<i>Coastalwatch Phillip Island surf reporter Mal Gregson recently took some time out to cruise the islands off Northern Sumatra with some good mates.</i>
Surf Trip Diary
Get a bunch of your mates together, the ones that you will want to spend 10-17 days with,together in the confined space of a boat. If you are bailing on Aus in winter with no tan and down on surf fitness, a short stint in Bali before embarking on your boat trip may be a wise move.
Book the boat.
As you read the diary you will come across some info on how to make the correct charter choice.
Book your flights.
Most flights will go via Singapore then on to Padang.
Order all your boards.
Down the line tube hunters are the go. Deeper concaves than you would probably require at home. A few extra inches never goes astray either. You may snap a couple so be prepared. Remember though, if you land in Bali they will sting you for extra rupiah if you have more than three boards.
Stock up your medical kit.
Anti Malaria, antibiotics, eardrops, motion sickness tablets and plenty of sun screen are essentials. Coral cuts are the biggest problem, if you haven’t got any alcohol wipes the best method to clean cuts and stave off infection is a good scrub with hot water before drenching the wound in lemon juice.
Don’t worry about fashion.
As the excitement builds don’t peak too early. All you really need is a couple pairs of boardies, a rash vest, booties, a tee shirt, a towel and a pair of sunnies.
When you arrive in Padang, the coolest spot to hang out is the Hotel Batung Arat. The HBA is a renovated Dutch bank situated on the river right in front of where most of the boats load their supplies of food, drink, surfboards and guests.
If you are a bit adventurous you should try the Masakan Padang food. These are restaurants that lay out all they have on the menu in small bowls on the table and you only get charged for what you eat. Just check on what you choose though because there is usually some offal or brains thrown in somewhere.
Our crew arrived looking pretty pale after exiting a cold Phillip Island winter in Vicco. There are three young frothers and six old stagers in our gang. The young guns are Christian, Faloon and Crooksy. The old stagers are Bunny, Meathead, Oozo, Davros, Wellsy and Big Mal.
For some of the guys it’s their first trip others are up to their seventh.
The boats leave at night. The crossing from Padang to the island chain takes about thirteen hours. Everyone is pumped we are aboard the Southern Cross and on our way.
We had a pretty good sleep and were up at 6.30am, still three hours from the first surf break. The young guns were frothing to get out there and surf, but a few of the old guys were frothing to get their fishing rods out and trawl.
8.00am – Strike, Bunny hooked a meter long Mahi Mahi, about five kilos of fresh fish for tonight’s dinner. Everyone was buzzing that the trip is off to a positive start.
Arrived in the Telos about 10am. Sent the young guns down to the point first. The old buggers took their timt.
We had a great two to three hour session at Burns by ourselves. We were lucky it was a bit overcast and rainy. We needed to break in the Vicco winter tan. Davros the greedy bastard stayed out the longest.
Our guide Scuzz ripped. He made sure everyone on the boat was dropped into the perfect position in the lineup. Everyone had an awesome day of great, uncrowded waves. We were all stoked.
We left our anchorage early to check a few different surf locations. Started trawling and within fifteen minutes we had three strikes. We landed two tuna and a spanish mackerel. Bunny, Meat head and Wellsy all hooked up.
Our indo cook, Eri killed each fish then removes their hearts. Tradition has it that while it’s still pumping you eat it. Our boys keep up the tradition. The Indo crew love it. Probably think they can suck these dumb Boleh’s (white guys) into anything.
We surfed a left off a deserted island in the morning, then moved further into the bay and surfed a fun right till dark.
Another boat pulled up so our guide Scuzz left them the area for the next day. We motored four hours to a new anchorage to get some more waves to ourselves.
Not that much was happening in the Telos this morning. After a group meeting we decided to motor past Southern Nias to the Hinakos. There wasn’t much swell around so we headed for Bower. We Travelled all day. Crooksy managed to hook a five kilo Spanish Mackerel.
It wass a bit of a rocky trip,so the motion sickness pills came out. Crooksy took a lot of convincing that he had to eat the Mackie’s heart. He kept it down, just.
We arrived at Bower with enough time to score some fun four to five foot right-handers before dark. There was another charter boat there, the Mikumba. We invited the crew over for a few Bintangs.
Early in the morning the swell was pretty small. Shifty three to four foot peaks. There was a big take off area so there was plenty of space to support two boats. There was still a bit of rain about, but everyone’s tan was slowly developing.
Some of the boys rang home. The mobile phone coverage has increased since the Tsunami. Various aid projects installed communication towers throughout the islands to assist in early warnings and communication.
We surfed Bower all day, nice offshore wedges. The weather was a bit weird though. It rained all day, at times it was torrential. When it really poured the waves seemed to go flat. Scuzz has a weather theory that localized low-pressure systems can lift the sea level and that’s why it seems to flatten out when it is really pouring.
Early in the morning Bower was still the same. Bower means under in Indonesian but Moon in the Nias dialect. The wind and rain are pretty strong. We decided to head back to Nias and sniff out some of the more protected breaks. A bit of a long shot but at least when we headed further north to the Bunyuks we were on the lee side of Nias and the traveling was smoother. A few hours later we managed to surf a fun hollow right called Tinbangers.
More rain this morning. The weather seemed a bit weird for this time of year. The swell increased and our fun little right became a bit more serious. The boys tag team all day and everyone scored some great barrels. The vibe on the boat lifted. We had been having a great time but the quality of the surf today took the trip to another level. Scuzz set up the motor drive camera and Wellsy cranked up the video.
We had an awesome dinner of curried prawns and fish, washed down with a few Bintangs while watching a slide show of the day’s kegs. We had our first day of serious waves. The forecast doesn’t look as good for tomorrow but we motor through the night to the Bunyuks.
Pulled into Birthday Bay about 7:30am. It was cranking. An outside left, a hollow right and a smaller left inside the bay. There were plenty of waves to choose from. The outside left was the pick.
Bunny finally found his mojo and pulls into a keg on every wave. Meathead jagged a few as well. The boys on their backhand were doing warp speed down the line on this awesome 150 meter left.
The sea breeze kicked in around lunchtime so we motored a couple of hours to another break called Fat Left. There was no one in the line up. Perfect 4-6 foot shacks.
Everyone got kegged off their nut. Crooksy jagged a 250 meter beast. Christian and Faloon had way too much energy for the rest of us old blokes.
Injury toll was mounting but nothing to serious. Coral cuts, a twisted ankle and general aches and pains only.
Scuzz and the crew were up at 4.30am checking the swell and wind conditions. We motored back to Birthday Bay. A few of the boys surfed the left and the rest tackled the right. Davros and Meathead scored the pick of the barrels.
The crew decided to cook up a special dish of curried Achenese noodles for lunch. We had a cruisey arvo trawling and clocking some serious hammock time. We anchored inside the bay. During the night an earthquake off the Achanese coast clocked 5.8 on the Richter scale but we felt no effects.
The swell built overnight, so we charged back to Fat Left and surfed it by ourselves. Crooksy scored the best barrel of his life. So good he paddled in and downed three beers. At 10:00 am the swell was still building. We watched a fifteen wave set roll through. Everyone had an awesome morning of waves.
Three boats turned up at lunchtime so we took off for a bit of an adventure. We checked out a couple of other breaks nearby and had a snorkel around an uninhabited island.
This region is third tier rain forest, so we kind of expected King Kong to jump out on the beach at any time. Crooksy was on a roll after his epic barrel. He even won the hermit crab race we set up on the beach.
It was Scuzz’s birthday today; we had already celebrated Oozo’s a couple days ago. So it was out with the party hats again and the twelve year old scotch. No one wanted to get too loaded because the swell was predicted to jump overnight.
While we were celebrating Ujung repaired the damage to some of our boards. He reset Faloon’s fin and patched up Davros’s board. It was nice to have a ding fixer onboard.
Sheet glass conditions greeted us for the early at Birthday Bay. There were 6ft lefts and 4ft rights. The boys on the right pulled in scoring barrels for breakfast. Wellsy starred on the left with a 250 meter long bomb. A couple of boats turned up but with three breaks and glassy conditions all day there were plenty of waves to go around. Everyone surfed till dark.
Eri fired up the Barbie and cooked up a meal of sate prawns. We were all surfed out and hit our bunks early. Our boat the Southern Cross left the Bunyuks during the night and headed back down towards Nias.
When we woke up we were in front of a 4-6ft left called Froggies. Everyone is a bit slow off the mark but Scuzz and the goofies headed out for the early. The rest of us had breaky and popped muscle relaxant pills to get us through another day.
Faloon was the first backhand surfer to hit the water. He paddled straight into a bomb and got kegged for about fifty meters, great pigdog action from years of practice at the Bluff in WA.
We headed out to Asu for an arvo surf. There were a few guys out so we let them finish off their session before we surfed. Asu has been affected by the lift from the earthquake that caused the Tsunami; it is shorter now but still a great wave.
You have got to hand it to Scuzz, we surfed five different breaks in two days.
We checked Tinbangers in the morning and surfed perfect three foot barrels till lunchtime. We surfed there on the way up and rated it as heaps of fun.
We motored to Teluk Dalam for some shore leave. Everyone wanted to check out the famous Lagundri Bay. The lift as a result of the earthquake is quite evident. The reef has lifted about 70 centimeters. The jury is still out on whether the actual wave is better or not. It now breaks on a smaller swell. On a medium swell it is a bit hollower. When it’s big though it draws a lot of water off the reef and is not as good as it was. The older guys who surfed here in the eighties are a bit disappointed, no more thatched huts dotting a palm tree lined point with a tidal reef in front. Now there are concrete rooms and a stagnant reef. On the upside the young guys with us who have never seen it before were frothing to get out. You will have to make up your own mind.
The wind was wrong this morning so we charged south to the top of the Telos. We sent four surfers in the tinnie about an hour and half from the break. The tinnie is pretty quick so the guys were in the water for a session way before the big boat got there. It is a real bonus if your charter has two tenders. The good ones have a rubber duck and a fast tinnie.
The left at churches was 6-8ft. A really wackable fun wave. We had an enjoyable arvo of waves.
The swell dropped a bit today so after a quick surf at Churches we continued south through the Telos. The food kept coming. We all turned into hobbits and the second breakfast for today was banana pancakes.
As we approached the bottom of the Telos we were back in the fish. Mal hooked up this time and landed a Spanish mackerel. Mal and Bunny wear sarongs in the tropics. They are good for preventing crutch rot but the down side is when you are holding up your prize catch with both hands for the customary photot they are really easy for your so called mate to whip off. Standing in the nude holding a fish while four cameras flash and the video whirs is a tad embarrassing.
We pulled up at Rolands, a shallow right and all but the hunter gatherers surfed. The surfers scored a few barrels. Crooksy and Christian lead the way. Bunny returned with the trips biggest fish, a 1.2 meter Mahi Mahi.
We surfed 4ft Rolands all morning. There was a bit of carnage on the shallow reef. When the wind picked up we motored over to a left nearby. There was a heavy sweep but the sets were 6-8ft. The late night glass off was cool with some long clean lefts churning over the reef.
Last day of the trip. The swell jacked but the wind was not quite right. July is the swell month but May generally has more settled conditions and it’s usually glassy all day.
Rolands is 6ft, heavy and shallow. Oozo enjoyed the last wave here before we checked the left. He scored the best keg of the last two days.
The left is called Buffalos and was a solid 8ft plus. No broken boards but two leggies snap. Beautiful long, deep blue waves. A nine-wave set caught Wellsy inside. His mates on the boat have a bit of a laugh.
We checked out a couple of other breaks in the arvo but nothing too special was spotted. We are all just slothing around when another boat with a new charter of guys pulled up for their first surf.
They were frothing and straight into the lineup. I thought to myself we were like that two weeks ago.
Our last surf was back at Rolands and as usual Davros the greedy one stayed out longest.
The boys staredt packing up their gear and we headed back to Padang overnight.
We arrived in Padang and left the Southern Cross our home for the last 17 days. A bunyak sekali thanks to Scuzz and his crew. It was all a bit sad really but we had an awesome trip. We are already planning our next one.
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