The man has been telling me things for over 25 years now. Secret things I guess you could say. Anyways I wish I had kept them secret. First he told me about a place down from Ulu called Padang Padang. Well I said, doesn’t it get smaller further down the Bukit like that. Usually it does, he says, but sometimes it don’t. Well if you know anything about the surf in Bali, you know he was sure right about that place. Still it took me about a year before I even went and had a look at it. Of course, that’s all it took, one little look. I never saw anything like that before and it was even better than it looked when you was surfing it. But after that I listened real careful when ever the Man had something to say.
You see he told me about this other place too but you needed a boat to get there. Well, I said what could be better than Uluwatu everyday and Padang-Padang when it got big. But by then we were listening to what the Man was saying so we all got on boats and went. We spent a week paddling around without a clue about line-ups or even tides. He kept telling me we should paddle in to the beach and look around but all I wanted to do was go back to the food in the boat. Guess we didn’t really give it much of a chance that first trip. Of course, it could have had something to do with how nice Padang-Padang really is and sleeping in air conditioned splendor after an ice cream sundae for desert.
Well he was always telling me other things too, not just about places. Like he was always telling me about surfing in the tube. Not like just going in there and racing like crazy to get back out. But like surfing inside the tube like we did out on the face. Well that was a new one to me but it made my eyebrows come together a little. Next time we went surfing, I was watching him like a hawk. Well I was always watching him like a hawk because he always did some kind of something I never saw before. If you weren’t watching close like, you could miss all this good stuff he would do. But there were lots of times when I couldn’t see him like when he was riding inside the tunnels. So I rode one behind him to watch and sure enough he was going up and down inside the tube. In fact he did it so easy that when he noticed I was behind him he gave a little turn and went back around behind me just as pretty as you please. I guess that was the start then and there of those Blue Angels.
Well the boats came back into the picture to get us back to that other place. I do remember him telling me we should paddle to the beach that first trip. He was right again, it was splendid. The sand was clean and glistening. BB size grains, perfectly round were course and crunchy under your feet. The thick green jungle came right down to the sand. The contrast couldn’t have been more stunning. I guess the best thing was when we started watching the waves from the beach. Of course it was him that called our attention to it. He said there were two peaks. I remember paddling up and down that line-up that first trip but didn’t remember any real defined take-off area’s. No he said, it’s not real defined, in fact you can’t hardly tell from out in the water. You can only see it from here on the beach. I’m glad we had him to notice all this important stuff and bring it to our notice. So he pointed out the upper peak, it’s right in front of this TREE with shiny leaves that look like MONEY. The other peak was easier to see even from the water. What was hard was sitting down there looking up at the line at all the most perfect waves in a row peeling right at you but none of them getting there. What he said was you had to have patience and wait for another whole different peak that came out of nowhere. He said that would launch you right into that SPEEDY inside section that was the longest barrel he had ever seen. Well I knew he had surfed all them places like Kirra and Burleigh Heads with them long tubes but he said no this wasn’t anything like that. This was something like you never seen before he said and he kinda laughed for a little while when he said it. Well anyone knows I haven’t got any patience, I just couldn’t sit there all them times. I would sit there with him for a little while, watching all them waves up the point untill I couldn’t sit any longer, that’s what I would tell him, then I would paddle back up there.
It took a few years before I actually got to really see just what it was he’s been talking about all this time, I forgot about that other piece of advice he gave me. He said paddle out to the inside white water and leisurely drift down in the sweep and go around the whole thing, that way you don’t get beat up and more important, you can eyeball the wave in there so you have an idea what your pulling into. It ain’t the kind of wave you want to be wondering if it’s makeable, you better know it’s makeable before you go pulling into any of them. Now when it’s good at SPEEDIE’S, there ain’t no other reason to be anywhere else.
That first time, I wanted out there in too much of a hurry. I got a break in the sets and slipped out just below MONEYTREES and paddled down behind the LAUNCH PAD. I went on the first big one, pulled into a perfect backdoor set-up and sat back for a long run in the barrel. It was outstanding except I could see pretty far ahead in the tube and that’s all there was just tube, no daylight. Well I kept riding along like that but it was starting to worry me a little that I couldn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. There was no end in sight and I was still just trimming along. it seems like I went like that for an awful long time. Finally I couldn’t take it anymore, I tried to bail out in the barrel. He told me about that one too, he said most times you can make it so don’t ever jump off. I must have forgot cause here I was diving off. Of course all it did was pick me up and bodyslam me very hard and very suddenly right on the reef. I hit so hard on my hip side that I had the thought I may have fractured my pelvis. I came up and surveyed the damage, my hip hurt so bad, I hardly noticed that my whole left side including arm and leg were flayed and bleeding. My first real wave at speedies and I was a mess. But my board was fine and I wasn’t about to go in for a few cuts so in the end, it turned out to be a great day. I just wish I had paid a little more attention to what the Man was saying.
Now that was all a long time and a lot of trips ago but nothing much has changed. Peter is still the Man and when he says we’re going, I know we’re really going. And there isn’t anything quite as reassuring as knowing the gang is back on the program. We go out to the jungle every year and it’s like a fountain of youth. But as you go back to your other life, the normal one, then the lure of the jungle starts to fade. Only by the most strenuous effort are you able to keep alive the commitment necessary to return each time. That where the Man comes in, he says we’re going and in my mind we are already there.
We all meet, it seems like the year that’s gone by, went in a flash. We are all happy to be back. Bobby and his camp have created a spiritual destination for obviously, all surfers but especially for the most devote who build their own special relationship with the place. They are the ones who return as often as they are able to maintain the devotion at their chosen level.
The Man is like the head monk but with all the comings and goings at the place, no one except the other devote’s and boys who keep the place running know about the Man. There’s stories of course but an actual confirmed sighting is rare. So it’s quite a privilege to be here now with him, besides there isn’t anyone I can think of who can make me laugh so much. He can make me laugh without saying a word, he just opens his mouth and give me that look, next thing you know, I’m busting up. Well the waves they are almost always good in one way or another. After all this is G-LAND, a spiritual frontier where surf is where you find it. Survival is in all reality, the bottom line here. You are expected to be on your best behavior. Your expectation level has to be finely balanced with your level of condition. Your equipment must be the top of the line. Like each wave is a fast ride so will this trip be and your own rising level of each days surfing ability. This is what we count on, you don’t expect to ever come into camp firing on all cylinders. You have to pay some dues first and you do it carefully so you don’t get hurt. Then finally after a few days, you start feeling really alive and your surfing gets stronger and better. By the end of the first week you’re feeling pretty comfortable and can start to push the envelope. But you always want to surf here like you plan to surf again tomorrow, never surf the place like there’s no tomorrow, leave that for the young guys. Getting hurt is not an option, the hospitals are too far away. The Man says go easy and play it safe, nobody in our group gets hurt and we get a lot of waves and have fun. In a way nothing much changes out here, of course the jungle is forever growing and moving but the surf and all the feelings it evokes remain the same. Somehow that is hugely reassuring and for the short time we are here, each day we become more at ease and comfortable. The only trouble is that times like this, when you are totally happy and satisfied, just go by to quickly. Soon we are closing in on our last days and while sad, we know we will be back sometime and that this can all happen again. The Man has been saying something about someone trying to build a road into the place. A road would change a lot of things, maybe everything….. I think we all need to listen to what the Man has to say. He’s been right all the way along and looking back, I know we should have listened to him better. So if anyone asks you how you feel about a road into G-Land, tell them that the Man said it’s no good and maybe it will just end up another bad idea that never got off the ground. I hope so, meanwhile keep surfing.
PS. For those of you who don’t know, the Man is Peter McCabe, bonvivant lifestyle pioneer, connoisseur of fine things and a natural born leader of men, to whom the development of surfing in Indonesia owes a debt of gratitude, I owe him too.
I just want to let everyone know that I didn’t steal this article from anywhere or anyone, I’ve know the Man for around 25 yrs now, and can say that he is my good friend. I was working for him (that’s what we called being sponsored back then, you had to work for your free boards) when he first brought Made Kasim and Ketut Menda out to Australia at the ages of 16 and 17 respectively. He gave me this story to read on my last visit to Australia, you see we both come from the same town and he’s usually the first person I go to visit when I’m in town. He makes me laugh too, and I’d also like to thank him for everything that he has helped me with and for all the little things he has told me, I’ve always listened to the Man.
PS. Check it with The Man before you sue me, he said it would be cool. And besides I couldn’t help it, it’s just so true. But who really is the Man, Mr McCabe or Mr Lopez…..