Excerpt: 'Grajagan: Surfing in the Tiger's Lair'
At over 300 pages, including hundreds of colour photos, personal anecdotes, and researched history, 'Grajagan: Surfing in the Tiger's Lair' by Mike Ritter and Jack McCoy is the most complete story of the wave ever told. The following excerpt is from Chapter 18, 'Waves and Boards'.
All captions and photos by Jack McCoy.
Grajagan is never the same two days in a row. Ever. That’s because the storms that produce the waves in the Southern Ocean are moving from west to east. So as the swells are coming, the angles of the swell changes. But every day during the season you can count on the wind blowing straight offshore.
There are different spots along the reef that handle the various angles of the swell differently. Every spot has a distinct personality and an array of intenseness, you could say. The most famous spots are Money Trees and Speed Reef.
PETER McCABE: Some swells would hit Money Trees dead on. It’d be flat all the way down the reef, but it could be 6–10 foot right there off Money Trees and then it’d just end. Then sometimes you’d go down to the Launching Pad – this spot that I figured out watching Gerry coming down from Money Trees. That’s where it swings around on a south swell and comes into that big A-frame peak – I’ve seen some guys go right there. You can drop down straight; you’ve got heaps of time. Then all of a sudden it will stand up and you hit the bowl. You’re launched into that bowl and you’re on Speedies then. It’s like getting towed in. It’s massive, but it’s an easy drop and then it sets up and goes on down. Still, that all has to come together on a really good tide. Can’t be too much current. On the exact right tides, it just goes and goes and goes.
TIM WATTS: Anything that’s less than from about 212 degrees is south enough to make Speedies work. And anything with south in it is better at G-Land than straight west. The west makes it section a bit.
JOE MAYOLETT: My favourite takeoff was upper Money Trees. When you can get that, it’s like a slingshot off the bottom and it sets you up into the first section at Money Trees ahead of anyone else. You could paddle into that almost like a Hawaiian wave where you’re paddling straight down the face. You come off the bottom, come off the top and you’re just looking down the line at the tube setting up.
It gets more serious as you move into the main arena from Money Trees to Launching Pads and into Speedies. There I needed to do an angled takeoff, because it’s going to start winding so fast. High tide Speedies is like three or four Pipelines in a row. It’s super long. There’s no 18th hole. As you keep going you begin to think about your exit. And the best exit is just to pull in and try to pop through the back.
KONG: They were starting to call the takeoff above Money Trees the Cobra. It does have that standing up, lurching takeoff – that first real section, especially when it gets a double in it. And after that, it just absolutely winds off. If you time it perfectly, you’re deep in the barrel on the foam ball. Just when you’re coming out, it gets that next section, and you’re back into it again on the foam ball.
That can happen three times, maybe four, then you’re going into Speedies. Speedies is a whole other wave. Speedies is where the ocean just drops around the reef and it goes dry. You can’t turn, you can’t do re-entries. You are absolutely in a time-warp barrel, praying you’re going to come out. Because if you don’t, you’re going to get shishkabobed.
GARTH MURPHY: I remember how hard it was for a backsider to get out of the wave. I’d always end up going over the falls and then get beaten down to Speed Reef. The goofy-foots could dive into it and come out through the back.
GERRY LOPEZ: That’s section of the wave was so great for Peter and me when we would do our Blue Angels thing; we would ride the same wave together, both going full speed and not getting in each other’s way. And an interesting thing about the wave was, a lot of times you could see it was going to section in front of you, so Peter and I would kick out with speed and actually glide on the back of the wave past the section that was breaking in front of us, then we’d lie back down on our boards, paddle furiously, and catch the very next wave just past that section. It was like continuing on, because the wave behind had sectioned in the same place. You’d get these incredibly long rides. It was out of this world.
JOE MAYOLETT: You always want a high trajectory at G-Land, it seemed to me – high up under the lip. Money Trees seemed to be more of an almond-eye tube. Past the Launching Pad it starts to become a more top-to-bottom tube.
We learned you could walk south along the reef at low tide up this little point later named The Cove. McCabe called it the keyhole leap. Even if it was 10 foot as soon as you busted past the first bit of foam and turned right you’re already outside and in the Money Trees line-up. Or you could turn left to this other break. Peter named it Upper Jakes in my honour, because it’s where I liked to surf and the Balinese called me Jake instead of Jack. Mostly I was by myself and it was pleasant to surf.
In 1984 I took Kong to Upper Jakes. Bobby was running the camp. On the last day of our stay, Bobby arrived with a fresh group of surfers. Because it was low tide the guys were able to walk right up the beach to the camp. All the while they see Kong surfing up there. When he comes back to camp they ask, “What’s the name of that spot?” He turns and shouts, “Kongs!” He stole my spot.
The further you go up the reef, the mellower it is. The place way up the point above Kongs, we called Kasims [to honour Made Kasim]. It’s almost like a south-shore Hawaii wave. When it was small and nothing at the camp, you’d go up there and it would be like the best day ever at Mala Wharf.