•  

    It was a cold morning when I trundled up in my Hiace to the lot near Mitre 10 in Torquay, and as I pushed the glass door open to Corey Graham’s shop it was clear there’d be no one waiting to greet me. Racks full of hand-shaped boards, walls full of art, and emanating from somewhere deep in the back, I could hear Kyuss turned up loud amongst the muffled whir of a sander.

    Found him deep in dust, working hard on a memorabilia board for the Bells comp starting in a couple of days - it was Easter time. The whirring slowed as I approached the door. Tools down. Big smile. Bit of a tour around the shaping bay and the latest prototypes. Me quietly frothing. 

    “So what can I do for ya Matty?”

    “…Well I’ve kinda got this idea…” I trailed off, and then grinned…

    “I’m going on a trip. It’s kind of a long one. Y’see…I’m thinking I’m gonna try and ride a motorcycle from the Arctic Ocean in northern Alaska, along the Pacific coastline of the Americas down south, like really south – hopefully to Patagonia in Argentina… and I want to surf the whole way - sort of…”  I spat the words out, all question-like, almost expecting a laugh in response.  

    “Wow… that’s bloody awesome.”  Corey’s eyes lit up and wandered to the ceiling, his hand stroked his chin.

    I watched him for a moment, waiting for a response...he looked as if he was imagining far off worlds…  It was on. He got it.  

  • We spent the morning talking excitedly about the places the boards would visit, an almost endless list of beaches united by that one epic ocean. I explained how over the last few years I’d been exploring shapes outside of the standard HPS – Corey wrung his hands smiling.

    “Sweet – so good to hear mate, ‘cos that’s what really gets me frothing.”

    I explained that if I was planning on surfing only two boards for the next two years of the journey, I wanted them to feel as versatile as possible. I needed two boards for any scenario. I’m a 6’3 lanky guy with moderate to lanky surfing skills, so we decided on a 5'10" single-fling 4 + 1 all-rounder, and a 7'2" 6-channel widow-maker singlefin with stabilisers…for when it gets good. Purple and Red.

    Truth was that I hadn’t told heaps of people about the trip until then. Sometimes I found myself thinking that it was a strange idea for a 30 year old to be chasing when he should be concentrating on more responsible things. Am I really gonna do this? Am I a dropout?  Especially considering I’d disappeared once before for four years, wandering and surfing from Siberut to Siagoa, or Safi to Scotland. This was all compounded by the fact that I’d never owned a motorbike, in fact I didn’t even like ‘em that much, thought they were kind of loud and annoying. What the hell am I thinking?

    But then there was this weird idea of freedom beckoning, floating somewhere close and tangible, and quite reasonably attainable - though somehow so out of reach in my current state of living and working. 

    That’s where the support of the good people around you, especially your friends and your family, are so important – they’re what gives traction to that slow-burner of a dream, no matter how wild.

    “Here ya go mate, I put a lot of love into these – sat up late with them last night – there’s some good energy in ‘em.”  Corey’s smile said it all as he handed over two of the most beautiful boards I’d seen.

    I walked off elated - pumped to be leaving Vicco in a couple of days, pumped for the unknown road…

  • Throwing myself completely alone into a very remote part of Alaska was still a romantic concept in my mind whilst boarding the plane at Tullamarine Airport. 'Yeah I’m gonna get deep, it’s gonna be raw, it’s gonna be so sick.' I thought to myself, a little too eagerly.  

    The reality of Alaska scared the shit out of me. Camping alone in the wilderness, on an empty beach lined with thick forest. The nearest population centre was roughly 20 km away - a Native American, one-horse-town of about 600 people. My bike parked next to me, my food strung up in a tree 100 metres away, the freezing cold and uninviting Pacific Ocean out front, the incessant rain and snow, the spooky light filtering through the witchy spruce forest, and that weird midnight sun.

    ...and the bears. The car-sized brown bears were everywhere. Almost every morning I would wake to a fresh turd near my tent where some grizzly had been checking me out in my sleep during the night. Came face to face with ‘em on a few occasions - frozen legs, shaking hands, primal heartbeat reactions.

    The surfing provided little respite, solo on that long left-hander. Charged at by the Stellar Sea Lions that grow to a tonne or more, not playful like the Phillip Islanders back home, instead territorial and even bigger than the bears. And what about those Orcas I’d seen from my tent?  “No one’s ever been bitten by an Orca right…?"

    It’s hard to stop strange questions from running though your mind when you’re sitting on your board alone, and all you have is the vast and impenetrable silence of that Unnamed Range to answer you.  

    Mountains don’t speak – they don’t need to. You know by your own sense of vulnerability who’s in charge in Alaska. And she’s beautiful. For two weeks I camped solo on that point. For two months I rode Alaska, up to the Arctic and back, camping every single night - almost always alone. 

    A hugely grounding experience that came as a shock, but one that put a bit of clarity into my life. I began to understand the things in life I valued most. And more importantly, discovered that I’m willing to change how I live in order to include them.

  • The truth is, like Alaska, much of this trip isn’t as I initially thought.

    Adventure motorcycle travel takes more energy than I expected, not only the riding, but the daily ritual of setting and breaking camp. At one point I was reduced to injecting myself with some unknown steroid in Mexico, literally just to get back on my feet.

    Everyone tells you motorcycles are dangerous. I reckon they probably are too. But it’s the roads and car drivers that you’ve got to be most careful of. I was hit by a 4x4 travelling at 100km/hr a few months ago in Costa Rica. Then there was the time I was hitch-hiking in a Kombi van and flipped down an embankment to the wet Alaskan tundra.

    I’ve had two bikes on this trip. The first one was a custom-built sidecar motorcycle - the one I rode from Alaska to Mexico. It was nicked on my second day in Tijuana. Had my life in it - almost quit right there.   

  • The next day I was walking through the city streets, depressed and lost in the wrong side of town, looking for the headquarters of a bikie club whom I was told could help track it down. The TJ cops saw me as easy - a dejected traveller in ripped jeans – and demanded a random, public search.

    “OK gringo…here. No talking……ha. What's dis? You gonna go to jaaail amigo.” I could smell his breath over my shoulder, his hand still pinning me to the wall.

    Señor pulled out his planted plant for all to see, then marched me through the busy midday streets, handcuffed behind my back, until we found the ATM.

    Plenty of other challenges too: anything from 2am run-ins with coyote packs alone, to being an illegal immigrant in Ecuador.

    OK cool, whatever, but what the hell has all this got to do with surfing?

    Because it’s all part of it - it ain’t always offshore. Sometimes it’s windblown and shitty – the waves imitate life, and life imitates waves.

    It puts some perspective into those perfect, offshore mornings…

  • The idea of a west-facing coastline of that proportion is salivating. The diversity alone is enough to make me want to wax my bank account.

    Alaska and Canada were unique, and it’s sort of nice to surf alone. Oregon and California in the fall is all-time. Got lucky when El Nino produced back to back swells through Mexico and Central America for eight months solid - from Killers on Todos Santos Island, to sick reefs in Panama. Spent that historic May, 2015 swell on El Salvador’s points.

    A highlight for me was Mavericks. It was a highlight because I was as scared as a small child seeing his first four footers. Probably more. I’d been surfing for a few days in underground Point Arena, stealth camping behind the disbanded shed next to the pub, when I saw that sweet blob on the internet. So I rode south fast, and got the sidecar sideways once or twice in pursuit of it.

    Turned up to the cliffs the afternoon before it filled in proper. It didn’t look that big from up that high, so was thinking I could paddle out on my 7’2” – she’d been trusty in everything else.

    Turned out I got talking to a nice guy there called Jeff, and it turned out Jeff was the first to surf the place. Turned out he surfed it alone for years before the others caught on. Turned out Jeff’s a great bloke, and when I told him I was on a 7’2” he just laughed, walked me to his truck and handed over his 10’4”, then left before even asking for my last name. It’s funny how things turn out sometimes.

    “And remember, it’s just a wave...” he grinned and rolled away.

    Bloody hell I thought, at least if I paddled out on my 7’2” I would’ve had the excuse of being undergunned. I’d never even seen a board so long, let alone contemplated using the thing,

    I’ve really done it now, Jeff thinks I can actually do this, he’s gone and offered me his board. What the fuck am I supposed to do with 10’4”? He thinks I’m hardcore just 'cos I’m on a motorbike. It’s not true. Now I have to give it a crack. Bloody hell…

    That night I camped alone on the Maverick’s beach - the rising swell broke my sleep in the middle of the night. Strange how thoughts can you keep you awake - thoughts amplified by the rumble of whitewater, thoughts through my mind for an hour and a quarter.

    Awoke really early to a beautiful sunrise and drank a lot of water for some reason. Not sure why, but something told me you should drink a lot of water. Made my standard brekkie of cold porridge with trail mix, honey and cinnamon, and made my way to the cliffs.

    It looked solid to me. No one was out. I wandered back to the car park and met a couple of Santa Cruz lads suiting up, Dan and Jake. I admitted to them it was my first time.

    “We’re not even gonna check it – we’re out there as soon as I get this damn inflatable vest on…I’ll show you where to paddle out if you like?” Dan offered.

    Quickly started pulling on my wet wetty - hoping that they’d wait for me. I was bought a bit of time when one of Dan’s soda bulbs on his vest goes off, and he’s standing there all inflated. We all laughed, but deep down it just made me wish I had one. I drank more water - but no matter how much, my mouth stayed dry.

    Dan was a cool cat; he had that old school camaraderie thing happening. As we were walking he gave me the full run-down of the paddle out, the currents, the west sets, what to do if I got caught in the boneyard, and all his line-up points. I chose the safer, longer paddle out around Mushroom Rock, and afterwards sat in the channel for about half an hour, studying how it broke.

    It looked like medium Mavericks to me, definitely not anywhere near as big as it gets, but definitely not as small as it breaks either. Light offshore, low tide, and three guys out. The bombs doubled-up and sucked so hard, I couldn’t even envision how it was possible to make the drop from the bowl on some of them. I edged my way in, slowly. Awesome vibes from the now present crew.

    In the end I caught five waves that first day, the guys at Powerlines caught one of them on video. It was a swinger, not huge, but a good one to get me in the groove…maybe not so fun for the guy on the inside.

  • The next morning it wasn’t as clean, felt gnarlier. I only got two waves, I can’t remember the first, but man did that last one scar the brain. The biggest wave I’ve ever paddled. Deep in the bowl on a set, was called into it, put my head down and paddled like a demon. Grit teeth.

    Falling from the sky… I knew nothing in that moment, that moment of pure meditation, of pure weightlessness. Whiteness. The falling felt like forever. And then in an instant, everything changed. My board connected with the face halfway down, my body going from fully extended to fully compacted, the expulsion of air was forced out of my gut and lungs, into a loud half-groan, half-surprised-hoot at having made the drop. It felt like I never even reached the bottom proper - just tried to turn hard on the face. Holding breath. The boom of lips crashing. Release. The freedom run…

    I couldn’t control the internal stoke as the rush of adrenaline reached its peak, must’ve been wearing the most ridiculous of grins. Rode that thing down to Mushroom Rock, kicked out and paddled in. Just laughing and shaking my head the whole way…

    The thing is, a lot of this stuff feels good. In the end it’s all good. It’s been over 35,000 kilometres in 1.5 years, but I don’t want this journey to end. Maybe it doesn’t have to…

  • There’s so much in life to be stoked by. Everyone’s got different goals, but for me personally, I was frustrated with the 9-to-5, and when I replaced it with the mountains and reefs, something inside me changed.

    I love riding now, I froth on it. The freedom. The wind in my face, the passing smell of a roadside empanada. The rain. Leaning into that last mountain curve before you blast it down a straight towards the ocean, using only a fraction of the petrol. The free time to reflect inside your helmet. Or when you stop at the lights and the Colombian guy on a bike next to you shakes your hand, then immediately offers his place to crash at for the night - before the light’s green. It’s another brotherhood I never knew existed. So much different than a car – there’s no steel cage.

    But it’s not just the riding or the landscapes - this trip has taught me it’s who you get to share the ride and the view with, is what really counts.

    I’ve met a lot of amazing people on this journey, from all over the world – inspirational people choosing to live their lives positively. Even had some great, old mates come together for an epic ride down through Baja, they all bought bikes, and we rode that desert for three months like wolves in the night. Scoring all time.

    And then somewhere along the lines, a really special girl fell into the picture. Bumped into her whilst surfing on Vancouver Island. We kept in touch. She dropped out and sold her small organic farm, bought a bike, then strapped two boards to it. Now she rides faster than me…

    And as for 'dropping out'? I reckon it’s more like dropping in. Into a fast-paddling thick one, it's steep sucking and step-peppered, and if you can only hold your line long enough through the foamballs and chandeliers you might just get spat out…

  •  

    Matty Hannon is a filmmaker from chilly Vicco - if you’re interested, you can see how the rest of the journey pans out on FacebookInstagram, or the Blog.

Comments

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Thursday, 1 Oct 2015 at 9:45am

So this is where the photo feature ends but if you want to keep up with Matt's adventures - such as his motorbike bingle from five days ago....sheesh! - then click and like/follow the links above.

Anyone who knows anything about the South American coast knows the best waves are yet to come.

tonybarber's picture
tonybarber's picture
tonybarber commented Thursday, 1 Oct 2015 at 11:05am

Like the last line - ' I don’t want this journey to end. Maybe it doesn’t have to…'
Geez haven't we all said that. Pleasure to read.

davetherave's picture
davetherave's picture
davetherave commented Thursday, 1 Oct 2015 at 11:27am

wow, so happy for this guy and so envious. have to admire anyone that has the guts to follow their dreams to have a full life. I could never get sick of reading and hearing about these sorts of adventures and thankfully he leaves most of the place details out so that others have to find out these things for themselves. thanks SW i could really enjoy more content like this.

davetherave

wildenstein8's picture
wildenstein8's picture
wildenstein8 commented Thursday, 1 Oct 2015 at 12:50pm

Fuck me that last wave is the bomb!

His girls not bad either. Can I say that?

ACB__'s picture
ACB__'s picture
ACB__ commented Thursday, 1 Oct 2015 at 2:56pm

What a cool bloke, I love what he's doing.

I'm traveling from Peru to Mexico through 10 countries starting in December. I'm so excited to see what's around that next headland, or how things will look on the different tides. The thought of escaping with a board and a passport is what's getting me through the cubicle 9-5 working for the man. Not long now.

I have no timeline, or agenda and plan to be gone for 6 months.

I hope to have some stories like Matty.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Thursday, 1 Oct 2015 at 3:55pm

Just two more months of daydreaming...then it becomes reality.

Onya Anthony.

Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean commented Thursday, 1 Oct 2015 at 11:41pm

ACB

Habla espanola? es muy importante! aprender ahora! buenas viaje!

sharkman's picture
sharkman's picture
sharkman commented Thursday, 1 Oct 2015 at 5:01pm

what a great story , those fucken Viccos are really crazy for an adventure , still so much coast to see and experience all the different cultures, Alaska , hmm makes me want to leave now , respect Mr Anthony!

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Thursday, 1 Oct 2015 at 7:20pm

Epic.

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Thursday, 1 Oct 2015 at 10:15pm

Just fantastic. Great read.

Ignorance is Zen

theween's picture
theween's picture
theween commented Friday, 2 Oct 2015 at 1:17pm

Awesome story and great pics. A 5' 10" tho.....?

The Ween

daisy duke kahanamoku's picture
daisy duke kahanamoku's picture
daisy duke kaha... commented Friday, 2 Oct 2015 at 1:33pm

Is this trip gunna be made into a fillem? Looks like you've got camera gear on the back of those bikes - cases and GoPro mounts. Good luck keeping the banditos away from them - plus the photos here show a crafty craftiness. Whats the deal?

Ontheroad's picture
Ontheroad's picture
Ontheroad commented Saturday, 3 Oct 2015 at 2:24am

Hey Kaha.. yeah i've been filming along the way, and when the trip's done i'll cut a doco, as that's another passion of mine and what I was doing for work before I left. But there's no deal really, it's just me and my girl on the road with a camera - no production house or funding of any sort - just riding on our savings to try and see a bit of the world... cheers.

daisy duke kahanamoku's picture
daisy duke kahanamoku's picture
daisy duke kaha... commented Tuesday, 6 Oct 2015 at 4:07pm

Right on Matt....or ride on...when the doco is cut consider this twenty buck note in my wallet to be yours.

Can't wait.

away's picture
away's picture
away commented Friday, 2 Oct 2015 at 9:35pm

Beautiful words. Beautiful pictures. Beautiful ideas.

I salute you!

mikehunt207's picture
mikehunt207's picture
mikehunt207 commented Friday, 2 Oct 2015 at 10:27pm

Someone give that guy a boardbag ! a channel bottom on a motorbike with no cover?mucho suerte amigo

niggly's picture
niggly's picture
niggly commented Sunday, 4 Oct 2015 at 12:16pm

awsome

masseydoug's picture
masseydoug's picture
masseydoug commented Sunday, 4 Oct 2015 at 12:20pm

What a trip and blog. Looking forward to hearing about the travels down to Patagonia.

burleighdoug