The Accidental Tourist

“How I Came of Age”

ESPERANCE—WEST OZ

WHEN IT COMES TO Esperance for the first contest of the year, it was strange to think that it was a World Cup event right in my back yard. No planes or checking–in traumas, made it feel like one of our local comps. However, there was this pressure factor. A few people had said, “Well, if you can’t win this one, what one can you win?” So there was a certain nervous/ relaxed sensation to the whole contest.

As it turned out, I needn’t have put myself through all that, because it never eventuated. The wind didn’t blow and the contest was incomplete. But it was awesome to see the pink sail of Robby Naish on my home beach, along with others who adapted quickly to our kind of waves. Polokow, Stone, Goya and Carvill were the best, due to the fact that they’re not Windsurfers, but Surfsailors

Once the circus left town, I no longer felt being here had a purpose. It was time to move on and there was no escape from this feeling.

Even though there was no contest to get to like previous years, there was something dragging me away from the place I love so much. I felt the need to be on Maui.

So there I was at the airport. Four months earlier, never wanting to see another airplane. Now I find the need to leave again.

After the usual drama of fighting over excess baggage ($300), I was actually happy to be in an airport, with the excitement of travel renewed. I suppose that’s how you know where you’re supposed to be. (When it feels right!)

So it was up to Kuala Lumpur for the night, then onto Bangkok the next day. In these parts of the world so many people, living in such appalling conditions, and so often with a smile. Whatever problems I have, are nothing when put into perspective.

Back to the airport with another discussion about excess baggage and the usual “I don’t know if it will fit on”, or when it will and the massive amounts of money it’s going to take.

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MAUI

A stop over in Taipei, Taiwan and I was off to Maui. From there it was straight down to Ho’okipa which was going off. I had to get accommodations organized and had to pass the urge. So many familiar friendly faces. Rick Markham said that Kelly Moore needed some one to stay in her studio, so I was instantly sorted. Big TV, video, stereo, coffee maker. Perfect!! Peter Volwater moved in not long after. He’s such a great guy! Living life to the fullest and really motivated to sail.

I quickly moved into the Maui mode. A relaxed wake–up with fresh coffee and a leisurely stretch, trying to shake off the stiffness from the day before. Organized a little and to the beach for a few hours of lip smacking fun. For three weeks it didn’t stop blowing. I sailed every day.

It was meant to be two weeks, but I didn’t make it to my flight to Austria, so I missed the Freeride event and had to stay for another week. I was bummed putting the gear back on the car, but as I was driving back into Paia, I started laughing. It meant another week of wavesailing on Maui, instead of skipping on my big willy, on a small lake in Austria.

It’s not really the place, but the people you’re around which determines how good a time you’ll have. On the Island at this time were Sam Ireland, Scott Carvell, Josh Angulo, and Pete Volwater. They’re all super talented and don’t carry an “attitude”.

Finian Maynard just got back from Europe the leader of the Speed Rankings (now world champ) and lucky to be alive. He crashed his van into an upturned truck, which reminded me of the treacherous position we often put ourselves in—super tired and trying to get somewhere. Finian’s a good friend; over the years we’ve relied on each other in times of trouble. I was glad to spend a few days with him before trying to leaving for Europe again.

Another check–in attendant attempted to make it as hard as possible, by making sure that the airline I was connecting to knew I was coming with a LOT of luggage. His efforts were in vain however, as the person in LA couldn’t do enough to help. She changed my ticket and got my gear on for free, saving me about $600. Traveling with equipment is so unreal. The amounts of money you pay to take gear around is crazy. To spend that kind of money on anything, just doesn’t happen. (The only things I own besides windsurfing equipment are my CD’s and CD player, speakers, clothes and two vans [Europe and Australia] to carry my windsurfing equipment). The more you have, the more you have to carry.

In England I have many friends that I stay with and get looked after, without them, I wouldn’t have coped over the years. I’ve stayed at Julian Anderson’s (top British racer) house on numerous occasions. After motels, rental accommodation, back of the van, or endless travelling, their house has become a sanctuary. A day or so there and I’m always refreshed and ready to keep moving.


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SARDINIA

This time it was on to Sardinia for a small wave competition. I wanted to go because I went last year and liked the place. Before the competition, a good day’s sailing was had, with logo high waves and good wind. Unfortunately, like Australia, that was all we had, with no wind for the remainder of the contest. Some nice bowls for surfing on the first day were quite tasty though.

Two days of surf remained, which constantly amazes me for being in the Mediterranean. At this time of year, the small town in front of the wave is deserted and is a place that when there’s no wind or surf, I’m content just to cruise. (For a little while at least.) We were in a house above a retired fisherman, right on the beach looking at the point. It’s so nice just to read, go for a walk with the dogs, or cruise up to the bar and have a drink with Dominico, who’ll never back down on his offer of a “Just one more”.

During the last surf of the swell, I realized that the contest wasn’t going to happen and became downcast. Basically my thoughts were how much money and effort I spent on an event that didn’t happen, meaning no coverage or prize money. The reality is that most people work all year to have two weeks holiday, and if they were to have the sailing and surfing that I had during this time, it would make their year. Still, I was down.

It was back to England where I had to hang out until Mauritius. This ended up being a strange period, as I was denied my usual watertime and became “The Accidental Tourist.”

I was staying with my friend Timo who works for my sponsor Animal. We went down to Cornwall to look for waves, (got skunked) when on the way back, I crashed his brand new Renault Espace into the back of a 63 year old lady’s car. Car crashes are just the worst, and this old lady was devastated. Everything was insured, but it messed with my head for a while. After that, I heard there were waves in Ireland, so I was on my way. This is where the “Litmus Trip” was filmed, so I was hoping to imitate art.

IRELAND

13 hours travel time later, I pulled into Bundoran to find a glassy reef point, breaking left and right. It wasn’t barreling like the video, but was definitely an enjoyable four-hour surf, until my hands and feet became numb. The next day the waves were tiny and after a short surf and a look at the weather map, I began to question my decision to come so far, for one day’s surf. I’m always chasing, chasing, and when I get something fun, it could have always been better.

I tried to relax and cruise and do what other people might while on holiday, but found it very difficult. I tried to find other reasons for being in Ireland, and found myself chasing some pre–Christian stone statues of unknown origin on an island somewhere. When I found them, I was sort of disappointed, for I’d achieved it, and didn’t have a mission anymore.

With a week of drifting, looking at various places trying to find some other purpose for being there, I found myself back in England wake boarding behind Animals new ski boats and bouncing around various friends houses trying not to outstay my welcome.

I did a lot of things I don’t usually allow myself the time, so in retrospect, it was quite a good time. Times to yourself are usually a little strange, but they lead you to some interesting places and situations.


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MAURITIUS

Mauritius finally came around and I was so excited. A competition is a good way to justify three weeks of doing nothing except surf and sail your brains out. It was good because I felt that I had purpose again, as I was doing something constructive.

This ended up being an intense period, never a dull moment, and a lot of waves. I was pretty stoked on my equipment and happy with how I was sailing, but just couldn’t put it together for the heats. This bummed me out, because I’ve been wanting to do well in a quality port–tack–wave event for a long time. The fact that it didn’t come together again, burned in me for a while (Fiji last year still haunts me). But then I looked at myself, being down after perfect waves, and realized how I should have been stoked. I can really be a spoiled little shit sometimes.

Competition can bring out the best in my sailing, it also brings out the worst of my personality. I’d really like to eliminate that bad loser aspect of my persona, but a dented ego is a hard thing to suppress.
The touchy issue with this contest was the localism/exploitation dilemma, which had me thinking what the guys back home are going to say about the PWA video, “The Quest”.

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Mauritius was a strange situation where the local white sailors came on strong with all sorts of threats and support, and then it all fell apart for them and we didn’t see, nor hear from them again. It seemed that most of the locals were sick of the four that mouth off all the time, so that made me feel better about being there.

Too bad for the ones that were scared off early, as they missed some of the best sailing I’ve ever had. From completely on edge eight foot, to a super rippable 4–6 ft and then the play days that you just go out to get wet, which in hindsight, were better waves than we got after a whole month in the Canaries and again in Europe.

Scott Carvill and I flew back to Paris and jumped in my van to drive back to England. (Scott left $2000, and his computer in the baggage trolley, and was extremely fortunate that there are still some good people around.)

Charter flights being full gave us a scare, as we bought the last two seats to Gran Canaria and arrived the day before the contest. So it was straight into it with no practice, but luckily I’ve sailed there quite a bit.


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GRAN CANARIA

Pozo Isquierdo is a harsh place. So often you arrive amazed at how windy it is, when in time, the hurricane style winds become commonplace, and it doesn’t seem odd to be 40 knots. Then there’s the rock beach waiting to twist your ankle when you get in the water, and the dust which gets into your pores, eyes and ears.

Then you go out on your 3.3 or 3.7 or, if it’s not that windy, your 4.0 and due to the competition, you’ve got to launch yourself into massive jumps, which under normal circumstance, I wouldn’t for a million years.

Wave riding can be alright, depending on the tide. This year, the first round, we actually had some swell. Wind waves are generally all there are, which are OK, as long as it’s not full tide. When this happens, everything disappears, which a few of us had to deal with. I do well when there are some waves, but during the second round, even though it was forty knots, there wasn’t a wave to be seen. (Freak of nature really.)

Bjorn definitely had the overall edge over most guys there, except when Vidar Jensen went into ballistic mode with his doubles. But I like the way Polokow rides, his smooth turns with flowing vertical snaps are sweet. More how a surfer would surf the wave instead of a wind…surfer.

I ended up coming tenth, which was alright. It could have been better and it could have been worse. I took out Josh Stone and paid back Robby Seeger for last year’s Fiji, but lost to Bernd Flessner and Orion Jensen. Heats are so strange. They can all flow together or be a disaster. I wonder if you can control it or is everything predetermined?

In my 6 years of coming to Gran Canaria, I’ve definitely changed. The 23–year old rookie, used to see Gran Canaria as paradise, with the bars and night clubs that stay open till 11 the next morning. But as time passed, the same things that made it attractive, now make it repulsive. We used to stay in “Bahia Feliz”, with its hotel and apartment–style accommodation, tourist shops and restaurants. Now what I thought was great, is the type of area that I can’t handle. Devoid of any local culture, contrived and created solely to handle mass tourists.

There’s “Playa D‘Inglese”. Almost a whole city deserted by day( sleeping off hangovers), and by night coming alive with the masses of plastered German, English and Scandinavians. It was exciting the first couple of years, but after a while you tend to see through the facade, and discover a lot of lost people. (I know I was.) All a part of growing up, I suppose.

Nowadays I prefer to stay in the town of Pozo, which not all the competitors can understand. The fact that the town is Spanish makes you feel like you’re actually in the country, even if it is dusty with no trees and blows 40 knots most of the time. And instead of being overcharged in tourist town, you pay good prices for good food served by Mila and her family at “Bar Ola”, whose chicken sandwiches and cafe con leches are the best.

This year I lived in a big house with a cool bunch of people. Finian Maynard and I maintained our usual travelling talk which varies from mindless banter, to masses of abuse, to amateur sociology and philosophy. We’ve figured out that we’re the exact opposites in personality, but have the same beliefs in how the world operates (most of the time). Also in the house were Mathias Holmberg, Peter Volwater and the leader of the third discipline for many years, but now attached, Rick Markam. A good combo of people who all got along.

I think the World Cup is a big class in school really. You see lots of familiar faces all the time, but you figure out which ones are like you and get along with, and the rest you just say hi to all the time. I’m sure there are a lot of good people, but there are also egocentrics, which I won’t go into. But it’s just like school.

So another contest finished with another awards ceremony. This one was better than most, with a pretty good feeling to the whole contest. A day’s recovery and it was on to Fuerteventura for the next show. Race and “Freeride” had me wondering the point of going, as I’m hardly the Freeride guy, but the absolute luxury of doing only waves came at a price of doing a couple of these “Bump & Jump” contests.

Another travel mission had us up at 5.00am to get to the ferry. Then it was more travel. A time to let the mind wander. Time for music and books, which often seem to parallel my thoughts and experiences. They appear in freaky circumstances, that seem to be like messages from whatever that spins this intricate web of life. Finian started spinning a bunch of Spanish girls, but after doing all the hard work, got swindled by one of the Italians. Poor Finian.


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FUERTEVENTURA

Off to Fuerte we go and I’m sure I’m meant to go there for a reason. Everything I’ve done in the past has been necessary to get where I am, so this must be a part of my program. I’ve got a favorite saying that goes, “I don’t know my own mind, but I know that it’s guided by more than I know”.

As it turned out, there could have been a couple of reasons, but not much to do with the contest. A meeting with a couple of people might have some kind of impact on my future, and a book passed on, put another piece into a puzzle that seemed to be unravelling before me. By choice or by chance? A similar theme in the people that I meet, and the books that I read: they all seem to come together. It’s a bit far out, that’s all I’m saying.

As far as windsurfing goes, I was hardly involved in the competition, in terms of results or emotions. I would lose and not give a shit, which only consolidates one thing for me: my heart is definitely not in Freeride. I had more fun than previous years however, as not doing racing made it so much easier. It really is tough doing both disciplines at a grand slam and I empathize with those still doing both. Especially now—there’s been so much development in racing, it’s hard to stay in touch. It takes so much equipment, money and tuning, it’s insane.

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During the contest I went up to the north, which had so much potential for a proper wave contest that it pisses me off. Where the money comes from again dictates that we sail in—no waves. Yet on the same island there were waves going off. What kept me positive was that while in Fuerte, everything came together for my next mission. I slotted into a free trip to Fiji with flights and accommodation paid for.

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Sometimes I really wonder what I’ve done to deserve all these good things that happen, along with the interconnectedness that seems to be at work constantly to make all these experiences possible. (Even though I seem to do my best to fuck things up, things seem to always work out.)

The contest itself was filled with controversy. The new direct judging rule in racing came under fire, as things not seen led to some crucial decisions not going the right way. This had some people unfairly dealt with and a little hot under the collar.

This was another situation where I have to say poor Finian. He was the only guy that made every final and then in the last race was taken out out at the first mark and didn’t get re-dressed. It broke him, the poor bastard.

As for the new Freeride discipline? No thank you. I haven’t ever felt that stupid windsurfing. It was only worth watching while there were little waves coming through. But that’s just my opinion. There are guys making good money off it, who think it’s great for the sport. Yeah right! Industry dictated hype to suck the consumers into buying more gear, and the PWA circus is the tool to make it cool. Get me a bucket! I think I’m going to be sick! It just so happened that these same sailors wouldn’t do the Freeride event, “that are so fun”, when no prize money appeared later in the year.

After the contest, there was the usual end of contest piss up, and then the mass bail out. Finian, Peter Volwater and I cruised up to the north, to try to get some waves, but conditions weren’t really epic. The night time was fairly rad though, as we hooked up with Bjorn and Britt Dunkerbeck, the Baker brothers, my mate from Ireland, (Timo Mullen) and Adam the crazy Scotsman. The last two packed down so much vodka, it’s a marvel they’re still alive. Some funny moments though.

It’s strange that over the years, I’ve come to shy away from the party scene, as I don’t enjoy it as I once did. Hanging out with Finian and Peter is great, as they are a lot of fun, but there is an age difference, and they don’t understand that I may not want to go out. At 23 or 24 I couldn’t understand either, but now at 28, I understand myself and the places that we go to a little better. I can’t go out and lose myself to the euphoric atmosphere contrived by nightclubs, as I tend to see more than I used to. Basically, I’m starting to listen to the little voice inside a little more, even though I become the outcast every now and again. (My nickname amongst friends has become Grandpa; if that say anything.)

Anyway, Fuerte to London, leaving what I don’t need in my van. A day of contacting and a short sail in onshore and no waves. Then it’s back to the airport for the next mission.

Eight hours to Houston and an over-nighter till the remainder of the flight to Oahu. Stop overs in the US have always been a labor. The fact that they have no overnight baggage facilities is the culprit.Hauling the gear to a hotel, or a night with the gear in the airport have always been the options, but Finian reckons, if you don’t touch it, it’ll still be there for you in the morning. They’ll be pissed, but it’ll still be there.

I just couldn’t leave it. Especially with my two favorite boards on the way to Fiji. Just too risky. So as Houston was in the middle of a heat wave (110 degrees) I lugged onto the hotel bus, crashed out, woke up, lugged it all back again and bought a surf magazine while waiting for the plane. Seeing pictures of Tavarua made me realize where I was going. I wondered where all these other people were going.

Scott Carvill was already at the airport when I called, as Josh Angulo had just arrived from Maui. We went to an outer reef for a surf and then for a few beers (too many) with Scott’s friends in Kailua. Sailed Diamond Head for the next two days, which was pretty fun, and a great way to have a stop–over, so to speak. (This year is turning out to be unbelievable.)


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FIJI

In all my years of travelling, this would have to rate as one of my all–time best missions. Everything was organized and paid for, with not one thought about travel details having to be made. We were moved from one unbelievable setting to the next, which was so beautiful, that while awake, you seemed to be dreaming.

Frigates Passage had unbelievable waves. They gave me the hugest smile at the end of each ride. Barrel surfing in the morning and big air windsurfing in the afternoon, left me tripping on a natural high. The beers tasted extra sweet after these good days.

Sigatoga was the second stop and a beach break that reminded me of waves in Western Australia. Further up was Hideaways, a right hand barrel. Unfortunately for Namotu, the wind didn’t quite happen, but there was some sweet surfing at Wilkes Passage. We got to stay on Beachcomber Island, which is like a backpacker island. No wind wasn’t that much of a drag, as we had a good time partying.

But there was a disturbing side to the trip. I realized how terribly I have been spoiled. We’ve had just about as good as it gets, and still, I’m not satisfied. It gets to a point that so many epic waves and barrels don’t stoke you out like it did, and you become discontent. After a while you start to feel like you should be moving on, as if you’re not going anywhere. But then I think back to Ireland and the extreme lengths I went to to find waves and then to where I’m going to be where there aren’t any. It still doesn’t change how I feel. I think I’m mad sometimes.

Anyway, our trip was meant to be coming to an end, and I was prepared to head home for a couple of weeks, but then everyone decided that we needed more footage. So back to Frigates. I’m stoked, as I do want to go back, but I was really looking forward to being home at least once throughout the year. I felt like I needed grounding after being on the road for so long, and my parents and friends from home provide this for me. Sort of like a reality check.

With all the travelling and constant movement, being the type of person that I am, the loneliness can get pretty bad. I’m usually alright with it, as I usually have a bunch of friends around. But every once in a while, I meet someone that reminds me how nice it would be to live in one spot and have a relationship.

This happened in Fiji, where I met someone I almost wish I hadn’t. It disturbed my contented loneliness and turn it into a negative longing. The kind I sometimes feel, but get over.
Travelers have to.

The next week back on Frigates was sick. Glassy days, 4/6 foot to start, and then howling windy with up to 8 foot on one day, and two other days of 4/6. This was awesome wavesailing and surfing, which capped off an unbelievable trip. Almost too good to be true.


OAHU

Then it was back to Oahu where I crashed at Scott’s parents for a couple of days, and scored three days of classic Diamond Head, with one day up the beach at Brown’s. That day was described by Robby Naish as, “as good as it gets”. Over mast, silky smooth bowls with chunky lips and only Scott Carvill, Robby and myself out. Being able to rig up on the lawn of a house straight in front of the wave, topped off the ultimate Diamond Head experience. And I’ve got the pictures to remember when I’m an old bugger. So stoked

With some of the people I met in Fiji, I then moved into an awesome house which overlooked Diamond head and Waikiki. People I didn’t even know three weeks ago were letting me stay in their house and being so cool to me. When I stop and think about it, it all seems quite bizarre.

The people I’ve met as a solo traveller are probably among the more valuable things I’ve gained out of this strange life. I’ve been welcomed into so many people’s lives and homes and experienced so many different personalities and cultures, it’s rad. Yet sometimes I feel like a voyeur, and not a part of any community.

It’s the same for some of my friends on tour, like Finian Maynard and Steve Allen, who spend even less time at home than I do. (Finian spends only a few days at home each year, I’ve had a few months.) We’ve had to rely on each other every now and again, as the only ones that can relate to our kind of problems.

I ended up staying on Oahu for a week with Scott Carvill, Alex, Morica and everyone else I’d met showing me a great time and becoming good friends. I was ready to get moving though and into European contest mode. The 15 hour flight and then about 18 hrs of driving provided lot’s of thinking time.

What a hell trip! Six hours to LA, ten to London, where my friend and I mixed up travel info. So four hours more in the airport, where I finally left my stuff in baggage storage (because the bus won’t take my triple bag). Three hour bus ride, got picked up at the station and crash out. (Friends saved me again.) Woke up, organized my van, grabbed a quick sail, and then chilled that night for the next leg. Got up early and with van, drove back to Heathrow, got gear and then headed for Dover to catch the ferry.

Arrived in France at dusk with the beginnings of a sore throat and a flu. Started driving, but was stuffed and lasted only a couple of hours. Crashed and woke up at 3 am. Started again and drove into the dawn. It was 8.30 am and a shower in the truck stop renewed my energy. Only another 8 hours to go and the flu was kicking in.


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DENMARK

It ended up being 10 hrs, as I crawled into Klitmoller at dark with only my parking lights (headlights stopped working). Next day the event was on. I went out before the heat and nailed everything. Feeling good, except lacked energy from the flu. Still, I felt I was in the flow. As the heat came around, everything went to shit. I fell on everything and went out in the first round. The thing is, the sick feeling I normally get from losing wasn’t there, found it almost funny. Am I finally over the bad loser stage? Or—because it’s been such a nightmare—all I can do is laugh, or cry.

But I don’t feel like crying.

I don’t know what’s up. I don’t feel at ease with where I’ am right now. Like at the beginning of the year I felt good because I seemed to be in the right place at that time and it all felt right. Well, at the moment, I felt disturbed, in that things didn’t feel right and had to figure out why.

I suppose it was just like the no wind factor, when you’re at a contest site and can’t really leave. Just having to hang out can be pretty mind­–bending sometimes. I tend to have difficulty seeing past the moment of just doing nothing. Everyone else is cruising around doing nothing as well, with the same mind–numbing conversations about nothing. Another momentary lapse of purpose, I suppose.

It could also be that I know the waves at home’s going off, or that I’m sick.

Discard what I said about being over the bad loser stage. In the losers’ round I went out early again and lost it. Full dummy spit. Went and bought beers and cigarettes, letting the negative energy take control. So stupid, as I wasn’t over my flu and by the middle of the night I’d broken into a full fever. It’s radical how I let the negative emotion totally consume me. I don’t dwell on it too long (an hour or so) but I’m certainly not pleasant to be around during this time. It’s so dumb, but I can’t help it sometimes.

So the Production Wave Worlds were over, and the Soulwave started straight after. The surfing started the comp, and unlike last year where waves just came to me, this year they ran away from me, continuing the rut that I’d fallen into. I better get over it before Sylt!

The thing was, I’d found myself in a strange thought pattern, and it was not one new to me. At a certain moment, I look at myself and what I’m doing and see that something is definitely wrong. My heart isn’t involved with what I’m doing.

Is it the fact that I’d been away from home far too long, or is it that this path no longer has any meaning? It was like when I was at college, just going through the motions, not knowing why I was there. It now feels similar. I was not excited about contests like I used to be and again was going through the motions. That wasn’t entirely right though. Maybe it was the events in shitty conditions that I’m struggling over.

But this decision is not one to be made now, I’ve got to get ready for Sylt. And that means getting active. But unlike home, where I’ve got all kinds of fun activities that keep me fit, it’s hard when on the road, especially in Europe.

Josh Angulo needed to be in Kiel for the RRD video launch, and he wanted me to take him down there. It gave me somewhere to go, so no worries. Sebb Van de Berg came with us and we cruised. We stayed at a friend’s house and passed time with music, good food and conversation. I still hadn’t recovered from my flu and it was starting to piss me off.


GERMANY

We finally arrived at Sylt, the main reason for coming to Europe for a month. Standard contest procedure of meeting everyone, claiming land rights for our equipment, rigged up and stickered our sails. I like the first day of contests, as it is good to see everyone again. Even the people I don’t really get along with, say hello as if they’re your best mate.

Finian Maynard arranged the same little house as last year, with all the fellas that I’ve hung out with this year. Peter Volwater, Scott, Eli Fuller, Sam Ireland, Josh Angulo and Rick Markham pretty crammed a house with seven people, but as Sylt is so expensive, we just had to. It was cool that everyone was good friends and never a dull moment in the house. Books, music and solitaire were the saviour for me again.

Most people don’t come to Sylt to watch the sailing. They’re there to party, and between the Beach Tent, American Bar and the Party Hanger there was always someone knowing that something was going off, somewhere. This year however, saw some radical drops in the ranking. It was funny listening to the boys come home. “Cough…. splutter. That’s it man, I’m done partying!” Where the night before they were talking it up to go out. “C’mon, Grandpa, let’s go.”

So another contest went by without happening, as we de–rig our quivers without getting wet. Is this why I became a PRO sailor? The same dilemma arose last year, as it was the prime time for home and I knew the boys are scoring big wind and waves. Oh well.

The meager money from the events not happening had me on the ropes. I had a ticket to Hawaii and had to figure out whether I can afford to go to Brazil. Is the ranking at the end of the year worth going to an event with a slim chance of happening? If it does, it’ll probably be light winds and a sloppy beachbreak. This was a critical moment.

Some equipment sold at home eased the financial pressure, allowing me to do it without going into debt, so what the hell. This is why I travel the world windsurfing, isn’t it? So at the end of the year I can tell everyone I’m number whatever in the world. When I first started, this would have worked. But now my justification was more that I had never been to Brazil.

Back in Hawaii, appreciation levels were peaking. So much contrasting colour compared to grey northern Europe. Wearing only shorties, and warm water. Soooo nice! On the second day, the swell jacks with six footers rolling through by midafternoon. Now this is why I became a pro windsurfer. So much fun it’s ridiculous.


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BRAZIL

I was almost denied going to Brazil by the consulate, as they held onto my passport until the day before I had to leave. After much hassling, one hour before my flight was due to take off, Fed Ex came through with my passport. When I found out it was coming, I was stoked. I’d convinced myself that I was happy for not going as I got to stay on Maui, but I really would like to get a good ranking this year, so deep down I really do care.

Another 20–hour travel blur and we were being picked up in Fortaleza. It was my first time in Brazil so everything was new, until we got to the contest site. It could be anywhere in the world (all variations of a theme). The hotel had nice rooms which we don’t have to pay for. It was right next door to a massive water park with some of the most radical waterslides I’ve ever seen. (Highest in the world and and we got to go in everyday for free!) Add on free breakfast, lunch and dinner, and you’d have to say that I was a pretty happy camper. (Even if there were only one–foot waves we got to compete in. If it blows.)

Robby Naish described the no–wind contest scene pretty well, when he compared it to the movie “Ground Hog Day.” You woke up and it’s the same day over and over again, nothing changed and the conversations were all the same. Then things start to get a little different. It became an all–out war.

A hotel with no staff and a bunch of energized windsurfers letting it all out brought a massive water balloon fight. Multiple stories, elevators and stairwells made the perfect arena. It gave everyone involved a little charge and something different to talk about. Basically, the whole environment just brought out the kid in everyone.

I had an intense dream that woke me up for the 5 am skipper’s meeting. In it, I lent Andy Angulo (brother to the other two, who’s a brilliant artist) an old car as he tried to cross Australia. He hit a kangaroo and got stuck in a small desert town. Instead of a setback, he saw only the positive side to it. As an artist, it gave him a new perspective. Fresh images of a life he was unfamiliar with, and because he was stuck, it gave him time to absorb it all.

I thought this was something I had to do here. There was no wind, but I should be opening myself to the culture WHILE I HAD THE TIME,with my own version of art—photography. (Image–catching for people with no talent at drawing.)

There was also something to do with me not being so slack. Something to do with Wayne Lynch pulling me aside and giving me a good talking to. All very strange, but dreams are so intertwined with your waking self that you just have to listen.

The water balloon fights continued (as did the lack of wind) and continued to be fun until some new players entered the arena. It just so happed that these people have the biggest egos and were the ones that bruised the easiest when taking a hit.

A few heats were held on one day, and then later in the week when hope was starting to fade, the hooter sounded in the halls at 5.30 am. Wind had come, and the day before, I tweaked my lower back surfing one foot waves. Bloody typical. Hot shower, a tennis ball trying to loosen some trigger points and it was down to the beach. A couple of pain killers to try and knock it back and I was out there. No warm up. Thankfully, whatever it is that comes into play to help you out, did. I had a flowing heat against Bernd Flessner. Pulling all my jumps and some nice waves to get through. Phew!!!!!! In the money.

My next heat also went well, but as I came in I looked at Finian and knew that Kevin Pritchard had a better one. I think Finian’s seen every one of my heats in the last six years, and he’s a pretty accurate judge as to how I went, and he was right. Spewing.

Some upsets occurred with Scotty Fenton disposing of Francisco Goya and Robby Naish, but I don’t reckon he did. Milking the wave gets far too many points compared to someone who does less garbage, but turns with flow style and power. I really don’t think the judges know what these things are. Polokow went down to Kevin because he didn’t get his jumps, and Bjorn went down to Matt Pritchard. In the end it was Matt and Nick Baker in a pretty good final for the appalling conditions, with Matt coming out on top.

The wind actually hung in for the rest of the week, with two more single eliminations completed. Polokow came back from 5th in the first to win the event, and deservedly so. He was ripping the hardest, with proper turns. There was a lot of talk about the judging though.

For myself, the name Pritchard is starting to haunt me. I had two more ninths, going out both times to Kevin’s brother Matt. The first time super close where I actually thought I might have had it. And the second time an absolute shocker where I couldn’t find one single ramp, got no jumps and fell on a couple of waves. Nightmare. After that heat I had to sail out to sea and let off a bit of steam. It’s better than letting people see me all twisted.

Oh well, that result pretty much covered my ticket down here and kept me around tenth in the overall. I could have had a shocker in a earlier round and been deeper. I was really looking forward to Maui and some proper waves, so I could jump over some guys in front. Contests are such odd things though, with conditions, mental and judging variables being so fickle. Basically, anything can happen. Bring it on.


MAUI

Another 20–hour travel blur. It was starting to get to me. I arrived on Maui exhausted, but had car and accommodation sussed so it was just straight up to Haiku and my bed. Aggghhh. The boys were all out to Cassanova’s for the usual Wednesday night get–drunk fest, but I couldn’t even if I wanted too. I must be getting old.

Hawaii definitely had a high intensity feeling to it. The 1st week back had everyone rocking back into town and straight out to Ho’okipa. The locals had been waiting and weren’t happy about the limited numbers of local wildcard entries and how they were being distributed. Basically, the wave community of Maui was forced to sail off for eleven spots, and there was definitely going to be some disappointed rippers.

There was a bit of vibing from some of the guys, and the feelings from so–called friends was a little off, but I suppose they were just getting caught up in it all. Or themselves, I don’t know.

The trials were the raddest qualification event I’ve ever seen. Do–or–die heats were intensely close and had the fellas going for it. I really felt sorry for guys like Luke and Levi Siver, Pascal Hardy and Jason Prior (plus a whole lot more.)

Then it began. Light offshore winds and 2-4 foot clean swells. I was pretty nervous for some reason, but by the time I was on the water I’d calmed myself down. It definitely wasn’t one of the harder first rounds, so I just had to keep my head together. A few snaps and a couple of reo’s later and the twelve minutes were up. Not one of my better heats, but at the beach Scott Carvill assured me that it was no problem and I thought I had no worries. But as the names were read out, mine wasn’t. Carvill flew into the Judges tent and gave them a bollocking. He was quickly ejected, but I continued my quizzing, not able to make sense of their explanation, as it only showed how little they actually knew.

I wandered round the beach having everyone tell me that I should have gotten through, and each time it was said, it released previous instances where it’s happened before. I didn’t get angry like in Fiji though. All I could do was walk away. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been ripped off, and when I found a space to myself away from the contest, all the anger, confusion and sadness consumed me.

To top it all off I went to Pete and Fin’s place that evening and ended up playing Monopoly. The worst run of luck in the history of the game panned out, just to prove that it was never meant to be one of my good days.

Sailing Ho’okipa the best I have prior to the contest and then having my expectations quashed with my worst result in a wave contest ever, was a pretty hard pill to swallow.

Once again, as in Fiji last year, the contest continued with epic waves, while I was left on the beach just spewing. It was such a negative feeling that I couldn’t watch. It wasn’t good for my mental health. So I bailed into town to try and escape in a bookstore. (Bought “The Catcher in the Rye”. Now there was a bloke that’s as messed up as I am, I reckon.)

I didn’t see the heats, but from what I’d seen earlier, and the rest of the year, Jason Polokow, deserved to be in the final, and deserves another world crown. He is hands down, the fastest, most powerful, radical and spontaneous wavesailor in the world.

My brooding slowly subsided, but every time I went back to the beach, the dark sensation returned. After a few more days of no wind, it became evident that no losers’ round was going to happen and that that was it for the contest. This enabled me to move past that moment and onto thoughts of home. It has been so long.

So I guess that’s it. The 1998 competition year is over and I’m ranked number whatever in the world. I do care that I did so badly, as that’s all anyone else seems to care about. When I get home, the question is always what your ranking was, and you feel so stupid trying to justify your crappy result due to judging incompetence.

But a year is so much more than your ranking at the end of the year. Reflecting over the year on the long flight home, this has to be one of my best ever. (Even though I’m going home broke and with a shit ranking.)

I’ve had more fun, and am more satisfied than any other year, due to a massive amount of quality wavesailing. Basically I’ve had a whole year of doing exactly what I want. How the hell did I get myself into such a fortunate position? And I think the answer to that is that I’ve followed a path which involves passion and involves listening to what my insides have to say.

But, just like last year, I have to get home. It was sort of like travelling without moving. I’ had been moving continuously for a year, only to be at exactly the same place as I was last year (desperate to be home). Except maybe a little wiser. Actually, I’ve got a pretty different outlook compared to last year.

Ohhhhh Western Australia! Warm days, cool seabreezes and blue skies that stretch forever. Seeing my family, skurfing on the river, beers down at the pub, BBQ’s round at friends houses, trips up and down the coast looking for waves and wind. Vast deserts and towering forests—the ultimate playground.

It was time to go home. Only one more travel mission. Oahu—Taipei for a night, a stopover in Bangkok where I hung out with Svein Rasmussen to check on some new board designs and then onto Kuala Lumpur for another night stop over.


HOME: WESTERN AUSTRALIA

It’s weird when you get home after extended travel. I’ve been driving around with the hugest smile on my face, but it seems like I haven’t even been away. But then I think about how so much has happened over the year, it spins me out. I’m pretty stoked. I actually wrote about it too. It’s cool to look back and see how I felt at various points over the year. Reading back, all I can think is “I’m one lucky bastard!” See ya.

american_windsurfer_6.2_accidental_tourist_scott-mckercher-s
Scott McKercher at home in Western Australia

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by Scott McKercher

McKERCHER has been traveling the world for 6 years as a World Cup Racer. He still finds it strange, each time he writes “professional windsurfer” on his immigration forms. Apart from three months at home each summer, the customs officers routinely stamp his Australian passport roughly every two weeks as he moves from place to place.

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