Floating plastic and a karmic thing you can do

The other day at Serangan your blog correspondent paddled out to join the throng frolicking in the head high waves. An eddy of plastic trash swirled in the channel. I plucked a couple noodle bags and a diaper package (just the package, mind, not the diaper) and stuffed them into my board short pocket to dispose of properly later once back ashore. One of the Kuta-side locals was giving me a peculiar look, so I told him, “Just symbolic, a syukuran to the Ratu Laut” (thanks to the Lord of the Seas) and he burst into a huge smile.

At any rate, this is something I’ve done for a while, an eccentricity that actually on occasion seems to provide a karmic blessing in the form of a good set wave after bobbing around and getting nothing. Or, alternatively, for each wave I ride, I will pocket a plastic by way of thanks. Not obsessively to the point of superstition, but regular enough it’s become a habit. There’s certainly no lack of plastic floating around the reef waters, more and more of it by the week, it seems.

The other day I gathered this out in the outer reef line up for each wave (a short session in two foot dribblers):

nusa plastic 2

And then I grabbed one of the larger plastic bags and on my paddle in plucked even more plastic:

nusa plastic

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A historical photograph of Nusa Dua surf

Well, okay, it’s not exactly what you think it is, but I’m tickled pink, with some reef rash thrown in.

Your blog correspondent has been surfing Nusa Dua for some forty years, although in the last decade my attendance declined in proportion to the traffic jams and time it took to drive there. Why spend three hours sucking leaded gas fumes in stop-and-go, and sometimes just plain stopped, traffic to surf three waves (ND being a notoriously hard work, low wave count spot)? But now there is the toll road, and my back and various bones are doing okay, I’ve been sneaking down south.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve never been much of an Ulu side guy (except for Airport (Pertamina) Lefts and Middles before the crowds) — and after learning to ride a surfboard at Kuta beachbreaks my first reef waves were first, Mushroom Rock when the Nusa Dua warungs were at that beach before the hotel developments, and then Nusa Dua proper. There’s a blog post about the history of Nusa Dua surfing as filtered through my warped memories. In the early 80s, Nusa Dua got pretty crowded for the time, I think mainly because the government bulldozed a limestone road out there as the first stage of development, allowing easy access in the off-season months. The other off-season spots were hard to get to (ie Green Balls, Payung) or damn near impossible (ie Serangan), so Nusa was the go to place.

At any rate, all those years surfing the joint, and not one photograph of yours truly. So when a friend alerted me that our fellow blog friend Nusa Surf Wear, who does a regular video surf report around the Bukit, had a video of me on a set wave on a good day from the other week, I said, “ah, I’m not really into self-glorification” — well, okay, I dropped everything and got on the computer and lo and behold, it was me on a solid wave. So I saved the Nusa screen grab and here it is. A historical photograph (to me at any rate; plenty of locals and visitors can surf circles around me out there). This is the end of the ride from outside and that corner came down on me and I had to bail. As I sometimes do, I counted off the seconds while tumbling around the reef bottom and popped up at nine seconds (see this post on the twelve-second rule of wave hold downs)

me at nusa dua

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Emu, Desert Point, 1987

We were on the Hati Murnih boat: Emu and Fredo and me. Emu was a big, craggy South Australian and Fredo a Margaret River area lifeguard and I was me, a bit in over my head on this solid 6 – 8 ft swell, not having the technical backhand skills on waves that this morning and tide were racing too fast. Fredo kept his lifeguard eye on me. Emu’s lady (if I remember correctly, Gabriella) walked up the beach from the anchorage and took the photos. Anyway, this was 1987 — or 86 or 88, time blurs, but Desert Point was still a truly secret spot known to only a very few crew with boats, and we had the break to ourselves for the whole swell. The closest surfer was across the deep ocean channel at Lembongan. Now it’s one of Indonesia’s most crowded surf spots.

emu desert point

emu 2 desert point

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A Rotten Stinking Place To Die

Kinda busy today. In lieu of a regular post, here’s the first chapter of a new novel, “A Rotten Stinking Place to Die,” first draft actually nearly finished. Then starts the revision. Any and all comments and criticisms welcome. That’s the point of first drafts.

Chapter 1

I didn’t see the body at first.

It’d been a rough night crossing, the Orient Star plowing into thirty knot squalls with driving rain and corkscrewing seas. We finally dropped anchor after two a.m. in the lee of what boat skippers in these parts call Thank God Island and collapsed into our bunks.

I woke by long habit shortly before dawn. Despite only a few hours of sleep, my consciousness returned full and instant. I have never been a sleepy-head. The rain had stopped. The single-berth cabin held steady. The air conditioning unit hummed, the red numerals of its temperature display reflected backwards off the porthole’s glass. I am accustomed to equatorial heat, but I’d indulged my Nordic genes by dialing it as low as it would go. Kicking off the blankets, I swung out of bed to dress in a sarong and long-sleeve blouse. I crammed on my cap and grabbed the prayer rug. Outside the galley, I used the freshwater hose to rinse my face and hands and feet in the ritual ablution. That done, I went up the metal stairway to the upper deck, treading softly so as not to wake Alexandra, who slept with her captain’s ear alert to the ship’s noises.

By the upper landing was a small hydraulic crane used to hoist the inflatable dinghy into its cradle. The body dangled only ten feet away, but was shrouded in thick night shadow. I walked past without noticing.

Beside the salon door, rungs led to the top of the wheelhouse, festooned with radar and satellite domes. There was no moon. Tattered clouds strung across the star-dusted sky, shedding enough light to silhouette the island. A breeze carried the iodine scent of reef and the murmur of surf.

On the eastern horizon, the night began to thin. I placed the prayer rug toward Mecca in the northeast, which meant I was angled towards the ship’s stern. The body was below me, out of my line of sight. I performed the ritual dawn prayers, and added my personal ones, for my ailing mother in the care facility and my sister in university and for patience and grace in dealing with the ship’s guests.

When I was finished, I rolled up the rug and stepped toward the ladder. A swell curled into the anchorage and ran under the ship. In the darkness below me, something swayed. I noticed then that the crane’s boom was extended over the water. As I peered, whatever dangled from the boom swayed the other way and then hung still again.

The head tilted at an ugly angle. The chin flopped onto the chest. The arms fell straight. The toes drooped toward the water. I might have thought it all an illusion, a shape fashioned out of the night like a cardboard cutout, without depth or detail, except another swell rolled into the bay. The body swayed again. A stray beam of anchor light fell on the face. Dried blood crusted under the nose. A swollen tongue protruded between puffed lips.

That made it real as hell.

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Bali Surf Report for 21 March (Nyepi) with surf photographs!

In case there are a few readers who don’t know, each year Bali goes on shut down for a full day, sunrise to sunrise, no lights no play no work no surf. One is supposed to remain indoors, or in the case of tourists, on hotel grounds. No surfing either, but I bet you somewhere on the island some foreign fellow paddled out and then tried to plead innocence.

But the webcams remained on their diligent duty (next year the Balinese pecalang might twig and shut these down too). Here are some screen grabs of a very rare sight – not a single surfer or learner or school pod in the water.

It’s been a while since there’s been epic surf on Nyepi — if we had Sunday’s swell on Saturday, oh the insufferable frustration.

canggu nyepi

impossibles nyepi

kuta beach sepi2

keramas nyepi

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Selamat Hari Raya Nyepi (and no, you may not go surfing)

To our Balinese brethren, Selamat Hari Raya Nyepi, which falls on March 21st.

To surfers: it shouldn’t need saying, but somehow every year it does: the surf is off limits. It used to be that one could paddle out and in, as Nyepi was more relaxed, but these days the rules are strictly enforced. Be respectful.

But take a look at this (I’m not in the habit of posting surf forecasts but it looks like Nyepi will be a good day to rest up for what will appear on the dawn’s horizon — and remember Nyepi is enforced until sunrise, so no sneaking out at 4:30 am to get to your spot:

surfs up

Many people don’t know that ogoh-ogoh are a recently new cultural phenomena. Banjar Taman in Sanur always makes a good one:

ogoh 2

And since this is Bali, where earthiness is an art form, the pig is anatomically correct:

ogoh rear

(The bottom wording says “1 percent art, 99 percent haram”. Written along the bottom of the side shot and not in the picture is the warning “This pig eats genitals” although the wording used is a lot more earthy”

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Sick day

Flat, too.

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