Burning Down The Box

posted by / Magazine / July 24, 2012

Recalling the Dusk
I sit on the rooftop of an Indonesian Coast Guard ship. We just chased down an illegal fishing boat that had been caught using dynamite. Our crew, armed with rifles, boarded their craft. But it being Sunday, a day of rest, they weren’t arrested. Instead they were forced to give us a barrel of gasoline as fuel on our way to Padang. Not a bad trade, I guess. We watched the show from above with our crappy speakers blaring death metal — a fitting soundtrack to the action. And now we talk story, reminisce on the incredible trip we just had. And, of course, we laugh our asses off. The sun is setting on our backs while a sliver of moon rises before us. The ocean surface is pure glass — not a stitch of wind in the air — creating an odd illusion where the horizon should be. It looks as though we’re heading toward the edge of the earth.

Tears slip out of my eyes as I laugh hysterically, watching Andrew and [photographer] Jack Morrissey show off their singed hair from the night before. My abs ache and we’re rolling around the deck. Everything feels light and free. This is traveling. Jack keeps pulling back the few long pieces of hair he still has. All of us lost a little. But I never liked that weird fuzzy patch that grew on my lower back, anyway.

Our conversations roll into the evening. The ringers are off, all phones silenced. The sun is gone now but tiny shimmers of light fill the sky and the air feels perfect. We lie on our backs, staring at the flickering lights, occasionally watching one dart sideways, going who knows how fast. What a strange thing a shooting star is. We talk about space, about space-time, about other life forms. About how minute our lives are in the scheme of things.

Telos Islands
Conner Coffin. Photo: Carey

Burning the Night
Last night we were crowded around a bonfire of broken surfboards, celebrating. A dreadlocked, metal-loving, Rastafari Brazilian was running around with a can of aerosol and a lighter. He was sneaking around spraying fireballs onto hapless stargazers. An unlucky few lost back, arm and head hair. Jack actually took pleasure in head-banging his mop into a fireball. Patches of his hair were singed down to near-skull, but the sides were much longer. It’s an interesting look. Andrew and I shared singed ends, barely escaping the wrath of fire that killed Jack’s curly, black locks.

At one point in the night every inhabitant of our surf village stood around the raging bonfire. Broken boards and palm fronds piled chest-high were set ablaze. The fire rose so high its teeth were chomping at the lowest palms still towering above us. Everyone’s faces looked deranged, all red and glistening with sweat from the heat of the raging beast. Mario, that same Rastazilian, snuck around with his aerosol can sending more fireballs whizzing through the air. And I stood with a Roman candle bigger than my forearm, gripped tightly like a sword. I lit it and braced. Balls of light sped skyward through the palms and exploded into a million fragments of fire. Our hooting and hollering drowned out Slayer’s Reign in Blood blasting from the nearest hut. Not a message from this party was texted, nothing posted, all devices were off and forgotten. A pungent, nauseating mixture of singed hair, burning polyurethane and gunpowder settled around the fire. But we kept raging. Celebrating a great day, a great trip. Celebrating being alive and out of the box.

Destroying the Box
In the surf village, a theory was developed. A theory conceived by three adventurous, surf-stoked dudes, each of whom had gone feral in the jungle for months at a time. The three of them created a special place, deep in Indonesia where this theory thrives. We felt it when we rode the small canoes onto the dreamy beach, through a 2-foot wide keyhole in the reef. The theory — credo, really — resonates from the huts, from the kindness of those three dudes; Paulo, Mario and Gabriel. The theory goes like this: In society today, there is a box. Society sleeps on a box, lives in a box, drives in a box, texts and talks into a box, works in a box, types on a box, watches pictures on a box. Almost everything people do revolves around a box. Pretty pathetic. They realized they were becoming sucked into the box theory and decided they needed to get out. So they did, far, far away from the box and they did something rad. They suffered through malaria and Dengue fever several times. They ate rice and nothing but rice for months. They built five towering wood huts from scratch with a 10-person crew. And they brought a pro-size pool table that weighs over 100lbs in through the 2-foot wide keyhole in the reef, because after food and shelter, that’s clearly the next logical necessity. They nearly died to make this place, and now they’re sharing it, along with their credo, with us.

Telos 2
Andrew Doheny. Photo: Carey

Shredding the Noon
A walk across the reef, right in front of the surf village, ends at a shreddable right that was the canvas for our best sessions. It would start on a shallow piece of reef where a swell would hit and wedge on the rip current. Some waves barreled on the takeoff before running down the line, but most were fast, and if approached right, provided ample room to get creative. As always, Dillon Perillo was smooth and stylish, a healthy mix of airs and turns. Clay Marzo was all surprise; you never knew what he’d do next. One second he’d pump madly down the line, the next he’d stall and stand in a tube with complete control. Jack Freestone was swift and agile. He’d take off and with two quick pumps get an incredible amount of pop to punt any sort of air he wished. Stale fish, frontside straighty, slob grab, whatever. Droid’s approach was raw. His style matches his personality. He would cruise down the line, all nonchalant, and then suddenly blow tail. A balance of style and explosiveness. Parker’s backside turns were taking after those of Bobby Martinez. On top of that, he pulled a corked-out backside air reverse that looked like nothing I’ve ever seen. All of us were hooting each other into wave after wave, cheering, pushing one another. No negativity, no ragging, just pure support. A creative environment where we were at our best.

Awakening the Dawn
When we pulled into the bay at the surf village on our Coast Guard transport, it was pitch black, save a few flickering lights in the sky and the glow from several huts tucked in the jungle. Finally, after three days of travel, we were here. The darkness faded into an eerie grey as the sun rose over the lush land surrounding our boat. As the first beams of sunlight reached us, a set of perfect rights reeled down the reef. Where the waves ended, there was a keyhole in the reef — this was our path to the beach. I lowered myself into the tiny canoe, making as little movement as possible, backpack on my lap. The water was a deep blue and felt like a bath. I was mesmerized staring at fish weaving through big chunks of reef far below the ocean surface. The locals paddled us toward the reef gap, waited for a set to pass, bickering to each other in Indonesian. Small waves tickled the railings of the shallow canoe. Suddenly, they paddled violently for the shore and, sure enough, we slid through the narrow breach, dry reef popping up on both sides of us.

When I stepped onto the beach my mouth became a smile. The beach was narrow from the high tide and the warm water washed the stink and sweat off of my feet as they sunk into the soft sand. I walked onto the pristine lawn surrounding the huts of the village and onward to the biggest one. I was greeted by Mario and Paulo, who quickly made me feel at home. They led me through the grass and up the stairs of one of the huts, crafted of ancient wood, to the top room. A cool breeze blew through a window cut into the thatch roof. I stared out of the window and the beauty of the place was paralyzing. Instantly, I was taken away. Instantly, I was out of the box. I took a deep breath of the fragrant air, pulled my phone out of my pants, and buried it deep within my suitcase. —Conner Coffin

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