Boat bound in the Mentawais.....
I Landed in Jakarta after 15 and a half hrs in the air and headed to the JHotel for a few hours kip, the surrounding area was a bit sketchy and I thought, oh man kris you have fucked up ;0 best £18 ever spent thou, air con and a soft bed.
In the morning the hotel sorted my ride back to the airport, it's funny as soon as the taxi driver finds out your English they assume you love football and real off all the teams they know, usually starting with Man U, I was like dude I hate football, rugby and body boarding only, ha needless to say the rest of the ride was silent.
I'm a great believer in Karma so I gave the guy a good tip and headed back in to Jakarta airport.
I Tried to look for some burban for stevie but as it was only a domestic flight there was no duty free.
I got on the bus to the plane and I saw a wisely guy coming out the sliding doors, the only non-Balinese person actually and as he squeezed his way on to the bus he looked up and said “Kris ?” , hey I replied.
That’s the thing I love about these trips, you can be on the other side of the world on your own and suddenly a friend, ok only from a group chat of similarly like minded Bodyboarders but non the less, it’s cool.
As we both waited anxiously for our boards we chatted about shit both nervous because without boards the trip would be fucked, but they arrived and we both set off to the exit.
As we walked out into the humidity a girls voice said Stevie Maher?
As easy as that we were slinging our kit into a little air conditioned combo van and heading off into Padang.
The van pulled up into some back alley and we both looked at each other, we gingerly got our stuff out and headed to a metal sliding door, it was like being at some dodgy back street garage in the arches at Vauxhall, London apart from it was 40 deg and humid with a backdrop of jungle and the dirtiest polluted river running adjacent.
Inside thou we met Dave our guide and the walls were covered in massive pictures of some of the best waves you have seen in your life. There were air conditioned bedrooms, a big TV room and the friendliest staff and stock of the coldest bintangs on the top floor with cool timber seating and a pool table. It was the perfect spot to rest and get to know each other before the adventures began.
I recognised one of the surfers in a pic as we walked upstairs, it was Manu Granu our photographer from the trip last year.
As we got to the top floor there he was, Stevie Maher propping up the bar, something was different thou, instead of a mug of Jim Beam and coke he was sipping coffee.
Stevie introduced me and Justin to the other boys, Mark and Kieron the other English,
then Rob the Kiwi, Damien and Scott the other Aussies then Gus the Brazilian and finally Grattan the Saffa as he arrived a little later.
We shot some pool, Grattan was a total hustler, watched some Bodyboarding vids and drank Bintang’s, Scotty more than most and just waited patiently until we could board the boat.
We were due to board at 6 pm, at around 4 pm the heavens opened, the rain and the wind were horrific, I’d seen tropical rain in various countries but it usually only lasts half hour or so, this just kept going.
Dave made an announcement, he said “ boys it’s real stormy out at sea and we are going to delay our set off time to give chance for this storm to pass” we were disappointed and cracked on with the bintangs.
At about 8.30 pm Dave appeared again and told us we should board the boat and we would leave the dock at midnight, so that’s what we did.
At about 2 am I was woken up by a loud crack, I thought what the fuck is that.
I tried to get out of my bed but couldn’t, the boat was getting thrown around, the swell was playing havoc, this went on for a couple of hours, I managed to find my travel sick pills and quickly took two of them, I looked at my clock at 4 and the boat seemed calmer, I went upstairs to top deck and was confused, I could see the main land.
I was pretty tired and the crew were buzzing around so I went back downstairs and climbed back into bed.
At around 8 am the same noise woke me, crack, I thought the boat was going to split into two, I’m not joking my first thoughts were of that movie perfect storm.
It was fucking horrendous, the travel tablets were just about working.
The rocking got worse coupled with the waves we were going up and over, I started to get clammy and then full on sick.
I tentatively made my way up to the middle deck, I was getting thrown from side to side and things were falling off shelves, I had never experienced anything like it in my life.
This wasn’t fun but I kept telling myself at the end of it there would be the sickest waves waiting for me.
I just made it to the toilet and I chucked up everywhere, I was having to hold on for dear life.
After 10 mins of throwing up I managed to get back downstairs, somehow got into my top bunk and I shut my eyes.
I lasted an hour then the clammyness turned into full on sweats and I had to make that same journey, the boat was moving so much I wished a big hole would just open and swallow me up.
I puked this time all over my feet and my hands, what a state I was.
I cleaned up got back to bed popped 2 travel tablets and thankfully passed out.
I woke again at around 4 pm and things were much calmer, I went upstairs and could hear the boys sharing stories of the night before.
The lads in the room up on the top deck had it the worst, the two boys in the top bunks couldn’t even get in bed the boat was rocking so much, Justin had been holding on to the fire extinguisher at one point because it was secured to the floor and Scotty had wedged himself in the doorway just watching shit getting flung around the deck.
I asked Dave “What the fuck happened man”
Apparently we left dock at midnight but two hours in the storm was that bad at sea that we had to head back to Padang for safety, he said it was the worst conditions he had seen in the last five years.
We had set back off again with the high tide at 6 am and the conditions were just about bearable, for Dave anyway, I never want to experience that again.
All ended well, at about 5.45pm however I could see a familiar looking island approaching, I had so many great memories from last year and finally I could see A Frames approaching.
Without any hesitation even though the sun was rapidly setting and we only had half hour of light, we got out the boards, got them waxed and jumped in the speed boat.
Within minutes the 30 or so hours of travelling evaporated and I was paddling my new Milk board into it’s first wave, fuck it felt good, this is what it’s all about.
The boys traded waves until after dark when we then reluctantly paddled back to the boat for dinner and a few bintangs.
We were up at first light and Dave had parked us half way between Bank Vaults and Nepussi, I remember last year watching Bank vaults maxing at 8ft plus and this year no one was on it so we figured it was too shallow on the reef so opted to paddle for Nepussi.
From the boat you can’t see the wave you have to gauge the size and shape from how much it blows at the rear, there was quite a few guys out so we paddled over.
We were greeted with 4 ft plus wedges with some 6ft faces and about 20 stand ups, the reef was deep so it was game on.
It took about 15 mins before someone got a wave I think it was Gus, he had the biggest smile on his face, he smacked the lip and had a nice roll.
Mark, Rob and Kieren sat on the inside, I paddled over to where Gus had taken off and I waited patiently, it paid off, I had two or three nice ones no airs but some tasty deep barrels.
Justin joined the line up shortly afterward and stole the show, on one wave he was covered up for a good 6-8 seconds and made it out, the camera was only pointed in one direction, down the barrel.
Rob and Kieron were snagging some nice ones then Mark came and joined us on the outside and got rewarded with a nice little cover up for his troubles.
After about two hours we were surfed out and headed back to the boat to chill, we waited for the speed boat to pick Andy the photographer up from the beach and then pulled up anchor and headed up the coast to find Burger World.
After about an hour on the horizon we could see a sick little right hander breaking off the end of an island and we had reached our destination. There’s was only a few others out so we basically had the spot to ourselves and traded waves until the cramps kicked it.
We had salmon and cous cous with steamed veg waiting on the boat and it couldn’t have come sooner, we were fucked, some of the boys crashed and some had a few bintangs the rest of us watched, Scouts, guides and zombie apocalypse, you can always count on watching dodgy movies on this trip but this one was well worth the watch.
It was still only 14.30 and we were just chilling and cruising on our way to Pitstops for our next session when it didn’t look that good Dave took us to a spot called Good Times, and that’s exactly what it was.
Gus, Kieron, Rob, Grattan, Scotty and Damien headed to the far peak but me and Mark followed the old sea dog Justin and he didn’t let us down. He figured the best peak was in front of the tallest palm tree and in line with a group of palms to the left and that’s where we sat for the next 3 ½ hours trading waves. I guess it was at this point Justin was nick named the wizard. Not just for the beard and looking like someone straight out of Harry Potter, but also for his years of knowledge competing in places like Hawaii and tearing up comps everywhere he had a gentle approach and was more than happy to share his knowledge with a bit of coaching for everyone, which was welcomed with open arms.
The outside was fast, gunning it onto the inside section which just walled and barrelled all the way to the end of the reef.
The other guys cottoned on and came and joined us but most left after a couple of hours leaving Rob, me and Justin surfing until gone dusk, the red of the sun glistening off the ocean.
The clouds were spectacular, the vista soothed away all the bullshit in life and I could quite honestly of sat like that for the rest of my life.
The speed boat was close so the boys paddled over and headed back to the boat, I had to have just one more wave, I fucking loved this spot and knew we would be heading elsewhere that night so I stayed until dark, paddling over to the green and red flashes of the speed boat reluctantly and only because I could no longer see.
Dinner was waiting for me on the boat and Andy the photographer had prepared a slide show of all the shots from the days 6 hrs of surfing, we sat, chilled and ate and the captain pulled up anchor and Dave informed us we were headed towards scarecrows/Telescopes to moor for the night.
The surf report said the swell was building and suddenly the conversation turned to how big we thought we could handle.
Despite being completely fucking shattered my mind was racing and I only dozed off at about 4, as usual I was woken by excited shuffling moving through the cabin, this signified it was on.
I dragged myself from my bunk and rushed to the top deck, I was greeted with the sight of 3-5 ft barrelling waves peeling round the reef at scarecrows.
I didn’t even stop for breakfast, I grabbed my rashy, waxed my board and jumped in the speed boat.
The sun hadn’t even properly come up so I was surprised when I got to the line up to see a few of the boys already out, even Dave ventured out for this one and was tearing the place apart.
I watched the boys take off deep and get closed out on so picked my waves carefully, a bomb came through on the outside and I could see an outer shoulder with my name on it.
I’d learnt my lesson last year on trying to bottom turn but the waves here are so fast so when I took off I sat high and it paid off.
This wave opened up and I was rewarded with a fuck off big barrell, and that feeling you get when you make it and pull off the back, you can’t beat it.
I had one more exactly the same and as I pulled off the back grinning like a Cheshire Cat I could see the other boats in the area emptying and a fuck load of stand ups coming to join the line up.
My body was hurting, my flippers rubbing my toes, I couldn’t even sit on my board because my inner thighs were so sore from the board rubbing me, for some reason though I refused to leave the water, any sport is addictive but when you spend half your bodyboarding life in a thick wetty with boots, gloves and a hoody so you can hardly move as is often the case in the UK, when in shorts and a rashy the freedom is exhilarating.
I sat floating around for a good 25 mins just watching people take off, the peak kept shifting but I was in no rush.
In the distance I could see our speed boat perched on the edge of the reef with the familiar sight of a big camera lense, it was on, Andy was out.
Out of no where a peak came through, there was only me and a stand up and I was sat deeper so I was right in the spot.
As I paddled into it I looked down the line and I was as far back as you would want to be on a bomb, the face was at least 8ft at the take off point and I was eyeing the section and it looked good.
I stalled for as long as was sensible and the lip chucked out then I knew I had to just release and I fucking gunned it as fast as I could, I was sat in the barrell probably 4 metres back from the lip after about 3 seconds it pinched and I couldn’t see shit, I thought I was a gonna but then it just opened up.
I was sat as high as I could and I managed to squeeze another 4 seconds out of it but knew I wasn’t going to make it, I braved myself to smack the reef but got lucky and just felt my flippers hit.
As I popped up Andy was giving me the thumbs up so I knew he had got the shot, I was content, once again in my happy place.
I paddled back to the boat just smiling and taking it all in, fuck I was lucky I made this trip.
Watching from the boat the tide and the wind had taken its toll on scarecrows but as with all these spots in the Ments, the wind soon changes and the tides come round quick.
After food and painkillers I sat chilling just waiting, a few waves were starting to open up on the inside but it looked pretty shallow.
At about 4 pm the wait was over a couple of the boys paddled over, I watched Mark get one and it sat up nicely and he was getting shacked so I got geared up and jumped off the boat.
I paddled over and was greeted with a sick little shoulder as soon as I arrived, as I took off it was the first time I had seen the reef clearly and it unsettled me a bit, I got a little cover up then had a little off the lip spin as I span round I was almost vertical when again I caught site of the reef over my shoulder, I had a little word with myself just to show a bit of respect.
I spent the next 2 hours trading waves with the boys getting some of the nicest turquoise pits of the trip, like I said before last year I tried to take the drop then do this fucking ceremonious bottom turn but the waves in the Ments are too quick.
My knowledge paid off, I was getting the deepest sickest 4 ft barrels and loving every minute, how was I ever going to cope land locked back in London.
Thankfully Andy was on the lense again and I prayed he had got the shot.
It was the first time on the trip little ramps had appeared, I flew down this one wave and smacked the section, it launched me and I freaked, I wanted to stay for the landing but I’m no teenager so I chucked my board and opted for the emergency landing. I will remember this scarecrows session for the rest of my life and I said a little thank you to Mother Nature for providing.
We woke up and Dave had parked us up at Telescopes, I was so tired I decided no matter what I was having breakfast, I needed coffee.
I watched sunrise and as day broke I could see 5 other boats moored next to us, as I looked at the peak there were already 5 guys on it.
Gus, Justin and I took our coffees to the top deck and set up stall and just watched these super fast screamers peel down the reef.
If it hadn’t of been for the 12 guys sat on the one peak we would have been on it but for the first time on the trip I was content to let my body repair for an hour or so.
We cruised over to suicides but the wind was all fucked up so Dave decided to head back to scarecrows to see if it was any good.
The wind was up but it was perfect photo shoot conditions so whilst the rest of the boys went for a surf me, Gus and Stevie got the speed boat and headed over to the closest island with the drone,
the camera and some kit to do some promo work.
The conditions couldn’t be better, the sea in the bay was two tone turquoise and it was hot,
Dave had decided to join us from the boat he had brought us some sprite and it was well needed.
We spent the next two hours getting all the promo shots we could then we slowly made our way back to the main boat.
Lunch was ready and the boys had just got in from a surf and the talk soon drifted on to the building swell which was due to hit in the morning.
We had bumped into Wazza Hanley in Padang on day one and he said he was going to try and join us, as we sat eating Stevie said Dave had taken the speed boat to go get him then we were off on a six hour punt down to Macaronis, on its day the most mechanical wave in the mentawais, fuck the journey was rough.
Poor old Mark fell victim this time spewing several times, I pulled my little trick of a few travel sick tablets which soon knocked me out and sure enough I woke up, boat anchored and dinner ready.
The atmosphere was tense, would this new swell arrive and would we be man enough to paddle out, what size was our limit.
I was awake at 4.40 we had moved from our mooring in the bay and were making the 40 min ride round to our mooring at Maccas.
I dozed back off but was awake again at 5.15 and just got up, I hadn’t been having breakfast pre surf but I thought I might need some energy, last year I didn’t paddle out a Maccas so I wasn’t going to miss out again.
By the time the sun was coming up me, Wazza and Damien were sat in the line up, there was three other surfers out and by the time first light had broken I had already had a fat cover up.
I saw my first turtle of the trip, it looked fair sized and had popped its head up about 5 m away from where I was sat.
Thankfully it wasn’t as big as predicted, but it was big enough to get the adrenaline going when I went over the edge for my first wave, I pulled onto a good 7ft face and stayed high despite every part of me wanting to head straight down and bottom turn and I was rewarded with the lip spitting right out over me, I had been stalling to get as deep in the pit as possible but released just in time to gun it out of the barrel and fly down the vertical wall building to my left. I was very lucky Milk Bodyboards had kindly pulled out all stops and shaped a custom board for me to bring on the trip, PP core, with double stringer and mesh, perfect for the tropics, it was so responsive I fucking loved it, without doubt my favourite board to date. Whenever I stalled and then released it created a projection through the board unlike any board I had owned before.
I can’t describe the feeling when everything disappears as a wave walls up and you are presented with a section in front of you, as the water wraps around the reef the wave jacks up in height and you get barrelled and make it out safely, it’s an intense experience.
The line up was super friendly there were about 25 guys out by 7.30 including all the boys from our boat but everyone was waiting there turn and I stayed in until 9.30 am, I was fucked.
I took a wave and then signalled to the boat to send the speed boat to pick me up, Gus and Rob got out with me and we just chilled for a while.
I got the camera out and took a few shots one of my other passions a bit of amateur surf photography, until I had seen too many nice ones coming through and got ready to paddle out again.
We knew the forecast was for howling onshore winds that afternoon so knew we had to make the most of it, we traded more waves but by 1 pm it was fucked so we made our way back to the boat for lunch.
Wazza put on this documentary the sea of darkness about the first charters of the mentawais it was pretty interesting, well worth a watch and we just fucked about on the boat.
We convinced Grattan to back flip off the top roof and he over cooked it and landed on his back, how we oooohhhed….
It was at this point in the trip I released what a great selection of world Bodyboarders we had on this trip, Brazil, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and the UK and what a great bunch of boys it was.
Then we cruised into the macaronis resort at 4 pm to try and get some WiFi to Reach our to loved ones.
Stevie was able to call home and got some unfortunate news, his step father had passed away as Stevie told the news a massive sadness spread over the boys, life can really suck sometimes and everyones thoughts turned to Stevie, Vanessa and their family.
It’s funny when you haven’t been on land for a while, when you do your body still feels like it’s at sea and you struggle for balance you rock and bob about, very strange sensation, the Maccas resort is very beautiful and we all enjoyed Just hanging out a bit.
We headed back to the boat for dinner and the food was on point once again, whilst the majority of the boys drank and chatted up on top deck, Gus, Mark, me and a couple of the indo crew watched inglorious bastards in anticipation of what we might wake up to in the morning.
I was awake at 5 again and we were still making our way back round to the mooring at Maccas, all charter boats always seek refuge in the night in safe spots either in bays or in shelter.
The open ocean can get pretty rough at times.
Before the sun was up me and Wazza were out in the line up, there was already 5 surfers, the wind was off shore and there were some double overhead sets rolling through.
Nothing quite wakes you up like pulling onto a big shoulder and then stalling waiting for that barrell to chew you up before you race the lip all the way to eventual safety.
I had two set waves and my adrenaline was sky high, once the rest of the boys joined us around 7.30 ish we all sat deep taking it in turns taking off, getting pitted and chasing the shoulder all the way to the end of the reef, I must have got out around 10.30 and my body was so sore.
Grattan was shredding this day showing his youth by dropping into all the bombs that came through.