Horror Stories of the Traveling Surfer Part II
Quicksand in Alaska, robbery in El Salvador and more.
Story by Morgan Williamson
Here’s to squeezing your way out of a dark hole while abroad. With surfing comes traveling and travel brings about uncomfortable situations. That’s the beauty of it, stepping out of your safe-space and into a region of uncertainty. When things go wrong, you have to be resilient and find a light to shine on a sometimes grim predicament. Close calls make for the best stories.
Mr Acero takes in the bear tracks on that trip to Alaska. Bears are a known concern, quicksand not so much.
That time Kepa Acero got stuck in quicksand in remote Alaska
“I was on a trip to Alaska,” Mr Acero tells Stab. “I didn’t know much about the area. I took a flight, rented a 4×4 and went to the Kodiak Islands. It’s pretty wild there, there’s a few little cities but there’s probably three bears per every person. I surfed a few spots that I knew people surfed but there was nobody around when I went. I spent ten days by myself surfing and fishing. One day this van came and it had a few surfboards on top of it. I really wanted to talk to somebody (laughs) so I just jumped in the van. It was two american guys who live in Alaska and a Chilean surfer. We surfed, they told me they had a fishing boat and I told them about the spots I saw on google earth that could have good waves. So I jumped in this boat with three people I didn’t know and we headed towards these islands about 15 miles offshore. We camped the boat in a lagoon that was close to the points where I thought there’d be waves. The lagoon was protected, we didn’t know what the weather could do so it seemed like a safe place. We would paddle to shore then walk all day up the mountains sometimes for eight hours straight to get a good view of the waves. That was the plan for 15 days, we were hunting, fishing and surfing. There was a lot of bears and wildlife. We knew the place was dangerous, but we didn’t know the situation we would get it. In the lagoon the low tide sucked out one day and the boat was stuck in the sand, there was no more water. We figured we would just walk to the land, instead of paddling and continue our hunt for waves. We headed out and about halfway to the beach we started sinking into the sand, first our ankles then our knees and thighs. It felt like we couldn’t find the end to our steps, there was no bottom. It was one of those situations you see in the movies, all the sudden were sinking. We had to keep moving before we got too deep. So we kept walking through, it was getting harder and harder. And my friend Nico was heavier than me so he was going slower. There was a moment where I didn’t know if he was going to make it. I wanted to be able to help him out, but it started to come down to survival. We were desperate and needed to get to land. I made my way through the sinking sand for over an hour and finally hit land. Then I had to helplessly wait for Nico to make his way out of it, it took him another hour but we were safe.”
That time Michael Dunphy got (some of) his money back in El Salvador
“We down at Punta Roca for a contest,” Mike tells Stab. “It’s a pretty gnarly area in general. When the contest isn’t around you don’t surf till dark. There’s a graveyard there, it’s just an eerie place. On the last day of the event I surfed early before my heat and left my wallet and clothes in the contest area which I thought was sweet at the time. I had 300 bucks cash and credit cards and whatever. When I came in I went to get my clothes, everything was still there but my wallet. I was the first heat of the day and I had to surf right away. I was all frazzled. I lost my heat. At this point I was pissed, like I just lost my heat and my fucking wallet got stolen with all my cash. I was asking people if they knew anything, then randomly this local kid that surfs the point there came up to me. He told me he figured out who stole my wallet, he said we’re gonna go find it. I was like fuck yeah lets get it. I wasn’t really thinking about where we were. La Libertad’s has a big MS-13 population. At the time I was just pissed. I wanted my money and to get out of there. Next thing I know I’m jumping in this sketchy local guys truck with the local kid. We start going up the hill a few miles from the beach. Then I started thinking, Oh fuck… this is real now. We stopped at this sketchy little… well, you could call it a house and the local kid that brought me started tripping. I guess he wasn’t that good of friends with the guy that was taking us. When he started to freak out, I was like okay that’s not good. This guy came out of the house and told me to come inside and get my money. And the local kid was still freaking out, at this point I’m like fuck I don’t want the money lets just get out of here. The guy kept trying to get me into the house. I was like shit you can have my money, you can have everything, just take me to the airport (laughs). He wouldn’t leave, I thought shit, whatever and walked into the house with the guy. There were so many people packed in the place, all these tatted up dudes who looked like they just got out of MS-13 jail. Guys that you didn’t really want to be around. Then the weirdest thing happened; the guy who stole my money gave me a hundred bucks, shook my hand and I got back in the truck and left. It was so strange I had no idea what was going on, but it worked out. It was almost like he had respect for me coming in there and asking for my money back. He didn’t give me as much as he took, but I could care less at that point. It was no place for a white, blonde haired, dumb kid like me to be.”
That time Mitch Crews and Jack Freestone nearly fell to their deaths
“A few years ago Me and Jack were headed down to King Island from Melbourne and our flight got cancelled,” Mitch Crews tells Stab. “We were supposed to be on a proper plane from Melbourne Airport. We heard it was going to be pumping and needed to find another way to get there. We were bummed that we might miss the opportunity to get down there because the storm was so bad. We didn’t know at the time but it just so happened to be the storm of the decade. We found this airline called the King Island express with this tiny plane. So we were like shit let’s give this a crack. We called them and they said no worries we fly 365 days a year. So we thought fuck it, might as well. When we hopped on the plane we realised how sketchy it was, there were 100 km winds whipping outside. The storm ended up ripping the roofs of houses. We asked the pilot if it was safe to fly and he’s told us we’d be fine. When we were up in the air it was like driving on a bumpy road in Mex but way worse. It was daytime and when we looked out the windows it was black, you couldn’t see anything. The plane kept dropping on it’s side and diving, then it would catch again and we’d be bouncing along. There were only a few passengers on the little plane, we were with Duncan Macfarlane and this 85 year old man. I don’t know how he made it through the flight. The plane dropped another time further and faster on its side. We were freaking out, it’s only an hour flight and we’d been in the sky for over three hours. We didn’t know where the fuck we were going, we thought we were going to die. Then the plane just fell out of the sky for the third time, we were plummeting down weightlessly. Somehow the pilot brought us down to safety. We ended up scoring for the next two days, but I’m not sure if it was worth it. We literally thought it was the end.”
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