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Pale Aliens (Part 1)

There would be no guarantee of surf, only of travel, esoteric cultures and new people, unsurfed coastlines and unseen reefs. It would be a series of high road/low road gambles…
Metaphysically that is all well and good, but on the earthly plane there is also a lot going on. Festivals and celebrations seem to be constantly happening or upcoming, and this huge country's northern borders are in more or less constant dispute, simmering with the vaguely terrifying prospect of conflict with the Islamic warlords of the Middle East.
The different pitches of the horns, commensurate with the size of the vehicles they are attached to, bestowed a surreal sense of animation to the traffic. It was like an eerily industrial conversation between alien metallic creatures, made stranger by the presence of unfamiliars such as the little three-wheeled tuk-tuks.
As we waited for permits and took a look around, we saw occasional elephants walking with their handlers along the roads, being led to unknown labours beyond the capabilities of mere humans.
Later we spotted a group of them being bathed at the edge of a large, silty river, obviously luxuriating in being scrubbed with big brushes by their tiny human masters.
The waterfront featured huge, triangular drop nets strung on cleverly contrived bamboo booms, which the fisherman would lower down over schools of estuary fish, with lone fisherman casting nets beside them.
And so I said, “Is that knot in your sarong or are you just happy to see me?”

Beer was scarce, so we quickly settled into a tea regime clearly a lasting influence of the former British regime.

As further evidenced by some of the lasting local humor… “Two scoops, right?”
By the third day on the ground, I was starting to wonder if the permits would be granted. The government people here are tragic bureaucrats, but late in the afternoon they came in and the next morning we squeezed onto a little prop plane for the flight out to … who knew what?
As the coast receded behind us, so the ocean below went through a gradual transition from monsoon mocha, through royal blue and finally to a startling turquoise/cerulean combination that made thoughts of being immersed in it very pleasant indeed.
We landed on the small island, a fair part of its length taken up by runway, and fell straight into another minor nest of bureaucrats at the little rustic terminal. Eventually heavily armed guards who, while not threatening were not exactly jovial, escorted us out to our transport.
Free, we got busy preparing for waves. It rapidly became obvious that these people had not seen surfing before, and the crowd continued to follow the young surfers with their strange little craft through the streets.
Way, way down the coast, someone had spotted a vaguely left-hand wave shape, so we drove up the narrow island road to the northern tip of the island. We were stoked with what we found.
We were on the watery summits of an extensive undersea mountain range, the island sitting mostly on the eastern rim of the submerged atolls, with shallow reefs enclosing a huge lagoon to the west.
While this unexpectedly early discovery was sinking in, the local crowds had begun to gather on the beach. The women wear colourful burqas and this riotous, Henri Matisse palette of colour juxtaposed against the brilliant aquamarine lagoon was a sight of rare beauty.
The short period trade wind swell was wrapping around the elliptical peninsula, right at the point where the wind was funneling back through the leeward side as an offshore and the swell was hitting with just enough angle to create fun little left wedges, head high bowls sling-shutting down the line.
“I don't know that they'd even seen anyone that looked like me before, let alone seeing us all riding waves,” said Luke Hynd of his first experience riding a virgin wave.
"I don't know that they'd even seen anyone that looked like me before, let alone seeing us all riding waves"
“Just to be able to show people who've never seen surfing what it is about? It was a pretty cool thing.” Luke putting it on rail for the adoring, if somewhat puzzled, crowd.
Pat Curren, son of legendary Searcher Tom Curren has the right attitude to follow in his father’s footsteps.
“We had an audience of local people, said Pat. They just looked at us like we were aliens. They’re funny though, hopefully they will start surfing some day.”
Pat, carefree and hugging the inside bowl.
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Enjoying the freedom of a new totally unsurfed and fun as hell break. A rare thing these days.
“Dillon is intelligent and a deep thinker, doing unexpected things like solving quadratic equations and trigonometry problems between surfs, a far cry from scanning Instagram and other social media fluff,” says photographer Dave Sparkes after spending time on the on road with DP.
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“Dillon explains the waves “growing” phenomenon… “You never knew which wave had that residual peak from the swell hitting the other side of the island, bouncing back and meeting up with the Point,” said Dillon. “The wave would be flat and then all of a sudden the residual makes the wave twice as big…”
“Clean arcs and a damn good air game characterize Dillon’s surfing, but on rare occasions like this it’s about going with the flow.
After that amazing and uplifting first surf, the place felt like it was buzzing. We'd made our initial discovery about five minutes after landing on the island, and now it seemed like anything was possible; who knew what else was waiting for us in these islands as we boarded the next leaky boat and headed for the azure horizon. Join us on The Search for Part 2 of Pale Aliens in the third week of January 2016

Like some of the best stories, this one began with a whispered rumour of some far-flung islands.

It sounded a bit tenuous, to be honest. The remoteness, and the vast distance of the islands from home, exacerbated the sense of doubt. However, whereas some rumours degenerate and trail off into farcical gossip or even downright apocryphal myth, this one took on substance, became full bodied and real. New waves, never before surfed. A true Search.

Captions from a full feature by Dave Sparkes. Photography by Dave Sparkes and Ted Gram beau. Video by Scott Mclimont and Tom Jennings.