Happy Ending in The MentawaisSUP Magazine 2010 - Shelby Stanger
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Don’t Worry End Happy

(The story spread in Standup Paddler)

I’m scared out of my mind. The waves in the Mentawais are bigger, thicker, faster and hairier than anything I’ve ever seen. I’m the lone girl on a surf odyssey with a dozen of the world’s best watermen. Though they are respectful of my “wahine” status, my, ‘I’m just a journalist,’ card has been played.

So I’ve become the Zen Master of shoulder and foot massages, repaying the fellas for giving me heaps of waves which I either blow or wuss out on. After a few days alone in the middle of the ocean 700 nautical miles from the nearest discernable estrogen, jokes about happy endings are easy. I play along until the end when I get right in their faces, smile the biggest grin I can and say, “Here’s your happy ending: CHEEEEEEEESE!”

We’re aboard the Indies Trader III with legendary surf skipper Martin Daly, a New Zealand salvage diver who first came to this this remote chain of islands off the west coast of Sumatra to drag a timber barge off a reef in 1989. He’s made a return pilgrimage every year since, claiming to have discovered 90 percent of the region’s breaks.

We’re at one of the best of them when the breakthrough comes. The sun is setting and Brian Keaulana and I are the only ones still left in the water. He’s telling me how he trained Kate Bosworth for the movie Blue Crush by taking her out in 20-foot Waimea the first day they filmed. Some actress had gone out in big surf and I am in barely-overhead waves, frothing from fear?

Just as I envision a dainty blonde careening down a 20-foot face, Brian sees a set wave in the distance. I’m in perfect position. So is he. “You gonna’ go?” he asks in a way that says I’m a complete idiot if I don’t. A few extra strokes and I’m planing, ruddering around the chop, but with enough power to drop into the pit. My feet are planted. My eyes focus on the horizon, not at the menacing, rocky reef a few yards ahead.

“Make it, make it, make it,” I say to myself, a trick Brian has me use use after I bailed for the 100th time, thinking the wave was going to close on my head and pummel me. I say it again and again, until I sense water above.

I’m in the tube for the first time in my life and have never felt so scared, and elated.

Back at the boat I’m beaming. The guys tell me I charged. I lie on the deck, bikini still clinging to my wet body. “Who’s giving me my happy ending now?” I ask. They laugh. Getting barreled in front of this crew is the best happy ending I could have imagined.