Ship of fools
The clock is ticking. The countdown has begun.
Sooner or later the borders will open and a year's worth of pent up froth and fizz will be unleashed across the globe in the form of rollicking Aussie surf mobs all dying to get their fill of tubes, giggles, and bankable memories as they traverse the oceans in the sweet comfort of a surf charter vessel.
When the green light for travel is finally given it's going to be a mad rush to Indonesia the likes of which we’ve never seen. Charters will be booked solid and berths will be hard to come by, so now is the time to formulate your plans and get ahead of the pack. Regardless of your budget, destination, or skill set, the single most crucial facet in a successful boat charter is the people you’ll be sharing the adventure with. Never underestimate the importance of getting the mix of souls just right as you’ll doubtlessly become both benefactor and victim to the character traits of each which are invariably exaggerated by the enforced confinement below decks.
The people you select to man your vessel into the surfing heart of darkness will make or break the mission. Here’s a few characters essential in any motley crew worth their salt.
The Mother Hen:
You're at Changi Airport and your connecting flight to Padang boards in fifteen minutes. Unfortunately the six hour layover has splintered the crew and cast them to the winds. Luckily most of the pack has decided to simply park up at the bar next to the gate and down a few Tigers to keep the mood high, but Big Dave sauntered off hours ago chasing a neck massage and hasn’t been seen since, the Dirty Duo from the Central Coast said something about duty free before vanishing, and Johnno has stayed true to form and gone too hard on the travel-aid Xanax he necks like lollies and is now passed out on the carpet.
Who’s going to step up to the crease and corral the crew in time to make the flight? Mother Hen of course! The Mother Hen is a born organiser who can be relied on to assume responsibility for his charges as they bounce like pinballs off the myriad distractions which could threaten the entire venture before it's even left the dock. Accounting for passports, arranging taxis, even filling out immigration declaration forms for the semi-literate, there is no action the Mother Hen won’t unhesitatingly take to ensure the trip gets out of the gate. The glue which binds any big adventure.
The Hooray Henry:
Hooray Henry loves a good time and any good time will do. Not all trips are blessed with great waves or comfortable weather and this can sometimes lead to a sombre mood descending upon what should be a happy occasion. This is Hooray Henry’s time to shine. Anyone can be upbeat when the Gods are smiling upon them but Henry’s superpower is to be constantly and indefatigably positive regardless of circumstance.
It wouldn’t be the first time for a charter boat to experience mechanical trouble on the day of the trip. Pumping swell, light winds, and the good ship becalmed miles from the action by a busted diesel engine. Things are looking grim, the crew are starting to mutter and dark clouds are beginning to block out the sunshine of adventure. Just when it might get real ugly, up pops Hooray Henry from the galley with an armful of cold Bintangs and a sanguine grin.
“OK boys “ he jauntily states whilst dispensing beers “What's the difference between a clitoris and a golf ball?”
And just like that the threat of a darkening horizon is gone.
The Hard Charging Mad Bastard:
No avoiding the purple blob quietly haunting the swell charts as the days count down to the much anticipated trip. The crew have packed their big boards in anticipation, but now that the big day has dawned and the ferocity of the surf is presented in terrifyingly vivid reality the enthusiastic debates over the merits of equipment and the previous braggadocio has evaporated like mist in the sunshine. Replaced by the palpable vibe of a dozen grown surfers quietly shitting themselves.
The sound of wax being applied to a surfboard is like thunder in the ears of the crew and all heads swivel towards the Hard Charging Mad Bastard, who up to this point has been a middling presence in any given session. Now he seems a few inches taller than he did when he was overshadowed by the small wave wizards who relentlessly hassled him for waves when conditions weren’t so serious.
No-one is taking the piss out of the Hard Charging Mad Bastard’s functional surfing style as he pushes into the set of the morning and threads clean through the guts of the heaving pit which inspires the rest of the crew into action.
If not for the Mad Bastard there’s a very good chance the intrepid crew might’ve found themselves squabbling for waves with the kids and the kooks at the protected break instead of pushing themselves into the waves of their lives.
Never leave home without a Hard Charging Mad Bastard beside you.
The Shred Lord
At the end of the day, after all the talk of a shared good time with mates, a respite from adult commitments back home, and the joy of travel, we get to the heart of the matter. The real reason that every surfer on board has undertaken days of travel at huge expense is the hope of getting their slash on and reaching new heights of surfing performance when finally set free amongst a quality lineup of powerful, perfect waves.
Just as the Hard Charging Mad Bastard is the person who motivates the boat when the waves get serious, it’s the role of the Shred Lord to inspire the motley crew to push the performance boundaries of their own surfing. There’s not a surfer alive who doesn’t hit the lip that bit harder or push their bottom turn a bit deeper after seeing the Shred Lord go to town, fins out and gouging on a set wave whilst they’re paddling back out.
Bonus points if the Shred Lord is an ex-pro who’ll regale the crew with raucous tales of their time on tour during sessions on the Bintangs. Deduct points if they’re the type who fails to realise that relentless name-dropping and continuous self-referencing gets old irrespective of sporting prowess.
The Easy Rider:
To weather the storm of adventure and stage a successful mission into the remote archipelago demands a specific and specialised cast of buccaneers and chancers. Unfortunately, there's a downside to any worthwhile collection of skilled picaroons and it's that they are prone to acting like a herd of cats when decisions need to be made.
The goofy Shred Lord will only go left. The Hard Charging Mad Bastard will only permit a downtime DVD screening as long as it’s a romantic comedy, preferably one starring Meg Ryan. The Hooray Henry thinks that a dozen Bintangs is not enough consumption to allow someone to declare and happily retire for the night.
Trying to find a bit of peace and quiet from this mob on a boat, which felt huge leaving port but which seems to be shrinking by the minute, can drive a surfer to the point of madness.
That’s when you thank the good lord Huey for your prescience in inviting along the Easy Rider. The particular skill set held by this surfer is in neither surfing nor people management. They are not typically inclined to throw themselves over the ledge at a death slab or be maniacally upbeat twenty four hours a day.
The talent of the Easy Rider is their intrinsic urge to reply to any decision with one of two casual and well-intentioned stock replies. These being :
"Whatever you reckon works, mate."
"Sounds good to me."
After a week caged up with a dozen high maintenance individuals these few words sound as sweet as a choir of angels.
With space on the boat at a premium, the person you need sitting beside you when you want to quietly take in the moment is always the Easy Rider. Content in companionable silence, respectful of personal space, and never one to inflict themselves upon a weary traveler, the Easy Rider is an amiable slice of sea-borne gold.
The Loose Cannon:
Who’s going to be the first mad bugger to jump off the mast?
Who’s going to growl out the aggressive leader of the Brazilians when a boat full of them tries to take over the lineup?
Who’s going to be the bloke who crazily decides to wake board behind the boat without mentioning it to the skipper when the boat does a night run between breaks? The story of which will define the trip and be retold unto infinity by the crew with both a tone of solemn condemnation and an air of gleeful approbation .
The Loose Cannon that’s who.
The recklessness of the Loose Cannon’s behaviour will be the stuff of eternal legend and the cause of much head shaking despair. The catalyst for much excitement and sometimes the cause of serious regret. Just don’t feed them after midnight.
The General Store:
Whilst the Mother Hen will ensure that everyone boards the boat, it’s the General Store who is relied upon when someone’s boards fail to make the dock by departure time. The General Store is the surfer who brought twice as many boards as anyone else, twice as many fins, and three times the wax.
They’ve got extra fin keys. They’ve got multiple spare legropes. They’re a walking surf shop slash camera store slash army surplus.
This is not due to generosity of spirit towards their crew members but the result of a deeply anal desire for redundancy in any and all events. The General Store will never refuse a surfer in desperate need of an item from their stash but will always gain their pound of flesh in return. Best possible outcome for all on board is the desperate surfer acquiescing to become the boat slave in exchange for a borrowed stick after they’ve snapped all of their own a week into the trip .
Accordingly the anal manner of the General Store can be a punish to be around but this is to be accepted as just another idiosyncrasy amongst a cabal of misfits and their various peccadilloes. A couple of beers will soon reveal the good human confined within the eternal noise of the General Store’s headspace...and a couple more will have you trying to swim back to port just to get away from them.
This brings us to the most important inclusion on the boat: Yourself.
So start saving and banking up those browny points at home because the borders will be open before you know it and you really don’t want to be the one dropping the rest of the crew at the airport when they go chasing the surf charter fantasy.
It won't only be the waves of your life you could miss out on. You’ll never forgive yourself if you aren’t there when the Loose Cannon doses the General Store with laxatives disguised as headache pills. Can you even imagine the boisterous laughter when everyone wakes up to find their tiny six berth galley cabin ankle deep in faeces ?
Such a delicate thread to add to the tapestry of your life…missed !
So get out there and start organising.
// CARCHARODON DUNDEE