On A Rail: Part 3

posted by / Photos / October 17, 2008



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We’re in Scotland. None of us really remember how we got here, though. Some of us prefer not to remember. We know it had something to do with trains. Lots of them. Biarritz to Paris. Paris to London. London to Edinburgh. Then a six-hour drive to Thurso, the tip of Scotland. It was an absolute hell mission, but we’re here somehow now, seated with Northern European kingpin Ian Battrick, scarfing down plates of fish and chips, sipping pints of Guinness and chuckling at the turbulent series of fortunate and unfortunate events that took place along the way here.

A local Scottish folk music band is playing in the corner. They have no stage, no microphones, and they are all seated at a table in the bar like all the other patrons, only they are jamming out little ditties around a table with six pints of McEwan’s {{{80}}}. Only one guy with them is under 60 and he’s playing the bagpipes. As we sit there, chatting to Ian about local spots, weather patterns, secret slabs, wind and Scottish drinking games (which are more committed than ours and involve much more nudity), the band plays on. Looking at us, wrapped in flannel and jackets, smiling and exhausted, it would be hard to know what we had just went through to get here. It’s still hard for us to believe it really happened, actually. The fact that we could experience so many cultures in one mission and be lucky enough to have a surf at the end of it all, in Scotland nonetheless, at a perfect right point is an absolute miracle. It feels like we fell into a rabbit hole and the last 73 hours have all just been some Amsterdam induced hallucination. But that can’ t be it because we haven’t been to Amsterdam. At least not yet…

It all started aboard the 5:53 p.m. train from Biarritz to Paris. We’d listened to Guns ‘n’ Roses’ “Night Train” 10 times too many. Drank one too many cups of caf and drank a few too many glasses of red wine for this to go smooth. Too much energy was crashing into too much stimuli.

Before we even sat down green bottles were cracked and clanking for the six-hour trek across the French countryside. Dane Ward fired up his musical backpack. Dylan Graves bought a round for the whole caboose. And Blake Jones actually talked to a girl. It was on. It’s tough not to get that euphoric buzz that comes when know you’re doing something you’ll remember for the rest of your life. And that’s’ how you feel every time you get on a train with your boards, bound for a new location. You feel like you’re doing something special. Out the window are castles, green plains for miles and each aisle on the train contains a European beauty that betters the one in the row before her. But amid all this euphoria, little did we know that that moment would be the beginning of what would almost be this trip’s demise. It was phase one of what would become a series of events along our way to Scotland and was the beginning of what was almost the end.

In the next day and a half we would sleep on the streets of Paris. See the Eiffel tower at 3 a.m.. Miss a train. Blake Jones would be barred from entering the UK for not showing a document with his return ticket and an address to our hotel in Scotland. We would all get separated and miss trains. We would take a train under the English Channel. We would walk the streets of London, looking for a train station, only to find we needed to be back at the one we started at. The Scottish police would bust us for having too many boards on our rental car. We would get caught in a hailstorm so violent while surfing that we would all have to go under water to avoid the falling ice. We would be chased out of the water by an ogre of a seal. One of our trains would break down.

After some moments, we honestly all considered giving up, as lame as that sounds. It was a very realistic thought, that this trip was not possible. Someone didn’t want us to go to Scotland by rail. Someone didn’t want this trip to be a success. But now, seated here in Scotland, sipping a thick Guinness with cold hands, we can all attest that the French got it all wrong, because nothing is impossible if seven dudes can bring more luggage than a small settlement, including five coffin sized surfboard bags and drag them across Europe’s public transport system and go surfing in four different countries. Eet is very posseeble, my French friends. Very poseeble.

[Be sure to check out an upcoming issue of SURFING Magazine for the complete “On a Rail” story]

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