Diggin through some old posts on the old defunct Isle blog i found this classic from our trip to the Mentawai Islands back in 2007. My good friend kept a daily journal of the trip and as you can see from the photos we scored. If you surf or paddle board you have to visit the Mentawai Islands by boat once if your life.
The Isle Surfboards crew and friends snuck off on a late season trip to the enchanted islands of Indonesia. One member of the crew kept a journal account of what happened. Happy reading.
DAY 1 Sharples and I left a couple of days later than the rest of the group to take care of some unfinished work. LAX was mellow. We managed to get in line before the cattle horde so check in was fast. During security we started in the back of the line, then they changed the ropes so we were in front. No complaints from me. 2 extra spicy Bloody Mary’s at the bar and I’m feeling good. We got on the plane and had a seat next to each other in the emergency isle. This was the first time I’ve ever flown Singapore Airlines and I was impressed. Each seat had it’s own TV screen where you could watch a variety of On Demand movies and TV shows, play video games, or listen to music. The seats seemed a tad bigger and liquor was free. They even had a drink called the Singapore Sling you could order that was basically Jungle Juice.
Lunch on the plane was the worst. They ran out of the chicken so we got dry fish that was basically tasteless. And the croutons in the salad were soft. Cheese and crackers were good though. With 1 beer and 1 Sling in my gullet I was hoping I could crash out for a few. We arrived in Japan and I was so tired. There was a little wait for transit and we’re back on the plane to Singapore. 1 Valium later and I was asleep, the whole way. We arrived in Singapore and our bags made it safe. We took a cab to the hotel and met Cook and Sap in the lobby. Much to our dismay, the hotel was completely booked. The rest of the crew was already there in previously booked rooms, so we charged up there and got ready for a couple of drinks.
We went to a local bar, got a table and ordered a bottle of vodka. Drinks were so expensive so a bottle was the way to go. It had to have been about 6 am, and we finished our bottle so we headed back to the hotel room to try and get some rest. Sharples, who towers at a 6’3 in height, at least, and myself at about 5’5 had to share a single fold out couch next to the bed. It wasn’t very comfortable and I don’t think I slept for more than 10 minutes.
Everyone went to brunch but me so I stayed in the room and tried to get some sleep. Don’t think I really got any. I just wasn’t in the mood for that kind of food. I heard it wasn’t very good so I was glad I made that call. Cam came back to the room and said he was going down to the pool so I joined him. After a quick dip, (we got out because some maintenance guy dumped about a gallon of auspicious powder in the pool while we were in it) we went back to the rooms to pack our stuff and get ready to hit the town. We took cabs to Chinatown and walked around looking for a good place to eat. After watching enough food traveling shows I knew the cardinal rule for street shops. Find the most crowded spot and that probably would be the best one. We found a spot and took a seat. We ordered spicy calamari, Tom Yom soup, BBQ pork noodle and chili crab. I must say everything was excellent. The chili crab didn’t have a ton of meat but the flavor was unreal. The Tom Yom soup also hit the spot. I’m a big fan of spicy soups so that’s what I was on the look out for.
We went back to the room, packed up and took cabs to the airport. I previously booked my ticket on Tiger Airways via telephone but never received a conformation. This was the last loose end for me and I was hoping there would be no problems. Fortunately I was booked and my last loose end was tied. I can now let go and let the trip take care of itself, a great relief. While waiting for our flight I had one last soup. Pretty good but it didn’t compare to lunch. But hey, for $3 Sing dollars at an airport you can’t really complain.
We arrived at our destination and immediately Sap got sweated at the airport for having too much liquor. He finally made it through and our couriers loaded up the truck with all our gear. When we first got to the dock area, we hung out at Scuzz’s hotel/restaurant for a few beers with a couple of old school Australians.
One of who was a legend in these parts, and the other who was a complete scene. He was saying he had no mates and kept saying fuck off to everyone. At one time I thought the two of them were gonna scrap it out. They were both cool guys and it was interesting to hear some of the crazy stories they had to tell. We drank a couple more beers while our gear got loaded, and then took the tinny out to the boat.
The boat we stayed on was perfect. There was a chill area in the back, and the front. An inside galley area, and all our bunks were in the front with comfortable mattresses. There were 5 other crewman on board. Big Boss- the other captain, Anto- the chef, Booty- Ding repair and all around handy man, and two deckhands, Joe and Ed. We chose our bunks, unpacked, and got set for our ten-hour voyage to the islands. Most of the traveling was done at night to ensure more surfing time. First stop, Playgrounds.
When we woke up in the morning, we were pulling up to our first break, Pussies. Pussies was a right-hander that broke relatively close to the shore and was good for about three or four maneuvers. It was about head high to a couple of feet overhead. When we pulled up there were a few other surfers out and but were cool. They didn’t catch many waves. Now I don’t know why they call it that because it was pretty shallow. I must have scraped my foot on the coral 3 times. The wave didn’t have a lot of juice, but the inside was shallow.
Cook had a visit to the reef as well. I forgot to lotion my calves so they were burned off. I must have surfed for about four hours because I was so beat and I had the gnarliest rashes on my stomach and armpits. Even with my rash guard. I think it may have been because of it because I stopped wearing one after that day and the rashes actually got better. The wind turned onshore so Scuzz made the call to go to another spot on a different island. On the way there, Cam caught a two foot Mahi Mahi, and fish tacos were for lunch. With fresh guacamole and some sweet/spicy sauce they have, they were excellent. We pulled up to the next spot, Burger World. Burgers was a little bigger, a little longer, and more powerful. It was a Right as well, and the wind was blowing offshore. I surfed a couple more hours there and came in exhausted. For dinner we had fish in curry sauce, vegetables and rice. Another excellent meal. After dinner everyone was tired, and we must have passed out at around 8 pm. Cam and Sap were sick, especially Sap, he was sweating bullets and getting the shivers. We gave him some meds and a Valium to help him sleep.
I woke up at about 5 am and it was pitch black outside. Sap and Cam were also up so we chilled and watched the sunrise. This is the first time I’ve been to this part of the world and it was magical. The crew lifted the anchor and we set off for our next spot, known as Christine’s Left. This wave had so much potential if only it were bigger. The sets were good, just really inconsistent. It was hollow, breaking really shallow, and only the sets were the good ones. Miller got a nice tube though. The wind started blowing the wrong direction so it was time to move to the next spot. On the way I caught a 16 inch bonita looking fish they called a Ratfish.
We moved over to a place they called E-Bay. Which of course if it was bigger or more consistent it would have been on fire. The sets looked good, just not enough of them. I decided not to paddle out there, but to go across the point to a right-hander they call Pit Stops. At this point this was my favorite wave. Kind of reminded me of a downgraded Newbs. A wave I surfed at home. The inside wrappers for sure there came in and doubled up very similarly. Not a whole lot of juice, but so ripable. Unfortunately it was only about head high, and there were a few other surfers out. They were visiting from Japan, and as with all my other experiences with the Japanese, they were very courteous and friendly.
We surfed it for a couple more hours and my rashes were killing me. I was exhausted and hungry so I went back to the boat to get some lunch and rest up. For lunch Anto made us a vege/tofu curry dish that was insane. He keeps putting these crispy shallots, I think, on top that are so good. I have to try that at home. As soon as we finished eating Scuzz came back from dropping Miller and Cook off at a left-hander down the island. He said it was going off, and while being exhausted and full of food, I had to give it a go.
We took the tinny about a kilometer to a place called Beng Bengs. For some reason I thought that wave broke a lot like a place at home called Dolphins. Super walled on the takeoff, then moves into a ripable shoulder good for about 3 or 4 turns. Only problem on the way there we were passed up by a tinny full of Japanese surfers. There were so many they were almost falling off the side. That wave was ridiculous though. The best quality wave so far for sure. After another 3 hours of surfing we rode back to the boat.
We took a sunset stroll back to the area where we docked the night before, trolling along the way. Sap caught a 2 foot Travali and we spent the remaining hours of the day drinking beers and watching a spectacular sunset. Sharples and Cook took the tinny to a tiny island and ran around it. The run was about 400 meters so it was a pretty small island. For dinner we had veges, fish sticks, and some sort of ginger-glazed chicken. All of which were excellent. We played a game of poker (which I lost) before we went to bed.
Injury count so far: Scraped foot, gashed knee from smashing into new board, major rashes on pits and stomach, sunburn on calves and lower back.
In the morning the wind was blowing a different direction so we went back to Burgers. The swell had dropped a foot and the wave was hugging the point more, which I think made it break better. After an hour or so the wind went onshore so we went back to Beng Bengs where it was offshore. Miller and I got dropped off at Pit Stops on the way and got a few fun ones until it felt like my back was going to burn off. We played another game of poker and got set for sunset stroll over to another island where a different wave breaks called Telescopes. Earlier in the day Cook caught a nice size Wahoo and we had sashimi for lunch. It was unbelievable. By tradition, the catcher of the Wahoo has to eat its beating heart, so Cook did so with no problems. We had another excellent dinner and crashed out after.
In the morning we arrived at Telescopes, but it was waist high, and slightly onshore. Sap, Cam and Sharples paddled out and gave it the thumbs down so I didn’t go out. Too bad because I hear it’s one of the best lefts in Indo when it’s on. We moved to a different island where a left was breaking called 7 Palms.
Fortunately for us it was damn good. It was overhead on the sets and long, with a couple of barrel sections. We surfed that wave until dark, and watched a beautiful sunset from the water. We played a game of poker, and had another great meal.
In the morning we looked at Telescopes again, and because it was really small, we did a little snorkeling and waited for Scuzz to go pick up Justin. After that it was time to go get some more waves. We went back to Seven Palms and it looked fun but smaller than the day before. I decided to take the morning off to let my rashes heal up, that were now forming multiple craters on my stomach. We decided to make the trek up to another part of the islands with a whole new set of waves. On the way I caught a two foot Wahoo. In tradition I ate the beating heart and I must say, it wasn’t that bad. Once you get past the rubbery texture, the taste was actually pretty good. Almost like the meat would tatse but a little bit saltier. The first wave we arrived at, Lances Left.
When we arrived at Lance’s Left the Indies Trader was there, and had about 6 guys out in the lineup. Scuzz agreed to give them an hour before we paddled out. Lance’s Left was definitely one of the most shallow spots we’ve been to so far. Pretty much like all the prior spots we’ve been to, only the sets were rideable, but boy were they good. First a fast wall that turns into a pretty ripable shoulder, and a nasty inside barrel section that I somehow managed to squeak through. Unfortunately on that particular left I came out of the tube on almost dry reef. I fell, banged my knee, and got dry-docked for about 5 minutes while head high waves broke right in front of me. Thank God for reef booties. I had a little scrape and bruise but nothing major.
We had more sashimi, and another assortment of goodies for dinner. Again the food was excellent. That night Booty almost caught a nice size squid off the back of the boat. That was pretty crazy. At night, sea snakes would swim up to get close to the engine at because it was warm. I’ve never seen them before so I thought that was pretty cool to see them swim in the wild.
In the morning we headed back to Lance’s Left, it was just all right. A little smaller, and with a little wind on it. Scuzz made the call to go to a different spot that would hold the wind and lack of swell better. The spot was called Monkeys.
So far Monkeys was my favorite spot. A long, ripable left with slightly overhead sets. And when I say ripable, I mean that. For me I thought this wave suited my style best. Still hollow enough to get some tubes, the outside allowed for a good variety and quantity of turns. On the inside, a “low road” opened up and gave you a bendy hollow section that was good for at least a couple more turns or another tube. Deep and forgiving, this was the ultimate performance machine. If only it were a right. It would have been nice to spend more time there, but Scuzz said you generally only surf that wave when the whole ocean is flat. There were still waves that were closing out or shouldering off in the channel that were only a couple of feet overhead. The swell was forecasted to drop a tad the following day so I was hoping to get another sesh in there. For dinner we ate the Travali that Justin caught while trolling. Anto grilled it up with some spices and it was insane
When we woke up in the morning is was windy and pouring rain. The wind was wrong at Lance’s Left so we went back to Monkeys and it was howling offshore. We paddled out there and unfortunately the wind only stayed that way for about an hour until it switched around. It was fun, but not as good as the day before. We still needed the tide to get higher but the wind was not cooperating. We drove around the point to a wave called Lances Right or HTs.
HTs had an unreal setup. It was only head high sets but the conditions were phenomenal. The outside was pinching a little bit, but was still pretty much a perfect tube. When the wave hit the inside section, it would drain out and get super hollow and heavy. The name for that part of the reef was called “the surgeon’s table”. It was obviously called that for the amount of skin that surfers would leave there on a regular basis. Shallow and razor sharp, this reef was bad news. I was at first tentative to go out because of the horror stories, and it looked like it was breaking pretty shallow. Especially on the inside.
After a few minutes some local kids came out and one was absolutely ripping. He was doing 360’s, getting barreled and pulling airs over the inside section. After some coercion from Sap, I figured I’d give it a go. I ended up getting some nice mini-tubes and had a great time. I had a few beers with dinner, and went to sleep exhausted.
In the morning the swell picked up a notch and the wind was offshore at Lance’s Left, so we went back there. I procrastinated a little too long for the morning session, and when I finally paddled out the wind picked up and switched side shore. It was blowing really hard into the lefts and because the waves were coming in at double overhead I couldn’t catch anything on my little 5’10. Mill-house and Sap were killing it though. I remember a couple tubes from Mill-house that were insane. Sap I think pulled the biggest snap of the trip. All power with tons of spray on an eight foot wave. I was stoked for those guys. I went back to the boat to let those guys shred, and heard from Scuzz that the wind was good for Bintangs.
Bintangs was my new favorite spot. It broke a little like Pit Stops, but more hollow on the take-off. The wave would come out of nowhere and just double up into an absolutely perfect barrel that broke in deep water. After that it was good for about 2 to 3 turns before you have to pull out when the wave hits dry reef.
I had a quick lunch and heard another boat was going to there so I jammed back for another hour. The wave wasn’t as hollow as it was earlier because the tide was higher, but was still super ripable. When I got back on the tinny and went back to the boat, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the wind had switched at Lance’s Left and it was going off. Just firing perfect tubes. We surfed until dark, where we watched a beautiful sunset from out in the water.
The next morning we went back to Lance’s Left and the swell had picked up again. It was about 12-15 feet, but wasn’t super gnarley. It was really perfect, but was also breaking a little facey. The wind was making a switch so Scuzz made the call to go back to HTs.
The next morning we went back to Lance’s left and it had dropped a notch. It was still overhead and really fun, but not as critical as the day before. The wind switched side shore, which meant it was time to go to Bintangs. We took the Tinny over there and gave it a look. When I saw this wave break I couldn’t imagine a better wave. It picked up a couple of feet from the day before and it was completely on fire. I got countless tubes and one of them was the best front side barrel of my life. The wind switched again so it was time for HTs.
We cruised around the point where it was pouring rain. The winds were light offshore and the same sets from the day before weren’t coming in. Only problem was it was really low tide and the surgeons table was completely exposed.
Scuzz, Justin and Mill-house still gave it a go. When the tide came up a bit, I went out to grab a few. I got some fun ones until it got a little crowded (7-9 other surfers) so I went back to the boat to join the crew for a sunset stroll. Another beautiful sunset, followed by a full moon that when it rose, cast shadows on us as if it were day. It was so bright it was crazy. We continued over to Macaronis that night to go forward with the next leg of our journey.
We awoke at dawn at Macaronis. This wave was unbelievable. It starts with a bending hollow section on the take-off that was easily makeable.
It then reels down the line for a good three or four turns, at least. Probably the best quality wave we have surfed to date. I got one of the deepest backside tubes of my life.We surfed for a while longer until another boat came up. They told Scuzz they scored a wave called Rags Right up the way, and made a deal that if we left them Macaronis until the next day, they would leave when we arrived so we could get the wave solo through to the following morning. In good faith we broke the cardinal rule of surfing and left perfect waves, to start our journey further south. On the way, I caught a 3 foot barracuda. It put up a fight, but wasn’t good eating so we gave it to the crew.
When we arrived at Rags Right, it didn’t look that great. It looked really fast and most of the waves didn’t look rideable. The sets were inconsistent, and on the waves you did make, you had to cut out quick or dry reef awaited you. Sap, Sharples and I took a 15 minute tinny ride through islands to a little spot called Roxys. Now that was a fun wave. A little inconsistent, and definitely would have been better if it was bigger, this was one of the most ripable rights of the trip. Unfortunately there were tons of stingers in the water, and I smashed a hole in my rail 30 minutes after we paddled out. Sap and Sharples were over it anyway so we went back to the boat to watch the sunset and see if Mill-house or Justin could get a few at Rags. We watched the sunset, the enormous
moon rise, drank liquor and passed out.
This time that wave was breaking with a whole new story. I would say it was about the same size as the left but nasty. Hollow, doubling, wedging, and scary. Some of the set waves had the biggest double-ups I’ve ever seen on waves that size. I decided to give it a go and found I couldn’t get into the set waves with my little 5’10. Scuzz and Justin were getting some sick tubes and I felt that I could do the same if I had the right equipment. I felt extremely undergunned and Mill-house offered to loan me his 6’6 gun. I graciously took the offer, a mistake I would soon regret. The thing about HTs is, the barrel shifts a little while you are in it.
It’s a perfect tube, but you have to work for it. Pumping and carving in the tube was necessary many times to make it through the different hollow sections the wave offered. The 6’6 was good for take off’s and holding your line, but maneuvering in the tube it was a different story.
I took a wave, found my line and shot it. The wave shifted a bit and pulled the nose of my board up the face. Because of the size of the board, I couldn’t negotiate that and went head over the falls. After getting jumbled around for a second my back connected to the reef, and I got dragged onto the Surgeons Table.
Not the place I wanted to be. This was the first time I hit it and I could now understand why they called it that. This is where the inside grinders break in knee deep water, where the coral nodes are razor sharp and separated so it was very possible to get stuck in between them in which case booties are useless. This was bad news. Fortunately there was an escape route.
About 10 meters or so past the surgeons table there was a deep lagoon that you could basically drift into then paddle around to go back out. I managed to fight the current pulling out to the impact zone and let the insiders flat-smash me until I would get pulled into the lagoon.
I made it through without any further damage and paddled to the boat stunned. I never hit the reef like that before and I really didn’t know what to expect. Booty rubbed a couple of limes on my back, and after a little Betadine I was confident my back would be ok. I decided to call it a day and start drinking.
Four beers later I gathered up the courage to give it another go. I had a score to settle. I paddled out my 5’10 for maneuverability on the wave and that was the way to go. I caught a few swingers, and even managed to sneak through a couple of tubes. The sunset was unreal, and I caught my last wave right before dark. Scuzz and Justin also scraped themselves, and Cam pulled his shoulder in the same session. Definitely the gnarliest wave I’ve surfed to date. Even Aki, a veteran Japanese surfer/photographer with us had a bad experience that day. After falling off a wave he got caught inside. His leash wrapped around a coral head and he couldn’t get it out. When we looked over from the boat all we could see was half of his board sticking out of the water pointing at the sky. It was swinging back and forth, or ‘tomb stoning’. Everyone started to panic. We had no idea how longhe may have been stuck there. Justin and one of the crew members, Joe, charged over there in the rubber skiff. Mill-house and some other surfer scratched over to the board. Risking their bodies in the process by paddling to the most dangerous part of the wave, the impact zone. When the dingy made it to the board Justin pulled a full Haselhoff dive off the boat to get to the impact zone. Good on ya Justin. When they got the leash unjammed they were pleasantly surprised to see that Aki was not attached to it. Being the experienced surfer he was he knew what he needed to do and quickly unlatched his leash when he smelled trouble. He made it fine and we were all glad to see this wave not do any more damage than it already had. What a place this has been.
The next morning we awoke to double overhead left slabs at a place called Green Bush, or Jodies left. Scuzz was still passed out from the night before so we didn’t have very much information on this wave. Just what we saw. A big, peaky, and hollow left that sometimes shut down and sometimes didn’t. On the waves that didn’t, you still had to escape the doggy door, pull out the back or dive off the front because the second section than awaited you. This second section was thick and hollow, would bend towards the beach, and was mostly unmakeable. We had no idea how deep it was breaking, but it was breaking pretty close to shore.
I decided to be the guinea pig and test the waters solo style. I grabbed a few and was happy to see the first section broke in relatively deep water. Now the second section was a different story and Mill-house found that out first hand. He very well may have gotten the barrel of the trip that session. Deep, spit out, and then went for barrel two on the second section. He made it out with ease, and left all of us lack jawed. Sap and Cam were also stand outs at that spot scoring some extra deep barrels as well.The wind turned a little onshore, and the tide pulled out a lot so the sets were coming in way more inconsistently. It was time to go back to Macaronis and get some epic waves solo style. Boy were we wrong. When we arrived, the other boat was still there, and the Captain
was claiming it was too late to leave.
We got Scally-wagged! Not only did they send us off to a wave that wasn’t by any means on fire, but they didn’t hold up their end of the bargain and leave when we arrived. We paddled out and got some really good waves anyway. The surfers on the other boat were friendly, and they left that evening after their surf.
The last day of the trip, my birthday. We pulled up to Macaronis and it was on fire. I think it was the best waves I’ve ever surfed. Countless barrels, endless lips to hit, this was the perfect wave. After 3 to 4 hours of surfing we went back to the boat to begin our voyage back. On the way, the rain came down, and the wind came up. Scuzz made the call to go to another spot on the way called Japanese island. Definitely the most scenic wave we surfed this place was unbelievable.
A long, mostly mushy right hander with sets breaking double overhead. The waves would break along a tiny island and into a deep channel. Across the channel there were bat caves, and mountains filled with jungle. There were enormous slabs of rocks protruding out of the water with lefts breaking along them. The wind was howling offshore and the rain was pouring down by the gallon.
We jumped in the Tinny and rode out to the wave. For the first time on this trip I was actually chilly. When I finally jumped off the boat and into the lineup, the water felt like a jacuzzi. After another hour or two of surfing the longest wave of the trip, we were exhausted and we went back to the boat. It was time to continue on our way back. We stopped by HTs on the way, saw Tommy Carroll do some standup boarding, and watched the sunset. We had a smooth crossing and I slept like a baby.
I awoke when we arrived in Padang, which was at about 5:30 am. We unloaded the boat and begin our chill time at Scuzz’s. Our flight out was at 8 o’clock that night so we had a lot of time to kill. One poker game, one massage and a little lunch, it was getting time to cut out. We had just enough time to stop by one of the local bars where Big Boss, Booty and Anto were hanging out getting hammered. The place was in a basement with no AC. It had to have been 100 degrees in there but it was really cool to hang with the crew one last time and watch them get loose. Saying goodbye was hard to do, and I knew there was a chance I may never see them again. Saying goodbye to Scuzz was tough. A good captain, and a great guy. I hope someday he will visit my part of the world, and I can show him the same kindness and generosity that he showed all of us.We got to the airport and flew into Singapore where I got pulled into secondary because the picture on my passport supposedly didn’t look like me. I pulled out my other ID and they finally let me through. We took a cab to the hotel where we were staying at called the Swiissotel. This place was amazing, towering at over 80 stories high. It was circular in shape and very unique looking. Our rooms were average but we had a great view. We ordered a little room service and passed out around 1:30 am.
We woke up at about 9 am, had some coffee, and relaxed for a few. We took cabs to a part of the city called Geyland. Which is supposed to be the red light district of Singapore. After cruising around for about an hour we found a janky place on the corner that had enough people eating there to make us believe it had halfway decent food. We ordered four different dishes, and some beers. 3 of the dishes were pretty good, but 1 of them, Rajak I think it was called, was the worst in the world. It looked great in the pictures, but when it came out it was a different story. Luke warm chunks of something, probably intestine, in some nasty fermented something sauce. Horrible. It started to rain, so we took a cab to the airport. We walked to the terminal, had a drink at the bar and boarded our flight. The first leg of the flight was chill, I had 3 Singapore Slings and watched Transformers the movie. Nothing great, but entertaining. The second and longer leg of the voyage was practically empty, so I got a whole isle to myself. I slept most of the way.
When we arrived in LA I was tired, and anxious to get home to my wife and pets. On the drive back home, I couldn’t stop thinking of how unbelievable that trip was. How hard we scored, and the great times I had with my friends. If it wasn’t for the two cancels, and the generosity of the guys who came on the trip and floated my way, I never would have experienced the trip of a lifetime. Thanks guys, I will always remember.