Return to the Wave Palace

5 Jul 2011 0 Share

July 5, 2011
Words by Anthony Walsh

The trade-winds had started to blow, clearing the rain clouds and marking the start of the dry across the Indonesian archipelago. Though early in the season, storms were already brewing far over the horizon in the Oceans lower latitudes, their distant fury tempered to ruler lines by the Indian Oceans vast expanse.

We had been watching from afar, scanning the internet models for the tell tale bands or red and orange that translated to azure swell-lines stacked to the horizon and fanned by the trades. The first such blobs of the 2011 season promised a solid six-to-eight foot southwest swell with light trades in Java. Phone calls were made, bags packed and I flew out to Bali to meet my brother Stephen and photographer, Bradley Masters.

We arrived late at night and caught the first flight to Java early the next morning. Our driver Mas Aris was there to meet us. In another life Mas Aris must have been a race car driver. He was weaving in and out of traffic like he was trying to beat his personal best time. It was a white-knuckled ride, but he turned a three hour drive into a two hour dash.

When we arrived at the ISTANAOMBAK resort where a pleasant surprise awaited us‚ creature comforts. My last visit four years ago had been a different affair, and after doing time in a tent with no running water, toilets or power, the comfortable rooms, toilets, friendly staff and running hot showers were a welcome relief from the lush Javanese jungle that surrounds the resort, right down to the water's edge.

The resort owner, Rod Steele, brought me here on that first trip. Since then he's been working with his Indonesian partner Shailla to build the only resort in the area, employing local labour and helping the community to grow with a percentage of his profits going to the families of this small village. This has made for a really safe resort, supportive and happy community.

Rod has named the resort "ISTANAOMBAK" which means 'wave palace'.
It's fitting. When i was a little kid I would draw bays identical to this one; a perfect right at one end and a perfect left on the other with a small channel in-between. It's a salubrious setup for any surfer.

We went for a swell, and a big one at that. It never got under four foot and on the biggest day there were the odd ten-foot bombs pushing through. There were never more then four people out at once and most of the time it was just my brother Stephen and me trading waves. Sometimes with Stephen on the right and me on the left, both of us would get spat out into the channel on the same wave. All time.

Indonesia is getting crowded these days. It's hard to find empty lineups. This was Rod's motivation for establishing Indoecosurf's small-capacity resort far from Bali's crowds. Oh, and as it picks up more swell than many more poplular spots, you are pretty much guaranteed to score waves in one of Indonesia's most scenic locations.

Getting there:
From Australia there are a few options:
1. Fly to Denpasar Bali, spend the night then catch an early morning domestic flight with Lion airlines to Yogyakarta, Java.
2. Fly to Jakarta, Java, with Kuala Lumpur Malaysia or Singapore, then fly to Yogyakarta. Air Asia also flies to these cities and then to Yogyakarta.

Tips and travel secrets:
Air Asia fly all the way from most cities via Jakarta, saving you connections and more fees. Also if you fly via other locations and not Bali, you can carry more than three boards without paying extra. Once in Indonesia, you can fly domestically to Bali and not have to pay for more then three boards. If flying domestically fly Lion air - they are very good with weight and don't charge for boards and are the best of the domestic airlines.

The surf
Istanaombak the 'wave palace' is a bay with a left on one side and right on the other.both work at a bunch of tides and sizes. This bay is located in central Java and faces South and catchs any kind of swell. From the most west south west swell to the rare south east swell, and loads of it. i.e been there and bali was flat and it was still 4 foot.

Best time of the year is the dry season May through October. But even through the wet season there is plenty of swell just the winds tend to be more variable and the trade offshore's of the dry season aren't as common.

The right
The right is a hollow peak on most tides, providing more ripable waves with more water over the reef.

Westerly swells are best for the right, pushing further down the reef for a longer ride. Long-period southwest swells in the two-to-six foot range are ideal. The bigger it is the higher it needs to be. The higher the tide the more it turns into a ripple wave and the end section isn't to shallow. When the swell is bigger then 5 foot. The current can cause bumps up the face on the out going tide as the water rushes out over the reef as the channel is very small.

When bigger and lower tides its for experienced surfers only. When it's a little higher and small its a safe wave for all levels of surfing.

The left
The left has many moods, from playful and rippable to heavy, powerful and unpredictable.

The more southerly the swell, the longer and more predicable and playful the left will be. Behind the wave a shelf drops quickly to deep water. This rapid transition makes it a really heavy wave when over five foot, especially at low tide.

On bigger swells and lower the tides you can get the biggest barrel of your life ‚ or the worst wipeout of your life, but below five foot on high tide it's a powerful but super rippable wave.

Other waves
This area of Java has loads of bays and waves‚ many still uncharted because of the landscape, thick forests and lack off access. In saying that, there are several other waves within a short drive and walk, and Indoecosurf has a boat to access other spots. But 98 percent of the time you will want to just surf out the front of the resort.

The Resort

"ISTANAOMBAK" is smack bang in the middle of this surfer's paradise. As close to the water and waves as you can be without getting taking out by the swell and the tides.

The accommodation is simple but very well appointed, with clean tiled rooms, comfortable beds, fans, nice bathrooms, power, and all the essentials.

The resort is surrounded by big palms so even in the Indonesian climate, you will still be comfortable. There is an area to hang and watch the waves, relax, eat, drink, get a massage whatever you desire.

The food can be as simple or extravagant as you like. Anytime from 6am to 10 pm – just order what you want, when you want it!

Food can be western or Indonesian - whatever tickles your taste buds, but take it from me the local Javanese cuisine is delicious and unique, different from the rest of Indonesia.

This part of Indonesia is relatively untouched so the seafood variety, quality and quantity is fantastic. If you enjoy the fruits of the ocean then let the Chefs, Miss Winn and Hassim, know. You won't be disappointed.

Other activities

Central Java has a pretty remote and dangerous coastline. There aren't many safe anchorages and it gets loads of swell, so the fishing is some of the best in the whole of Indonesia‚ the only problem is that there's usually too much swell. But if the swell subsides and you want to drop a line, you can organize the boat and a driver or just throw a line from the beach or headlands.

Site seeing
Java has some of the most breath-taking scenery in the whole of Indonesia. You can organize motorbike trips to ride around and check it out, see it by water with the resort boat. Or just go for a walk and see what is near by.

The diving here is amazing, with plenty of live coral and an abundance of sea life. The only problem is the amount of swell that hits this bay and the currents they generate.

Massages are available in rooms, out on the hanging area, beach, where ever you would like. You just have to organize in advance.

For more information and photos, head to or contact  

Tags: java , travel , surf , activities , ISTANAOMBAK , getting , there , accommodation (create Alert from these tags)

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