinced him that I needed to get out. So he wrapped me in blankets and left me on the porch.
I don’t remember much of the next week except for a couple specific incidents. The first was Kristi freaking out and demanding that I get in the pool. My fever was skyrocketing and I was hallucinating and having convulsions. She realized that the only way to get through this was to get me into the cool pool. That was the worst hour of my life. Period. I literally had to put a toe in at a time and then work through the convulsions. Once calm, another toe. And then a calf, another calf, a knee and so on until I was neck deep. The only reason I did it was the fear and worry in her eyes that she tried to hide, but couldn’t. I decided that death would be way better. But her eyes reminded me of what
we told each other a few day prior and I pushed myself into the shallow end losing my shit like never before.
I saw this photo before I shot it and was excited to take it. The farmer however was bummed and asked for money. He asked for $1 US. I gave him a couple and called it good.
Another incident I remember was entering a doctor’s office and some homeless looking guy was sleeping on the ratty couch. When we came in and asked for a doctor, the guy on the couch got up and invited into an examining room. He was the doctor.
After a solid week in the fetal position I finally felt like a human. We were near Kuta beach so I decided to have a look at the waves. When I looked, the whole freakin beach from end-to-end was lit up with swell. It was huge. And it was perfect. I decided I would go back to the room, drink lots of water, try to eat something and prepare to surf tomorrow.
While you sleep and vomit, the surf pumps.
The swell dropped a lot and it took me a long time to find the strength to wax up and get to the beach. But I was feeling almost decent and it was still chest to head high, straight offshore and lined up for hundreds of yards. What I didn’t realize was that there would be 7,000 Europeans in the water. I paddled out anyway and after an hour or so I was feeling good. I was catching waves and that familiar comfort was coming back. I started doing some turns, pulling in and all that jazz. I was back! I decided to head in so I picked off a really good one and milked it all the way through for a really long wave. I reo-d the closeout at the bitter end and used that speed coming down from the lip to propel me to the beach. As a sped toward the sand, a tiny touch of backwash headed out to sea, straight at me. I opted for a little ollie off the whitewater. I literally went two inches in the air and when I landed both of my legs split. My back foot slipped off the back, my front foot off the front. Both knees met in the middle of the board despite that not being possible.
I had that immediate floaty feeling in both knees and knew dead-on that I stuffed them. I literally laid on my board face down and broke into tears. If you ever tore ligaments, or even sprained them, you know that it doesn’t really hurt, per se. But still, I was crying like a baby. I hadn’t had a proper Indo surf. Now I was gonna have two sprained knees at the very least.
Kristi helped carry me back to the hotel which was painful and agonizingly long. I spent a whole day in a drunken depressed funk. I think Kristi was getting bummed too. And she pried about how my knees felt and what happens at rehab. She really wanted me to surf. I had given up. But she wanted me to be happy and pressed the issue.
The next day I decided to take a slow and methodical walk around the pool to see what was going on in my knees. Surprisingly I found that my right knee wasn’t all that sore. Just a little swollen and about 80% range of motion. My left knee however was really swollen, black and blue, and it hurt to think about moving it. 50% good news right?
I couldn’t really do anything else, so I did the 15 minute ice routine and went for slow, careful walks. I started getting in the pool and kicking the best I could. After a couple days of this I could walk and I began walking in the pool and adding a touch of gentle stretching. After a week I could walk just about normal and the I would even say the right leg was 90%. I was running in the pool and stretching for hours and hours a day. The bartenders began to refuse me ice cuz I was using it by the bag.
We took a trip to Uluwatu to have a look. I was feeling really good and was focused on feeling better. Then I stepped onto the cliff and saw perfect overhead Uluwatu. I just about wanted to kill myself. All that positive energy out the fucking window. I was pissed. These assholes were scoring the barrels of a lifetime and I was sitting in a pool doing tad-pole kicks all day long.
I decided once again, with gentle prodding from my wife, I was going to focus and get into the water. So the next few days I ate clean, walked, ran and kicked in the pool. I stretched and iced, all day. The swell came up again and I saw Kuta’s bomboras spewing plumes of spray from far away. Kuta looked like Armageddon. There was no discernible waves, just swell. Every-fucking-where.
The sign says it all.
I grabbed my 7’2” and headed to Uluwatu. It was fairly early and we arrived to almost no one about. I watched for a short time and was just fucking blown away at how long and perfect a wave could be. No one was out and I knew it was large, but not how large. After a half hour of almost shitting my pants, I said fuck it and pulled out the board. As I waxed up an Aussie asked if I was going. I said yes so he said he would join me. As we made our way down to the cave we saw a couple Brazileros head out and realized it was fucking giant. For some reason I kept walking anyway. I made the call and headed to the beach instead of straight out of the cave. As I walked along the cave wall headed to the little beach, a gia-normous snake slithered out of one hole in the cave wall and into another. It must have been six feet long and 12” thick. No shit. I freaked out really hard and ran to the beach. The Aussie guy was not worried about the snake, he was worried about the surf. I however, said fuck that snake and jumped in.
I immediately began speeding down the reef in the hell current. I encountered a few waves and had to adjust my duck dives to accommodate the big board. But I got it wired quickly and pressed on. A couple solid ones nailed me but I was scared of the snake so I wasn’t heading back in. By the time a finally got out the back, relatively easily, I was halfway to Padang. And if you have never been there, once you get down current of that headland at the end of Uluwatu, the current is fucked. As in – your fucked. So I put my head down and settled in for the safe but long paddle up the point. I figured it was a half hour before I made it to the take off spot. I was spent. Done. Tired but relieved I sighed and sat up to get my bearings.
Immediately there was whistles. Lots of whistles. I thought, “Fuck, the Brazilians are scrambling. OH FUCK!” Out the back, I mean way the hell out the back, a top-to-bottom steam train of a wave was coming and I was no where near safe. The worst part was that I had about a solid minute to think about how I was about to die. So I considered the options and did what I could. I duck dove the hairy bitch. I managed to hold onto my board and pop up quickly. The next one was twice the size and I was in a worse place.
There should be a sign on the cliffs that reads, “Welcome to the land of 15 waves per set.”
Maybe there should be a sign here that says, “Going Off Daily.”
When I surfaced at the end of the set alive, I was past the headland again, halfway to Padang. Now I was pissed off. I calmed myself and settled in again for the long paddle. I realized I hadn’t seen my new Aussie friend the whole time. Just then a voice came from behind me. “Fuck mate you got destroyed.” It was my friend and he had the look of psychosis in his eyes. He was just making it to the lineup for the first time. We had a lovely chat on the way back out and watched in horror as a set rolled through. A brave fella paddled into a peak and I finally saw how big it really was. Jesus-tittie-fucking-christ. These nut bags are riding 9’ guns and getting slotted. I was feeling a little ill, so I decided to not look anymore.
I finally caught a couple and felt better. It was perfection and I was surprised how easy it was to surf. My confidence was climbing slowly out of the basement.
Then “It” came. It being the largest set I have ever had to deal with. The first wave swept wide of me at 100 miles an hour making a horrible metal-grinding noise. The next one was bigger but adrenaline pushed me into the spot, I saw my opportunity, spun and went. The only thing I remember was thinking, “Don’t kick out, ride this thing all the way back to Kuta.” But man does it get shallow towards the end. And the sight of that churning, gurgling shallow reef turmoil made me choose a watery death over a dry, pointy reef one. So I pumped as hard as I could looking for a small break in the never-ending feathering lip. I angled up the face and tossed myself over the back. I managed to not get sucked back and was pleased my leash held.
A nanosecond later I was forced to weigh options again. The rest of the fucking 12 wave set was heading my way. Although it was only half the size of the outside corner, I wasn’t sure if I should try to push through or angle down the reef away from the whitewater. I chose immediate safety and ended up even further down the reef into no man’s land. When I finally popped through the back of the last wave I was surprised to see my Aussie friend. We both hollered at each other, stoked to have survived that set. I told him how amazing and crazy long my wave was. I asked him about his wave and his reply was, “I never caught a wave mate. I got dragged all the way down here.” It seems he saw me snag one of the first waves of the set and tried the same. He took it on the head and basically did the Richard Simmons Underwater Aerobics for about a half mile.
Crazy perfect, stupid big, virtually empty and a completely unforgiving bitch.
We battled the current for a while until we realized we were actually going backwards down the reef. So we gave up and looked for an escape. We saw a very tiny break in the cliffs with a rock/reef beach and some foliage leading up the cliff face. We agreed that was about our best option to get up the cliff. The problem was that head high drainers were landing on exposed reef in front of that little spot. We needed to act fast and my buddy said, “Fuck it,” and paddled in. A wave washed over him and he managed to stay above the impact and floated onto the beach. I tried to time it the same way but the swirlies and boils were pulling my board all over. I looked back to see a wave pitching out. So I sprinted forward with my fingers brushing reef as I reached. The wave landed on my calves and I was propelled violently over the dry reef