In 1996 Richie Boy flew out to Bali. I met him at the airport. His baggage consisted of a knapsack and three surfboards.
"Why so many boards?"
"Because one of them is for you." Richie Boy had come halfway around the world to surf Kuta, Ulu Watu, and G-Land.
"Me." My surfing skills were taxed by the Atlantic rollers of Lido Beach.
"Yes, you and I'm not accepting any punk-outs."
I accepted the challenge and that afternoon we hired a car for the drive to Bingin. It was the closest break to Kuta. The beachrats at the parking lot promised that Bingin was a perfect left.
"100% tube." They chorused on the path down the cliff and one look from the bluff affirmed their claim. A glassy double-head wave broke on a shallow coral reef.
"I don't know about this." This was far beyond my comfort zone.
""It'll be fine." Richie Boy promised and pointed to the sea. "We'll paddle out to the left. The shoulder is easy there. Even you can make it over those."
From the beach it looked simple, but lying on the board in the shore break I recognized these were the biggest waves I had ever seen in my life. I was 38.
I scrambled over the first wave. The second was steeper, but my hands scooped at the surface and I glided into the trough only to be faced with another giant wave."
"Paddle!" Richie Boy shouted from his board. He was a good 30 feet ahead of me and cleared the wave without any problem. My arms burned from the exertion and the wave lifted off the reef to become an insurmountable cliff of the ocean.
90 degree and then I was launched into a planetary washing machine.
Three times I surfaced to gasp for breath. Three times I was buried by another watery mammoth. The fourth spit me up on the beach. A beach rat ran up to the shore.
"You have enough?'
I spent the rest of the afternoon getting a massage from a midget.
Richie Boy came finished the day at sunset and said, "I thought we lost you there."
"It was close thing, but I have good lungs."
I ordered him a beer.
"You want to go out tomorrow."
"Tomorrow is another day."
I had survived the ocean.
"If it gets bad, then there's always beer-drinking."
"Yes, there is always that."
Richie Boy ordered another two beers.
It was a nice way to celebrate life.
It's better than drowning.