Mike Boyum's Last Days in Siargao


Written by Norm Schriever

Norm Schriever is a professional writer, cultural mad scientist, and enemy of the comfort zone. Originally from the U.S., he’s lived abroad and traveled the globe for more than 10 years now, telling the stories of the people and places he encounters. The secret to his success is strong coffee and frequent naps, and he only hopes to leave this world a little better than he found it. You can read more about Mike Boyum, Siargao, and Norm’s Philippines adventures at

Every day in Siargao, tourists, expats, and locals alike drive by a sign on Tourism Road that reads “Boyum’s Surf Camp.”

But few realise that the inspiration for that name is Mike Boyum, an American surfer who came to our humble island in the 1980s, inadvertently putting Cloud 9 and Siargao on the international surf map.

And even fewer know the details of Mike Boyum’s epic – yet tragic – life. In the 1970s, Boyum and his older brother, Bill, were the first to “discover” Plengkung Beach in Indonesia, setting up G-Land, the world’s first ever surf camp. It thrived, attracting surfers from all over the globe. But the local authorities soon grew the wiser and drove Mike out, who burned down the camp’s structures as an act of defiance on the way out.


In those days, a handful of surfers funded their exotic explorations by trafficking narcotics, including some of Mike’s friends who hollowed out their surfboards and filled them with Bolivian cocaine before smuggling them from country to country right through the airports.

Broken and broke after his experience in Indonesia, Boyum tried his hand at drug smuggling, too. However, that dark wave led to his arrest and a long prison sentence in Indonesia, followed by some time back in the U.S.A. where he stole $1 million from the Maui Mafia in Hawaii.

On the run and trying to hide out before the Maui mob could find him, that’s where the story of Mike Boyum leads us to Siargao…

One day in late 1988, an American guy carrying a surfboard strolled into the remote fishing village of General Luna, introducing himself as “Max Walker.”

The late Mayor Jaime Rusillon remembers it well, as there were few foreigners and surfing was nonexistent at the time. Mayor Rusillon started calling him “Mad Max” after the popular Mel Gibson flick, and the name stuck.

The visitor asked if he could camp in a lonely, palm-lined outcropping of beach called Tuason Point in the Catangnan region (a place we now know as Cloud 9).


There were no stores, eateries, electricity, or other people around Mad Max’s new home, and it was a 4-kilometer hike just to get to the dusty fishing village of General Luna.

But the solitude was just fine for Mad Max, and it also happened to be steps away from the best right-hand reef break he’d ever seen.

Although he was probably the first person to surf what we now know as Cloud Nine, Max Walker came in December, during the worst time of year for wave riding.

An avid fitness fanatic, Mad Max fasted regularly. Sitting in his secluded hut while rain poured around him for weeks, he undertook another such fast that was supposed to last 43 days.

First, Boyum arranged for a local man to come check on him periodically, providing water and making sure he was ok. His caretaker was supposed to come on the 40th day of Mike’s fast but couldn’t get there again until the 46th day because of a large storm.

By then, Max Walker had grown so weak that his body just gave out. He passed away on June 14, 1989 – his 43rd birthday and ironically the 43rd day of the fast.

Of course, John Michael “Mike” Boyum also died on June 14, 1989, since the two men were one in the same.

Mayor Ramillio always suspected that “Max Walker” wasn’t the man’s real name (it was also the name of a popular cartoon character at the time).

But he only found out Boyum’s true identity upon the wayward traveler’s death, when other surfers from around the world started showing up in Siargao, looking to honour Boyum’s legacy and surf those same waves.


The surf break-turned shrine to Boyum/Walker caught the attention of Surf Magazine a few years later in 1993, who published a big profile, gaining Siargao international acclaim. By then, people were already calling it “Cloud 9,” after surf photographer John Seaton Callahan coined the name, as the waves reminded him of the CLOUD 9 candy bar.

But the tale of Boyum’s death was not put to rest, as rumours and innuendos swirled.

One account says that Boyum drowned while surfing Cloud 9, with only his surfboard washing up. More than a few people suspect that the Hawaiian mob finally caught up to him on Siargao and his body had been dumped in the mangrove swamps.

There were even whispers that Mike Boyum staged his own death to throw off those Maui Mafia, and he’s still hiding out on Siargao to this day, living in solitude in the jungle for all these decades.

Of course, these unfounded theories grow even wilder with time, as is the case with all gossip.

We do know at least one credible person who claims to have seen Boyum’s body and says that he’s buried in an unmarked cemetery plot along Tourist Road not too far from Cloud 9.

It’s impossible to sort through the ashes of these rumours to find the truth, especially since no official death certificate exists and Boyum’s closest local confidante, Mayor Jaime Rusillon, has since passed, too.

But no matter which version of Mike Boyum’s end in Siargao you believe (or want to believe), we can all agree that some legends never die.


An mga Kataposan na Adlaw ni Mike Boyum sa Siargao Sinuyat ni Norm Schriever

Kada adlaw sa Siargao, an mga turista, expats, sanan mga lokal makaagi sa karatola sa Tourism Road na may nakasuyat “Boyum’s Surf Camp.”

Pero gamay ra an nakaamgo sa inspirasyon nan pangayan na amo si Mike Boyum, isa ka Amerikano na surfer na noabot sa ato isla sa tuig 1980, na waya tujoa amoy nakapabutang sa Cloud 9 sanan Siargao sa internasyonal na mapa nan surf.

Sanan mas gamay pa gajod an nahibayo sa detalye nan epiko pero makaluluoy na kinabuhi ni Mike Boyum. Sa mga tuig 1970, si Boyum sanan ija maguyang, si Bill, amo an mga una na “nakadiskobre” sa Plengkung Beach sa Indonesia, nagtukod sila nan G-Land, an pinakauna na surf camp sa kalibotan. Nolambo ini, sanan nagdani nan mga surfers gikan sa tibuok kalibotan. Pero an lokal na awtoridad nakabantay sanan tagpalayas si Mike, ugsa tagsunog isab nija an estruktura nan camp isip akto sa pagsupak sa ija paghawa.


Adton na mga adlaw, pipila ka mga surfers tagpudohan sa ila mga eksotiko na eksplorasyon pinaagi sa pagpalusot nan drogas, lakip na an mga amigo ni Mike na tagbuslotan an ila mga surfboards sanan taglun-an nan cocaine gikan Bolivia adeser ipalusot sa lain-lain na mga nasod agi sa mga tugpahanan.

Napildi sanan napobre sa ija kasinatian sa Indonesia, tagsuwajan isab ni Boyum an pagpalusot nan drogas. Pero adton na pagsuway amoy hinungdan nan ija pagkaaresto sanan dugay na pagkapriso sa Indonesia, human sab sa nahitabo sa U.S.A. diin sija nangawat nan $1 milyon gikan sa Maui Mafia sa Hawaii.

Nag-ikyas sanan nagtago adeser mahanap sija nan sindikato na Maui, amo ini an sinugdanan nan istorya ni Mike Boyum na magdaya kanato sa Siargao...

Isa ka adlaw sa tapos nan tuig 1988, isa ka Amerikano na nagdaya nan surfboard an nagpanaw-panaw sa lajo na baryo nan mangisdaay na General Luna, nagpakilaya sija isip “Max Walker”.

An anhin Mayor Jaime Rusillon nakahinumdom pa, kay gamay pa an mga langyaw sanan waya pay surfing nan adton panahon.

An bisita nangutana kon pwede ba sija magkampo sa mingaw, batoon na lininyahan nan nijog na baybay na tagtawag Tuason Point sa may Catangnan (kuman nakilaya nato ini na Cloud 9).

Waya pa adtoy mga tindahan, kan-anan, kuryente, o iban na mga tawo sa palibot sa bag-o na panimayay ni Mad Max, sanan 4 ka kilometros na baktas para makaabot sa maabog na baryo nan mangisdaay na General Luna.

Pero an kamingaw sakto ra para kan Mad Max, sanan nahitabo na pila ra ini ka tikang gikan sa pinaka magana na right-hand reef break na ija nakita.

Biskan sija bagan an pinaka una na nagsurf sa ato nakilayhan kuman na Cloud 9, si Max Walker noabot sa Disyembre, an pinaka yaot na panahon sa pagsakay nan bayud.

Isa ka fan nan fitness, si Mad Max kanunay magpuasa. Mag-ingkod sija sa ija nakatago na pajag samtang sige uyan sa ija palibot pila ka semana, naghimo na isab sija ini na puasa na modugay tana nan 43 ka adlaw.

Una, si Boyum nakigsabot sa isa ka lokal para mobantay-bantay sa ija, maghatag sa ija nan tubig sanan tan-awon kon ok pa ba sija. An ija tigbantay mobalik tana sa ika 40 na adlaw sa puasa ni Mike pero waya ini kabalik hantod sa ika 46 tungod sa isa ka dako na bagjo.

Adton na higajon, si Max Walker luja na karajaw na an ija lawas noundang na. Namatay sija adton Hunyo 14, 1989 - ija ika 43 na adlaw natawhan sanan ika 43 na adlaw nan pagpuasa.

Sanan si John Michael “Mike” Boyum namatay isab gajod adton Hunyo 14, 1989, kay an duha ka mga tawo isa ra sa tinuod.

Si Mayor Ramilio kanunay nagsuspetsa na si “Max Walker” dili amo jadto an tinuod na pangayan (pangayan isab jadto nan sikat na cartoon character adton na panahon).

Pero nahibay-an lang nija an tinuod na pagkakilaya ni Boyum sa pagkamatay sa badlongon na magpapanaw, sa diha an iban surfers sa tibuok kalibotan nisugod pagpakita sa Siargao, naghandom na pasidunggan an kabilin ni Boyum sanan magsurf sa pareho na mga bayud.

An surf break na nahimo shrine ni Boyum/Walker nakakuha sa atensyon nan Surf Magazine pila ka tuig an nolabay adton 1993, na nagmantala nan dako na pagkakilaya, sanan naghatag sa Siargao nan internasyonal na pasidungog. Adton na panahon, an mga tawo nagtawag na nan “Cloud 9”, human sa isa ka surf photographer na si John Seaton Callahan na nagmugna sa pangayan, an mga bayud nakapahinumdom nija sa CLOUD 9 na candy bar.

Pero an istorya sa kamatajon ni Boyum waya mawaya, samtang an mga hungihong sanan tabi-tabi nipadajon.

May isa ka istorya na naglaong si Boyum nalumos samtang nagsurfing sa Cloud 9, an ija lamang surfboard an napadpad. May nagtuo na an Hawaiian mob nakaabot na gajod sa ija sa Siargao sanan an ija lawas taglabog na sa kabakhawan.

Jaoy sab mga hunghong na si Mike Boyum tagpagawas an ija kaugalingon na kamatajon para libogon an Maui Mafia, sanan sija nagtago gihapon sa Siargao hantod kuman na adlaw, naghuya nan sija-sija ra sa guyangan ini na mga katuigan.

Ini na mga dili tinuod na mga istorya nagkagrabe gajod sa pag-agi nan panahon, pero amo ra sab nan tanan chismes.

Nahibayo hanu kita nan isa ka katuohan na tawo na nag-angkon nakakita sa lawas ni Boyum sanan laong nija nakalubong na sija sa waya markahi na lote sa Tourism Road dili lajo sa Cloud 9.

Imposible isa-isahon ini na mga chismes para hanapon an kamatuoran, labi na wayay opisyal na death certificate sanan an pinaka suod na sinaligan ni Boyum, si Mayor Jaime Rusillion, notaliwan na isab.

Pero biskan uno pa man na bersyon sa kataposan ni Mike Boyum an imo tuohan (o gusto tuohan), magkasinabot kita tanan na an iban mga bantogan dili gajod mamatay.

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