S AV E T H E O C E A N
S E A IR C HS E AA ND S HYEOPUH SE H RA D L L FI I N D
AND YOU SHALL
find We woke at 4:20am, had a muesli bar and flew via China on our way to Sumatra, Indonesia. Six weeks earlier a cold winter surf on the windy west coast inspired us to buy a ticket to Bali and seek warmer waters and waves. We figured we would go somewhere different to the usual Bali hustle and venture elsewhere in Indonesia.
---WORDS AND PICTURES BY JESSICA NICOLSON AND DAVID PRESTON
Some of the islands off the coast of Sumatra were calling our names. After the non-refundable tickets to Bali were booked and purchased my Mum called and of course I couldn’t help but tell her my recently made plans. “Cancel the tickets tonight!” she said in a worried manner. She was stressed I was abandoning my responsibilities. We got through this little panic, made arrangements and prepared for our surfing pilgrimage. Auckland to China, China to Bali, Bali to Sumatra, Sumatra to the offshore islands. It was a long journey but we made it to our first stop. Our surfboards only just made it with us as we had to chase them down and get them onto our last connecting domestic flight while the rest of the plane which included four others boarded and waited. We had to really stress that we needed our boards with us as there was a swell hitting the island that day. After jumping through the luggage carousal flaps and finding our boards behind the scenes we managed to convince the
airport staff to get them onto the plane before we flew out. We were sweating like Indonesian chickens but we got our way and didn’t have a 2-day delay in getting our boards. Thanks to the lovely young Indonesian airport staff who were really cool and understanding, even with our lack of Bahasa and their lack of English. Terima Kasai! The water was 30 degrees and the air was 29, and the waves were standing up on the reef and peeling fast and hollow down the point. We were stoked to arrive with our boards and in time for this first swell. I was a little nervous about surfing these more challenging waves through my forever problematic injuries (snapped ACL’s in the past) but I took my Thera band set and my TK strapping. I started out with some strapping over my right shoulder because a few weeks before leaving New Zealand I discovered I had rather weak trapezius muscles and needed to stabilise my winged scapula’s. My confidence grew as the
Jess!? Dave!? MAKAN!! Annie would call from the kitchen at meal time. Three interesting meals a day were served at our super chillaxed beachfront bungalow accommodation. It was awesome to be catered for. At home I usually cook for my 16-year-old and so a month off the usual chores like cooking was a wonderful treat. Well worth the $40
We had baby coconuts cut down for us a few times. Gods water... so refreshing and re-hydrating in such a warm climate.
We had a few good pulses of swell in the thirteen days on this alcohol free, no bikini beautiful island with a mix of crowded and uncrowded surf sessions. Barrelling take-offs, some great drops and some frustrating hustling which I'll touch on soon. We then boarded a plane and started the next part of our trip heading down the coast to the Mentawai Island chain. While waiting for the ferry from the mainland we found a Matarbak stand on the side of the road in downtown Padang. Matarbak Manus is a crazy sweet, large yeasty crumpet-like treat with all the ingredients for a heart attack. But you must embrace it and enjoy every
bite, and put it in the fridge and eat the leftovers for breakfast with your White Koffee. One of the yummiest things in Indonesia to eat. Makan Matarbak!! Also while waiting for the ferry I managed to ditch a huge bag of clothes and things from our board bag that were unnecessary as I had ridiculously over packed and had since realised how little you actually need in the tropics. Pack light ladies! This made it a lot easier to carry and board bag and costs for weight. It was a sickening ferry ride across the strait to our island chain destination but we soon downed some sea legs pills and we both became extremely drowsy and soon coma-ed out on the floor for most of the sail. After the sleepy ferry buzz, the pills wore off and we were soon boarding another boat. This time a small canoe type boat with an outboard motor. We then motored through some of the wildest jungle I’d ever seen. It was high tide so we were able to cruise through the islands maze of mangroves instead of around the outside of the island on open ocean swells. It was a long slow ride but we eventually made it to our camp. This bungalow was very basic and a bit rough but the remote location was stunningly beautiful and two world class waves just down the beach. On the other side of the island there were more waves which you could access by walking through
per day we were paying. So much food, good food. We never went hungry and felt like royalty. We had baby coconuts cut down for us a few times. Gods water... so refreshing and re-hydrating in such a warm climate. Scooping out the soft coconut flesh and eating it wrapped in a pancake with chocolate flavoured condensed milk was magic!
It was a strict Muslim culture on this small island. Ladies had to surf with shorts and tops on, no bikinis were allowed as it would have been seen as disrespectful to the local people. There was also no alcohol on the island which was a refreshing change to the usual binge culture common in New Zealand. We shared a motorbike and cruised around the island with our boards on the rack next to us. We had great adventures on our scooter and saw a lot of interesting things. Dodging pot-holes and waving to everyone we passed came as second nature. We were like celebrities being one of the only white couples around. Every kid that saw us pass by wanted to wave and talk to us. There was the occasional hater though and every now and then someone would pull the fingers or say something disrespectful. Like everywhere in the world negative and positives everywhere.
wave-count slowly increased.
SEARCH AND YOU SHALL FIND
Finding uncrowded waves was not
Everyone here in the line-up has traveled far from home to be here and it’s every man for himself and it can be tough being the only woman.
You have to speak up and let them know you want a wave too. It’s easy to get a septic mind when that keeps happening. Plus, being in the Disneyland of surf destinations and having to bitch and moan for a wave is a hard pill to swallow. Sometimes there’s some niceness and your faith in humanity returns, like the 10 year old local Indonesian boy I surfed with who encouraged many people to go for waves. He was a sweetie, calling people into waves and sharing and encouraging. I wish we had more people like this in the crowded line-ups. Other times you just want others to fall off the wave so you can have it. The selfish f***you type attitude comes back into play. Let’s stay positive and friendly and get aggressive and hustle with style.
But there are silver linings to dark clouds so patience and perseverance is the key. We did have some uncrowded days of perfection and those ones are etched in my mind forever. I had a magical afternoon session at a really good right hand reef point and I had it to myself and a harmless reef shark for a few hours. I had loads of great waves and a few good pocket rides which I am super stoked on. Search and you will find.. eventually... and it all makes sense... and justifies that what you are doing is worth it. It was an amazing journey. Crowd hustling but sometimes finding a deserted peak and having it to ourselves like at Peaks when we had the barrelling left and the heaving right to ourselves. So girls..ladies…pack your bags and head deep into the wilderness to find waves. You find so much cool stuff on the journey. Focus on the moment and be content with where you are and who you are with. Embrace and enjoy and stand up for yourself if you are getting snaked. Ko te pae tawhiti, whaa ia kia tata ko te pae tata, whakamaua kia tiina Seek out distant horizons and cherish those you attain
I often found myself getting upset and frustrated with guys paddling on the inside straight to the take-off zone. Sometimes I would say to a guy “Hey can I please have this wave because I was going for it and you just had the last one”. I held back my abusive tongue and tried to be polite even though most of these guys were not polite at all. Sometimes surfing can get pretty ugly and people turn into Gollum just wanting the ring for themselves. My precious!! Everyone here in the line-up has traveled far from home to be here and it’s every man for himself and it can be tough being the only woman. I can’t stand being snaked by guys who like to think they can just paddle around you to the peak and take every wave.
This place we were staying at was more simple, which you would expect when in the middle of the Indian Ocean. We had two 20 year olds preparing the food of which was very basic. It was not the amazing pancakes and fried chicken we were used to. Food and water here was obviously harder to source. Sometimes we would look over to see the cooks eating eggs and lobster and we had only plain rice and a few vegies on our plate. Food envy was something we experienced often here but we were grateful to be in this stunning environment. On one of our jungle walks to a wave on the other side of the island we carelessly made a wrong turn and a forty minute walk turned into 4 hours. We got deeply lost in the Sumatran jungle. We eventually found a woman harvesting coconuts who couldn’t understand a word we were saying but could see that we were clearly lost, she led us out of the bush to her village. Turns out her village was much further away from where we were trying to reach but at least we had now found the coast again so we could walk around the coast until we found the break. Sure enough the wind was now howling onshore so we found the right track back across the island and headed back to camp.
easy as there were boat charters everywhere (more so than land based camps)
the dense jungle along a rough muddy track. There were no scooters here, there were no roads to ride them. We walked through the jungle or caught boat rides around to other islands with waves close by.