Riding waves. My Indo primer.

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Indo changed me. I know now that I will be a surfer for the rest of my life. Maybe always a shitty surfer, but who cares? I can’t get enough of the rush of the drop and the beauty of this liquid landscape that only exists for fractions of a second before collapsing into foam.

Chapter 1: Nias. At the bottom of the food chain

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Arrival in Sorake, Nias after five flights and three hours drive. My first glance at one of the world’s finest rights. Not that it would have been a suitable wave for me.

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Aloha Surf Camp. In the background, “indicators”. If Sorake already was a wave way to heavy to for me, this one is too heavy for most of the surfers that handle Sorake well: It breaks right on the reef.

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Doesn’t mean nobody can ride it, but it didn’t happen very often. Local Anthony in a display of balls of steel and ability.

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The early bird catches the wave. With the wave within 3min walk from most guesthouses, the peak gets crowded easily.

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Sorake explodes after another barrel ride. Having a wave crash on my head and getting held under for two waves on a bigger day wasn’t exactly fun. Have you ever had to use our leash to find the way up? Lesson: Choose waves you can handle.

The wave in Nias is famous among surfers. It is one of the world’s finest right-hander barrels. Since the reef over which it breaks is – despite an earthquake that lifted it by a foot in 2005 – relatively deep under water, it is also considered a pretty safe wave to get wiped out by. Unless the waves are eight feet or more, and the arriving wave sucks up all the water in front of it as it jacks up, it is difficult to hit the reef very hard.

As I experienced, it doesn’t mean you don’t touch it at all, and it doesn’t mean at all that a wipe-out is an enjoyable experience at Nias. In fact, it was the first time since I picked up surfing about a year ago that I had two follow the advice of big wave surfers in case a wave holds you down:

  1. Stay calm, no matter what
  2. If you don’t know where up is, open your eyes and look for the light; or grab your leash and pull yourself along on it – on the other side of it is something that floats much better than you: your surfboard. (To be fair, this method is only necessary if the water is so murky or dark that you cannot discern up and down by the light.)

I had the pleasure of not making it out quick enough against the incoming set. As I desperately tried to pierce through the glassy wall, I was picked up together with my board and violently twisted around by the angrily curling lip of the wave. I have seen this happen to others from a safe distance, it looks as if you put somebody into a washing machine in tumbling mode. What follows is a long time of that tumbling mode, already before it loses its steam completely, I felt an urge to fill my lungs with oxygen again. Being still way under water and without orientation, I recurred to nr 1 and nr 2. When I finally poked my head out of the whitewater, my surroundings looked as if an atomic bomb had flattened everything in its way. Worse: I had no clue where the shore and where the next wave was. I turned around, and there was the next wave of the set, ready to crush right on my head. I barely had time to take one more desperate breath, and down I was again. Tumbler. Stay calm. Grab leash. Pull.

What have I learned from this experience: There are beginner, intermediate and expert waves for a reason. Nevertheless, I managed to ride the famous Nias wave, if only for a very, very short time.

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This is what Nias is famous for in the world of surfing.

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Activities in Nias are limited. Ping Pong was a fan favourite. But hey, what else does a (good) surfer need when he has a world class barrel out his doorstep every day?

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Bintang time with the Brazilians.

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Other evening pass times involve chewing bethel nuts. Locals do it all the time and lose their gingiva and teeth over it. It gives you a bright red tongue and a short rush to the head, similar to your first cigarette when you were fifteen.

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The smell of Indo is: Burning wood and a bit of burning plastic. In Bali, add incense sticks.

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Driving around with my scooter in Western Nias revealed a still very rural culture and landscape almost untouched by international tourism. As the grave left of the road suggests, the island of Nias is dominated by Christian faith.

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Many people live from cultivating rice. Some house don’t have electricity.

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Evil powers are everywhere, even if you don’t see them. Or too late, like in this case.

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One of the inhabitants of the neighboring house, a local brothel, enjoys the sun.

Chapter 2: Bali. Return to civilization.

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Old Man’s Beach. Can’t not be blown away by the liveliness of this place after almost two weeks in Nias. And girls! There were only about 3 three Western girls in Nias… in total.

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Finally I could surf again in the mellow waves of hipster-capital Canggu after the brutal wipeouts in Nias.

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Every village, every family has their own temple on Bali. Even the wave at Old Man’s has one.

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Canggu, hipster capital of the island. Ride a stylish retro motorbike instead of a crappy scooter. Make sure you have a respective driving license though, Bali cops are known to rip off innocent tourists.

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Cruising around Bali with my personal imstagram reporter Ottavia.

Chapter 3: Lombok. Surf till you drop

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Lombok. Home to pirates and thieves. Even these days, you are warned not to drive at night. A 17-year old guy supposedly got his hand chopped off by a machete for holding on to his scooter some years ago.

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Your typical indo gas station.

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Wave taxi.

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Grupuk Inside.

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Sunset session.

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The takeoff, the source of the addiction I guess.

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There you go

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User-friendlyness. Don-don was perfect when I got there, absolute laboratory conditions for somebody my level. I was the fourth guy in the water.

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Anthony going big.

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Morning session in Grupuk inside with the crew.

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Grupuk by night.

So, can you really surf now, Gipsy Banker?

No. But I have some fun already. Just have a look for yourself…

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I think one board was 7.6 and the other 8 feet. (In Costa Rica I still rode a 9.6…)

 

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Indonesia, you will be missed.

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Don’t be sad buddy

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I’ll be back!

 

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