Michel exits through the gift shop in Rio during brighter times. Photo: Trevor Moran
Horror Stories of the Traveling Pro Surfer, with Michel Bourez, Conner Coffin and more
Words by Morgan Williamson
Many things don’t coincide: the Kardashians having reason for fame, Kanye West and humility, Johnny Cash and white, Bill Cosby and safe drinking. So we can’t expect great waves to only be found in first world countries. And it’s better they aren’t. The possibility of untouched Malibus, Rincons, Snappers, Lowers, Pipes and Hossegors is what keeps us searching. Shooting down to Baja, getting shacked then indulging in cheap tacos, beer and maybe a sneaky trip to Bada Bing’s a good time, when it runs smooth. Occasionally as a traveling surfer things do go wrong and hopefully you have a grip of cash on you. Although that can also dig the hole you’re in a bit deeper. Honesty’s a cruel bitch.
That time Michel Bourez got kidnapped in Brazil.
"We were at a bar after the comp having a few drinks and having fun," says Michel. "I had my Red Bull hat on and was asking for a drink with Red Bull, then the guy told me they didn’t sell Red Bull. The bartender got, like, pissed at me. I don’t know why. It got weird, the bouncer came over and took me outside. They were telling me I was like a spy for Red Bull because they were selling Monster so I decided to just walk back home. I was walking by myself and a car pulled over. These guys got out and threw me into the car, they had guns pointed at me and were yelling in Portuguese. I didn’t understand. I think they just wanted to get me to the ATM and pull out some cash. I told them I had no money, but they didn’t want to listen. The next thing I knew we were slowing down for a red light. As soon as they stopped, or almost stopped I opened the door and started running. They got out and chased me. I jumped over this fence into somebody’s backyard and there were two dogs that also started chasing me. So I hid. When the two guys jumped the fence the dogs went after them. I ran away and hid in a bush for a bit. Then when I realised it was safe, I got out and went back home, shaking. It was fucking scary man."
That time Nate Yeomans got robbed at gun point in Baja.
"When I was a grom I used to go down to Baja a lot," says Nate. "This particular trip was with my dad, two of my friends and my dad’s buddy. I was 13 at the time. We had two cars down there. We were getting ready to leave and packing up our stuff. Two guys rolled up along the cliff line from where we were camping. We figured they were just going to ask us for five or 10 bucks for staying the night. We had the cars in a V-shape with our tents around them and a campfire in the middle. One guy came around the outside of one of the cars. The other through the middle. They opened their jackets. One pulled out a pistol and the other guy pulled a sawn-off shotgun from his trench coat. The guy with the pistol walked right at me and put the barrel of the gun straight to my forehead. Then they made us all lie face down in the dirt. The guy with the sawn-off went into my dad’s car and rummaged around. They took my dad’s keys and hucked them off the cliff. Then the guy with the shotgun walked up to my dad’s buddy Scott, stuck the barrel of his gun to his stomach and started laughing in this crazy way. I thought for sure they were going to shoot us. The guy with the pistol got into Scott’s car and the guy with the shotgun jumped in the back of the truck. They kept laughing maniacally and drove off. Luckily we walked away… with shit in our pants. My dad ended up having to go to counseling a few months later because he had PTSD from the incident. I have two kids now. I couldn’t imagine what he was going through watching a man hold a pistol to his son’s head."
That time Dane Gudauskas accidentally overstayed his visa in West Africa.
"We flew down for Namibia’s first swell a few years back," says Dane. "When you go through customs they have you fill out this form, and I put down that I’d be there for five days. I didn’t realise that it was my visa. The first swell was killer, then we saw another mental swell in the forecast. We figured we might as well stick around. My brother Tanner came out and joined us. We were just over the moon, we surfed that perfect wave for like 12 hours a day. It was insane! So we got to the airport to take off. I was on a different flight to my brother. I was heading over to South Africa for the J-Bay contest. As soon as I got through customs this lady grabbed me, and was yelling 'You just broke the law, you’re coming to jail with me right now!' I had no idea what I did and she was so angry at me. 'You broke the law, you overstayed your visa!' I was just tripping. I tried to offer her money, but that only made matters worse. They grabbed my hands, like, 'You’re going to jail right now!' and were trying to push me into this room. They were so focused on taking me to jail, while I was still trying to figure out what I did wrong. So I made a scene, I felt so vulnerable. CJ Hobgood and some guys were there, so I turned to them 'They’re trying to take me to fucking jail!' Somebody told the pilot what was happening he came over a pretty much dragged me onto the plane through customs (laughs). He saved me. I was on the plane just shaking, thinking; Fuck, I almost just went to jail in West Africa. That’s burly. I don’t know if I would've made it…"
That time the Coffin brothers got dry-docked in an Indonesian storm.
"We were on a boat trip back when I was 14 on a catamaran in the Mentawais," says Conner. "The first night of the trip was super rough. One of the engines was having problems so they had to shut it down. We were putt-putting around with this janky set up. We brought the boat into a tight little bay and this crazy storm blew in. The wind did a full 180 and started blowing towards the reef and beach, it must have been at 40 knots. A few of us were surfing and a few were on the boat. It was pissing rain. The captain started to panic because the boat started to swing on the anchor towards the reef. He tried to pick up the anchor and get the boat out to a safer zone. But the wind was so strong we started blowing towards the reef. So he tried to throw the hook in, to re-anchor which caught and broke. So we just found ourself stranded on the sand in the Mentawais. At one point we were getting ready to get off the boat and post up in the jungle. Eventually the captain was able to radio another boat and we got a tow out of the bay, once the storm passed."
That time a man wielding a machete chased Justin Quirk in El Salvador.
(As told by Ricky Whitlock): "This was about 11 years ago, before all the surf resorts popped up. It was still pretty rural. We were surfing Punta Roca. We were told we could surf, just to not walk past the cemetery on the beach. The very top of the point and the cemetery were in the same spot. Justin wore sandals for the walk. We didn’t really listen to the warning, we just ran up the point and jumped out. I ran up barefoot so I just caught one all the way down the point and went in. But, Justin had to go back up and get his sandals. I looked over and all the sudden I see Justin sprinting across the rocks. Apparently this family that used to live at the top of the point were notorious for robbing people. One of the guys that lived there had a machete and was chasing Justin across the rocks. His panic and fear set in and he just booked it, he wasn’t doing the rock dance or anything. When he got past the cemetery area the guy chasing him just stopped and turned around. It scared the shit out of Quirk, it was pretty funny."