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Madeira

A wise man once said if you go somewhere and have a great time, don’t ever go back

Photo by Timo
A wise man once told me that if you go somewhere and have a great time, don’t ever go back.

But I was never really one for advice.

The best surf trip I ever went on was to Madeira, and the worst trip I ever went on was to Madeira, the following year. The first trip, a week in mid January so was so idyllic in surf and sundries that it’s nauseatingly boring as an anecdote. I’ll spare you.

Surf consistency: 4 – Wave variety: 3
Climate: 7 – Radness: 7 – Budget: 4

I went back the next year and the surf wasn’t there. Neither was the girl I met, the hash connection nor the sunshine.

The wind was.

A drizzly, surfless, chilly first few days were briefly punctuated when a newly-arrived French surfer who happened to be taking a couple days at the coast having sailed there as second mate in a clipper, leaned out of his window and asked, “Excusez-me Ave you got any wollin paper?” “Have you got any weed?” I replied. Tuesday afternoon went OK.

One night I convinced this Hawaiian boogieboarder that there was an awesome nightclub in town, full of tail. “This place is fucken epic!” I emplored. We went, after much trouble getting in, it was fucken awful. A forest of moody cock.

When there is no surf you must drive a lengthy switchback guaranteed carsick trajectory to a terrible spot called ‘Chickens’. On that north side I forgot what side of the road and reverted to the British left.

I narrowly swerved to avoid an oncoming car, full of three big bruisers, who turned around and chased after me. I pulled over and one grabbed me out the car by the scruff of my neck, but instantly let go when I pleaded for mercy in English. A look of understanding came over his pugilistic face, then a smile. ‘Ah this ain’t so bad…’ I thought.

The sun was even poking cautiously out. I took out my board, waxed it in the sun. The board? Yeah, bit of a favourite, as it happens, the magic 6’2”, kind of the best board ever type deal. I brought it all the way back from Australia, where I’d had it custom built by one of that great surfing nation’s most prominent shapers. Then the sun went, wind came and I decided against paddling out. I took a quick slash, got back in the car and drove off, leaving my board on the wall. It was a few hours before I’d done the car sick drive back to Jardim do Mar, then back to Chickens. Do you reckon the 6’2” was still there?

The morning of my departure was heralded by a strange sound in the predawn. The roar of surf! A fresh, groomed west swell heaved down the points in glorious early morning sunshine. So glassy that sunlight sparkles danced on the majestic lifting swell lines as they refracted into one of the most scenic set ups in surfing. Did I wax my other board, my as yet unsurfed 6’8”? Alas, I had to leave for the airport just before mid tide, around the very time the tide got low enough to render the points surfable. I pulled over above town on that little lay-by where everyone takes the lineup shots and watched pretty much the first good set of the winter break.

Then I turned around, got back in my little car and drove off without looking in the rearview mirror.

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