Laguna Beach Magazine May 2023 | Page 39

GOING ABOARD TO GET ABROAD Now 93 , Metz reflects back on this journey of a lifetime . He got lucky and for the price of $ 60 for food — oatmeal , cabbage , French bread and all the wine you could drink — he received a 17-day passage to Tahiti . Accommodations were a hammock in the hold of the ship along with military tanks and trucks , with a view of the sky through open hatch covers ; he wasn ’ t allowed to go up on deck . Among the troops he had for company , he recalls former German officers who were given a new identity by becoming legionnaires .
Once in Tahiti , he spent three months surfing and soaking up the local beach life from Bora Bora to Raiatea and Huahine . But then he couldn ’ t leave because there were no planes or passenger ships there . So he talked his way into a job on a Norwegian tramp steamer bound for Australia , along with another American he had met in Tahiti . “ So we went from Tahiti to Samoa , we went to Pango Pango , went to Fiji , New Hebrides , New Caledonia , the Marshall Islands , I think , and finally got to Australia ,” Metz says . “ He got off and got on an airplane and flew back to LA and I went surfing in Australia .”
But while on the ship , he ate meals with the Norwegian captain and other officers , who wanted to practice their English . And he got a letter of recommendation ( which Metz wrote since the captain ’ s English wasn ’ t so good ) to help acquire jobs on other ships along the way . “ He said , ‘ I ’ ll give you the stationery , you write it and I ’ ll sign it .’ So I wrote a letter that would make you think I was one of the great sailors of the world . And he stamped it and signed it and I still have the letter .”
After surfing for a few months in Australia , he lined up a job on another Norwegian ship and hopped a ride to Indonesia and , eventually , Singapore , then started hitchhiking up the Malay Peninsula to the island of Penang to see the great Snake Temple , filled with large serpents like pythons , venomous black mambas and pit vipers . He then trekked to Thailand , Cambodia , Burma ( now Myanmar ) and up the Irrawaddy River to Rangoon .
“ I was always fascinated by the names of cities ,” Metz says . “ I thought , ‘ Singapore , Rangoon — I mean , those are
From left : Metz as a passenger on a transport vessel in Tahiti with Ted Johnson ( right ); Masai warriors in Africa
great names .’ Mombasa , Dar es Salaam . I was just fascinated by the names . So I had to go to Rangoon .”
From there , he ventured across into India , where he stayed in a YMCA in Calcutta ( now Kolkata ), then hitchhiked up to Benares ( or Varanasi ), a great religious city , along the Ganges River to New Delhi , the Taj Mahal and on to Bombay . He worked on another Norwegian ship heading to the Seychelles , a group of islands in the Indian Ocean , then on to Zanzibar — a big slave trade hub in the 19th century — then to Mombasa in East Africa , which was then a British colony . “ I got off in Mombasa ,” Metz says , “ and I spent the next year and a half hitchhiking all over Africa .”
AFRICAN ADVENTURES Crisscrossing the great continent of Africa on dirt roads , Metz wasn ’ t sure where his next ride would come from . “ I was scared to death ,” he says . “ I waited 17 days in the middle of Africa waiting for one car to come by . We ’ re not talking about out here on [ Highway ] 101 and cars are swishing by . And it ’ s not a car , it ’ s a truck . There … [ are ] no bridges . You ’ ve got to ford rivers . You have to carry your own gas .”
Often , he ’ d score a ride with young geologists for the De Beers diamond company , who traveled in groups of four to pan the different creeks and rivers in Africa to determine what minerals were in the various waterways . On their way to cities like Nairobi for food and supplies , they ’ d pick up Metz ,
Metz ’ s world surf trip helped to inspire the iconic surf film “ The Endless Summer .”