Don’t lie, you’ve thought about it. Despite the pandemic, live updates of cases, deaths, and the global economy in free-fall, a surf trip to one of the abandoned corners of the earth is an appealing prospect. 

International surf travel in the time of COVID-19 is arguably worth dying for. The footage of Anthony Fillingim, a man left to surf the empty waves of the Mentawai Islands while the world came to a halt is eye-watering. A once in a lifetime experience maybe not ever to be repeated.  

It has hallmarks of the pioneering spirit of surfing’s forefathers. Those that risked it all and went out into the unknown. Scoring empty lineups, catching malaria, getting sick, near death—then shooting home armed with a cranium full of tubes and forever revered for their trailblazing tales. 

Indonesian frontiersmen like Jim Banks and Peter McCabe. 

In 2020, it’s a guy from Costa Rica named Anthony Fillingim. 

Australians are currently locked down to our island home. State borders are clamped shut. The idea of even a domestic trip has been shelved until further notice. All international travel is on hold as we stake our hopes of escape on travel bubbles opening with our regional neighbours. 

For some, the pull towards freedom and the airport terminal is too strong. 

Despite the ‘Rona wiping out 190,000 Americans, their borders remain open. And those with a taste for wanderlust and willing to have a swing have exposed Indonesia’s tourism ban loophole, allowing international visitors on ‘business activities’ onto their shores. 

Dive into Strider ‘Rasberry’ Wasieleski’s Instagram feed and it’s a portal to Bali in the 70s. The Waz is getting shacked off his nut signing off every post with #findaway rubbing our faces in it. 

Team …Lost are also aboard an Indonesian boat charter sailing through the Mentawais. Apparently scouting a new surf camp. No doubt we will wear the brunt of their exploits when the footage leaks online as they hit port and the nearest wi-fi signal. All in the name of research of course. 

The pricks.  

But the inmates at home are getting restless. 

Mitch Crews reckons the moment a crack opens up he will be out of here on the next flight.

“I’ve been thinking about it heaps. Would it be worth going to Bali and posting up even if you had to cop a two-week quarantine to just go and do a month and bit and score uncrowded waves?” 

“Shit any chance it looks like I wouldn’t get too fucked off over I’d go for sure,” laughs Crewsy.  

Despite enjoying the best east coast winter in a decade, there’s still nothing like scoring good waves in an exotic location far from home. 

“I’ve got mates who are posted up in Bali and they’ve been sending me photos of pumping surf with just no one around. It’s just crazy.”  

So where do you stand on the risks versus rewards?

Could you cop a two-week quarantine in a hotel with nothing but the walls and free-to-air telly to keep you company? That’s on top of the boat charter, flights, boards you dragged there, and time you skived off your beloved. It’s a big bill and you’re picking up the tab. 

Then there’s a chance you could cop the virus. 

Surfers have suffered through malaria, dengue fever, golden staph, malnutrition, Bali belly, and routine alcohol poisoning all for a few perfect waves before. We might be the first guinea pigs seasoned enough to go out into the world and engage in some high stakes surf travel. 

Or maybe patience will pay off when our travel bubble is drawn up and we can enjoy the fruits of the Pacific, NZ a hop, skip, and a jump away. Whenever that may be. 

“The reality of us travelling again normally anytime soon is pretty unlikely,” laments Crews. 

“But if they open some travel bubbles up between Japan, New Zealand, and the Pacific we’re kind of laughing. Hopefully, that’ll be on the horizon for us soon.” 

The question is: are you a pandemic pioneer or stuck in the age of envy?