Words by Matt Koen
Photos by Sven Martin
As professional mountain bikers, Marco "Randy" Osborne and I have the luxury of traveling the world with our bikes and getting to see places I never even knew existed. Small towns tucked away in the mountains of Slovenia, mining settlements hidden amongst the eucalyptus forests of Tasmania, and in this case, a small volcanic island off the coast of Morocco, battling the Atlantic for real estate.
I am lucky to travel with a friend and fellow WTB teammate who shares a similar outlook as me. With these opportunities to travel to all these cool places, I feel we have a responsibility to fully explore where we are. To honor this, we decided to stay in Madeira for four extra days after the EWS, with no plans, no accommodations and one sleeping bag.
Some people describe this traveling style as "loose"; a word that seems to haunt, yet somehow grace, most of our trips. It has even been used as term of endearment. But also...as an insult. And those with the latter feedback have a point. Riding the fine line between too loose and not loose enough is difficult and difficult to define.
I've been playing cat and mouse with this balance for quite some time, but never have I felt the dark warmth of the belly of the beast more than on this trip. After the Madeira round of the EWS, we packed up our rental car and headed to the north side of the island, to an area where we heard rumors of big waves, steep trails and good camping. During the two days preceding racing, Marco left his front wheel outside the car when we were loading up. It had been a fun day of driving around the entire island. That night we drove around it again, looking for his wheel. While annoying, this was a blessing in disguise as it familiarized us with the island and allowed us to find a hidden surf break.
We returned to the surf break only to find that it was extremely difficult to actually paddle out. The entire northwest coast is lined by a 1000m cliff, with one way down on the farthest north side. The surf break was around the point on the north side and required a half mile paddle around the point to access it. Much debate went into whether it was worth it, how safe it was, and whether it was too shallow to surf. This debate was quickly resolved after we saw, from a distance and perched atop the cliff, a perfect set of barreling waves roll through. Before I knew it we were in the water paddling over, and as we got closer I realized it was much bigger than expected. After some further debate and a hint of insecure masculinity, we told ourselves we weren’t soft and would paddle in anyways. I soon regretted that decision. After taking a few slams and getting familiarized with the rocks at the bottom of the ocean, we decided to call it and get back to what we're good at...riding our bikes.
That night we set up “camp”, which for us meant making a small fire and placing our sleeping bags next to it. We discussed plans for the next day over beer and fire-cooked sausages, while we made a small rut near the fire to hit on our bikes while the sun was setting.
The next day we rode into the mountains and ascended into such thick fog that I couldn’t see Marco even five feet away. The fog and roots created some of the slickest trails I’ve ever ridden, and after tiptoeing down the mountain, we went for another surf to cap off the day. Double days baby!