From Surfing – September 1999
A voyage of discovery, survey, and preservation, and of course surfing. The Quiksilver Crossing is a twelve-month voyage aboard the Indies Trader 1, a 75 foot, 95-ton vessel carrying a marine biologist doing work for reef check, a team of divers, and an alternating crew of some of the best surfers on the planet. The Crossing has been criss-crossing the equator to explore remote and pristine reefs around Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and finally Fiji in hopes of finding new waves and new information about the oceans health. This particular leg found Strider Wasilewski, Todd Morcom, Peter Mel, Micky Picon and Gabriel Davies ferreting around the islands and atolls somewhere near…
Life. You grow up listening to your parents talking about how its going to be a process of progression – high school, college, then a job!. As you get older you start questioning this process. Your mind wanders, and dreams become bigger part of your life. But your parents, unless they were hippies, will tell you not too get caught up in your dreams and stay focused on society’s plan. This is serious bullshit and just because they conformed doesn’t mean you have to. Your dreams are your reality and your future, and our way of processing it is changing whether society likes it or not. I’ve been following my dreams to the ends of the earth, with the help of Quiksilver’s new fantasy called The Crossing. It’s an ocean journey charting new reefs and waves across the South Pacific aboard the Indies Trader 1.
The names and the locations of the islands we visited have been withheld for the preservation of beauty and pristine conditions of our adventure, to be enjoyed again at a later date. (if you think you’re clever you can put together by replacing asterisks with the same amount of letters.) We arrive by jet at the airport a little after midnight. The town is dark and dusty and about an hour after arrival we lose Peter Me. We’re at the store trying to find something to eat, Pete want’s a beer, but there’s nothing in the store so he goes outside. Todd Morcom and I follow after him and he’s gone. We hear a voice say, “He went to the Black Market.” Never saw who the voice came from but we weren’t waiting around to get malaria so we cruised back to the hotel. About an hour later Pete returned, no beer and Chris Ward story (every time I go on a trip with him he comes back with a crazy dark hallway story) about all the evil goodies you could buy at the black market.
The next morning we wake to a call from Suzette, Quik’s make it all – happen girl, telling us we have to fly to ***** to catch the Indies Trader. We are tripp’in on this cuz we’ve just traveled half way around the world already and the Euro’s – Micky Picon , Gabriel Davies and Bernard Testimale – have been waiting in the hotel for three days. Not to mention we are in a country where people eat each other and worship the devil as their god. Well, not anymore but you could see it in the eyes of some of the men (this stuff just stopped happening in the mid 1800’s).
Flying to ***** was the most beautiful flight I’ve ever been on. With crystal clear water and reef passes everywhere you looked, our trip was slowly turning into nothing less than a dream. On our flight we have spotted the Indies Trader on its way to the island of our destination. The flight was almost over and we started our descent. The only problem was we couldn’t see the landing strip. Our pilot wasn’t worried; he just did this crazy nosedive into the trees of this tiny island that they used for an Airport and landed on dirt runway stopping at the end of the island! We unloaded and took a boat to the hotel.
The next morning we awoke to a beautiful sunrise and the boat was waiting in front of our hotel. Paul the cook, was going to the market so Morcom and I went with him. Our mission was to get a new coffee maker, as much produce as possible and to try Beetle nut, when chewed, gives you a natural high, but the downside is it turns your gums bright red and rots your teeth down to stumps. Our mission was accomplished except for the coffee and the products. Back on the boat we went.
To our disbelief, ten minutes around the island we were looking directly into a perfect left with an even more perfect right just a quarter mile away. We were so stoked to get lucky so quickly. We surfed into the sunset and paddled back to the boat for a celebratory beverage. Pete was feeling really good and drank more beer that first night than the whole crew drank the entire trip.
The next morning, perfection again, offshore, three to four feet and inside bowl that you could do just about anything on. After the session, we all kicked on the back of the boat and ate, and that’s when it all came out. Bernard (the French photographer) was sharing a room with Pete and that first night Pete was so drunk he got up and peed all over Bernard’s luggage. We also found out Paul fell overboard trying to take a pee. Pete’s room stank for a couple of days giving it a European quality. (Sorry Pete, but I just couldn’t resist.) After lunch and all the stories, we jumped into the tin boat and surfed the right – it was perfect! We stayed in this area for three days surfing our brains out, but time was ticking and we had a lot of ground to cover. Cruising south, we passed perfect set up after set up, one reef looked like G-Land only three times as long. After six hours of powering we needed to get back into the water. Our captain Martin Daly, assured us surf was near. He was right. About thirty minutes later we pull up on another perfect left. Morcom was the first one off the boat. It looked small until Todd took off and we realized it was a solid wave. The reef was so bright it looked like we were surfing on a sandbar. This session was much appreciated after the long boat ride.
The afternoon we checked more coast line but our main concern was to fond a good place to anchor for the night which wasn’t easy where we were. We had to find water that was less than 150 feet deep and in these islands the water was 600 feet deep only 30 yards offshore. It got dark and we were in unfamiliar seas using charts that weren’t exactly accurate. Some weird stuff happened that night and I must say it was pretty spooky. We all knew something was wrong when it was dark and the boat was still moving. Usually we would anchor before nightfall but we couldn’t find shallow water. Driving by radar and a depth gauge was how we navigated our path. In the wheelhouse the captain had turned off the stereo and didn’t say a word, standing at attention watching the depth-gauge with a concerned look on his face. The whole boat was quiet with an unsure feeling of what was going to happen as we searched for anchorage. The next thing we knew the captain shouted out, “What the f—k was that?” The boat slammed out of gear and terror ran through everyone’s mind. The depth gauge had gone from 30 feet to one foot and it totally freaked out the captain. It turned out it was just a upwelling of really cold water that registered as landmass. The terror was gone but we were still on edge, including the captain. He then took us away off the path and into what looked like harbor charts.
By the time we got there I had gone into my cabin to lay down and try to relax. Then the boat stopped and I got up and went outside. What I saw blew me away. Not 40 yards from the side of our boat was a Korean cargo ship. This thing was huge! We were on an 80-foot boat and it made me feel like I was sitting on a longboard! The cargo ship was there raping the rainforest, taking away what made the place, leaving the land bare and without dignity. The Koreans must have thought we were with Greenpeace because the whole 24-hour operation shut down when we arrived. We found this out from the villagers who had visited the boat that night in the rain. They said they had been there for weeks and every two days a new ship would come. Soon enough, the captain got us to a safe place and we all slept well despite our evenings adventure.
The days ahead were long, no surfing, just fishing and s—t talking. It was on the 16th of April, my birthday. We hoped for waves but got denied, so we got s—t faced. The cook made me a huge chocolate cake with raspberry sauce and ice-cream. It was made in the shape of the Quiksilver logo, not bad for being out in the middle of the ocean on a boat. Then the captain busted out a bottle of gin and we continued to get our fade on.
Still no waves in the morning.
Three days had gone by with no waves, but we still had the end of the island to check out, so we stopped for fuel and supplies. We met this guy who told us about a resort at the end of the island that had been taken over by refugees. They had raped and pillaged the place, robbing all the people, they had been there three days and the local authorities wouldn’t go near the place because of the black magic the refugees use. Needless to say we went way around that area and on to the next island.
Our next destination was the last island on the cabin – the end of the road. No waves but we had our first field trip to the beach and a history lesson I’ll never forget. The people were very welcoming and invited us to see their village, which seemed like a good idea. Hornbaker had been reading about this place and said there was a sacred hut you could walk in to. We took the tinny outboard to the beach and we were greeted by dozens of children, then the elders came down, introduced themselves, and gave us a guide to take us to the hut. Albert was the guides name and he broke it down for us on the hour walk to the other side of the island. He told us how old chiefs would eat the femur of the leg from the village chief they had just killed in battle. He told us it gave them the power the chief had had and that it gave them longer life. Albert also told us they used to believe in the devil as their god until the Christian missionaries came and converted them.
When we arrived at the hut the people all gathered around and welcomed us. In the huts were the remains of the elders and ancient chiefs. The vibe was heavy, after about twenty minutes we left in awe of what we had just learned. These people black skin and white afros had taught me more in two hours than any school teacher had ever had.
We had two days left and still no waves, so we went scuba diving. We spotted in this beautiful bay and suited up for the dive, the water was the clearest water I’ve ever seen, over 200 feet of visibility. It was my third dive and Paul and me went down to 160 feet. It’s like being in a forbidden world – you are in a place where you are not supposed to be, seeing and experiencing things that weren’t meant to be explored. If you aren’t careful King Neptune will throw something at you as a reminder. Gabriel got a little reminder he didn’t even see coming until the shark was halfway up his ass. Morc and I just lay on our backs and watched our bubbles rise like glass balls shimmering in the sunlight. By the time we go to the top we were so high all we wanted to do was go back down.
The last day we woke up and the boat was rockin’, the swell had come up overnight. King Neptune must have read our minds the day before when we were diving. The swell was cranking; we found a right first: nice, heavy, deep blue water moving. This wave broke up against a cliff over a very shallow reef that got a piece of Pete. Then we moved on, Peter and the captain went searching in the tin boat and radioed about half an hour later. They found a perfect left! This wave was the best we had found on our voyage. A solid six-foot barrel that closed out onto a dry reef, so going straight wasn’t an option. It turns out this would be our last session. Once again we surfed into the sunset, the end of another amazing dream come true!
So to everyone out there, don’t forget to follow your dreams. They are your reality!