Words: Bernd Roediger
Pics: Martin Daly – Epic Stock Media
I was never a child gifted with brilliance… I’m not proud of that, but it’s a fact. I shouldn’t start this story with lies, right? I think so, just for the sake of posterity, because later on I’m really going to be drawing off of a lot of ‘artist’s interpretation’ just for the sake of entertainment. You get it. So again, average intelligence, average grades throughout my academic career. Attention deficit? Yes. Initiative? No. You see what I’m depicting here, and you might be wondering why it is that I’ve decided to open with this humdinger of a self-depreciating hook? Well, I guess it’s because what I’m about to tell you might seem a little confusing at first, I know it was for me, and so I’m offering you a bit of comfort here – we’ll get through this together; because if I can, you can too. That’s logical, right?
Ok here goes: do not, under any circumstances, approach the Marshall Islands, ever.
I’m serious, if you value your well-being you should listen to me right now! The place will ruin your mojo, the whole scene is one big happiness hazard! I’m talking about barrel blindness. It sets in almost immediately upon arriving at the site. You will witness, in horror, as the beach breaks and b-grade waves most dear to you will distort, disintegrate and eventually disappear from view. White washed from your mind’s eye! But it doesn’t end there. The equatorial sun will turn you into a Hawaiian, 90 degree water in the lineup will make bathwater back home unacceptable. There’s so much life in the ocean, crusty dudes on the docks tell tales of days they didn’t catch fish.
One such crusty dude happens to hail from Australia and goes by the name of Martin Daly – he owns a multitude of boats. Don’t get on the boats! He’ll tell you that he wants to take you to a strange Marshallese atoll that’s inexplicably foreign to the rest of the modern world; really he’s trying to ruin your life.
OK, so now I can almost hear the proverbial record scratching. Where is this train wreck of an article even going? That same melody of sweet surf sensationalism we all love to read has been broken down into a writhing dubstep remix of nauseating ‘antistoke’. But I’m your friend here, listen to your friend, your friend wants to help you. If only I’d known three years ago what I know now. I’d have saved myself from imploding, and probably have graduated with better grades.
To clear things up, a place such as this wasn’t meant for mortal men. Guys like you and me, we aren’t supposed to have this much fun. Regardless of who you are, or how long ago your state legalised marijuana, you’re not equipped with the dopamine capacities for this level of euphoria.
I feel like this is the part where my job as a writer becomes simple, I could very easily pepper these pages with a plethora of descriptive words, add too many adjectives, lather over the keyboard, stoke pouring out until the pages are soaked, and now you’re bored. Hose you down with adjectives the way Mickey Cohen might’ve hosed down a bank with a Tommy Gun, I’d be happy to. I’ve been many a time been told that my writing style is ‘long’. No, I’ll rest my fingers, and you can rest your reading glasses; let me just point you to these awesome photos, courtesy of Martin Daly.
On the topic of Martin Daly, for those of you who may not know who this guy is Captain of the Indies Trader, the flagship of the famed Quiksilver Crossing, home of Kelly Slater’s Young Guns films. You can safely bet the best names in surfing like Tom Carroll, Kelly, Dane Reynolds, Bill Hartley, Taj Burrow and Dave Kalama, consider the Indies to be a second home; it just happens to be a boat. The guy who’s been in the wheelhouse from day one, Martin Daly, has pioneered the Mentawais and named most of the breaks there, as well as hundreds across the globe. He took the Quiksilver Crossing everywhere from Madagascar and South Africa to Alaska, from Jakarta to Jamaica, in and out of major ports in Europe, to undiscovered territories locked away in the South Pacific. Now he’s taken the search here.
Why did he seek out surf in the Marshalls? Beats me, maybe he’s James Cook reincarnate and unfinished spots on a map feel like paper cuts under his finger nails, who am I to say? Maybe he just couldn’t stand being the ‘established guy’ with all his assets in order, sitting complacently as the big fish in the small Mentawaian pond. Three consecutive years I’ve been spending my winters with him and I still don’t understand the guy! Still, after my first season, I understood how he had profoundly changed my life, and in only 45 days.
Fun fact, 15 year old me also wrote extremely long, arduously time consuming, epics and tried to get them into magazines. You’d think high school would’ve taught me that short, sweet and ‘on time’ were comparable qualities to painstakingly long and overdue.
Hey, I was excited! I had just got back to Maui after a month and a half on the Indies Trader. Having only planned to spend 12 days on the atoll, you could understand the difference in emotion between my parents and I. I told them everything that had happened to me while I was over there and then decided to write it all down. Every photo on my phone was a memory, every cut on my body had a story (I was and still am all scarred up from that trip), I even broke my spine. Compression fracture on my T12 vertebrae, happened on the last big day of my trip, going over the falls in wide open 10ft barrel – I’ll never forget what it was like inside.
And that’s probably the first time I’ve used fact in this entire article! It’s true, I never forgot the feeling of this place. I longed to go back all summer long. It was truly the best and worst thing that had ever happened to me. I was hooked, my foot was in the stirrup, and after a whirlwind of time passing, I find myself here, writing again. Two more Marshall Island adventures under my belt, each time I make an attempt to plan a simple two week trip, and each time Martin dangles week after week in front of me. Just for the price of working onboard, washing a few dishes, tying and untying a few knots. How can I shake off the addiction when it’s gonna be that easy to get my fix?! Sorry Mum, I’ll be an addict for life.
Do not, under any circumstances, approach the Marshall Islands, ever. This is the part where my job as a writer becomes very complicated. I’ve given you fair warning, tried my absolute best to put into words the kind of irreparable damage at stake. We’re dealing with substance abuse here, and the drug in question? It’s paradise, freedom maybe… or surfing, glorious surfing! The chance to get hooked all over again, like we all were in the beginning. Before we turned all salty and ‘try hard’.
I can see you looking at these photos even now, my words can’t feed those hungry eyes. “What’s wrong,” you ask yourself “in just having a little taste? Two weeks is all I need, just one 10ft barrel will do me just fine.” Ok man, come talk to me, let me introduce you to a friend of mine…
The Marshall Islands are a massive collection of 24 atolls (1,156 islands). During WWII both the US and the Japanese were vying for strategic advantages throughout the Pacific, the Marshalls being one of many battlefronts. Sitting just north of the Equator, just east of the Federal States of Micronesia. After the war, the United States planted their fingers firmly into the Marshallese pie. You may have heard of the American nuclear bomb testing on Bikini Atoll – if not check out the opening footage of the newest Godzilla flick where they bomb an island… but in the movie it’s a cover up and they were trying to oust Godzilla! However, it really was an atoll… they sort of ‘evicted’ everyone off and then cooked it.
DO NOT APPROACH THE MARSHALL ISLANDS!