Long Road to G-Land

Surfing has been a huge part in my life and plays a significant part in  JOURNALS FROM THE EDGE  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00SAEQZ7U

During the 1920’s and 30’s wealthier celebrities and movie stars from the U.S. traveled to the beautiful waves at Waikiki and the beach boy world of surfing’s ambassador, Duke Kahanamoku. After WWII a few California surfers began to trickle into the island of Oahu eager to find waves. Local surfers had already mapped out many breaks on the south shore of the island and competition pushed the search for empty waves to the remote north shore of the island that was exposed to massive winter swells. Legends were created at spots like Sunset Beach, Waimea Bay and the famous Pipeline.

Our grandfather had come to Maui in 1906, not for the surf or sun, but to work in the sugar business.   Our father had been born and raised on Maui and had shipped off to the Naval Academy in 1936. He continued as a career Naval officer after his action in WWII. Our childhood experience was moving around the mainland U.S. from one naval air station to another. It was disorienting but our grandmother on our father’s side still lived on Maui. She was our lifeline to a place we thought was heaven.Hawaii travel

By the mid 60’s, the outer-islands were still a secret but soon tales of a magnificent wave filtered out to the larger surf world. Honolua Bay is on the northwest corner of west Maui and in those days, was quite remote. If you came to Maui to ride “Buddy’s Bay”, most places to live were in the rowdy old whaling town of Lahaina. Lahaina also had great summer south swell breaks like the nearby harbor break wall and Mala Warf. Well-known line-ups began to see crowds.

Jobs were available at the few restaurants in town and more were added with the first hotels on nearby Kaanapali Beach, like the Royal Lahaina and Sheraton that opened in 1967. But crowded line-ups and scarce employment created competitive tensions between local surfers and mainland haoles. Added to that, some of the newcomers in search for waves, had adopted the growing counter culture scene on the mainland. That culture included using mind-expanding substances like LSD and more commonly, marijuana. See Surfing, Travel and Mind-expansion  Many of the incoming surfers in Hawaii were the fringe part of the  Boomer war protest movement to avoid participation of the war in Vietnam.  With a limited job market, a small number of surfing hippies began to grow what became known as the famous Maui-Wowie. Their carefree lifestyle clashed with local sensitivities and all was not harmonious.

Despite this discord, most of mainland surfers who had already traveled far, figured they had hit the jackpot living on Maui. I don’t remember an immediate reaction from anyone I knew to pack their bags and hit the road after we saw the movie “Endless Summer” in Lahaina. After all, Hawaii was in the movie. But I suppose the seed had been planted because in the years after the movie was released, a few adventurous souls took off for parts largely unknown to the western surfing world.

I was still finishing high school when my brother Mike flew out of Maui a month after we saw “Endless Summer.”  But his quest wasn’t a search for perfect waves. His exposure to surfing had been there since high school but his enthusiasm to do it had never taken off. He was traveling for different reasons.8 Mike in Lahaina

Drifting through all the well-known areas of the south Pacific, Mike ended up falling in love with a New Zealand girl. It didn’t work out and while he speculated about his next destination he ran into a European hippie backpacker who had hitched all the way across central Asia and landed in India. This hippie had been hanging out in Goa and got sick. Someone else told him to get well by visiting the island of Bali in Indonesia where there were clean beaches, cheap food and sunshine. Instead that hippie went to New Zealand where he ran into my brother and let him in on the Bali secret.

In 1968 my brother landed in Bali. In those days a handful of (mostly Dutch) tourists trickled into the island. Only few years before, political upheaval had caused major turmoil and bloodshed. New arrivals were told that the only place to stay was on the Sanur side of the island at the Intercontinental Bali Beach Hotel. But Mike had heard the inside scoop that it was the little fishing village of Kuta that he should check out.

The tale the backpacker had told him was true. The food was cheap and the beach was pristine—empty except for some European adventurers who walked naked on the shore. I was already an enthusiastic surfer when he wrote me.  Mike with beard

“Bill, you won’t believe this place I’ve landed in. It’s heaven. The wind is offshore every day and there are waves all along this twenty-mile stretch of beach—absolutely empty. Don’t have a board and there aren’t any here but I’m living on the beach and bodysurfing every day. I could get into surfing in a place like this. Bring some boards when you come. Contact Brewer and bring as many as you can. Mimi will cover the excess baggage.”

Our older sister Mimi worked for TWA and did find a way for me to bring several boards for free. I flew there immediately after I graduated from high school and Bali was everything he said it was—and more.

“Spectators”monkey temple watched the author from the cliffs at Uluwatu 14 Bill Uluwatu

Ultimately it led to our finding and starting the first surf camp in the world on the southeast tip of Java—now called G-Land.  Excerpt of Surfers’ journal article I wrote in 1993.  Photo of author by Bob Laverty crop B&W

“Journals from the Edge” is based on our family experience that deals with the why and how this journey was initiated—and the consequences beyond.

The mode of transportation on my first trip to G-Land was a fat wheeled motorcycle across Bali, crossing a ferry to Java and continued on the small bike to the coast and the small fishing village of Gradjagan. moto with boardBali ferry 1972Subsequent trips were made on various types of boats and finally we settled on making a camp where we could spend extended periods of time.

In the beginning there were accommodations for around ten hand picked friends. All that went were hardy surfers that could withstand missing a meal or two if the supply boat couldn’t make it through the pass in the reef filled with closed-out surf. Gerry and Victor Lopez from Hawaii as well as Peter McCabe from Australia were among our first guests. Friendships made during this experience have lasted a lifetime.

The length and the amount of waves meant that crowding wasn’t an issue. You couldn’t see where your pals kicked out and waiting alone for a set to arrive was a common occurrence. So despite surfing being an individual activity we soon began to depend on each other as a team. The waves were critical and the bottom sharp. Late afternoons and evenings were often spent scrubbing coral out of the backs and feet of our mates. We all became handy with a sewing needle and our ping-pong table was the surgery slab. Out in the line-up the guy farthest out was on sentry duty, hopefully vigilant in his watch for larger than normal sets. Getting caught inside meant breaking precious leashes, potentially boards, and more time in our jungle intensive care facility. Long sessions in equatorial sun meant the harsh offshore spray lashed our sunburnt eyes. Gerry came up with the idea of using tinted goggles for the paddle out.

Five and six hour sessions could also result in fatigue. With a nod towards my brother’s and my fighter pilot father, we came up with what we called the jet-assist-takeoff. If a paddler were taking off, one of our crew would sprint up behind him and give an added shove that would ensure a high-speed entry into a wave.  Mike BoyumDSC_0882

Don King, Jack McCoy and Art Brewer took pictures during the early years of the camp.  The world began to see that Plengkung or what the surf world started calling G-Land was a wonder of the world.  camp at G-land

Leave a reply