Terry Fitzgerald, Jim Banks, Terry Richardson & Long Left Tunnels
Flashback To The OM Bali Pro, 1982Read more
Most of my surfing experiences, looking back on them now, seem pretty witless. I just seemed to blunder into things, head full of dreams, but almost nothing in the way of actual preparation. Many of them ended as witlessly as they began, but frankly, I’ve forgotten the majority of those.
In June 1982 I went to Bali for the first time. This was a couple of years late in the travel curve for my generation of Australian surfers; dozens of people I knew had already been there and come back with a light glazing of Eastern mysticism, or road rash, or both. But I am not a natural traveller, and by then I had a job at Tracks mag. That meant I needed an excuse, and that excuse came in the shape of the 1982 OM-Bali Pro.
I’d been hanging around with Jim Banks a bit at the time. Banksy was super-glazed, plus he was the defending OM-Bali champ. Stay with me, he said, I’ve got a place lined up.
I remember those first hours off the plane maybe the way everyone does, or did. They were always night-time arrivals then. The smells, the confusion, the soft Balinese voices mixed with the hard hawking of the drivers on the make: “Trrrrrans-port!”
Banksy had a losmen somewhere along Poppies Lane, a little side street at the time. Simple joint, two beds, meals when we were there, which turned out to not be very often. Banksy was jazzed in his quiet way: “There’s gonna be surf in the morning! We’re going to Ulu!”
“Wow! Are we!” I had no idea what to expect, but fuck! Morning of the Earth, etc.
“Early start,” said Banksy.
He wasn’t kidding. We were up at 5am, boards and gear, walking down to Bemo Corner to meet a driver he’d lined up the afternoon before. I was fascinated by the pace with which this happened — while people were already darting about the street, dogs and chickens going nuts, the actual process of meeting the driver took nearly an hour. A relaxed hour, not a stressful one. We sat and had a banana pancake and a coffee flavoured with chicory. I tried to copy this back in Australia later — the coffee that is — it never worked.
As soon as the driver showed, everything was rushed into action. I wondered if all Indo was like this — nothing happening for ages, then a frantic dash toward whatever you’d been supposed to be doing. It felt familiar, a pattern you grow used to as a surfer. I dozed a bit and looked out the window at the dusty country, trying and failing to catch glimpses of the ocean.
Eventually the driver pulled over in a makeshift parking lot, where several people were gathered, seemingly waiting for us, or for someone like us. These were the legendary Ulus board carriers, who for roughly A$5 took all your gear in and out along the four-kilometre bush track that was the only way in to Uluwatu in 1982. The carriers greeted Banksy with joy, and trilled the “r”s in my name when they heard it. “Nick Carrrrrrrroll!”
“Surf BIG! Nobody!”
So what do we do, I asked Jim. Jim pointed to a gap in a hedge and a path running across a field. “We go down that,” he said. “You got your shoes?”
No prep, remember?
So yeah, I went all the way down the old Ulus track, first time, barefoot. Running, following Banksy over fields and down rocks and limestone gullies, trying not to fall, watched by the odd cow and maybe a few curious monkeys. Totally helter-skelter. I didn’t think about breaking anything, though I shoulda, but the moment caught me and dragged me down the path to this epic surf spot, eleven years after Alby had shot Rusty Miller and Steven Cooney in that hypnotically defining movie sequence, and I couldn’t think of anything else but that.
It was 10-12 feet and Outside Corner was off the hook, and Banksy and I surfed it with Al Byrne for about five hours. A few more guys came down but only a couple surfed. We drank Fantas and ate chicken for lunch and hiked back out. A week later Terry Richardson won the contest, and Banksy became a classic surfing nomad, and I went shoelessly back to work at Tracks.