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Clown Show Cracks

Dealing with the at-home repercussions of a surf trip gone bad.

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I did a trip to Senegal in the mid 2000s, set up through Surfer magazine, with Brett Simpson, John Robertson, Dave Post, and Jodie Nelson. Sam George invited himself and brought his then-girlfriend, Nia. The surf wasn’t real good. We drove all over the coast looking for waves in every nook and cranny, and ended up surfing once.

Stuck at the village with no surf, the trip turned into a circus. It was a full clown show. Post got sick and we had to take him to the hospital. Then Sam and Nia decided to get married. They slaughtered a goat on the beach and got all the villagers drunk. With all of the chaos going on, and with no swell on the way, we just decided to pull the plug and fly back home. Everybody was over it. 

The car to the airport was late, and we were all running around trying to pack everything up. Except for Brett. He was 18 years old at the time, and he’d been drinking a little bit too much. We were trying to round him up, but he wasn’t moving—just out there in la-la land. So as the oldest and most experienced person on the trip, I had to push the issue. He was pretty buggered and, as I was trying to help him get it together, he bumped me with his chest. So I turned around and slapped him, and he fell down on the ground. It was just one little swat. No harm, no foul. He just got a little dirty. That got him up and into the car. After we got to the airport and through security, I sat down in my seat, turned around, and saw Brett in the row behind me. If it seemed like it couldn’t get any worse, he then threw up all over me through the crack between the seats.

But I don’t regret any of what happened there. That was just part of doing a trip like that. I really like Brett as a person. He just had a bad day. What I do regret was telling one of the editors at Surfer that I took a swat at him. The editor said, “Oh, it’s not a big deal.” But the next thing I knew, the magazine ran an extra about it, and a lot of it was made up. They said I decked him. I was getting calls from all sorts of people asking about it. Even my wife, who’s a schoolteacher, had to explain what really happened to other teachers and parents. The whole thing was like a cartoon.