The Toast Surf Trip Kupang to Flores, Part 2 – introducing the boys

Any of you remember Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, that hilarious comedy about a stiff-shirted marketing executive (Steve Martin) and a zany salesman (John Candy) trying to get from New York to home in Chicago for the holidays? What’s normally a simple three-hour plane ride turns into a three-day run of misadventures and disasters.

If you recall from the previous blog post, the boys from Bali were supposed to fly to Kupang to board the Bajo Baji, but strong easterly trades had kept the B.B. pinned on the remote island of Savu. So we had to get to Savu, and the getting there reminds me of that movie, except it was more like “Bemos, Boats, and Ojeks.” With a Susi Air single-engine puddle jumper thrown in.

We did finally get there. The swell forecast motivated us greatly. Surely Savu’s fabled but fickle waves would be working.

first swell of the trip

In this post, let me introduce the Toast Trip Boys

the boys

From left to right, and when first came to Bali and where stayed

Michael “Toast” McHugh: 16 March 1976, Losmen Sudani

Clayton “Young Man” Barr: 1989, Mutiara Cottages

Murray “Muzzah” Bourton: 1975, Losmen Jalan Pantai

Robert “Sil” Wilson: May, 1974, Losmen Lasierawati

Your Blog Correspondent, born Bali 1956

Steve “The Deve” Palmer, Dec 1974, Losmen Lasierawati

Tim “Dog” Watts, July 1976, stayed with Made Waces (Big Froggy’s uncle) at Kuta Reef

We all either still live in Bali, or divide our time between Bali and elsewhere (say North America ski slopes in Northern Hemisphere winter months), or are constant repeat visitors. Those lined and craggy mugs you see lined along the foredeck represent a lot of history, from the early “Morning of the Earth” days all the way to the present “Midnight of the Garbage Dump” (or so it seems when a mild southerly blows across Peninsula Bali’s highest geographical feature, the man-made hill that is Suwung dump, rising ever higher to spread the aroma of rotting garbage).

The boys were drawn to Bali for its surf, Uluwatu being the siren call in those early years. They arrived with a surfboard, a backpack, and a couple hundred dollars in their wallets, enough to last for months at Kuta’s inexpensive family homestays scattered around dusty lanes winding through the coconut groves. They bathed and drank water drawn from the family well and ate black rice pudding for breakfast and warung noodles for lunch and perhaps a pasta dinner at one of the few restaurants. Should I mention the papaya stem bong? Kerosene lamps illuminated the night, and sleep was on a bamboo bed and kapok mattress. After hours of surf, and accessories one didn’t didn’t feel the kapok lumps.

As we talked story of those early days, we sometimes directed our comments to Clayton, the Young Man as an Artist who first set foot on Bali more than a decade later, but that is both understandable and excusable, as he was born more than a decade later. He was the same age at us when he landed at Ngurah Rai airport. But that early Kuta we knew was already changing with accelerating and irrevocable pace.

We recalled how Kuta was in the 70s a traditional, conservative Balinese village where the villagers eked out a hardscrabble living. Surfers with dollars in their pockets were a god-send. They were welcomed into the family homestay but the parents who ran the homestays didn’t really want the surfers around their children. They didn’t want their sons to waste time with surfing and darkening their skin in the sun like the poorest of the poor peasants laboring in the fields. They especially didn’t want their daughters consorting with these big-nosed, crazy foreigners. Not that it didn’t happen. There were lots of secret midnight knocks and climbing over walls and what a romantic novelist would call “trysts.” There was plenty of drama. If a Western lad went out publicly with a Kuta lass, then marriage was pretty much the expected outcome.

It was a different era and time, when the concrete shadows of big hotels and greedy Jakarta money were still way below the horizon. Kuta today occupies the same geographical coordinates, but it’s no longer the same place.


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11 Responses to The Toast Surf Trip Kupang to Flores, Part 2 – introducing the boys

  1. mattjenna says:

    I can’t express enough how much I enjoy your posts.

    Like a bunch of the guys in the pic, I first went to Bali in the early 70s (1972 and 73) as a grommet with my hippy dad (staying at the Adi Yasa on that first trip), went back repeatedly after that from the early 80s (when I was old enough to go solo), met my wife at Ulu in the late 90’s when I was living in Jimbaran, and had some great surfs with Tim at Outside Corner during those times (and some fun kiteboarding with him in Sumbawa in late 00s – actually saw him at Sanur a few weeks back), and now living in Australia, taking my own kids there surfing (with Rich Johnson’s lovely daughters) – third generation love affair with Bali.

    I wish life had worked out so I could have lived there and eked out a life in a small corner, so far not to be and unlikely. I remember crying as a grom as we flew out-so enamored was I even at a young age.

    Physically, Bali has of course changed so much over those times, spiritually, its essence remains strong and, as we know, change is the nature of all things and, those arriving for the first time now, will often still fall in love with Bali and its ways.

    Again, thank you – you’re words are appreciated.


  2. Anonymous says:

    Well done now you are getting there

  3. Woody says:

    Hey Dick, hope to see some photos of the crusty buccaneers getting slotted soon. My first visit was 1989, and I also stayed at Lasierawati on Poppies one, probably on the same mattresses as your mates! I feel a certain amount of sadness at what Bali has become these days, compared to the comparative simplicity and charm of even the late eighties/early nineties. Staying in the Warungs up at Ulus and Bingin for free, (just an exclusive food purchasing arrangement) early uncrowded Lakeys and Deserts, so many great memories over the years.
    This morning I rose at 6.30 had a quick coffee, walked from my Villa in Seminyak to the beach, Pagiing all the security guards along the way,surfed some fun 2ft righthanders, and was back for a cooked breakfast at nine. It’s a bit tame compared older times, but I’m still getting a kick out of the place.
    Sama Sama but different.

  4. Doddsy says:

    Great read and a great crew……….ahhh the good old days!!!!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Classic. And here I was thinking you were going to shut this blog down.

  6. Suomalainen says:

    Enchanting words, that will haunt till my my dying days “but it’s no longer the same place”
    Guessing as said by the wise one’s “these are the good old days”
    Enjoy the moment

  7. Pingback: The Toast Surf Trip Kupang to Flores, part 3 — A crisis of beer (and is there really surf on Savu)? | Bali and Indo Surf Stories

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