Stab Magazine | Kraken's Stories From The Deep: Mick Fanning's Worst Surf Trip

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Kraken’s Stories From The Deep: Mick Fanning’s Worst Surf Trip

Rip Curl’s Search concept was undeniably one of the greatest ideas ever to leak out of a wax head. Conceived by Derek Hynd, it’s feat – to send the world’s best surfers on a mission to get pitted in hitherto unridden waves around Indonesia and the Pacific – defined a generation of surf travel. But […]

travel // Mar 22, 2018
Words by stab
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Rip Curl’s Search concept was undeniably one of the greatest ideas ever to leak out of a wax head. Conceived by Derek Hynd, it’s feat – to send the world’s best surfers on a mission to get pitted in hitherto unridden waves around Indonesia and the Pacific – defined a generation of surf travel. But it wasn’t all good times and great pits. There were hell skunk missions, too. Like this one, recounted here for your smug delight by Mick Fanning and surf writer, Chris Mauro, about a botched trip to a then largely unchartered region of Papua New Guinea in 2002.

Mick:  To this day I haven’t been on a more punishing trip. I remember being excited in the lead up, having heard stories of incredible set-ups and unridden waves. There was also a good crew going that included Kieren Perrow, Brian Toth, photog Ted Grambeau and writer Chris Mauro. As soon as we saw the boat we’d be spending the next two weeks on, we were all a little worried. I’d been on shonky looking boats before but this thing was next level. When the engine started I could tell things weren’t right, but off we went. After 10 days we hadn’t seen or surfed a single wave, so we were all losing it. One arvo this big, dark, ugly storm came at us. We were all psyched because something was finally gonna happen on the trip and we thought this black sky might bring some swell. Just as the storm got above us the engines on the boat died. The timing was perfectly fucked. We were miles from anywhere with this big tropical storm bashing the shit out of us. With no engines there was no power on the boat either. We were just out there in the dark getting hammered by this freak storm. Eventually the crew got concerned and put two dinghies in the water in an attempt to tow the boat to calmer waters. I remember Ted sitting on one of the dinghies shining a torch into the darkness, holding a compass. Mauro had his passport and plane ticket back to the States in a ziplock bag and sat on the edge of the boat ready to jump if we ran aground. We got pretty close to some bombies and patches of reef. At one point in the night I figured the nightmare might end quicker if I slept through it. I somehow managed to doze off.

… Chris Mauro picks up the tale ….

Mauro: When the shit was first falling apart on us (our boat lost its engine and we were blowing out to sea – and hearing no response to our mayday calls off the coast of Papua), we were trying to make the best of our situation with some beers and laughs. But just as the sun was going down, we missed our last-chance safe-harbor target before the coast turned away from us and the wind got worse. We began blowing miles out to sea as the skies went dark. Right then, I sobered up a bit.

I ran below and threw my passport in a ziplock bag. Then threw that, some food, clothing, and water bottles in a backpack, and came back up on deck ready to make a long-ass paddle if I had to. The boys (especially Jonny Frank and Mick) were laughing at me at first – but when Jody Perry didn’t laugh at all, and said it was a really good idea, they found religion quickly. Jonny was hilarious. I’ll never forget his face when he realised it coulda been days on the water if we didn’t work shit out and, frankly, because our boat was a rusty piece of shit, there’s no telling where we would’ve ended up.

Luckily, we never had to make the leap. Instead, after a shitload of trial and error, we got our hopeless fucking dinghies to pull our fucked-up beast toward shore through the storm at a snail’s pace. I spent the entire night straddling the bow of the bouncing boat while aiming a spotlight toward shore so the guys in the dinghies (who couldn’t see shit with the water spraying ’em in the face for 10 hours) knew which direction to pull us in. We finally dropped anchor at about 4:30 am.

Mick: When I woke up in the morning I looked out of one of the portholes and it was a magic day and we were anchored in a beautiful calm bay. I raced to the deck to scope it out only to have a machine gun waved about in my face. We’d been boarded by the military and were ordered to stay on the boat the entire day. When things were eventually resolved we were taken from the boat to the airport and flown out. Worst trip ever… hands down. – Jed Smith


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