A small offering to the gods before heading to G-Land
We were in Padang having chosen to go to G-Land and felt confident about scoring uncrowded waves given that it was the end of the season. Since the start of my trip everything had lined up for me. My lost passport was returned. I had met people in the know, from business owners who were dialed into the scene to helpful charter boat captains and surf guides. And I had scored nearly two weeks in the Mentawai’s for not even the cost of a car payment. Given my good fortune so far, I expected Indonesia’s most consistent spot to roll out the welcome mat in fine fashion.
Perhaps my luck was running out. Our trip to G-Land was not a cake walk. We flew to Jakarta and waited 4 hours for the next flight to Bali. Once in Bali we drove all night, took a ferry, then drove some more, then stopped for a quick prayer offering at 3 am in the middle of nowhere. After the prayer stop, we drove though the national forest – the longest, most arduous, and bumpiest van trip I’ve ever taken. Getting some shuteye was a pipedream. Apparently, we had taken the “long way” to get to Bobby’s Camp via the supply van. Since Padang, we had been traveling for 16 hours and crashed upon arrival at 6 am.
The surfers staying there were from a wide range of International destinations such as Australia, Hawaii, California, Brazil, Argentina, and even Oregon. The camp, which was not even at half capacity, gave me the opportunity to meet all these surfers and get to know them. After living in very basic conditions the previous few weeks in the Mentawai’s, Bobby’s Camp felt like the Ritz Carlton: cold beer, an endless supply of water, showers, satellite T.V., an air conditioned movie theater, and hot meals. We were living the high life. We ended up running into two Maui surfers, Darren and Mike, who we had met in the Mentawai’s. The network of surfers traveling throughout Indonesia was really that small.
The other campers were quick to tell Damien and me how moody the wave was. I knew it would be heavy and would probably offer lots of tube time, but I didn’t expect what greeted us. We heard stories of bad encounters with the reef and lips thicker than Ana Nicole Smith’s thighs. Two weeks before our arrival a surfer nearly died after rupturing his spleen and had to be airlifted out. This was a wave that demanded respect and time in order to properly learn it. Some surfers at the camp had been coming here for 15+ years and a few had been living here for months on end. The pictures and video I saw of some of these guys were mind-boggling and they seemed to be more at ease when the conditions became bigger.
G-Land delivered as promised with solid 8 ft. meaty waves. I took a walk along the fringes of the reef to get a better look. The view was intense and I should have taken my camera. I watched as surfers would go below sea level during their bottom turns and then disappear behind a massive curtain of water only to come out on half of their attempts.
Slotted at G-Land
By day three the waves were practically flat. With the downtime in swell, some of the other campers went stir crazy choosing to “drink up” the swell. On a flat day several of us hiked a few hours down the beach to a key hole known for good snorkeling and spear fishing. We caught several fish and added them to the pot for dinner that night. The beach was deserted and it was nice to see the lack of commercial development for as far as I could see. On day five with no swell in the forecast for at least several days, we made a last minute decision to head back to Bali. Luckily, our trip back wasn’t as grueling as our arrival and it gave me a chance to see the famed fishing village of Grajagan.
Despite all of this good fortune, I still had yet to feel as if I had scored that one magical day. Bali had the crowds, we didn’t have all the knowledge for the Mentawai’s, and G-Land went flat on us. With one week remaining in my trip the surf was flat in Bali and every surfer in the country seemed to be wave-starved. I was reaching the end of my rope and had even considered flying back to LAX in hope of catching an early Pacific winter storm. That is how desperate I was.
With a small swell on the horizon, some surfers I met at G-Land pitched the idea to me of going to an out-of-the-way left reef break. It would require lots of travel and a boat to get there but the pay off could be worth it. Or we could get skunked.
Our gamble turned out to be the biggest jackpot of the trip. I’ll have to withhold the details of exactly where we ended up but this I can tell you: it was west of Bali where we found a shallow left hander that went on forever and threw out plenty of barrels on each ride. Every day we awoke to perfect empty waves ranging from chest high to overhead. The conditions were sweeter than a plate of yams with extra syrup. It was surreal to see those waves peeling endlessly with no one out. There wasn’t a bad vibe in the water with the few other surfers we met and everyone shared plenty of waves. I scored tons of barrels and became addicted to the view inside the green room. That last week was the best week of surfing I’d ever experienced, hands down. Personally, I also felt as if I had peaked at the right moment and ended up catching an 8ft. tube ride on the last day I could surf.
Some waves stay with you for weeks, months, even years and that is one wave I won’t be forgetting for a long time. I was giddy as can be. I had pushed myself physically and mentally, and felt as if I had accomplished my goal of vastly improving my surfing skills and knew I was ready to head home. Back in Bali, Damien and I exchanged goodbyes and I truly hope to see him one day in the future.
Making their way back to BaliAfter arriving in the U.S., I spent a few days on the West Coast catching up with some surfer friends who wanted to hear every painstaking detail of the trip. As if my luck hadn’t been good enough already, a friend gave me a used 6’2” for free. Another five hour plane ride and I was back in Atlanta with my little lady. The end of the road for my two month’s off had come and I was thankful for the experience but also glad to be home. Now I’m back in Cubeville, five hours from the nearest coast but personally I’d rather surf far away exotic destinations every few months than local beach breaks every week. The trade off I’ve made has its ups and downs but that is the path I’ve chosen for the time being. In case you are wondering, I’m already planning my annual California winter trip and my next major excursion…South Africa? Mentawai’s? Time to make another choice.
P.S. I want to thank Melody Robinson for being who she is and for being so understanding.