Spain's Party Island: Ibiza
FHM is sat at the rooftop bar of a beachfront establishment called Ithaca. Approximately 25 twenty-somethings, all inhabiting various parts of hangover hell, have dragged themselves here, under the unforgiving glare of a Balearic sun. A man in a pink baseball cap is stood centre circle, giving a speech.
“You need to be reliable. You need to be a nice person. You need to be trustworthy.”
This shuffling, shambling bunch are new recruits. Like thousands of others, they’ve come to Ibiza to do two things: have a great time and earn a bit of money. The bloke knocking them into shape is Chris, the PR manager for a company called Pukka Up. Their job, he tells them, is to go out on to the streets and sell tickets. It’s a cross between The Inbetweeners Movie and The Wolf Of Wall Street.
“I don’t want you guys having breakfast until you’ve made a sale,” he says. “If someone’s hesitating, pretend your phone is ringing, take an imaginary call and tell them tickets are running out. And guys: paint a picture. Say, ‘It’ll be you and your mates, far from England, having the night of your lives, Example will be playing all his massive hits, the stars will be out in the sky…’”
A couple of the recruits have dozed off. A few check their phones or flirt with each other. But there are some – a minority – who shrug off their headaches, lean in towards Chris and listen carefully. As weird as it sounds, these are the guys that have come to Ibiza to actually make something of themselves. Weirder still: they might be on to something.
If Ibiza is an endless rave war with strobes and uplifting synth lines taking the place of barbed wire and mortar fire, then Chris is its heavily decorated veteran. The softly spoken Liverpudlian has spent years working on the Balearic frontlines and has achieved something akin to a state of party zen. If you put a stethoscope to his chest, you’d probably hear a reassuring house beat.
“When we interview people at the start of each season it’s like The X Factor,” he tells us later. “Hundreds of people show up for about 40 positions. Some of them bring guitars and try to sing so that we remember them.” And why are they so desperate for these jobs?
“Well, if they’re good, they can make about 1,000€ (`79,600) a week.”
Events company Pukka Up was created by Londoner Ed Moore 11 years ago and is now one of the biggest and most respected businesses of its kind in Ibiza. Forking over the equivalent of about 50 quid to one of their street vendors gets you to access to a pre-party at a bar; a three-hour sunset rave on a boat; an all-nighter at one of the island’s super-duper mega-clubs and then a nice café breakfast in the morning. The clever bit is that punters go through the whole experience as a group, so if you’re exchanging nervous glances with a lady at 3 pm, chances are that by 4 am, when you’re both losing your shit to Chase and Status’s set at Insomnia, you’ll have probably drummed up the courage to introduce yourself. By 8 am, if all goes according to plan, the pair of you could be making beautiful holiday love as the sun comes up, bathing you both in golden light. Or rutting on a beach. Whatever works.
“Why are guys always flashing side-boob now?” wonders Ed as another group of hulking blokes in baggy vests pass by. The boss, who employs a 30-strong management team and an ever-changing roster of seasonal staff, is an affable dude. Which is a surprise considering he has two phones that never stop ringing, a baby on the way and all the stress that comes with managing a company that sends drunk people out to sea on boats. He gives a last-minute pep talk to the PRs and ushers them out on to the streets.
“The thing about the seasonal workers is a lot of them will be rubbish, turn up late and sell no tickets,” he says, watching them troupe off. “But every so often, someone comes along. And you take notice.”
By midday, the waterfront is thronging with PRs trying to shill tickets to all sorts of events. Ed’s right – a lot of them are rubbish, mooching about, giving half-hearted pitches or (in the case of some guys) simply using their job as an excuse to crack on to girls. One PR, working for Ibiza Rocks, has decided that a good tactic for getting attention is to stand by the beach in a coat and woolly hat. Nobody talks to him. When we pass by a few hours later, he’s still there, stood by himself, sweating profusely in the 28-degree heat, living, heavily breathing proof that
not everyone has a good time in Ibiza.
A few beers later, FHM dons its sailor’s hat and climbs aboard one of Pukka Up’s party boats. The vessel is a two-floor thing with a DJ booth, sound system and CO2 cannon fitted to the top of it. White plastic seats are bolted to the deck in rows – a civilised setting
very much at odds with the wave-borne carnage about to unfold.
Hundreds of revellers stream on single-file: topless dudes with bowling-ball shoulders and side partings, toned and tanned girls in perplexing, jingly-jangly bikinis, the odd Essex mum determined to have it large one last time, three bemused-looking Japanese tourists and, perhaps inevitably, a guy with, ‘I love clunge’ printed on his forehead.
“I don’t mind the English kids at all,” says Miguel, the boat’s craggy captain, as he guides us out to sea. “They’re well-behaved compared to how it used to be.” Miguel, who’s been ferrying pissed-up Brits around for 30 years, says the island was particularly grim back in the 1980s when psychologically damaged soldiers and mercenaries would turn up in Ibiza after serving in the Falklands. “To be honest,” he says, “I don’t even hear the music any more.”
Suddenly, the DJ yells something over the PA, the bass drops and the whole place goes berserk. If Miguel’s boast about blocking out
the music is true, then his is a talent of X-Men proportions. It’s fucking loud. The boat is transformed into a floating, throbbing rave machine;
a Channel Ferry of The Apocalypse. Everyone is determined to dance their arses off, despite the unseasonably choppy sea that sends the crowd sprawling every 15 seconds and eventually helps create a shimmering cascade of vomit down the back of the boat – the by-product of hundreds of upset stomachs and too much Kopparberg.
At one point, about halfway through the cruise, a massive rock appears on the horizon. Miguel doesn’t alter his course and for a while, it looks like he – perhaps pushed over the edge by the third airing of Avicii’s I Could Be The One – is going to calmly steer us into the crag, sending himself and his euphoric cargo to an eternal sleep beneath the ocean waves. The thought of drowning alongside the ‘I love clunge’ guy fills us with an overwhelming sadness. Thankfully, Miguel avoids the rock, lights a cigarette and returns to his preferred position; facing a rectangular window through which he is afforded a perfectly framed view of two gyrating bottoms in Lycra hot pants. “I prefer music like Dire Straits,” he says, exhaling smoke. “But this isn’t so bad."