Naish's Reo Stevens takes on Madagascar
It’s a tad ironic that although I’ve lived on an island my entire life that I’ve never spent more than a day on a boat before. I’ve always been a bit nervous about committing to a long-term boat trip before as other peoples tails of misery from seasickness has always deterred me. However, when Gavin and Jody sent me an invite to spend two weeks on their boat “Discovery” with promises of long barreling lefts and not another soul insight, I would just be stupid to even attempt to come up with an excuse not to go on such an adventure. Plus, there’s always an added allure to go somewhere new, especially to a remote destination like Madagascar.
As it was a last minute trip, my itinerary was not ideal. It involved a 4 stop, 5plane, 3.5-day journey (takes the same amount of time to get to the moon) and a few lost bags before reaching the port where Discovery was anchored. However, it was my best baggage experience ever. First, the check-in lady willingly ignored the surfboard charge because she was: “so happy to see you leaving Hawaii and seeing the rest of the world”. I got my entire check in luggage checked through to Madagascar for only $40US. When I got to Antananarivo (the capital of Madagascar) my luggage was left in Kenya but the airline gave me $100US for compensation for delaying my bags and would later deliver them to the boat the following day. The whole experience resulted in making $60US and having my bags delivered to the boat all without ever seeing them since check-in in Hawaii a few days previous; by far the best experience I’ve ever had with check-in baggage.?After the mind-numbing journey, I rocked up to the luxurious Discovery. Discovery is a 57foot Lagoon catamaran, completely first class to say the least. Six cabins that comfortable sleep 12 and crewed with a full time 1st mate, full time gourmet chief and a captain who makes you feel so comfortable that you could swear you’ve been best friends for years. I couldn’t help but wonder how lucky I was to find myself in this position.
With the freedom of living on a floating mansion for two weeks, Madagascar offered up a few different choices of world-class waves. The first being “TTs” or “Tony’s Tavarua” named after the 20 year South African Madagascar local Tony. Tony has never been to Tavarua, but started calling this wave Tavarua after its close resemblance with the Fijian wave, Cloudbreak. The second is “Flameballs”, this was by far my favorite wave that we found the entire trip. No one beside us for miles, this 100-200meter barreling left was our personal surf break. The only paddle surfers on board were: Captain Gavin, first mate Tim and myself. We were frothing on first site of the goofy foot’s wet dream and wasted no time jumping in the water scrambling to get every wave that came through. There were more perfect waves coming through than the three of us could catch.
Going surfing was a bit of a trip for me as I am used to traveling with a bunch of wave junkies. However, aside from Gavin and Tim, I was the only surfer on board and the rest had no surfing background what so ever. It was the strangest feeling showing up to a perfect barreling wave with not another soul in site and being the only one excited about the scenario. It felt like I was the only one laughing at a movie in a full theater; it’s a little uncomfortable. As the trip progressed the others on board started showing an interest in catching a wave, so the when the swell dropped of a bit we found a small right that was perfect for learning on. Everyone on board grabbed whatever they could: SUP, surfboard or boogie and jumped in the water for a surf/wave catching lesson. I took the SUP out and started barking instructions to everyone and to my own surprise, I managed to coach everyone to their feet and ride their first self caught (no kite/windsurf assisted) wave of their life.
One of the only days of no wind and no surf, we took advantage of the time off and booked a local zebu (local cattle) ride into the Adansonia forest. More commonly known as a “Baobab”, it is a genus of eight species of tree, six native to Madagascar, one native to mainland Africa and one to Australia. The mainland African species also occurs on Madagascar, but it is not a native. They are an amazing and complex tree; growing as deep underground as above and some are thought to be thousands of years old, which is difficult to verify as the wood does not produce annual growth rings, so they use radiocarbon dating to be able to find out the age of a tree.
A few days after the Baobab excursion, the swell started to pulse again and Gavin and I were quickly on the rising swell with the SUPs. Unfortunately, the session didn’t last long, or end well for Gavin. A late drop, with an odd angle cause Gavin to hit his rib on the hard, dense rail of the SUP causing him to loose his wind and struggle to keep afloat. No one saw the fall and he spent the entire set taking double overhead waves on the head with a collapsed lung, broken rib and a 12lbs SUP dragging at his ankle. Luckily after the set passed, Jody saw him waving for help on the inside and took the dingy to rescue him. After about an hour, he brushed the look of death off of him and walked away a little shaken up, and with a cracked rib. Truth be told, the man’s an animal, from barely able to move, to walking around the boat, shouting instructions and commanding the Discovery within an hour and doing it all laughing about it and with a smile. Legend.
Despite the injury scare and the lack of wind (from the right direction) for wavering, the trip I couldn’t have felt it more of a success. There were some great times had, a few new friends made and a lot of good waves caught. Madagascar has the potential for greatness, I just need to come back and find it!
Reo Stevens - Naish Pro Rider