Shivering Beyond Empty:
The cramped excuse for an aircraft came careening over the fields of pines below and dropped, along with the pit of my stomach, onto the tarmac. Unfazed by the bumblebee descent, the man in the adjoining seat—a neck-bearded mossback who wore a cap with the words Big Game Hunter embroidered across the crown—sucked down the slurry at the bottom of his beer and, looking into the sunshine on the far side of the plane’s Plexiglas, donned his shades. He watched the ground crew attack the cargo hold outside, peering expectantly from behind lenses that had been tinted one-way mirror style with a jigsaw puzzle of olive-drab camouflage. He grunted with satisfaction as his two glittering cases of hardware were offloaded. I rumbled a similar sigh of recognition when the stained Cordura bag holding my boards appeared as well, and as I watched it manhandled onto a cart, the circumstances that had brought me to this forlorn corner of the world wavered up from the depths of my skull.
Two days ago, I’d been called into my editor’s office, and with a bark about a trek through the bush, he’d promptly dispatched me to a far zone of Northeastern Canada. “You’ve been booked out of San Diego tomorrow,” he’d said, shooing me from the building. “A crew of Hawaiians just rotated through. And now, the local boys are headed north—by car. They’re moving fast. Chasing swell. The plan is for you to fly in and meet them en route. Afterwards, you’ll all drive back together. But don’t worry about that now. Just get out of here. Go buy some booties. And a hood. And some gloves. And get to the airport on time.”
Come morning, the guidance of those curt instructions had led me through increasingly rustic surroundings, but after 24-hours of travel, I’d finally sat down for the last outbound leg of the trip. And that’s when I’d encountered my monosyllabic companion in the cap and the camo shades. Boarding the aircraft, he’d lumbered down the isle, a walking wall of Army surplus green, and after sitting down and ordering a Molson, he’d recounted the highlights of his last foray north for moose season.
“Name’s Bob, eh,” he’d said. “Shot me a big boy last year. Full rack. Got a new scope now, eh. Told the wife, ‘Clear the fridge.’ Told her meats on the way.”
I’d pondered what a week on the hunt would be like with Bob as we’d winged north. But now, safely on the ground, I left my flight-mate to his guns and ammunition and was met in the parking loop by my actual companions: Nico Manos, a Canadian pro surfer from somewhere to the south, photographer Yassine Ouhilal, a transplanted Quebecer who now lived near Nico’s hometown, and Yassine’s dog, Louba, a mutt who showed the vague lines of a Doberman through murky lineage.