Bryce Young swings into a dream. (Ellis)

Have A Sneak Peek At Our Indo Issue

SW #397 Lands Thursday

Read more


Mostly I remember the faces. Calm, curious, smiling, if not slightly baffled by the fluro blue zinc smeared across our noses as we zoomed past in our three dollar a day bemo enroute to the early. This was Bali 1989. And back then the drive from Legian to Canggu reef took the best part of three hours. Not long out of Kuta Square, the land quickly became rural. No shops. No clubs. No resorts. No schoolies. The road was a sketchy, pot-holed single lane snaking through countless villages and rice paddies. Chickens, cows and ratty-looking dogs littered the streets. Roadside fires spewed hot white smoke into dense sweet air. The suspension on the bemo was shot to pieces and the aircon nothing more than an open window, but the lack of comfort didn’t register as we bounced along because the world outside electrified our senses. It was unlike anything we knew of at home, and those faces, those beautiful, kind and peaceful faces, they made you feel like you were somewhere special. Somewhere sacred.

I nearly drowned at Canggu on that trip. Got caught way outside in a fast building swell. Paddled over a 15 wave set that broke a little further out with each terrifying line of Indian Ocean that marched into the coast. Everyone else had gone in and I was stranded out to sea, 13-years-old and crying my eyes out. Eventually a wave broke too far out. I turned around and held my rails for dear life. The wave swallowed me, pushed me deep, pummelled and beat my wiry frame for an ungodly amount of time until I popped up spewing water. I scrambled for my board and climbed back on just as the next wave hit. This time I shot towards the shore as if from the mouth of a cannon. When I got to the beach I ate a handful of black sand just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. Nothing had ever tasted that good.

A few years later I returned, this time ready for real surf. We got skunked so we drove up to Balian and checked into a resort where the owner, an Aussie expat named Bob, sat at a table drinking beers all day and stroking his colostomy bag like it was Blofeld’s cat. We scored epic sessions up there, which stoked me out no end as I was a huge fan of the Jack McCoy video Sons of Fun. It had a sesh of Margo, Purcho, Ross Williams and Dorian going mad on the very same wave. Later, my little brothers Ronnie and Wiz busted a couple of the staff having a root in one of the spare rooms. Silverchair’s ‘Tomorrow’ and Alanis Morissette’s ‘You Oughta Know’ were getting flogged on MTV all over the island. They weren’t the most epic Indo stories, but they mattered to me then and they still do now. Memories are cool like that. Nothing can sometimes mean everything.

The next few trips took me out of Bali. On the Seven Days Seven Slaves trip our boards never turned up, sending our entire crew into a drinking binge that ended when Dan Malloy did a high-speed belly slide across the wet pool tiles head first into a pot plant that knocked him out cold. On a trip sailing across northern Irian Jaya, I surfed a left point off a village where the locals had never seen wave riding before. They lined the cliff and sang and danced and cheered with every swell, and we paddled in and pushed them on a few waves before leaving them a couple of boards when we pulled anchor. I went camping with the ferals in the Panatian and after three weeks in the most disgustingly humid, windless hell I paddled out and twisted my ankle. The next day was pumping.

I surfed an amazing session with Bruce and Andy Irons on one of the Bali rights. Four to six foot and just the three of us out. I watched Tom Carroll cook Jim Banks at eight foot Temples. Unforgettable. I saw my best friend fly off a motorbike into a tree, breaking his back, his collarbone and three ribs. “I just wanna be a good boy,” he wheezed through the pain in the back of the bemo bound for Denpasar Hospital. I had mushy trips good and bad, called Parko’s perfect heat at Keramas and saw John John’s alley-oop in the flesh. I played footsies under a dinner table with a beautiful girl who will go on to become my wife in September. I’ve had the best times and the worst times and everything in between, and every time I go there, the stories get better.

Indonesia is a place of so many legends. From Steve Cooney’s first wave at Ulus in Morning of the Earth to Peter Crawford’s mythical 30-second barrel at Desert Point that saw him walk in, throw his board on the sand and quit surfing for three years (“It will never get better than that!” he’s believed to have said). There’s Boyum and Lopez at G-land, the tsunamis, the endless discoveries, the performance leaps, the fantastic and the disastrous. But inevitably the best Indo surf stories ever told are the ones you share when you get home. – Vaughan Blakey


Vaughan Blakey