Passengers: Peter James, Tim Day, David Smyth, Scott Langman, Alan Fisher, Andrew Bazell, Joshua Herdman, Paul Giles, Ben Day, Neal Lyons, David Gallop
11 blokes on board? How on earth did this happen? Well, it was the hottest ticket in town and the ex CEO of the NRL just had to be on board for Jamesy’s 50th birthday. We let Gall join the trip as a last minute inclusion as long as he agreed to be the beer bitch for the duration.
Somehow Jamesy managed to escape 10 days on a boat without getting his favourite red kneeboard burned at sea or being hogtied for a mohawk. The latter was an honour passed on to big Josh, courtesy of Benny ‘Lez’ Day who duly explored his feminine hairdresser side. In amongst the madness of wacky Hawaiian shirts and overcomplicated games between two teams pitted against one another from the start, there were some great waves. Lance’s Lefts was excellent. HTs was typically edgy. Macaronis was a joy. When the swell hit, Scarecrows/Francos came alive with some monster bombs and Telescopes delivered tubes from heaven. Baz scored some epic sessions, Ben tore lefts apart with clinical precision, Smythy ripped, Scotty styled, Neal got barrel of the trip (three of them on the one wave if you don’t mind, culminating in an all time hands on the roof exit), Gilo fished and snorkeled like a hellman, Al had a genuine crack everywhere, Gall overcame initial trepidation and did it all, Tim ‘The Duke’ Day ruled as usual, Herdy came of age as a real surfer and Jamesy even managed to get to his feet on the odd occasion.
One by one, half the boys were struck down with a mystery 24 hour bug that was traced back to an encounter The Duke’s beard had with a monkey in a bar. Sounds like a punch line, but true. We went down like 9 pins, but got up to surf again and resume the 50th birthday competition with gusto.
Unseasonal rain and wind kept the 2/3rds ping pong table tucked away until the second last day, at which point the two teams tore into each other in a frenzied doubles battle. This competition then spilled over into an epic ‘Rings of Fire’ relay race around the Barrenjoey that became an absolute boilover with the 50th birthday boy stuffing the anchor leg by going the wrong way.
So it was all tied up going into the last day. And, as legend often has these things, it all came down to the final event. The teams had purchased mad gear before leaving port in Padang and had been secretly developing plans during the ten days for…. THE MENTAWAI BIRDMAN RALLY.
So, on the final, surfless, sunny afternoon, there was industrious activity on board and on beach as both teams prepared their crafts and their pilots for launch off the top deck. The Indo Crew judging panel took their positions and readied themselves to assess quality of craft, pilot performance and distance of launch. First up was Tim ‘The Duke’ Day, whose team had created an impressive hang glider inspired craft that looked for all the world as if it would fly him all the way back to Padang. Resplendent in Flash Gordon style silver superhero garb (complete with undies on the outside) Tim gripped the controls of his craft and announced to the world: ‘I am going to Fly’. Despite such outrageous optimism, he landed in the drink a mere ten feet from the boat, albeit to massive cheers. Next up was Finn McGroder, who was a last minute entry in the inaugural Ments Birdman. His impromptu outfit was simply brilliant and his pilot performance was equally stunning as he easily leapt past The Duke’s mark to take the lead.
After a tense few minutes which Team Baz milked beautifully to build the anticipation, Scotty Langman wrote himself into Barrenjoey history by emerging in a sublime Birdman outfit to the tune of Guns and Roses’ timeless ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ which blared across the quarterdeck. His audacious ensemble was always destined to capture the attention of the Indo Crew Judging panel. The combination of Angry Birds attire and mad array of umbrellas overhead was an ambitious, seamless blend of fashion and function. Sure, it looked sensational. But would it fly? Scotty worked his way to the top deck, bowed to the adoring crowd, faced the water and took to the air. His wings flapped and his legs ran across the Mentawai breeze, edging him past Finn’s fabulous mark to take the lead in the distance from boat category.
But was it enough to win? The Indo crew stepped aside to confer as the two teams took position on top deck, Bintangs in hand to toast a fantastic trip. After a few moments, the decision was announced by Elvis. To no-one’s surprise, Scotty took the chocolates and after huge cheers, Team Baz were awarded a felt fez each.
What a trip (and what a trip back to Padang!).
So many unforgettable moments. But for the 50th birthday boy, the most enjoyable thing was the rare opportunity to bring together some great mates from different parts of his life. Quite a few of these guys had never met before the trip, but it was obvious in the first couple of days that they were destined to become good friends. Watching these friendships emerge was a true highlight.
Thanks to B and John for joining in the spirit of the events and getting us to some tremendous waves. We can’t wait to get back there.
Story by Peter James.