Words: Chris Nelson Image: Demi Taylor

Portugal, 2002

The voice is rich, well spoken – expat with southern Africa lilt. “So there I was, naked, and I turned around to see this Portuguese guy running off with my mini-malibu under his arm. So I grabbed my revolver and loosed off a couple of rounds – well the old Northern Ireland training kicks in.” He is the kind of guy I always seem to pitch up next to on my travels. No sooner have I parked up the van than he is on me, life story at the ready. “He dropped the board and sped off in his car.” The orator is in his fifties, his grey hair tied back in a ponytail. He is half way through explaining how someone had tried to steal his surfboard as he changed at the local beach. He offers me a coffee black as coal and just as thick. “When I told the police, they said using a gun probably wasn’t a good idea; unless he had a knife. It could be considered an escalation of the conflict, and was technically illegal. I asked if it would have been ok if I had used my crossbow?” My immediate thought is ‘He has a crossbow as well as a revolver?’

He lifts the veil on a life of tangled adventures, perhaps one too many brushes with death to remain fully compos mentis. “When you’ve seen your best friend blown to pieces before your eyes… it changes you,” he said during our opening conversation. But what is he doing here, in this tiny campsite, in tiny village that hangs on the cliff-top overlooking the Atlantic coast of Portugal. “I’m waiting for the engine of my Microlite to be fixed,” he explains matter-of-factly. “It seized on me and I had to make an emergency landing. They do it all the time apparently – something to do with the wrong mixture in the carb.”

And so we sit, sipping tar, an impressive quiver of boards scattered around my neighbour’s tricked-out Land Rover. His agenda unfurls as he rails against ‘The Adjusters’ – the nine-to-five people, folk who adjusted to their soul-destroying way of life: to the system. They’ve settled for society’s rules and regulations – obedient and unquestioning. His views follow no established political doctrine; they seem a blend of right-wing libertarianism and pure left-wing anti-establishmentism, but with a generous sprinkling of weapons and surfing. “But I have my day coming up in the High Court in London. And I shall be arriving bareback, on a white horse, with the trusty sword of truth in my right hand. And they shall rue the day!”

I never did find out why he would be appearing in country’s highest legal arena. I sure would have loved to see his day in court. But by then I would be a thousand miles south riding African point breaks, in the back of my mind wondering if I’d met the real life Tyler Durden.