As surfers, we have an unwritten obligation in our lifetime to make pilgrimages to a handful of destinations around the world to prove our legitimacy. Basically, if you’ve seen the spot in either of the Endless Summer movies, you’re obligated to go check it out or you lack the credentials to call yourself a real “surfer.”

Though I’m hardly stupid enough to call myself a “surfer” at the wise old age of 30 for fear of the stigma that will get me automatically disqualified for potential job opportunities or invitations back to “her place,” I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to some of our religion’s Meccas. I’ve seen Caiman in Costa Rica, drank Kava on Tavarua, I’ve been frisked by the federales in Mexico, I did an eight-year stint in Hawaii and, of course, I’ve gone left (and right) in Bali.

For “surfers,” each passport stamp and reef scar is accompanied by an even better story; stories that come out while drinking beers with the boys and reminds us that as “surfers,” we spend more time telling our friends about the journey than we do about the actual waves we surfed. I’d argue that’s how you can identify a real “surfer.”

One such story happened on a surf trip to Bali in July of 2008. I had been going out with my girlfriend at the time for about two years. She was also a “surfer,” from a family of “surfers.” Her family had been going to Bali for years and had the operation dialed, so when they planned to take a trip back down there that summer and offered me the invitation to tag along, I jumped right on it.

If you’ve ever spent an extended period of time in Bali (or in one place on any surf trip for that matter), you know that things can get monotonous at a certain point. After a couple weeks of waking up groggy from too many Bintangs, to getting up to the Bukit and seeing that it’s crowded yet again, you realize you may need to switch things up.

Unfortunately, as surfers, while planning trips we rarely plan for activities other than surfing like taking a day or two to learn more about the history and culture of our destinations. Fortunately, Bali is a beautiful place with tons of culture and interesting sites to see.

To change things up, someone in the family suggested that we go spend a day at the Bali Safari and Marine Park. Having grown up in San Diego, I’m a spoiled brat when it comes to zoos, and this seemed like a weak solution to our problem but I would soon be proven very wrong.

The Bali Safari Park is better than the San Diego Zoo. The Bali Safari Park is like if you took the San Diego Zoo, added a couple roller coasters and allowed people to pet just about any animal they wanted.

When you go through the gates at the Bali Zoo, as they take your ticket, they hand you raffle tickets just like you would get at a carnival in the United States and they tell you that these tickets can be used to pet various animals throughout the park. That all sounded fairly normal at first, and I imagined a petting zoo scenario where you can interact with harmless animals like goats, sheep, ducks, etc., nothing too wild.

Shortly after entering the park, I saw a small line that led up to a zookeeper who had an exotic bird that you could hold and take pictures with for a few raffle tickets. Further along there were lines to pet monkeys. Then there were tigers, lions, cheetahs, you name it; they basically had every type of predatory cat that you could think of, on leashes under the supervision of a couple Balinese zookeepers, and for a few raffle tickets they’d let you pet one and risk having it take your face off with one swipe of its paw. The place was radical. After spending all my raffle tickets on petting a tiger for a few minutes, I continued to explore the park with the rest of our group.

Sometime later, we stumbled upon the longest lines we’d seen all day. At this particular area, there were two extremely long lines, probably about 100 yards apiece, each leading up to separate gazebos. Under each of these gazebos was a big chair, like the Balinese version of a mall Santa’s chair, a zookeeper and an orangutan. The zookeeper would accept tickets from the people who had been waiting in line for over a half an hour, let them sit in the Santa chair, and then put the 4-foot tall orangutan in their lap while their friends and family excitedly took pictures for about a minute until it was time for the next patron’s turn.

Some of the people in our crew, including my girlfriend and her sister, couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to cuddle with an orangutan, so they hopped in line and patiently began to wait their turn. Being a hot and sweaty mess from walking around the park all day, I decided to take a seat on a little wall in the shade about 25 yards from the gazebos so I could cool off and watch the tourists froth over our hairy, knuckle-dragging ancestors.

As I sat down on the wall, I put down my backpack, got comfortable and began taking a look at the status of an open wound on my shin that I’d received from the reef while surfing at Bingin the day before. The 3- or 4-inch cut was at the stage where it was still wet and oozing a bit, but upon further inspection it looked pretty clean and there were no visible signs of infection. Feeling relieved, I once again looked up at the gazebo and focused my attention on the orangutans.

No more than five seconds after looking up, one of the orangutans, who at this point was sitting in the lap of a middle-aged Asian man, locked eyes with me. Suddenly, for some reason, amid the chaos, I became the sole focus of this orangutan. Then before I knew it, the orangutan jumped off of the man’s lap, down to the ground, and went on a dead sprint right toward me.

It was like slow motion; his knuckles hit the ground, then his feet. Then his knuckles, then his feet, and before I knew it, I was completely engulfed in the orange, wispy-haired arms of the primate. At first I sat there in shock; me looking into his eyes, and he looking into mine. I patted him on the back with that awkward pat you give to old people who hug too long, but he just kept his arms wrapped around my neck and feet around my waist. I’m not sure what he was thinking, but I was a little bit nervous, a little embarrassed and pretty stoked that I got to get a hug from an orangutan without paying for more raffle tickets or waiting in that dreaded line.

As I looked up, I saw a zookeeper running my way to retrieve the uncooperative animal. After peeling him off of me, the zookeeper walked him back to the gazebo, holding his hand and scolding him like a deviant child. As they walked away, I noticed that the whole line was laughing and pointing in my direction, and that the little guy was looking back over his shoulder at me the whole time with a forlorn look like a kid that was getting dragged away from his mom on the first day of kindergarten.

Quickly, order was restored and the zookeeper continued to accept raffle tickets and move people through the line.

As my heart rate finally returned to normal from all the excitement and the pink pigment in my embarrassed cheeks started to fade, I looked back up at my new friend. This time, he was sitting between two elementary school-aged girls, and much like the last time, he looked in my direction and locked eyes with me once more.

My heart skipped a beat, and just like the last time, the little guy jumped off the Santa chair and went on a dead sprint right at me.

Knuckles, feet. Knuckles, feet. And before I knew it, he was ready to pounce on me again. But this time he decided to change up his program. Instead of jumping up into my arms, he grabbed my leg like a corn on the cob; one hand just below my knee, one hand wrapped completely around my ankle, and I watched his eyes hone in on my oozing reef cut. Before I knew it, the sick freak had his lips wrapped around my shin and he persisted to lick my open wound like I was dripping warm honey.

Fortunately for me (and him), no one except the people in my crew really knew about my wound, so they had no clue why he was giving my leg a tongue bath. But this time as the zookeeper pulled him off of me, more irritated than the last, he looked at my leg as he peeled the little guy’s lips off my shin and from the look in his eyes I could tell he saw what my furry friend was after. The zookeeper gave me a look of disgust like it was my fault his little zoo-slave liked the taste of human flesh, and led him away once again, and once again the blood-sucking primate looked back over his shoulder at me with a look of sadness.

I’ll never forget the look in his eye or the fear of infection that he left me with, words that I hope to never repeat again. But after a few Bintangs and a few laughs, the wound healed and the memory has become a fond one.

And, oh yeah, the waves were fun, too …