“No poison, right?”
It was surprisingly heavy, Louie thought, as the snake wrapped its thick, sluggish body around his neck, draping itself along his arms and weaving around his back.
The man looked up at Louie from his position on the floor, cross-legged on a woven mat, a cobra at his feet. He sized him up, taking in the curly blonde locks, the vaguely sunburnt face, the seemingly relaxed posture. A smirk spread across his face. “Just little poison. Only kidney failure”
Two weeks ago, Luke Hynd was lounging on his balcony on the Gold Coast quite literally twiddling his thumbs. His feet rested on the salt-rusted railing, his eyes shut. The northerlies were blowing, the swell was pushing straight past the points, the blue bottles were invading and going for a surf was the farthest thing from plausible.
“It was flat and shit and I was going mental,” Louie said. His voice agitated just from the memory. “But then Darcy (Ward) came ‘round one day and I started telling him stories of a trip I’d taken a few years back – I’m not sure how it came up – but I was saying how I got really fun beach-break-ey reefs, heaps of lefts, good winds and it was a beautiful place.”
And then the duo realised that, hell, they weren’t doing anything else.
So three days later Louie had roped in his good friend and Rip Curl teammate, Kipp Caddy, locked in photographer Ted Grambeau, and hopped on a plane.
“I had just returned from a long stint travelling through Indonesia,” Kipp said, when asked how he got involved. “I’d only been home for a few days when I got a call from Louie. He said he might have a Search trip for me, and that he’d found a cool little stretch of coast that had fun waves. Before I had a chance to think about it, I was en route to a new archipelago.”
The crew arrived around 4am and they drove south along the coast as the sun began to rise. This is a unique area, in terms of surf – it’s one of those places where you never know what you’re going to find.
There are so many different nooks and crannies that no matter the winds or the swells or the storms, there’s always somewhere to paddle out and get a head dip. That, and there aren’t any crowds.
“When I first came here,” Louie recalls, “ there was nobody. I mean nobody. And now it’s becoming a bit of a tourist spot – but it’s not a surf tourist spot. There’s a huge difference between those two things. I mean, there are a few surfers here and there, but for some reason they’re all Russian and they’re all beginners – they don’t go near any of the waves that you or I would surf.”
So each day the boys would wake up, hop in the tray of their guide’s ute, and drive. The single coast road bends and tucks and meanders in line with the ocean, never letting the blue stray out of sight. With every turn the boys would check another wave, another reef, without ever having to turn their heads. “A lot of the time, you didn’t even have to park. You’d just drive, check, drive, check, and eventually, decide on somewhere that looked like the best option. That was the hardest part really, choosing.”
The routine? Choose. Surf. Hop out and find cover. Wait for the afternoon storm to blow through. Drive. Check. Surf again. Head back to the town. Nap. Head into the jungle.
That last bit – the jungle – that was the real pull of this trip.
See, Kipp Caddy is a slab-hunting maniac. That’s his shtick. And as you might be able to tell, the boys weren’t exactly chasing heaving 15-footers. So, what was he doing there?
“My thing is surfing slabs and critical waves,” says Kipp, “but at the end of the day, I love travelling, and I love being able to surf while checking out new places. Honestly? Knowing the waves weren’t going to be huge made the entire trip a lot more relaxing. It can get really intense in the lead-up to a big swell – everyone is on edge, pre-amping on what the conditions might be like, what boards to ride, etc, etc. But this trip didn’t have any of that, and just knowing that the waves were going to be fun let me get into my flow – really enjoy the place and the waves without all those intense vibes.”
The place. The place is unlike anything else. And as mentioned before, the jungle. “After we’d surf, we’d head out to see some of the more rural parts of the country. Where all the nature is.” Louie explains…
“As soon as you get 20 minutes inland, you’re driving past elephants and monkeys and snakes. You look out the window and see peacocks flying by. It’s insane how much nature is there. It’s untouched, and that’s so rare to see in this world, I think. It’s almost like when you leave the coast, you head straight into the Jungle Book.”
No better story will illustrate said Jungle Book than one of Kipp’s. He recounted a day on the trip when the crew decided to head out on a tour through the national park, when a monkey stole Ted’s $2500 camera. “It was only a little guy,” Kipp said, rather excitedly for his normally lackadaisical attitude, “but he was so aggressive that he straight up wouldn’t give the camera back! We spent almost an hour playing cat-and-mouse with him, and when we finally managed to get it back, he ran over to Ted’s camera bag and started rifling through it. Ted ran over freaking out, but the monkey had a pretty high quality left hook. He almost cleaned Ted up!”
It’s moments like that… those random experiences, those unique memories, that made this trip – and frankly, that are missing from a lot of surf trips these days.
“It’s a really different feeling than most trips,” says Louie, “when you go to a unique place that you wouldn’t normally think of for a surf trip. It’s going to a place to experience another culture and a wild place, and on the side you score fun waves. It’s just really fun, surfing in a unique area like this. There were kids playing cricket on the beach, and they were all frothing out because they hadn’t really seen surfing that much.”
Speaking of cricket, they’re fanatics in this part of the world. And despite the fact that neither Kipp nor Louie are avid cricketers, to say the least, they both found the kids’ enthusiasm… entertaining. “They honestly couldn’t have cared less about surfing,” Louie says, laughing. “But they would still come up and talk to you. The first question would be about your board, and then they’d go straight to ‘Who do you go for in cricket?’
“I’m not a cricket fan at all, but I knew that Australia was having a shocker, so I’d just say ‘Not Australia, we’re playing like crap!’ And they’d just love it. They’d be your best mates almost instantly.”
A massive part of every trip you go on is the people you meet. Your interactions and experiences with locals shape the way you talk, and think, about that place upon your return home.
“I don’t know what it is about this place,” says Louie, “but out of all my travels, I’ve met some of the nicest people here. Some people say that after a trip not really meaning it, but these people are really, truly selfless. I’d give someone a tip and they’d almost try to deny it. They’d say, ‘Nah, we just wanted to help you!’ That doesn’t happen, anywhere. And this country has been through a hell of a lot, so it’s interesting to me that the people are so kind-hearted and generous. I’m not sure what it is, but it’s refreshing.
“For me, there are two parts to a Search trip. One half is to go and find perfect, pumping waves with no one out. And then the other half is about going somewhere you wouldn’t expect – a really cool place – meeting new people, and finding waves on the side. Discovering what a new place, a new country, is all about.
“And that’s just, uh, what’s the word – it’s about finding out about the world, being able to experience different cultures and different places, while still being able to surf – and maybe you even get to show someone what surfing is. It’s not just finding the perfect barrel.”
Even for someone like Kipp, whose sole purpose in life IS to find that perfect barrel, agreed. “What’s the Search all about? Well, this was my first time really Searching, and after this experience I would say that, to me, it’s about getting out of your comfort zone and experiencing new places, people and waves. It’s about going somewhere completely new. No expectations, just going and seeing what you find. It’s inspired me to travel.”
Speaking of comfort zones…
“Kidney failure!? Get this thing off me!”
“Okay, but please, no sudden movements.”