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Coffee With Darwin

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Overlooked and odd, forgotten and underestimated coastlines seem to be a special fascination for TSJ contributor Michael Kew, who has submitted various dispatches from peculiar corners of the globe. In his feature in 25.3, Kew lands in the Cocos-Keeling Islands, a remote chain of coral atolls. Hunting for reef setups fueled by the Indian Ocean, and with a research trove that hinges deeply on Charles Darwin’s 1836 survey of the area, his piece unpacks not only the history of the zone but also its current surf potential.

“The left is a bawdy and erratic beast,” he writes of the main wave. “I call it the Crab Slab since the majority of its tubes pinch shut. Lots of hurt involved. Paddling-wise, the proper takeoff nook is up the line and uninhabitable but dreamy had we a jet-ski assist. Beyond that is Antarctica. Between there and here, big sharks thrive, drawn to atolls and steep slopes into the black depths, down from the barrier reefs.”

The video below, shot and edited by Kew, offers an extended look at a lonesome place that’s been surveyed and mostly disregarded by surfers, explorers, governments, opportunists, naturalists, and geologists alike.