If there be any one surfer on the planet who’s cataloged all of Indonesia’s world-class surf breaks, and most of the B-grade ones, then I’d say that person would be legendary surf boat charter skipper (and coffee plantation entrepreneur) Albert Taylor, he of the sun-leathered skin and bushy eyebrows and maniacal grin that gets grinning most maniacally when he’s at the helm heading into the dark eye of cyclone or when he’s dropping into the Cyclops eye of a mutant slab beast on some god-forsaken Indo reef. East and west, north and south, he’s skippered surf charters everywhere and around and through every nook and cranny. But he doesn’t mark his maps, and no matter how many brews you ply him with and knees you bend in begging, he doesn’t spill the luwak coffee beans on where and when and what. His grin gets sly, but his lips stay sealed.
(Unlike mine. I’m not a blabbermouth, but my lips have leaked. Some folks aren’t entirely pleased about my comments on the Savu waves in my previous posts. Too much information. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. But to tell the truth, I’m not burdened by excessive guilt. I’m a bit too jaded for that. After decades of surfing through the archipelago, after years of witnessing a multitude of unknown surf breaks overrun by the masses, if you’re today planning to enjoy a remote reef break that is supposedly hush-hush, I don’t think the question is how hush-hush it really is or how many underground surfers know where x-marks-the-spot, the real question is how many lads and lasses are gonna be there when you show up. The X that marks the Savu spot has been well and truly marked by the grapevine and Internet for many years. Plus, in my humble opinion, it’s not one of those waves you drop everything and spend a few days of your life getting there to surf).
So. Back to Bert. Some years previously, I had heard Albert murmur something about a wave in a neighboring region, a mystical, mysterious, magical wave that only appears to those who are righteous in spirit. So a few weeks before our Toast trip, I made a point of catching up with him.
“Hey, Bert, what about this mysto right?”
Bert grins and waggles his brows. Like he does when he ain’t sayin’ nuthin’.
“Come on, mate, it’s just us old-timers. You can tell us.”
“How do you know it’s a right?” he asks.
“It’s a left?”
Bert didn’t reply. His waggling eyebrows could have scrubbed a potato. His sly grin could have skinned a skunk.
Then, as I left, he said, “The Snake Lady of the Ridge.”
“Mate, bring her a gift.”
“Who on earth are you talking about?”
“The Guardian of the Break. Bring her a gift.”
“Jeez, a boat of manly men show up and and you have to ask? But if that doesn’t work out, then something fresh and bloody should do.”
On our last day at Savu, while in the line-up Clayton the artist chatted with one of the Europeans from the surf bus charter boat. For one reason or another, Clayton gave the Euro his email address, which has “LoveBigArt” in it.
The wind must have muffled the words and the Euro misheard. His eyes lit up.
“Me too, my friend!” he exclaimed. “I love big ass, the bigger the better.”
Then the next wave, the guy rides too far onto the shallow end bit and smashes his face up on a coral head, requiring some emergency field-dress stitching.
Late that afternoon, with trade winds moderated to a steady breeze and the Savu harbormaster’s sailing permit signed, the Bajo Baji set off for a sunset fishing cruise around the islet of Raijua and hence on westward. Alas, despite Robert Wilson’s expertise, the trolling lines did not sing, but no matter, for we had our Bintangs and our Prost and our stories (and Steve Palmer his iPhone).
What we did not realize, as the sky’s colors faded to the velvet sparkle of starlight, was that the Snake Lady of the Ridge was already singing her siren song. The compass heading held steady, the GPS unit spat out its orderly coordinates but yet all around us, and unbeknownst to us, the cosmos was shifting.