I woke up at around midday in an unusual haze, sunburnt to fuck in the centre of Puerto Rico, on a littered patch of grass where the dodgy foreigners sell tat to tourists, wearing nothing but a pair of over-worn Gap boxers.
Obviously, I wasn’t on the Caribbean Island of Enchantment, but the Canarian shithole, which had chewed me up and spat me out like an undercooked portion of patatas bravas.
A few years ago myself and couple of friends, we’ll call them Will and Jimmy, decided to take a summer out and spend Europe’s warmer months living in the back of a silver Renault Traffic. We took the standard “drive south” approach and enjoyed the car park crusty life, stopping when and wherever we fancied a wave, rest or beer.
After an epic Britanny Ferry booze-cruise down to France, spanking most of our Euro travel budget in Hossegor, abandoning a penniless Will in Northern Spain and getting skanked in Portugal a 56-hour ferry journey took us to the arid holy grail of Gran Canaria. Bright-eyed and bushy tailed, we were full of hope, intending to replenish our travel funds selling timeshares and surfing the un-crowded waves of the north shore.
“He led us into a strangely quiet bar where he also bought us a drink. Bit weird, we thought, but both being fond of a nightcap, we obliged.”
I have to admit, it was a bit of a nomadic punt, and we probably should have lingered around Lagos a bit longer, but Jimmy would not shut up about the place and it’s eternal sunshine. This shoot-from-the-hip approach we’d adopted shot us in the foot pretty much straight away, though, as we soon realised that where the waves are, Las Palmas, is also home to a pretty tough economy where even the locals struggle to find jobs. With our Spanish tongue amounting to no less than “Hola Guapa”, we decided to head to the south of the island to hopefully get jobs PR’ing. Or something.
After driving through the most constantly barren construction site of an island I’ve ever seen for an hour, we arrived into Maspalomas – a 45-degree concrete-dump full of massive African woman who have an incredible trick of offering you their hand to shake then locking some kind of pikey bracelet on your wrist, which they would then charge you a ton for.
Parking was free though and right by the beach, which had a wave, so I got my funnest board out, hobbled across the boulders to surf some fun, weak waves, feeling right at home. I did stand on a massive sea urchin getting out, so unable to surf, I pretty much immediately dragged myself and everyone else deep into three-day bender.
It was impossible to make new friends, as everyone was either 65 or 17 years old, but thankfully Will got a flight from Santander to Las Palmas, and the three musketeers were reunited on their Eurotrip.
The fluked waves of day one turned out to be all-time . For a while we saw nothing even close to waves. We chased some swells up and down the coast and scored a really good right-hand point a few miles from Las Palmas, but funds were now painfully low, so we decided to dedicate our time to job hunting.
We heard Puerto Rico had plenty of work, so we went to hunt for jobs. Turns out that Puerto Rico also has the world’s most loyal staff and seemingly no employment opportunities, as most of the guys working there were 40-year old seasonaires who’ve been at it for years. Somewhat defeated we decided to find some weed, mostly to help sleep through the evening snorechestra that resonated around the tinny interior of our mobile abode. We figured we’d reassess the situation the following day.
The weed hunt went all too well at first, with a friendly looking chap approaching us just as the idea had come into our heads. Fate indeed.We took him up on his kind offer and he led us into a strangely quiet bar where he also bought us a drink. Bit weird, we thought, but both being fond of a nightcap, we obliged.
Turns out the price I actually paid for this pint was my wallet, cash, phone, camera, aforementioned clothing and right back to where this little story started, my dignity. Turns out our Arabic amigo had made an slight addition to our cold, refreshing lagers in the form of an unknown, but seemingly potent, narcotic. I’d been out for at least 12 hours, and was well and truly robbed.
Will, on the other hand, who has a good few inches on me, is a absolute beast. His body was able to fight off the negative, wake-up-naked aspect of the drugs and apparently had quite a good night out. When I finally returned back to the van, the boys were having a full session with their newfound friends. partying Puerto Rico style.
So, in classic shoot-from-the-hip style, I gathered my few remaining belongings, borrowed €100, jumped on the next (56 hour) ferry back to Portugal and borrowed some more money to fly home.
Jimmy and Will got well paid jobs hiring out jet skis, tapped into a constant stream of Scando beauties celebrating their exam results and found the free outside showers and surfed the “seriously good” secret spots of Las Palmas, all thanks to one of said new friends, Alex, a local ripper who was more than happy to share his knowledge of the island’s waves in return for a lift. They even all spent Christmas together, coming back to the UK for summer.
To this day they insist that it was the best surf trip of their life.
I’ve actually forgotten what I’m writing about now, let alone the brief given to me so I’m going to wrap this travel guide/fable/pub story with a quote by American motivational speaker Robert H. Schuller, which sums up the point I think I’m trying to make about the Great Island of Dogs:
“Never cut a tree down in the wintertime. Never make a negative decision in the low time. Never make your most important decisions when you are in your worst moods. Wait. Be patient. The storm will pass. The spring will come.”
Our photographic memories were taken from us by our drink spiking friend, but what we lack in digital memoirs are more than surpassed by the images locked in our heads and the few fun-time ferry shots you see here and one from my Instagram of me melting up in the mountains.. Although my good times were stopped in their tracks, the boys had a blast and in hindsight I should have just rode it out a little longer so I could have got the true experience of the island and it’s people.
Or at least arrived to the gunfight with guns drawn.
Cover photo Ben Selway