Travel memoirs are my bookish kryptonite. Living vicariously through the words of lucky travelers who bravely head out into the world, I really do enjoy reading about the adventures of others. Frequently I can picture myself heading out myself on a similar excursion, visiting ancient ruins and relaxing in small Parisian cafes. Occasionally, however, I run across a book where the trek is so crazy exotic and extreme that the book manages to fascinate me and scare me to death at the exact same time! Those books, the ones that take me WAY beyond my own personal comfort zone, are often my favorite. Such is the case with Island Explorer by Dan Scheffler.
Nowadays Dan Scheffler is a family man and general practitioner living in South Africa. There was once a time, before the responsibilities set in, when Scheffler left everything behind in search of adventure. What he found was a four month sailing excursion through South Asia all in search of the perfect wave.
Island Explorer is most definitely a surf book, however a vast majority of the book is actually all about the journey sailing to the waves and the colorful cast of misfits Scheffler encountered along the way.
What drew me into this book was the travel adventure that took place out of the water. Starting with an excruciatingly long bus ride with the locals, Scheffler headed off to rendezvous with a sailboat after seeing an ad in a surf magazine that read "Wanted: Six guys with guts." Once he arrived at the boat, the next four months included trying to dodge real-life pirates, being abandoned by the captain, and sharing a bunk with newly hatched family of baby scorpions all while trying to stay healthy in a place that was at least two days travel from a decent hospital. From a first mate that is going "troppo" to malaria-carrying mosquitoes, Scheffler details the mundane in poetic detail.
Now to be clear, I am not a surfer. I have actually never been on a surf board in my life! Due to my own limitations on the subject of waves, I truly didn't understand a lot of the surfspeak such as breakers, right-hander, set waves, cascading lip and open faces to carve. I'll defer to the experts to review the surfing passages in Island Explorer, although let me say that several of the surfing experiences in this book sounded REALLY scary/brave/cool to me.
If you are a fan of adventure travel, Island Explorer delivers. And although this book is a book about surfing written for surfers, it is the journey that shines through.
Rating: 4.5 stars
Great quote: "No matter how many travel brochures I look at or how many holiday pics I see, tropical sunsets continue to captivate me. When the sun is in just the right place, the golden glint on the leaves of the palm trees transforms the skyline from a mere hint of what lies beyond to a brilliant facade for just a few moments. My imagination magnifies that picture in to a wonderland. And then that fleeting glimpse is gone but for the memory of it in my mind." (2369/2849 which is what my ebook says instead of page numbers)
I received this ebook complimentary from the author in exchange for an honest review but the opinion in this review is all mine.