Posts Tagged With: surfing

ANNOUNCEMENT: STAM BA YAM

IMG_20190406_125226Since last I wrote and three of you read, I’ve dealt with that sudden slap-to-the-face of reality.

I tried parking in Israel with family and friends to write the book but the ongoing conflict and occupation wasn’t the peace and quiet needed for reflection.

Mentally: past traumas rose from their suppressed hiding corners of Brain’s memory.

Emotionally: the partner at the time had really pushed me into a mirror and had much needed self-work.

Physically: Spine did not enjoy carrying 30 kilos for three years.

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Flinders St Station, Melbourne

After a year in India, the relationship with the ex blew up like the Middle East (honesty was not her best policy) and I returned at the beginning of 2018 to where it all began – Melbourne, Australia. I reunited with family and friends and searched a way to adhere to a moneyless lifestyle while avoiding ‘The System’.

I house-sat for an amazing family living in India who had a summer home in the small coastal town of Airey’s Inlet in winter – my first in five years. 14 layers, a beard, a pair of UGG boots, a tattoo, hot-water bottle (there’s a reason why it’s called a summer home) and six months later, I emerged from the pad of isolation and self-reflection with a thousand-page manuscript, having been introduced to Men’s work and self-healing via emailing back and forth with a therapist in Israel.

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The Bedouin Dancehall Beat

I purchased a van – The Bedouin Dancehall Beat – lived in it around Lorne during summer. Surfed, worked in property maintenance with a legend of a man who let me camp on his farm where kangaroos would rouse me to rise with the sun. Gigged Lorne’s Christmas party with one-off band – This One Time – and tried my mouth at some stand-up comedy. Tried dating apps and ended up collecting material for said stand-up bit (‘Netflix and chill’ means sex? Who knew).

Love did find its way into my broken heart and began to heal it. Rony is raw, pure honesty, intelligent and one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. Now we head off on a huge joint-adventure: a long temporary return to Israel including working and living throughout the entire summer, leading up to another election bout in September.

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David Ben Gurion

We’ll be staying with her amazing parents in the small town of Ganei Tikva, about 7 K’s south of Tel Aviv. I’ll be teaching local kids on summer camps how to surf and respect the water and teach tourists how to drown in the evenings to a beautiful sunset.

We’ll be exploring – with Animal – around the Holy Land as much as we can, playing music, doing comedy and reporting to the three of you that still read these Nomadic Diaries with pictures, videos and weekly 500-word articles (seems I get carried away with my writing). And even an Instagram page (oi vey).

IMG_20190406_125738Unconventionally flying on June 16th from Melbourne with three days in Zurich, Switzerland, to break the jet-lag, we land in Tel Aviv on June 20th and begin the new adventures under the title of Stam Ba Yam, in Hebrew meaning, Just by the sea.

In the words of the great Jake the Dog and Finn the Human: “It’s Adventure Time!”

Categories: Adventure Travel, the Middle East | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

THE OCTOPUS SURF

Octopus Surf

© Edy Rodrigues

“Come any time, grab a board and hit the waves,” Edy offered.

I couldn’t believe it. At the time, I was teaching surfing at place that took advantage  of my volunteering bartering ways, so I quit and found Edy, then based at Pink Orange but now based at Sea Bird Beach Cafe in Morjim, North Goa.

I know what you’re thinking: India and surfing? This pizza-sliced shaped nation is surrounded by water so yes, India and surfing. On the east coast you have the Bay of Bengal which produces some gnarly waves as Appu, India’s surf champ (placed first in 2016 and third in 2017) and owner\operator of Ocean Delight Surf School in Kovalam, described the right-handers to be, “Big, man. Some days we get 6-foot, some days it can be 10, up near Madras.”

On the other side of the sub-continent, you have the Arabian Sea where during monsoons it is impossible to even approach the water let alone think about going in. The undertow would suck you in like a crocodile taking a zebra and spit you out somewhere along Somalia’s coast in a flash.

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© Oscar Sutherland, 2016

But during the season, which tends to kick off around September and last through until June-July, the waves are perfect for beginners. Easy going, chunky and rarely exceed the 2-foot marker.

Except when a cyclone hits as it did this year and produced some 10-footers with fast-paced barrels as Swapnil, Edy’s teaching partner experienced.

Which is why Goa and Edy’s surf school – Octopus Surf – is the best place to learn how to tame the most powerful element on our planet – water.

“I love octopus,” Edy explained the origins of the name. “Fascinating creatures.”

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© Oscar Sutherland, 2016

Goa’s abundant beach breaks make it a safe spot to learn with nothing but sand to brace your wipeouts. It’s shallow for up to about a hundred meters out and the waves start breaking just 30 meters from the beach itself.

“I’ve been surfing for about six years,” Edy explained. “I love it.”

As do I. I don’t regard it a sport. Rather a connection to the water. It’s therapeutic and meditative, cleansing my being of everything and spitting me back out on the beach with a new, clean slate. I like to think that it’s not me riding the wave, rather the wave allowing me to ride it (until it’s had enough and kicks me off).

Surfing is one of those activities where you either love it or you hate it. There’s no middle ground. And I love it. I taught myself how to conquer Neptune’s anger at a late stage in life, when I was 29.

No one told me I should have started on the white-wash. Instead, I paddled straight out for Lorne’s 3-4 foot powerful breaks that taught me a lesson or three. And although I’m no world class surfer, I’m a world class wipe-outer.

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© Oscar Sutherland, 2016

The best time to surf in Goa is from early morning until about lunchtime when the offshore winds change to an onshore, crumbling the waves.

On occasion, if I was early enough, I’d find myself sharing the water with dolphins, watch the Brahmani and Brown Kites head out to sea to fish or a flock of sandpipers flashing from brown to their white underbelly as they follow the local fishing boats dotting the horizon.

Fishermen on the beach would scrub their beached boats, cleaning out their nets while dogs and crows hovered about for scraps. Every now and again a fish or a few of them might leap out.

The waters of the Arabian Sea are usually quite clear and warm with a lot of glassy days. Your main traffic concern would be the tourists who seem to be so fascinated by surfers that they remain where they are in the water as you and the board you’re riding head straight for their grinning faces.

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© Oscar Sutherland, 2016

And it’s always good to be able to surf without a wetsuit.

Edy and Swapnil are both locals who know the waters quite well (as does Appu in Kovalam) and are connected to the other surf schools down the coast.

The prices at Octopus Surf School are local (other schools target the tourists and charge disproportionately) and their teachings, from what I’ve seen, are easy to follow.

No matter what level you’re at when it comes to water sports, I’ve yet to meet a student of Octopus Surf that hasn’t managed to get up on a wave or leave without a smile. The boys also run surf camps for kids combining yoga and acro-yoga which go hand-in-hand with surfing.

And you’ll never see either surfers without a smile on their face. How can you not smile when your life is a beach?

If you’re ever in Goa, check ’em out on Facebook or via the website or just head to Sea Bird Resort in Morjim and ask for Edy or Swapnil.

If you end up in Kovalam, Tamil Nadu, head for Appu’s school, Ocean Delight.

Tell ’em I sent ya.

Categories: Adventure Travel, Asia, India, The Indian Ocean | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

AND A WAVE WE GO

“Ready?” Bazza turned to me.

I breathed in deeply. “Ready.”

After three days in our cabin (leaving only to fill our 2-minute noodles with hot water), we docked at Lembar in Lombok.

We gathered our gear and headed down to Deck 3. The rest of the passengers had congregated on the deck and made it almost impossible to get through. Somehow, we found ourselves in the crowd being pushed out towards daylight. Baz got sucked right out as though the craft were losing pressure through an airlock, while I was pushed along to the gangway.

“We made it,” I grinned at the blinding sun, welcomed by its tropical heat.

As soon as we stepped off, three bus drivers latched onto us.

“Where you going, Mister?” they said.

“It’s OK,” said Baz. “We will make our own way.”

“$40 I take you to Mataram,” said one.

I cracked up laughing and patted him on the back. “You’re funny.”

“$20,” said another.

“Thank you, but we’re good,” Baz explained, his words falling on deaf ears as the drivers hung around like Outback flies.

As we started to walk up the road in the melting heat to get the public bus, one driver made us out to be a cow-pie and followed us.

“$4 each,” he smiled.

“$1.5,” I said. I was over being ripped off and this sonofabitch was going to take us for just, “$3 for the both of us.”

“$4 each,” he haggled back.

“How much did you pay?” Baz asked one of the passengers.

“$4,” said a man in a yellow shirt. “Local price.”

Bullshit. “$3,” I said again. “You can make money, or you can make no money.”

He drove off leaving us to pool sweat out of every pore under the beating sun. I could feel one uncomfortable drop slide down the middle of my back and into my crack. We reached the main road, every O-jek and bus driver asking for $4.

The same driver returned. “$4,” he said again. “Each.”

“$3 for both of us,” Baz haggled.

And to our surprise he agreed. Baz sat up front while I sat in the packed back, kindly asking the man in the yellow shirt to remove his hand from my knee.

He asked me what religion I was and, forgetting that I was in a nation where lack of religion meant arrest, I found myself explaining to him that I believe in what I see. “If I see God, I’ll believe in him. I don’t see him so I don’t believe.” I explained Karma and when he asked about my sex life in the very subtle words of,

“Do you like to fuck?”

I told him kindly to mind his own business.

We were dropped off at the outskirts of Mataram. We walked a further 300 meters to the crossroads where a police outpost was setup in the shade. The cops hiding from the sun spoke perfect English and helped us stop a bus and negotiate a $2 price each to Sengegigi, where waves were to be found.

After almost losing my surfboard on a tight turn, we made it to the small resort stretch of beach –Sengegigi. Westerners were everywhere and after obtaining some information from Anne, a local working in the Internet\dive shop (who let us leave our gear there while we walked around) we headed off to the surf shop so that I could get some swell conditions.

“No swell this week,” said Jocko, the local behind the counter.

“Shit,” I said, staring at the the Magic Seaweed website showing that my best chances would be Saturday night and Sunday morning.

We thanked him and headed off to find a money exchanger. While we enjoyed the air con, two westerners walked in.

We said, “G’day,” and chatted with Brian O’Brian, an Irishman and Pablo, an Argentinian living in the South of Lombok. They invited us for some beers where we chatted about life on the island. Baz and I explained how we were travelling and by the second beer Pablo looked at us both and offered, “If you want, you are more than welcome to come and stay with me. I have plenty of room but no running water yet.”

Baz and I stared at each other. We couldn’t believe our luck.

“Thank you,” we both said. “Thank you so much.”

Pablo shrugged. “Don’t worry about it.” He even called Suliman, a local friend of his to ask about any swell down where he lives. “Tomorrow big swell coming,” he said. “I will take you there in the morning.”

Finishing off our beers, we piled Pablo’s car with all our gear and with the surfboard in the middle, we drove around Mataram as they had errands to run. It was the first westernised city we had come across since arriving in Indonesia. There was a Pizza Hut, a McDonald’s, a KFC and a shopping centre.

“Disgusting,” I said aloud.

Coming into the island we had noticed the abundance of mosques everywhere.

“There are a thousand mosques on Lombok,” said Pablo. “My house that I am building is right next to a mosque. They face their speakers right into my window. I’ve asked them to turn it away but do you think these people have any regards for me?”

Mosques sound off the call for prayer at 04:00 every morning, then just before lunchtime, just after lunchtime, mid-afternoon and the evening.

We bought groceries at the supermarket as there is, “Literally nothing and nowhere to buy food where I live,” said Pablo.

Baz and I bought a thick crusted $4 pizza which we devoured in the car and our new friends stopped at McDonald’s. Bazza and I had a McFlurry (I haven’t eaten junk food in 8 years) with M & M’s and with the first bite I knew I had made a serious, gastronomical mistake.

As we drove through the dark, unlit streets, Pablo struggled to stay awake at the wheel. “I just landed in the night from 3-months in South America,” he explained as something started to move in my stomach.

I turned to Baz. “Baz,” I whispered across my surfboard, “Baz, I’m touching cloth.”

He could only grin as I clenched every muscle in my lower torso. I breathed in and out slowly, trying to participate in the conversation.

“We are about 20 minutes away,” Pablo announced, answering Brian’s query of whether he was OK to continue driving. “I’ll be fine.”

But my stomach wasn’t. My ass was begging me to let the flood gates open and I was holding on for dear life. I was about to tell Pablo that he needed to pull over when he took a right turn and stopped before a gate.

“We have arrived,” he announced, hoping out to slide it open.

“Brian,” I turned to the front seat. “I need to use the toilet. I’m touching cloth.”

“Touching cloth?” he turned to the backseat.

“I have a turtle head.”

“Ah. Shit.”

Literally.

Pablo drove us in and parked in front of the garage. As I stepped out I was greeted by his Labrador, Jupiter, a beautiful beast that had me flashbacking to my childhood with memories of my Belgium Shepard.

As soon as I stood up it was easier to hold off the turtle head and I even helped carry in the heavy bags of groceries.

“Pablo,” I turned to our gracious host, “how do you go to the toilet if you don’t have running water?”

“I’ll show you,” he said – after he showed me the upstairs where he got a flash light.

And then Baz, Brian and I helped him take his outdoor furniture from the living room to the outside patio. Then he took me through the darkness of his huge property and flashed the light on the outhouse.

“That’s the well where you draw up the water,” he pointed to the bucket next to the shallow well, “and here is your toilet. Enjoy.”

He gave me the torch and I breathed a sigh of relief as I released every muscle from my lower torso south as soon as my butt cheeks touched bowl.

An hour later I came back to the house. “This is why I don’t eat junk food,” I announced.

We chatted with our hosts up until midnight before we retired to bed. Bazza and I shared a mattress and at 04:00 the muezzin of the next door mosque blasted his morning prayers into our room.

“The fuck is that?” mumbled Baz.

“Call for prayers,” I mumbled back.

He shut the double-glazed windows and silence settled back in.

***

“My mate here almost died yesterday,” Baz was talking me up to Lisa (German), Thea (English) and Gabby (American), three girls we met at a roadside eatery.

“What happened?” they gave me the floor.

The girls were staying with Suliman, the local who had told me about the surf and had hired out his bike to us.

P1040160“Suliman said there was big swell coming into Desert Point which is a reef break,” I began my story of defying death. “We arrived and there were these beautifully shaped, perfect barrels going left for about a hundred meters. Only thing is, they were breaking on reef and all the surfers were gunners.

This point is for pros, I found myself thinking.

Nevertheless, I paddled out and tried to get some waves. They were no bigger than 4-foot. But then Neptune dropped the bomb – literally. The 4-foot swell suddenly grew to 9-foot. It was like watching a 3-storey house rising up out of the water. Everyone had started to paddle and so did I except I was a lot further back.

I got caught in the impact zone. I watched as this giant wall of water rose above me, blocking out the sun. I ditched the board and dove under. The water treated me like seaweed. It threw me around and I was holding onto the leg leash so that I would know which way was up.

I popped my head above the whitewash and sucked in some air before being sucked under and thrown onto the reef. And lemme tell ya something, reef is fucking sharp. Every time I got to the surface, another 8-footer took me under and threw me over the coral like a soccer ball rolling across the road.

It was a 6-wave set and I copped every one of those 9-footers. I seriously thought I was done. I managed to ride my board over the reef on the whitewash of the last wave, sacrificing two fins. I limped out, almost collapsing on the beach. My feet looked as though they’ve gone through a blender which is exactly what one of the locals said to me as I dragged myself out.

I said to him, ‘Blender? It was a fucking industrial food processor.’

Then I managed to haggle the price of 3 fins from $20 to $15 from Suliman,” I grinned, blood dripping from my feet.

Not that the ordeal was worth it but I was glad that it was only me feet that copped it. My board was still whole and surfable and my face still held its rugged good looks.

The girls sympathised and we agreed to meet up in the evening for beers and music provided by my guitar.

Upon reaching Pablo’s house, I cleaned my feet with alcohol, biting my lip to as the level of stinging reminded me what it was like too accidentally scratch my balls after handling chilli. I spread aloe vera straight from the cactus onto the open cuts.

“I recommend you don’t go into the water for a few days at least,” suggested Pablo.

It bummed me out but he was right. The wounds were open and I needed to wait for them to close to avoid infection.

Later that night, after applying the third round of aloe vera, Baz, Brian and I headed over to Suliman’s with my guitar. We met the girls, I jammed and we shared about 13 Bintang beers between us.

The girls were returning to Bali the next day so we exchanged contact details and invited them to come to Bazza’s birthday bash in Kuta.

“I reckon take your board to Bali,” Baz suggested. “You’ll get your wave there.”

And hopefully, I won’t die.

***

“Check this out, bro,” Baz stirred me to wake. “Ol’ mate that’s getting married in Singapore lives in Malaysia. His invited us to stay with him at his home after the wedding.”

“Sweet,” I murmured, trying to resume sleep since it just happened to be raining this morning.

When the rain subsided, we rode out to snorkel around the peninsula near where Brian lived. We swam across the channel which was 45-feet deep. I couldn’t see the bottom and, to avoid panicking, I kept my head above the water.P1040215

Reaching a small, white sandy beached island, we decided to circumnavigate it – snorkeling. For the most of it, it was tall grass on sandy bottom with hand-sized, black-dotted orange starfish everywhere, looking like specialised cookies.

As we rounded the island, we came across an amazing coral garden filled with small, colourful tropical fish that darted in and out, hiding from us as we approached them from above, like large zeppelin balloons.

A steep drop-off into deep blue waters had me sticking to swimming above where I could see the bottom. We rested in a small hut on the beach before returning to the water to swim back across the channel. The current was powerful and the bottom nowhere to be seen.

Baz was pointing at something, gesturing with his hands that it was big. As I looked down, a car-sized coral reef, from 5 meters below, appearing out of nowhere, took me by surprise. My jaw dropping, I took in seawater like the Titanic.

We made it back to where we started from and we rode back to Pablo’s house, stopping for lunch at the same roadside eatery as the day before.

“Big serving, please,” I gestured to the mama, trying to explain that we had been swimming for a few hours and we were very hungry. She seemed to understand as we were both presented with mountain-sized portions of a vegetarian dish called ‘gato-gato’ – tofu, with clotted, nugget-like pieces of rice, a satay-peanut sauce spread over  green beans and bean sprouts with a dribble of soy sauce. I added the spicy lombo and I was in gestation heaven.

We planned our next step. “Tomorrow we’ll catch the ferry to Bali,” reckoned Baz with myself agreeing.

And hopefully find a wave that won’t kill me.

Categories: Adventure Travel, Asia, Indonesia | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

WITHOUT SURF WHAT IS LEFT?

ImageI’m standing on the beach, an endless run of surfers running for the water like newly hatched sea turtles, leaving me to watch as I have no board. I stand, jaw-gaped in awe at the huge 30-foot waves coming in.

They flow like an endless waterfall, glassy, holding their shape. The conditions are perfect. They crash on the hidden sandbar when on the horizon a rogue wave – had to be 60-foot – rises like Poseidon from the depths.

 

It lingers patiently as every boardrider in the water paddles for it. It’s big enough to accommodate all the surfers, many more still running in.

And me, still standing without a paddle.

As the wave momentum peaks and the lip closes over, the white stream of wakes from all the boardriders heading left (goofy) and right (natural) look like a Blue Angels maneuver.

And then I wake up, wide-eyed, a light buzz and whir coming from the overhead ceiling fan reminding me that I was still in Darwin.

Still unable to find a boat to take me to Indonesia.

Still in a seaside town where entrance into the water is as safe as lighting a cigarette at a petrol station.

The lack of surf has now taken on the form of an IV drip bag, slowly dripping insanity into my well-being. The waters here in Darwin are of a green, brackish shade. Its got me looking at the sky for a daily dose of blue.

Sigh.

I need a new strategy. I made up new signs to post at the yacht clubs. I’ve headed down to the Darwin Sailing Club on their busiest night of the week. I mingled with sailors and skippers, got email contacts, tips on when to come and ask for basic sailing experience (Sundays, when they have local races), when to find the boat owners (morning, when they head in for their morning routine or the better option, afternoon when they sit around with a drink and surf the web) and when my best chances of finding crew would be – in a few weeks when most of the boats taking part in the Sail to Indonesia rally will arrive.

I’ll be starting my fourth week in Darwin next week where I’ll be moving to the boat where I’ve been doing some volunteer work as I’ve stayed longer than I should have at the Sariks, a wonderful and accommodating family that took me in without question, fed me, provided a shower, a bed and some good times.

“You’ve earned a week’s accommodation,” said Jackie, owner of ‘Jaz’.

I figure if I do some more volunteer work I could stay longer.

My guess is that I’ll only be hitting the water in about three weeks on one of the yachts taking part in the Indo rally. If I’m really lucky (and generally I’m not) I might be able to go earlier, in mid-July to Dilly, East Timor, cross the border to Indonesia by land and ferry it across to Bali.

I looked up volunteering positions in Borneo, Malaysia to help with the conservation of the majestic, and very much endangered, Orang utangs and Pygmy elephants.

I emailed an organisation and received a prompt response. They were very excited in my interest and even took it upon themselves to place me on tentative booking. All I need to do to confirm my place was pay the £195 deposit. “The remainder payment should be made as soon as possible.”

I was confused. I’m pretty sure that offering to volunteer hands-on meant that by giving my personal time and effort was reward enough and self-satisfaction once the objective was complete.

Has it come to this? That in order to volunteer my services in saving the planet I need to pay money? To help save animals whose habitats are being destroyed for money I needed to put in some greens?

This was to be one of the main objectives of my world-wide expedition – helping animals in need of help. Protect the endangered from the greed-hungry corporations destroying what they can to earn a buck.

Isn’t that why they have fundraisers and pledges? Telethons and vast amount of flyers and brochures pleading for you, the good citizen to donate a buck or two for the cause? “All donations are tax deductible” being the collective catchphrase to entice you to give the loose change hiding in your couch to a good cause.

Is nothing sacred anymore?

I was disappointed.

My new plan of action will have to be to show up on their doorstep and say, “G’day, I was in the neighbourhood and wondered if you needed a hand.”

I’ll be saving costs and paperwork for the organisation and being a persistent bastard, they’ll have no choice but to let me help.

Of course, I need to get to Indonesia and its surroundings first.

Categories: Adventure Travel, Australia, Northern Territory | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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