Philippine reefbreak named after a chocolate bar at the spot where legendary outlaw adventurer starved himself to death on a 43 day fast. Definitive proof the surf gods have a strong sense of irony.
Cloud 9 is firmly among the A-list of premium, non-Indonesian SE Asian surf spots. In fact, the hollow righthand reefbreak could hold its own with many of the finest of the Indonesian archipelago has to offer.
The fabled break on Siargao’s island’s east coast is not only home to world class waves, but also surf legend of the highest order. In fact, even when calibrating for a sport that is obsessed with its own mythology more than most, the tale of intrigue, adventure, crime, mystique and ultimately tragedy might be one of surfing’s very finest of all.
The story centres on Mike Boyum, who set up the original G-Land camp, the world’s first surf camp, in the early 1970’s, after his brother had spotted the break from a plane window.
The camp, whose guests included the likes of Gerry Lopez, charged up to $100/night for exclusivity, reportedly pulling in Boyum up to 250 grand/season from the surf camp business.
But with rumours that the G-Land surf camp income was supplemented with narcotics trafficking, it wasn’t long before Boyum found himself within the sights of the Indonesian authorities.
Feeling the boot coming down, Boyum wasted little time in burning the tree house camp he built and fleeing, depressed, disillusioned and somehow – apparently broke.
A subsequent smuggling misadventure in French Caledonia eventually saw Boyum do 4 years in jail in Noumea, as told in Sea of Darkness.
Following his release, Boyum is said to have been laying low in Bali, thinking of his next move, when he met two surfers, Steve Jones and Tony Arroza, who’d been the first surf explorers to Siargao in the early 80’s.
Some reports state that Jones & Arroza called the reef at Tuason Point, now known as Cloud 9, ‘Jacking Horse’ although such claims are disputed elsewhere.
Whatever they didn’t or didn’t call it, they imparted enough information to inspire Boyum.
In December ’88 an American traveller called Max Walker arrived at
the Siargao town of General Luna carrying a battered surfboard, asking the local mayor permission to camp at the deserted Tuason Point, some 3km away. According to excerpts from his diaries, later published in The Surfer’s Journal, after spending a few months meditating and following a macrobiotic diet, Walker embarked on a 40 day cleansing fast from his hut on the beach overlooking the wave.
Having made several friends in the village, Walker had a local come check on him and give him lemon juice and water every few days if needed. Apparently not satisfied with the hardship of the fast itself, Walker is reported to have taken to laying out in the brutal midday Philippine sun each day to induce delirious heat and hunger fantasies about food, even writing favourite recipes from childhood.
A storm in meant Walker was left without visits for a few days, and when a visit was finally possible, June 14th ’89, he was found dead after 43 days fasting.
Going through his personal affects, the locals’ suspicions that Max Walker was not the traveller’s real name were confirmed. Max Walker was of course, Mike Boyum.
Four years later American photographer John Callahan did a Surfer Magazine trip to The Philippines with Rusty teamriders Taylor Knox and Evan Slater. The 1992 publication of the score revealing the wave to the world via a cover story feature, creating a whole new tropical tropical destination.
The accompanying story revealed the name Cloud 9 came about after nothing more than the name of Philippine chocolate bar the crew used as part of their daily sugar charge.
“We just named the wave after the local no melt chocolate” said Callahan of the historic trip. “Going into town after lunch for a warm Coke and a Cloud 9 was the highlight of our day.”
While subsequent rumours flew about that Boyum had in fact faked his own death, or that the Maui mafia (from whom he reportedly stole a million dollars) had caught up with him, locals can still point to the spot where Boyum’s unmarked grave lies, just a few hundred yards from what is now a bustling international surf destination.