Pillar I: The Decision
The Road to Osaka: Dane and Dillon’s Asian audible
“Let’s go to Japan!” Dane Reynolds and Dillon Perillo are still dripping wet, boards in hand. Kai Neville is putting his camera gear away. The three of them are gathered around the car, overlooking this deserted Indonesian bay. They’ve just decided to make an unexpected detour. The boys will have to hurry if they want to make it to Bali in time for the red-eye flight to Osaka. They burn rubber back to the hotel, pack in record time, wolf down some lunch, and leave this quiet corner of the world in a cloud of dust.
For these guys, choosing where to surf is like a global game of poker. Don’t like the waves you were dealt? Trade them in for a new hand on the other side of the planet. In this case, they’re swapping jungle, fried rice and Bintang for skyscrapers, sushi and Asahi. The only problem with having a worldwide buffet of surf spots constantly at your disposal is making up your mind about where to go next. This time Dane knows what he’s after: big-city lights, karaoke bars, bullet trains — but most of all, a return to the Japanese rivermouth where he claims to have caught the best wave of his life. This typhoon swell is looking even bigger than the last one. It’s nice to know exactly what you want.
It’s come down to this: searching Wannasurf.com, surfing’s premier forum for desk-job daydreamers. We’re tracking a rumor of a fickle, seldom-surfed wave tucked deep in the straits between two Indonesian islands. But all we can find are grainy home videos of German surfers stink-bugging their way across small waves, with captions like, “Günther gets the great wave, summer 2010!” We are officially grasping at straws.
The dilemma: The swell is too big for the playful waves out front, but not big enough to awaken the below-sea-level barrel nearby. For two days we’ve been calling connections on neighboring islands for reports and checking forecasts for swells in other oceans altogether. Of particular interest is a beast of a typhoon shaping up in the western Pacific near Japan. Do we stick around in hopes that the swell will once again get big enough for the dredging left-hand pits we scored a few days ago, or hit the road in search of greener pastures?
In an attempt to summon an answer from the surfing gods, we paddle out for a full-moon surf in front of the hotel. After a few Bintangs it seems like a good idea. But when Kai collides with a floating log and takes a huge chunk out of his board, we figure our offering is complete, and return to the bar to wait for a sign. We all wake up the next morning a bit hung over. Aside from ordering Bloody Marys, we are still unclear about what to do next.
“Well, needless to say, we’ve got a lot of work to do.” This is Dane’s conclusion after watching John John’s performance in Lost Atlas. Dane and Dillon are perched at the bar, watching Kai’s latest film for the third time this morning. They keep replaying the final chapter, which Kai filmed at this same bay just a few months ago, and after watching John John’s massive alley-oop approximately 20 times, we decide to go surfing around the corner.
Dane paddles out on a chubby 5’6” with no rocker. It’s one of the biggest swells of the year at one of Indo’s most dangerously shallow reef breaks. Dillon, meanwhile, is pulling in on more customary equipment. He hits the reef midway through the session and continues surfing for another two hours, then returns to the beach after a long barrel. Dillon gets his new tattoos cleaned with lime by some guys eating fruit salad on the beach. The acid trickling into his fresh wounds doesn’t seem to faze him. He’s distracted, watching Dane casually pull into a long drainer.
“Dane is so gnarly,” says Dillon, transfixed. “That’s the best surfer in the world out there.”
It’s 3 a.m. when we come to a small one-lane bridge, a landmark that means we’re close to our destination. We’ve been traveling for 15 hours straight. Normally we would storm straight across, but tonight the bridge looks different. We stop the car and get out to inspect it more closely, and find that the bridge has been reduced to nothing more than a few rotten beams with cavernous spaces between them. All that remains for our car’s wheels to cling to is a pair of narrow tracks someone has sculpted from a mixture of thatched sticks and mud.
At this point, all we can think about are the freshly made hotel beds and soft pillows waiting for us on the other side of the hill. F–k it. We pile into the car and hit the gas. As we fly across the decrepit piece of Indo engineering, we can feel the beams flexing and hear chunks of dried mud and sticks splashing into the rushing water below. Our wheels catch pavement on the other side and we don’t look back.
The next morning at breakfast, the hotel manager asks how our marathon drive from Bali went. Not bad, we tell him, but what happened to that bridge?
“Oh yeah, it caught on fire about a month ago. Been out of commission since. You guys found the detour road, right?”
It’s late night in Ventura and Dane is packing. Tomorrow he’ll say goodbye to one of the coldest California summers on record. He wants to leave the incessant fog behind and get some tropical sun. Shed the rubber. Escape the monotony of the Southern California landscape, to a place where morning rush hour is a few cows being herded down a dirt road. But most of all, he wants to go to a deserted Indonesian bay sprinkled with ramp-like waves. The same one he saw in Lost Atlas. It’s nice to know exactly what you want.—Leo Maxam