Maybe Arabia: Part 1

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MAYBE ARABIA, PART IJesse Hines and Brett Barley come from North Carolina. Pablo Gutierrez from Spain, Raine Jackson from Oz, and Damien Castera from France. Together, they thought they’d seen it all. Until they came to this place.

By Andrew Lewis
Photos by Sergio Villalba

People are already dead. Whole villages are abandoned and will probably be swiped away completely. The letter under the door this morning is telling us to not go outside and to — just by the way — stay away from the windows while we’re huddled up in our rooms watching the latest on Al Jazeera. Wind is screaming through every window crack and door frame. The rain is coming on stronger and stronger every hour. Though the heat is staggering (it was 100 degrees when we landed at 6 am), this is not the Middle East we expected. This is Armageddon. Spare us Phet. Inshallah.

Our crew, however, isn’t troubled by the drama. We’re inhaling our last heaping meal of lavish Grand Hyatt buffet and thick coffee before heading south into the abyss of an already violent landscape under siege by Phet, a Category 5 typhoon as predictable as you or me after a bottle of Jack and a few go’s on the teacups. Despite the ominous warnings, this is all very exciting. And encouraging. Our caravan of four Land Rovers is stuffed with surfers, photographers, writers and hardened guides hell-bent on following through with a full-scale assault on this 2,000 kilometer Middle Eastern coastline — an endeavor no group of professional surfers has ever attempted before. And now with Phet lurching our way, it looks like we just might score. Inshallah.

Truth is, we’ve had our eyes on this strip of Arabia long before Phet was born. Vague promises from pixilated Google Earth imagery and sporadic tales of endless righthand pointbreaks have charmed us for months, daring us to take on virgin surf territory the old fashioned way. This place is like a negative image of Morocco, but lacking the comforting consistency of a vast ocean. So it’s going to take a little more precision and patience — and a lot more sweat. After all, the only way to truly know the potential of an uncharted coastline is to cover it all. So after we’ve swallowed our last bit of luxury at the Hyatt, that’s what we’re going to do: plummet through 80 mph walls of angry gales and head to the bottom of the country, where we’ll sleep in the sand and the wind and the heat and the filth of the desert in the hope of finding something, anything worth surfing. For two weeks this is how we’ll live. For thousands of kilometers of treacherous on- and off-road driving, the desert is all we’ll see. All for the far-flung glory of discovering just one perfect wave to call our own. Inshallah.