I have owned a surfboard for over 40 years, not all those years was I an active surfer, but maybe a surfer in mind only at times but still a surfer. Did I ever imagine that 40 years after buying my first surfboard that I would be still chasing waves with a band of friends on a desert island on the perimeter of the Indian Ocean…not this little black duck?
The tropical storm meanders off down the coast; we dry off as we introduce ourselves to our new world. So here we are some 7000 kilometres from home as the crow flies, a bunch of surfing gypsies about to call Awera Surf Camp home for the next ten days. If I take you back to that cultural classical Australian movie, the Castle, where Michael Caton has a line something about this is not a house it is a home that changes the course of the movie, well Awera Island feels like home to me.
Imagine long sandy beaches lined with palm trees and crystal clear water, Awera certainly has all that. Awera doesn’t have a pool, bar or restaurant. It is small and it comfortably sleeps six guests with a team of four to make our time memorable. The camp is cut out of the jungle overlooking the bay and if you can imagine Gilligan’s Island but without Maryanne, Ginger and Mrs Thurston Howell but with five Gilligans, you are close to the mark.
No roads no cars and no machinery to speak of on the island but a generator for power and our boat to transport us to the waves.
What is the attraction of surfing, it’s hard to put it into words so I won’t try as many a skilled wordsmith has attempted to “capture surfing” in words so I will leave it to 60’s Hawaiian surfer Paul Strauch, Jr. He puts it this way, “Surfing is very much like making love. It always feels good, no matter how many times you’ve done it.”
Our idea of a holiday/adventure is not for everyone. In a world where Risk Management has become a catch cry as we try to negate risk, many a dinner party conversation isn’t complete without the topic of the risks of travelling in Indonesia (sans bombing) and the dangers that can be associated with surfing this delightful archipelago. Life is a risk but some of us accommodate risks far better than others. Risks in the western world are more in relation to inadequate medical insurance or insufficient superannuation to allow you to live a life that you are accustomed to; probably the greatest risks are driving a car or being out in public after midnight.
Back to Awera and to quote the Aussie vernacular, Shit happens.
Post storm and with fuel in our bellies we head off to crack our trip open and we load up the boat with bodies, boards and enthusiasm and make out way to Icelands. How does a large left hand wave in the middle of the tropics get called Icelands, well I can’t give you a definitive answer but I am sure there is a story to be told but that’s for another time.
So the five Gilligans, myself, Wallaby, Fingers, Blackie and Chips arrive at Icelands with small inviting waves and within minutes we are “overboard” and paddling across the coral reefs and charging to the lineup. Did I say shit happens some time, well, Chips took a small innocuous wave and while exhibiting the correct “bail out” procedure he teaches as a well-credentialed surf coach in Australia his left forearm comes in contact with a coral head. No glorified graze, a deep three inch slash to his inner forearm that has blood dripping from his arm and a rather shocked man trying not to panic. We are some 30 minutes from camp via our trusty boat and basic first aid is applied by Pete our surf guide and host at the surf camp (thanks to Steph, Blackie’s wife for the first aid kit as she is a nurse in the emergency ward on the Gold Coast). Chips is bandaged up and is back in the boat and off to the hospital at Tua Pegat (the capital of the Mentawais) as the sun begins to set.
As good hearted Australians we can only find humour in the whole event, which of course becomes funnier as the Bintangs (local beer) kick in. Time elapses as it must and with no sight of the returning boat, the conversation begins on who gets what of his gear if he never returns. It is quickly established that the prize is his “Chicko Roll” t-shirt that will have to go to auction. More time elapses and more Bintangs consumed as we hear the sound of the boat returning across the bay.
Our demeanour is relaxed thanks to the Bintangs and our obnoxious humour doesn’t go unnoticed by our fallen comrade on his return; the scars of battle stitched back together, about 10 stitches to be exact. While we try our best at being compassionate to his plight he sees through the façade and trudges off to bed while we drink another Bintang to honour the return of our injured wave warrior.
To be continued….