Our token and fearless New Zealander ventured forth first toward One Palm’s maw, after which we followed.
The break looked tame in photos we took, which couldn’t be more deceiving.
Waves would rise from the ocean with a silence that served only to heighten the dread inside our heads.
Then the lip would throw onto the reef toward us and he with priority would paddle decisively into a drop while depending on himself to ignore reef below him partially exposed by the wave’s suction.
I’ve heard other surfers recall the thunderous sound of such a heavy wave breaking behind them while standing on not reassuringly thin fibreglass and foam.
For me the world went silent: I knew the reef was there, crouched into the pig dog position by kneeling my right leg and grabbing the board’s right-rail then stared the length of the wave with every intention of pulling into and exiting cleanly a One Palm barrel.
But I didn’t, because I was forced three times to pull through the face of the aforementioned non-set waves which shut down too quickly.
The second of my cuts, through a wet-suit boot mind you, occurred during this session.
Our casualties list included the worst cuts of the trip and one worrying helmet crack, but nothing really that serious.
It might for most for most of us have been inspired by a malaria-mad crew member’s male-pride emotional blackmail, but we braved The Palm and survived largely intact from an experience many will never have.
The act of escaping from ordinary life is a valuable and almost vital thing if you can afford it.
I know as we all gathered our things while not enough and too hung-over, then stepped-off Just Dreaming at Anyer, I was tempted to stowaway in wait for the next trip.
It was in many ways an intense undertaking.
It was in some ways such as surfing, abundant, and in others such as, well, civilisation: barren.
Panaitan Island’s isolation may force you to examine the deepest parts of your psyche and at close-quarters over many days may force your closest friendships to the brink of collapse.
Or it might through blood, saltwater and beer forge lifelong mateships.
Its supremacy as a surfer’s Mecca and the quality of the crew serving the yacht we enlisted to explore its liquid goldmines cannot be denied.
We woke up quickly upon confrontation with the more than 10 hour transit back to Coolangatta Airport, via Kuala Lumpur.
We were almost literally just dreaming, but it was a vivid dream full of pleasure, pain, fear and fantasy we’ll never want to or actually forget.