Lakey Peak, 2002
Nine-year-old Oney Anwar is sitting beneath the shade of a banyan tree, watching the waves sweep up the cobblestone beach near his family’s home. In his lap is a plastic bag filled with dusty used bottles. Oney collected them yesterday from the trash-strewn riverbed outside of town. Today he will surf with his friends until dark, then take the bottles to one of the local warungs and trade them for pocket money; enough to buy himself a plate of nasi goreng before walking the two miles back to home. Soon Oney’s brother Gazalin arrives with the rest of the crew and the footrace to town begins. Whoever reaches Fatma’s warung first will get his pick of the used surfboards on the rack. Oney is one of the youngest in the group. His legs are shorter than the older kids and lugging the bottles doesn’t help. He usually winds up with one of the beaters. By the time he gets to Fatma’s, covered in a sheen of sweat, all that’s left on the rack are the usual scraps. Today it’s a sunbaked 7’0” that’s taken on a few quarts of saltwater. Oney’s older brother Tony mended it from two pieces of a board one of the visiting surfers snapped out at the Peak. “Late again, grom,” says the man working behind the counter. He’s a friend of Tony’s. “No worries,” replies Oney, a bashful smile spread across his face. “I know how to ride this one.” Oney carefully sets down his bottles in a corner of the warung and examines his tool for the day. He struggles to lift the heavy board and the man can’t help but chuckle. “Wait here,” the man says, and disappears behind the store. He returns a few minutes later holding a 5’10” thruster in good shape. While it’s still too big for Oney, the shortboard should be much easier for the grom to maneuver.
“You’ll like this a lot better,” the man says with a grin. But he’s talking to himself. The bulky board is gone and so is Oney. The man puts a hand above his eyes and looks towards the water. In the afternoon glare, Oney is already stroking eagerly through the lagoon out to the waves.
Lakey Peak, 2012
Oney Anwar’s iPhone won’t stop ringing. His flight from Bali landed a few minutes ago, but apparently everyone in Lakey already knows he’s back. Oney is on winter holidays from high school in Australia and coming home for the first time in six months. He’s not alone. A media entourage has accompanied him on this trip: two photographers and a filmer, all hired by his sponsor to get photos and video of Oney surfing at home; an independent film crew making a documentary on Oney’s life; and a journalist looking to write a profile piece for an international surf mag. In a country overflowing with fresh surfing talent, 17-year-old Oney is Indonesia’s most promising export. Outside the Bima airport, groups of men try to hustle the foreigners into their vans for transport out to the coast. The film crew is overwhelmed by the shouting men who grab their bags and head in different directions. “Don’t worry,” Oney assures one of the panicked cameramen. “I know these guys. Get in this car and I will meet you in Lakey.” During his one-week stint back home, Oney’s itinerary is full: Shoot action and lifestyle shots with the photogs; answer the journalist’s incessant questions; do interviews with the documentary film crew around his hometown; surf in the annual Lakey Board Riders contest for locals; sign the paperwork for the land he is purchasing in the area. In between, he’ll also try and spend some time with his mother and father, brothers,
sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins and newborn nephew. // Before surfing came to Lakey Peak, people here survived from fishing. Then surfers began to flock to the perfect waves peeling in front of this humble fishing village, situated on the fringes of one of the poorest islands in the archipelago. Now surfing is the life blood of the entire town. Every year more local kids take to the water, and every year the rate of progression is astounding. Lakey Peak might be the only place on Earth you will see nine-year-olds landing airs and making it out of deep tubes. The kids have seen what local boys like Oney and Gazalin have accomplished through sponsorship and are hungry to follow their lead. But it’s not just the young surfers in Lakey for whom surfing represents a meal ticket. Nearly everyone in town survives – directly or indirectly – off money funneled into the village via surf tourism. The doughnut lady carrying her plastic tub from inn to inn. The guys trying to hustle you into renting their motorbikes for the week. The local boys who will film your session with your own video camera for ten bucks a day; and the women who worked over a hot stove in the kitchen behind the warung where you had dinner. In Lakey Peak, opportunity and surfing are inextricably bound. And for the locals, no one represents opportunity realized more than Oney Anwar. // Coming in along the dirt track we pass his father’s rice fields, where Oney and his siblings grew up playing, and the abandoned single-room house where the family used to live. It’s made of scrap lumber and leans on stilts a few feet above the ground. A bit further down the road, his family’s new house sits right on the beach where Oney started surfing. It’s a fitting location,