You can read part one and part two here.
He, introduced himself as “Max Walker.”
The late Mayor Jaime Rusillion remembers it well since there weren’t many foreigners and surfing was nonexistent. Mayor Rusillon even started calling the man “Mad Max” after the popular Mel Gibson flick, and the name stuck.
Mad Max asked the mayor’s permission to make camp on a palm-lined outcropping of beach called Tuason Point in the Catangnan region.
There were no stores, eateries, electricity, or, even other people around Mad Max’s new home, and it was a good 3-kilometer hike just to get to the dusty fishing village of General Luna.
But the solitude was just fine for Mad Max, as he preferred to stay out of sight. The man who called himself Max Walker also had different motivation for living on Tuason Point: it was only steps away from the best reef break he’d ever seen.
But the old school Siargao expats I talked to never heard those names, and claim that Max Walker identified first the reef break from marine charts, as he was apt to do.
Either way, Cloud Nine is a “hollow and heavy right-hand barrel; for experience riders only.” (I put that in quotes because I’m not a surfer and don’t know jack-shit above waves except that they’re wet and I like jumping in them!)
I do know that it’s located on the southeastern coast of the Philippines island of Siargao, where I now live. In fact, my little green house on Purok 1 (Road 1) is probably only a hundred meters from where the solo, mysterious American surfer first made his presence known.
In fact, Cloud Nine is now considered one of the five toughest reef breaks in the world and Surf Magazine named it as one of the ten best waves in the world. (It’s also called ‘Crowd Nine’ because of its touristy appeal.)
Although he probably “discovered” Cloud Nine from a surf perspective, he arrived at the start of the worst period for surfing Siargao’s waves, as January to April bring consistent onshore winds from the northeast, enveloping the island in monsoon rains.
He’d completed 40-day fasts before, so took the necessary safety precautions. Max arranged for a well-respected local to come check on him periodically, making sure he was ok and providing water or a squeeze of lemon juice.
However, during his final fast here in Siargao, the man who was supposed to come to check on Max couldn’t get there until the 46th day because of a big storm.
By then, Max Walker had grown so weak that his body just gave out. They say he passed away on June 14, 1989 – his 43rd birthday and the 43rd day of the fast.
Of course, John Michael “Mike” Boyum also died on June 14, 1989, as the two men were one in the same.
He probably also realized why Boyum was on the run and hiding out in Siargao, as the Hawaiian authorities (and, more importantly, the Maui Mob) were still looking for him.
But General Luna’s mayor also wasn’t one to pry in the young American’s affairs, and genuinely considered the man a friend.
(Mayor Rusillon passed away on April 26, 2019, considered a beloved hero and "The Godfather of Philippines Surfing.")
Tuason Point continued to gain attention – both as a shrine to Boyum/Walker and an epic surf break.
“I named the break after the local no-melt chocolate bars,” says Callahan. “Going into town after lunch for a warm Coke and a Cloud 9 was the highlight of our day.
When the Surf Magazine piece was released, the secret was out: “Cloud Nine” was a new mecca for surfers around the world.
Today, it’s still a surf haven, and rapidly becoming one of the coolest (in my estimation) and best (according to various travel magazines) islands in the world, yet alone Southeast Asia.
Passing away while on a self-imposed fast was just one version of his death.
Another account puts his death in April of that year. Still another says he drowned while surfing right out in front of his home on Tuason Point, his surfboard washing up but his body never recovered. Still more people suspect that the Hawaiian mob finally caught up to him, extracting revenge before leaving him for dead somewhere deep in Siargao’s mangrove swamps.
Then again, we can’t give much credence to those rumors, as spreading gossip, or chismis, is an artform in the Philippines.
I’ve even heard whispers that Boyum carefully staged his own death to throw off the mob, and is still alive and hiding out on Siargao somewhere, doing his business on the outskirts of General Luna before disappearing back into the jungle.
No matter which version you believe (or want to believe), Mike Boyum’s death was never made official and no death certificate exists.
I guess some legends never die.
P.S. An abridged version of this perspective on Mike Boyum's final days in Siargao will be published in BeSiargao Magazine.