There are six of us crammed into one train car. Our cabin looks as if we went off the rails while we were sleeping. It’s a dogpile of sleeping people and luggage. Coffin-sized surfboard bags are strung up in the air like trapeze wires, suitcases are used as mattresses and backpacks are makeshift pillows. Everyone is miserable in the pre-dawn darkness; glassy eyes rise from the ashes of the night before. Dylan Graves is sitting with his arm neatly wrapped in a cast after fracturing his hand during our first surf in Portugal. Dane Ward is lying on the ground, sweating profusely from the heat rising out of the train’s floor all night and Blake Jones is buried in luggage somewhere, searching for a wink of sleep he’ll never find. Europe is officially a place for not sleeping –– especially if you plan on accomplishing what we are trying to, which is to ride trains across this storied land with our surfboards.
But right now we’re being urgently rushed out of the train. More bottles clank, Dylan loses his Ipod in the shuffle and sharply dressed European yuppies line the station platforms, ready for a day at work as we pull up, woebegone from 14 hours on the tracks and 23 bottles of red wine. They look at us as if we’re lepers. What began as wine buzzes, rolling Portuguese countryside and jazz induced conversation is now hitting us like a shot of absinthe. As the empties roll across the floor we unload our ridiculous amount of luggage into the French dawn. We’re headed to France, chasing a swell that is rumored to hit this week.
While it’s hard not to be jealous of a trip like this –– thanks to its promises of mass cultural intake, waves, wine and women –– the logistics can be a nightmare as we quickly found out.
“No, no no,” shouts an outraged French woman working on the train. “Thees eees eempossible!” Dane Ward grins and shrugs at her, continuing to stow his massive coffin boardbag in the overhead rack. The French woman storms off and sees Dylan and Blake doing the same. She insists we must get off or pay. The train lunges off and we never see her again. “Eeet es always posseeble.” We think to ourselves. Otherwise you won’t have the opportunity to see things like the Portuguese countryside, or the French sunrise which we all texted everyone we know that this was prettiest moment of our lives.
Our first surf of the trip came a day before this messy train ride. It was a slabby right-hander just before dark. Fresh off the plane and eager to start our trek to the north, we suited up with a sunset cascading over the Atlantic. It was one of those surfs you live for. No one out and in a new land, just off the tarmac; playful rights bubbling up on a boil, giving way to soft shoulders and fun lips. “Honestly, nothing is better than this,” said Dane Ward as he sat next up on the peak. “New backdrops, new sunsets, new water and new waves. I love this.”
Dylan then smashed his hand into the deck of his board a few waves later, allowing us to spend the next day traveling across Portugal’s countryside in search of a hospital and officially convincing us there are few things more beautiful than Sundays in Portugal. Mini cobblestone streets trickle all the way down to dark blue water, every caf is spilling over with old people getting their daily bread and coffee. And old men dawn fatigues and head out to the vineyards of Torres Vedras to shoot rabbits.
We’ve just pulled into France and a light, gray drizzle is settling over the town right now, but the waves are fun and forecast to get le good very soon. Stay tuned.
[Stay tuned for more updates from the Rails in Europe over the next two weeks]