When we came out with our painstakingly-researched thought-provoking masterpiece, Exposed: The 5 Worst Places To Go on A Surf Trip Today, we had the surf world in our thrall.
Y'all tended to either love or hate it, and if you hated it, it was only coz you knew it was all true. Cornwall*, SW France, Australia, Bali and the Ments had hitherto all been part of intricate conspiracies perpetuated by both the surf and mainstream media, and there we were, luckily, to tell it like it really is.
While most of your comments were themed around the skill of our penmanship and the veracity of our observations, there were also many calling for further surf destination myth-busting. "What about Hawaii?!?" said Penny in Tunbridge Wells, "The North Shore should be on this list!" demanded Kaipo in Ghent.
Luckily, we knew a surf journalist who wields a righteous sword of truth any chance he gets. His name is Ben Mondy, and this is what he had to say on the 5 Next Worst Places To Go on A Surf Trip Today...
*Remarkably, most of the protests seemed to surround Kernow's inclusion on the list, as opposed to merely being grateful it was even being mentioned in the same breath as the other four. You crazy mother bitches.
The Canary Islands
"'Europe’s Hawaii' has a ring of truth. For it’s probably only the North Shore that can match the Canaries' mix of powerful waves and outright hostility"
I once was dropped in by a longhaired bodyboarder on a six-foot slab in the Canaries. He airdropped from the shoulder, landed on my head, and with legropes (mine) and ponytails (his) entangled we were both driven headfirst into the volcanic rock.
When I paddled back out, instead of an apology, I was greeted by my assailant and six of his coiffured flippered mates. They proceeded to back in, bum first and rain down blows on my head with their Churchilled feet.
It’s worth noting that was one of my more pleasant experiences in the Islands.
Europe’s Hawaii; the old surfing adage about the Canary Island goes. And it has a ring of truth. For it’s probably only the North Shore of Oahu that can match the Canaries' mix of powerful waves and outright hostility.
The waves are obviously world class, it’s just that 98 per cent of them are made ineligible by the local cunts that ride them. And it’s not just some waves that are off limits, but whole frigging islands.
Now, sure, there are little enclaves where it’s still possible to get waves. It’s just that these are the waves that the locals don’t bother with and where just you, and 300 German learners, can go and fight amongst the 200 knot offshores.
Other opportunities also arise in the hour just before sunrise, and the hour just after, where you can fill your boots before the locals slowly wake up, paddle out and berate you for having the audacity to surf on your own at such an ungodly hour.
Away from the waves though it does boast some delightfully tacky tourist traps. On these strips it’s possible to order a pint of Stella at 8am, and spend the day watching members of the National Front and soccer hooligan’s families collective aggression increase in proportion with their third degree sunburn and alcohol intake.
By the end of the first week in Canaries your surfing soul starts to resemble that of the landscape - a barren, gnarled surface devoid of any charm or life.
Still, the flights are cheap.
"By the end of the first week in Canaries your surfing soul starts to resemble that of the landscape - a barren, gnarled surface devoid of any charm or life"
Where else on God’s Given Earth can you surf picture-perfect four foot right handers in front of jail that houses women prisoners waiting to be flogged for the crime of fornication? Of course, if we leave the human rights issues to one side, and hey, this is a once-in-a-lifetime surf trip so let's do that, the key in that first sentence is “picture-perfect."
For most lineup shots of the Maldives do portray a tropical perfection. A small circular atoll is surround by an aquamarine lagoon, then wrapped in lefthander on one side, and a mirrored right on the other. However what the photos don’t show is the Category 8 rip that sweeps through the deep water straits adjacent to the breaks.
In a two-hour surf, you will stop paddling for about three seconds. In those three seconds, eight Israelis, fresh from a year’s national service and six Brazilians, fresh from paddling past you on the last set, will streak past you.
It’s a constant a sluice of cunts, no doubt all laughing at you for spending 560 American bucks, on the mandatory-but-not-mentioned-on-the-website “surf transfer" tickets.
On the plus side, you will never have felt so good about your duckdiving. Not only do you get plenty of practice, as those rips often drag you into the impact zone, but it’s the only place on Earth where you can be can caught a yard in front of a six-foot wave breaking in a metre of water and push through it like its a two foot foamie at Malibu.
The total, and confusing, lack of power is great for duckdiving, but not so good when you are trying to do a turn, or being misled into a tube stance, when the waves continually refuse to barrel.
"Eight Israelis, fresh from a year’s national service and six Brazilians, fresh from paddling past you on the last set, will streak past you..."
Atli Guðbrandsson, Iceland surf dude, calls the waves of Iceland, "Cold, beautiful and unpredictable." You’ll notice a few missing adjectives there, the main omission being “good."
Photographer Chris Burkard has beaten the Nordic drum pretty hard, and spawned a thousand Burk-lite cold water surf (read shit waves) documenting disciples. When you're being asked by Justin Bieber to be a personal tour guide, as Burkard was, shit starts to get real. However that doesn’t stop Iceland from being extremely cold (there’s a clue in the name), or that the tiny percentage of quality waves aren’t heavily and constantly affected by the Arctic’s mood swings.
Sure, go to Iceland to bathe in its natural beauty, to drink 18 euro beers surrounded by high quality blonde Reykjavic minge and to bask in the endless summer, but just don’t go for the waves. They are shit.
Now first an admission. I have never been to Sri Lanka, except for a stop over in Colombo airport en route to a free trip to the Maldives, which probably doesn’t count. However I have known plenty of surfers who have and the only ones that have enjoyed it have been kooks of the highest order.
So if you are a kook, and if you are still reading this, you must be, go fill your boots. Crowds aren’t a big factor. Most of the waves, like a good skin cancer, are benign. The accommodation is cheap and the food is amazing. There’s also few of the lineup pressures that come with quality waves and traveling Australians. I’m informed the Brazilians haven’t properly discovered it, yet.
The West coast I believe has ordinary beachbreaks and reefs that come without ruler-edged lines. The East coast has a very crowded Aragum Bay and crocodiles that come and bite you when you are trying to do a shit. As I said, I’ve never been, and I doubt I ever will. I’m not a kook.
"Most of the waves, like a good skin cancer, are benign"
Wearing flipflops indoors, driving faster than 15mph, driving slower than 15 mph, talking to a girl, talking to a girl’s friend, talking to a man, parking in the wrong spot, patting a dog, taking a photo. These are just a tiny of the myriad of ways that a surf trip in Hawaii can end in disaster.
A month on the rock and your feet can be cut to shreds, not from the volcanic reef, although that is possible, but from walking on eggshells.
The Aloha spirit, you see, comes with a thick edge of violence, ice addiction, oversized monster trucks, tattoos, pit bulls and entitlement. Navigating that minefield can be exhausting.
And that’s before you even paddle out. It’s called the Seven Mile Miracle, but the thing about seven miles, is that it isn’t that long. There’s no secret spots on the North Shore and crowds are a given.
"A month on the rock and your feet can be cut to shreds, not from the volcanic reef, but from walking on eggshells"
Sometimes you will hear North Shore devotees, the guy from Florianopolis say who sells acai bowls out of the exhaust of his Hilux, or the pimpled Peruvian dude selling coke from his roadside tent, that there are empty waves to be had on the North Shore.
These however usually involved paddling an eight foot gun into a lineup the size of a football field, and then simply waiting patiently waiting for a cleanup set to build your character.
Most of the time however you will be sitting in a crowded lineup deciding whether to shit yourself over the oncoming set, or whether a false paddle for said set will instigate a chain of violent events, with your confused head bearing the weight of it all.
On the plus side you can rent a single bedroom in December for 100 bucks a night, have a bike stolen every second day and stand next to Nathan Fletcher in Starbucks.
You just got to weigh it up.