Bali Strickland arrived from Oz smiling and in full form, ready for anything Swell and I could throw at him. As chance would have it the surf was up, the anchorage was a sandy 25 feet, and the sun was shining between puffy white clouds that burst with rainbows over the stunning black-green backdrop of the island’s towering crater peaks. On our first afternoon, despite a royal flogging right out of the starting gates, I caught a few solid bombs and we already felt like the surf footage was in the bag. The swell was supposed to stick around all week and the wind forecast looked mellow. But before we went praising our destination choice, life quickly reminded us that “the test never ends,” as Bali perfectly put it. It could never be THAT easy, even on the third round with a filmer!
The next day the swell dropped a bit, and it turned out that not just Bali and I seemed to think this was precisely the right place in the world to be. I’d been here before and hadn’t had any problem with the crowd, but the next morning boats and boys and boards seemed to materialize out of the misty morning air! There was a solid, seething pack of them before I could even get my sunscreen on!? Try I did to get waves that day, but they were absolutely RUTHLESS! An especially charming young crew from Hawaii had coincidentally descended upon the quiet little village for a week. The locals claimed they’d NEVER seen it that crowded. The line-up was chaos. There was absolutely no concept of a rotation. They wanted the big ones AND the little ones. The deep ones AND the wide ones. I tried everywhere. They paddled even if they KNEW they were too deep and wasted the wave, staunch-stancing through the inside just behind the section the whole ride, then paddling past me again with soulless, empty eyes after catching a wave for the fifth time right in front of me. And just when I thought there was an empty one, I’d scramble to turn around and see the whitewash give birth to a zinc-plastered body-boarder.