Worldly travel, especially that of the surfing kind, is right up there on the ol’ dream-filled bucket list. For some, this bucket gets kicked aside by life’s inevitable responsibilities. For others, the bucket gets filled with adventure and memories. While both have their pros and cons, Brendon Booth Jones provides a snippet of the latter, and highlights some “hey, who’d-a-thunken” irony in his entry into ‘Write to Surf‘ – our surf journo competition which has some epic prizes up for grabs (see below for details).
WHAT GOES AROUND – by: Brendon Booth-Jones
Earlier this year, I’d just finished an unforgettable road trip on the north island of New Zealand, fulfilling a dream I’d had since I was a grom: To surf the goofy foot heaven that is Raglan. I was lucky enough to get it uncrowded too, with just a handful of people in the water.
But now I was back in Auckland and contemplating my next adventure when a good mate of mine from Australia messaged me and said he had landed a great gig as a white-water-rafting instructor in the jungles of the Perak Province, Malaysia. He told me that nobody around there could speak much English but that the locals loved him, that he would put in a good word for me and that I should get over there as soon as possible. I had been thinking about doing an Indo trip but was tempted by the fact that I’d never been to South East Asia. The job entailed spending most days white-water-rafting, waterfall abseiling and caving. Instructors lived in the jungle resort so all food and accommodation was free. It sounded ideal in terms of new experiences and my limited budget. So I booked my flight to Kuala Lumpur and headed over.
Three long, uncomfortable bus rides later and an arduous night spent sleeping on the floor of a deserted bus station and I finally made it to the tiny provincial village of Gopeng. My friend and two of the local instructors came rattling down the dusty, pot-holed road in an old truck that had certainly seen better days. They picked me up and we went to meet the owner of the adventure resort. I was a bit apprehensive due to having zero experience or training at white-water-rafting. “No worries mate, just tell them you’re a surfer” was my friend’s advice.
The owner was a slick, middle-aged, Malaysian business man who seemed to have his fingers in many pies, and apparently didn’t spend much time in the jungle. He had a warm smile and handed me a warm can of coke. “So Brendon, you have experience?” eventually came the dreaded question. “Umm… not really…” came my stuttering response. I had travelled a long way to get there, banking naïvely on my laid back mate from Byron Bay’s confidence. Mr Slick began to frown. “But I’m a surfer… so I uh…know the rough water.” I blurted. Believe me, I know how stupid that sounds. But surprisingly, his frown changed into a big grin. “Oh great! You will be fine! You start today!” I couldn’t believe it, but out the corner of my eye I saw the wry smile on my mate’s face.
Well it turned out that I was, unsurprisingly, the worst white-water-rafting instructor. Possibly of all time. I tried my best, really I did. But I was dreadful compared to the other instructors, who were mostly from Borneo and had been doing it for years. My aussie mate wasn’t too bad either. I swear I must have been dry docked on every big rock in the river, scared the living daylight out of countless city dwelling bankers on company team-building retreats, and probably destroyed half a dozen rafts in my calamitous stint. But the local people who ran the show loved me (perhaps I was too entertaining to fire). But eventually we left and headed North into Thailand and then Cambodia.
Fast-forward a few months and I found myself in Portugal. I had just spent the last few months based in London and was thrilled to finally be back on the coast, not having surfed since New Zealand. I didn’t have my quiver with me by this stage so I borrowed a board from a mate who lived in Lisbon. He’s a big guy of around 6’ 5, so the only suitable board for 5’ 11 me, was his daughter’s brand new 5’ 8 fish. She had surfed it once and being eight years old, it was her first custom-made board.
We paddled out at fun Caparica, two to three foot , peaky lefts and rights. To say I was over-joyed after six months out the water was an understatement. After about an hour, I took off on a fun-looking right. As I was bottom turning, a guy who was clearly a beginner, dropped in on me, and with a sturdy poo-man stance, clattered straight into me. He immediately paddled over, apologising profusely in a thick Portuguese accent. It had been an honest mistake and fortunately neither of us were hurt, but little Eliha’s new board had a big gash on the rail. He followed me in to the beach and as bad as I felt about the surfboard, I couldn’t be angry with this poor fellow, who was still apologising. We chatted for a while and I asked him what he did for a living. “I’m a white-water-rafting instructor” came his reply.
Send your stories to email@example.com. One submission will be selected every six weeks to appear in Zigzag magazine. The selected submission will also receive a hamper from Billabong. Zigzag retains the right to use any work submitted for the Zag Surf Journo competition on zigzag.co.za as outlined in the rules and terms of the competition. Zigzag reserves the right not to award a published winner in the magazine every six weeks, depending on the quality of entries. Zigzag is not obligated to run any and all entries submitted, either online or in print. Zigzag retains the right to edit all work submitted for brevity and / or clarity.
For the next three issues the Billabong prize hamper includes: 1 x Billabong Wetsuit; 1 x Billabong Boardies; 1 x Billabong Cap; 1 x Von Zipper Sunnies; 1 x Set of Kinetic Racing (KR) fins. After which the hamper will get a shake-up with new product of equal value for the following three issues.