Non stop kegs in the land of the lefts. Watch a video of this trip here.
It all began with a few margaritas at The Mex to stir the froth and anticipation for the trip of a lifetime that 20 of us had been looking forward to. Past and present 13th Beach Boardriders people, many of which with a Mentawai’s trip as a bucket list item on their agenda. A few more beers on the bus then at the Tullamarine airport as the multi leg journey began.
To Kuala Lumpur by morning then and a 7 hour stopover for the short final leg into the Indonesian port city of Padang. Met dutifully by the staff of each of our boat operators we headed into the Mercure Hotel in town for the last bit of downtime before being able to board our vessels at the harbour and begin our voyage out to the most prolific area for waves on the globe.
The youngest of the crew to the Naga Laut or what would otherwise be called the ‘Grom Boat’, and the elder statesman to the larger more well-appointed vessel The Bintang.
On board our boat the who’s who of the Bellarine surfing community. Current club champion Josh ‘Jaja’ Johnson Baxter. Collier Brothers ‘Pretty Boy’ Ben, and ‘Stitchy’ Sim.
Shawn ‘Shake and Bake’ Todd and Bellarine Property’s own Toby ‘Buckets’ Lee.
Luke ‘Eddy Betts’ Edwards and other Barwon Heads stalwarts Chris ‘Goof’ Malouf, Chris ‘Strawberry’ Short and Llew ‘The Fonz’ Callahan.
Down from the Sunny Coast Jimmy ‘Too Deep’ Elkington.
Total Surf Travel scribe, Christian Pritchett.
The on board crew were made up of Victorian skipper Mick with a wealth of wave hunting knowledge and his five local crew to attend to everyone’s needs. Surf guide and photographer Guy with his support crew and girlfriend Gemma with water photography by Mick Andrews.
We meet up with the boys on the Naga Laut at Hideaways up north in the playgrounds area by about 10am after being rocked to sleep during the overnight haul from Padang Harbour.
Even with a few boats and the land camp the sizeable conditions limited the lineup to only three guys of which Banjo Harfeild was the only one from the Grom Boat out at the time tackling the challenging 6-8ft conditions. Some great barrels were had to kick the trip off, a pretty critical long wall heaving type wave. Offshore/cross-shore so pretty clean.
By late afternoon we took off up to EBAY for the 30 minute strike mission in the speedboat. A similar heaving wave to Hideaways but more unpredictable. There were some truly thick slabs in the 6ft+ range to be had.
On his first wave Sim Collier had a brush with his fins leaving him with a gash in his hand that had some muscle finding its way out. We couldn’t stitch him up from the speedboat so he had to sit it out until he could be accommodated back on the Bintang in Guy’s surgery where he performed a very clean and clinical job.
Back out to Hideaway’s for the arvo session. Quite crowded with the Naga, 4 other boats and land camp.
Had some beers with the Naga boys on our boat. The original plan was for both boats to accompany each other to be able to overwhelm a spot enough for other boats to want to move on which we were soon to discover only made the numbers swell beyond anything sustainable. It turned out to be the only time we were to all hang out together until returning to Padang at the end of the trip.
Woke up at Telescopes and we were the first in the water before 6am. A very high performance rippable wave similar to Kuta Reef but just as crowded.
By our 3rd surf during the middle of the day the extra boats were coming through and it really crowded things up. It seemed the same cluster of boats were now following each other.
Late in the day a crazy rain squall came through and as most went back to the boat it left just a few of us to get the late glass off until way past dark. The surf pulsed and barrelled from right up the top all the way toward the end of the wave. It was one of those moments shared amongst each other of really scoring as we made our way back to the boat in the dark but in very high spirits.
Naga Laut went to Macaronis and we woke up at Lances Left. We were first in the water again and made the most of the day long perfect conditions with no more than 15 guys in the water at any one time. 4-6ft, beautiful and offshore all day. Another eight or so hours in the water for many.
As a novelty the boys went in to check out Kingfisher resort for a different perspective on land.
We timed our arrival at Macaroni’s for an early morning strike mission. We all got some nice small ones just concentrating on turns with Macca’s being the sort of wave that has the right pace and screams out to be hit time and time again. After having already been barrelled enough in the first few days most of us just wanted to unleash on an open canvass. Only 3ft or so but super fun.
We didn’t have a mooring booking and none of the other punters seemed all that happy that we were there so after a full morning shredfest, once the wind had kicked in we continued south. Many of the boys on the Grom Boat were looking a little worse for wear. Banjo was sick with what seemed like some nasty food poisoning, Gus had rolled his ankle, Pat had a big reef gash in his hand so it seemed they were half a boatload down already.
We had a long treck to get further south. The boat actually broke down for an hour or so for repairs, something about the coolant not getting pumped through and a bit of temporary overheating which was taken care of pretty quickly.
Once close to Sikakup we hopped on-board the speed boat to check a few spots while the crew took the small boat to check in with the local Mentawai officials. One of the new obligations of all charter boats are that this obligation must be carried out for each trip. We were hoping for the right at Roxys about 15 minutes away, but with one boat on it and tiny, poor waves we kept going a further 30 minutes to Thunders.
It was about 3-5ft and clean but that weird bowly, sectiony jumble and sub-par after our first few days. I went a little too far on one and ended up on the dry reef. Two fins half busted out without loosing them or damaging the board and one minor cut was the worst of it so I thought I was lucky until I realised I had jerked my shoulder in my haste to avert any carnage.
We had a few beers and trolled for fish on the hour long haul back to the Bintang anchored near Sikakup. We then continued a celebratory blow out night with a massive session on the beers.
The food had been just pretty good till then but a Beef Rendang was the best so far.
All hurting from very nasty hangovers! Even after a later start the heat in the water was almost too much for our throbbing headache’s and tired body’s.
Llew broke through it best and found some gem 5ft barrels in amongst the shifting lumps coming through at Moots.
I extended the injury to my left shoulder so in tern had to break through the pain with more Ibuprofen because the surf was too good to pass up.
Still, I felt lucky considering we now we also had two men down. Toby had ruined a disc in his back and Goof wasn’t much better. Apart from the ever resilient Llew, the rest of us older guys were on something for the pain or general body soreness that comes with spending the better part of the week surfing all day.
As the tide filled back in it was over to see if The Hole was working and on it was with perfect 6ft cannons. We all got some smokers and even JJB was overwhelmed with some of the best waves of the day and in his or anyone else’s lives.
I turned out to be too undergunned as the swell rose and didn’t make it to the bottom on one that had me washed in over the shallow sharp reef and back to the beach. When making it back out a storm had swept through causing the wind to blow directly onshore so it was back to the boat. The obvious choice was made to head over to our first opportunity to surf a right over at Lighthouse a half hour chug to the next island south. It was still a bit beaten up but the wind was right so the natural footers finally got a chance to surf their forehand.
Baxter went fishing and caught our first couple of fish for the trip to provide the boys with some fresh sashimi and still have enough for fish dinners to follow. Josh owned most days with his surfing but between the best waves at The Hole and the fish he caught he definitely ruled this one.
A quieter evening with an extensive slideshow was the order of the night and a delicious lasagne to top it off.
A wet, slow start to the day at The Hole. The swell had backed off so the urgency wasn’t there and after 5 straight days of pumping waves nobody was in any hurry anyway. Yesterday was as good as it got and we had it to ourselves. This day had four other boats ready for their turn.
The hole was still 3-4ft and very fun. Not as fast or hollow but that just it more conducive for turns.
Llew ducked over to Moots for a reconnaissance in the speedboat and liked what he saw so once he got back we piled in and shot over for the afternoon session. It was bigger and more consistent even though it is a shiftier line-up but we all found some gems so that even on our quietest day we still scored.
There is nothing like a few beers in the boat on the way back from a surf with the boys that makes you really feel like you are on holiday.
Now that we had Spanish Mackerel and Wahoo we were now fuelling on some sort of fish dish whether it was Ceviche or Sashimi at happy hour.
We had one of the two moorings booked at Macaroni’s so we decided that the timing was right to leave the deep south and start heading north again to where the swell was due but without the cluster of boats that seemed to never be too far behind us.
We were delighted to be greeted by offshore winds and a tidy 3ft swell. We were the only boat and it was rotation day at the resort so we had it to ourselves all morning with everyone belting the juicy sections and even the odd barrel offered up at the top of the wave.
The new crew at the resort didn’t turn up until late morning and by then an onshore flow had drifted in anyway so we left them to it. After lunch we had a go at the onshore anyway to discover that it didn’t effect the wave as much as it would any other spot. It was still very rippable and we all went back out considering we had it to ourselves.
Having been away from home for over a week it was time to check in with our families now that we had a chance to access the Wi-Fi internet at Macaroni’s Resort. A massage wasn’t a bad way to sooth a tired body either.
Captain Mick had been powering all night in the rough open ocean seas to get us to a lesser known spot back down south. He got us there right on dawn but we had again reached a right hander that wasn’t working so after a breakfast of freshly cut fruit we were returned north bound and first to Thunders. It looked good from the boat and there was no shortage of swell with some larger 6ft sets flowing through but today was to be about finding somewhere protected. It turned out to be very difficult to surf due to the wind blowing up the face causing bump and chop so after taking on a couple of solid rouge ones we gave in to the conditions and began to reassess our options.
Mick made the call to set sail, literally, since we had a southerly breeze behind us the crew unfurled the sails and we headed north on a long haul to get back to where we started our trip originally. We saw all sorts of sea life like large turtles, and even a school of flying fish dash for a hundred meters in the air away from their prey.
During the late afternoon Mick looked out to the speedboat we were towing and noticed that it looked to be tipping at the rear. He jammed on the breaks of the Bintang and it was a mad scramble from the entire crew in the large rough seas to unhook the small rubber boat to get out to where the speedboat was now appearing to be sinking. Miraculously, without getting hurt or bashed by a winch or the rear ramp of the boat Mick zoomed off with little Asep to salvage the now half sunken vessel. Once they got there and leapt from one boat to the other. Mick had to quickly take stock of the situation. With all the waves that had been pounding it, water had reached the electric’s to short out the bilge pumps that should have been idling away and the water coming inside wasn’t getting out. It was already too late to save it and they needed to exit the speedboat before it went down with them in it. Everything inside, the chairs, the fuel barrels and all had already started floating away. The only thing left to do was cut it loose and as knife went through the rope, straight away it flipped and sunk. We had to still get them in though so as they returned to us in the back of the Bintang it was all hands on deck to ensure they and the small boat got back up in one piece.
Once the whole incident was logged and the adrenalin had worn off Mick was immediately philosophical about his predicament. Everyone was safe and even if we didnt have the luxury of the speedboat for the last couple of days of this trip at least he was insured and next time we came back there would be a brand spanking high tech replacement to get around in. It was also costing us 2 knots in drag so from now on at least we were up around 10 knots and motoring ahead.
A few more beers were consumed during the 16 hour haul and a new game evolved on the back deck whereby if you were in a chair that slid during a large rocking of the boat then whoever you slid into had to have a beer.
Mick had again gotten us to our destination in time for dawn. Telescopes was looking small, only 2-3ft but fun. There was the odd little barrel on the inside and such a nice wave for turns. We were now back amongst the crowds though with four other boats and a land camp to compete with but we still got some waves so there were no complaints.
The talk was that there was a giant swell hitting Bali so we were anticipating it reaching as at any time. Our patience was being tested as the swell looked more like it was waning so we motored further towards Iceland’s. As we approached though, a right appeared to be breaking so while the boys were down below watching a movie I announced that we had finally stumbled on what most of them had been waiting for.
Josh JB was first to react. He liked what he saw so much so that he paddled out from the boat before the crew even had time to get him out in the rubber boat. Straight away as usual he went on to show us how it was done even in the shifty conditions. You had to find a bigger one, 4ft+ that would break at the top or otherwise it was dodging closeouts (something like Kuta’s Middle Reef).
Just when we though the wave was a hoax, Ben “Pretty Boy” Collier, after 36 hours of fever and sharding, stroked into a bomb and stood tall in what was arguably the wave of the entire trip. Top to bottom, stand-up barrel, weaving in and out for an eternity to be spat into the end section.
Then, as if it came as soon as it went it was over and back to the boat for lunch.
That left us with one more session out at telescopes even if it was a deflating feeling out amongst a dropping swell instead of the forecast mega swell that was rumoured to be hitting the other end of Indonesia.
Day 10 (and last day)
Back to the swell magnet, Lances left. Similar sort of 6ft sets with some smaller runners and the odd bigger pulse. For a short time it looked like the swell was going to fade but Llew paddled out to have a go and it all of a sudden started to pulse. Llew weaved his way in an out of some quick barrels and then just as Shorty reached the take-off spot he had to scratch for a bomb and take 10 waves on the head.
Soon after another wind fluctuation saw the wind blow straight onshore so the call was made to make our last session to be around the corner at Lances Right, or otherwise known as Hollow Trees (HT’s). The wind continued to swirl so it was also onshore at HT’s but only light so half of us went out anyway. This long awaited swell had finally kicked into gear to see us off and as we parked in the beautiful little bay we saw some bombs blasting into the reef pass through to the exposed reef on the inside known as the surgeons table for those unlucky enough to be unsuccessful on their chosen wave. Based on the wind and the rawness of the swell the bigger ones were probably too big for it but it didn’t stop Baxter, Jimmy, Mouse and the boys wanting to have their chance on a meaty right.
Jordy Smith was in the Mentawais for the ‘Stab in the Dark’ project and we had heard that he was in the area. As we were packing up his chunky vessel strolled into the lineup and although we spotted him and his crew stuffing around with boards on the beach we had to make tracks and couldn’t stick around for the evening fireworks once he did get around to paddling out.
We had to make it back to Padang for the long return leg, so up went all of the sails this time and we were off into the night. Guy was busy putting together our final edit and on our final night we got to see the full package of our stills and video. We were so fortunate with swell that we all had plenty of epic memories to take home.
Late into the night once we got into the crossing the seas became very rough so it was difficult to get much rest when being rocked from one side of the bed to the other. This late in the trip though you are just happy to be getting home to loved ones and have switched your attention to making it back in one piece. Once we did finally return to Padang were pleased to be back in port in steady water. After breakfast, leaving a tip for the staff and saying our goodbyes the long haul home was only just beginning.
The return trip felt somehow easier than the way there. The ride back to the airport was quick without having to stop in Padang town, foot massages were just what the doctor ordered in the at the terminal. Back on the Wi-Fi to check into the outside world and even the KL stop didn’t feel as bad. Whatever you do though, if you ever have a layover in KL be sure to hit the Sama Sama transit lounge because it’s a godsend. $35AUD for a shower, shave, buffet food, deserts and beers and wine, great internet the works.
All that was left was some Duty Free shopping and a freezing cold return to reality, the bus was there to collect us from Tulla and after a ring road Macca’s stop it was time to go our separate ways and only dream about the next chance we would have to do it all again.
Thanks again to Mick and the crew of the Bintang for a ripper trip that always had us in the right spot at the right time during a period of unpredictable weather. The Bintang is a must for quality and value that is hard to beat.