As I am about to write the full chronicle of our recent adventure in South Sumatra, I search #sumatra in my personal Notes app. I find this quick list of places and names of the surf world I had stitched together on September 20th, 2014.
Carissa Moore, Gerupuk, Lisa Anderson, Desert Point, and then Krui Sumatra, is in there, at the very bottom. I had never opened this list ever since. Judging by the date, I wrote this on my very first trip to Indo. I knew almost nothing about the surfing universe, and could barely catch waves. I bet I had found all these names in a surf magazine left on the coffee table of a cool Canggu store.
Eight years later it’s funny to see how things have gone full circle. These names aren’t foreign no more.
As you might know, Indonesia is one of those place you’ll most likely find yourself gravitating back towards many times in your life. Especially if you are in love with surfing. Every time, a different story. This archipelago known as the mecca of surfing, with hundreds and hundreds of waves to be explored.
// Getting There
Sept. 2022 ~ Somewhere in the Indian Ocean
Our trip in the Maldives is coming to an end. After 10 days spent living on a boat, surfing twice a
day and feeding on curry, tuna and more curry, time to step back onto land and head separate ways.
There are 4 out of the 12 crew members who decide to keep travelling together.
There is Aline, one of my best mates from Brazil, and 7-time national champ in stand-up paddle surf. Raquel, our young protégée, also from Brazil, 19 years old, already surfing better than I ever will. It’s her first big trip and it’s magical to experience the world through her eyes. Everything is so novel and new. And last but not least, Kelly J. One of the most funny, smart, easy-going, and caring guys I’ve been given the opportunity to meet. You cannot not like Kelly. And Kelly is unafraid of travelling with 3 girls.
So here we are: the charter boat drops us off the main island of north Maldives. We’ve got each other, and we’ve got our surfboards. But no game-plan . And we all agreed on going to Indonesia next. I want to go left. That’s my main criteria.
Meaning, I want to go anywhere where there is long and beautiful left-hander wave.
There are few legendary lefts in Indonesia, of course. Some are extremely shallow. Some are extremely crowded. Some are hard to reach. Some get windy early. Some are so gnarly I don’t want to risk loosing my teeth….
But I had heard of this area, Krui, in the southern part of Sumatra. 7 hours of the closest domestic airport, but apparently worth the ride.
We all get on the google search “how to get to”.
And then more search on the flights from Maldives to Indonesia.
Boom. We find a deal and a route that doesn’t take us 72 hours via the whole asian continent.
BUT, this flight is in only 16 hours from now.
We look at each other… well.. let’s go?
Bye bye Maldives, hello Indonesia.
We make our way to Jakarta. We now need a domestic flight to this tiny little airport of Sumatra. The kind of flight you buy directly at the airport, as if you’d buy a bus ticket. Although a foreign concept to us, buying a ticket directly at the airport is what lots of local people still do.
The boards. The bags. The kids. —We were on for a flight 3 hours later.
Jakarta to Bandar Lampung, where a taxi is expected us to drive 7 hours through the Sumatran jungle to destination.
// SONDER: the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own, in which you might appear only once.
We are rolling through Sumatra. It’s a huge island — the biggest island fully owned by Indonesia and in which Bali could fit about 80 times…!
Indonesia has 18000 islands and 6000 of them are inhabited. I don’t know how to explain, but it’s wild, how many people are living life, although miles away – literally and metaphorically – from our own.
It gives one perspective you know. How significant and yet completely insignificant we are in 8 billion people.
It’s good to be back in Indo. It brings a lot of memories to surface.
Bahasa language. IndoMart. Bengs-Bengs. The smell of durian and Sampoernas. The way-too-thin napkins which are always insufficient with how much your nose runs from the spicy food….
We have arrived.
// Is this even real life?
Journal entry | September 11, 2022
We surfed this crystal blue barrelling left this morning. Just us.
It was I think the clearest water I’ve ever experienced. I could see the colours of the corals with my bare eyes, the channels in the reef.
The way this wave was peeling, you could almost hear it whistle. sssssssssss
Not a single building in sight along the whole coast line. Kilometers of jungle stretching over mountains in the backdrop. Unbelievable that this is even part of the same planet as the pines and icy lands I’m from.
Oh and yesterday? As the sun was setting on the water on one side, a gigantic double rainbow got drawn on the other. The colourful arc appeared so close, that it felt like we could almost touch it.
I stretched my arms up.
Turtles came popping their heads out.
Everyone was bathing in the golden hour light. Unreal, but real.
I took mental pictures click.click.
Trying to encapsulate the show Mother Earth was putting on.
Wish you could see it too.
How much more beauty than chaos
There is down under.
There is no coffee on the road
I think as I wake up
no Starbucks. no order window as we know it
and we see.
I didn’t sleep well.
I was getting swamped by mosquitos.
Never go thinking you’re too small to make a difference…
5:35am our local friend Bram is here.
“SURFING SURFING. Let’s go guys!”
We are heading North, there’s swell.
And well, when there is, there is. You don’t question your participation.
You back your tote bag and you hope your brain lands in your skull later.
And you hope even more fully, you don’t forget your balls and all of your bravery.
You’ll sure need them on a big day.
“Not all men, have balls the size of a woman.” – Janne Robinson
We’re heading to this wave called Honey Smack.
Sis, I swear to Gawd, when I saw the wave I thought: Hell no! I’m not dipping a toe in.
Next thing you know, the two other girls and me are paddling out. lol.
It’s a big, powerful left slab. Just this monstrous amount of water that folds over reef creating a pretty deep barrel. It’s a short ride, but a sure shot of high adrenaline.
We are hanging out in the channel – a zone where the wave doesn’t really hit – and I swear my heart beats as fast as if I’m running a marathon.
Breathe in your belly. Breathe in your belly. I keep telling myself. Long slow exhale.
My hands are trembling. I’m here for it, that is why we travel so far and remote, but also, wtf am I doing here while I could be let’s say, cycling on a sunny day like most people do…
But I’m here.
Aline has made her way into position. She is stand up paddle boarding, let’s remember. I don’t think I’ll ever understand how she does it, even on flat water.
The set comes, she paddles with all her strength and off she goes, on an absolute bomb.
I’m clapping my trembling hands. I am so impressed by this woman, and it’s quite frankly so cool to see your mate catch a big wave, in the front row. For me she is the definition of courageous. She knows how to calculate her risk, she is patient, powerful, respectful, and well, what would appear as fearless.
Aline grew up surfing. Her from Brazil, me from Canada, we are pretty much from the opposite poles. It’s beautiful to think how we grew a friendship, meeting halfway, in El Salvador a few years back. I am so thankful we get to travel the world together. She elevates me, and gives me courage. If she can, I can. She leads the way, and is constantly showing me, and anyone lucky enough to witness her doing her thing, what is actually possible. She is showing the world that “not all men have balls the size of a woman’.
// If you go I go. If you can I can.
This is why you surf with friends that are more experienced than you.
Watching Aline go for it is amazing, until I realize that well… I’m next in line!
Sweet baby Jesus, LFG!
I feel my heart drop like in an elevator. I’m terrified with the idea of kissing the shallow reef. I don’t want to die today. I kick out, I don’t care if that’s the only wave I get today.
(Joke. I instantly want another one)
That day, the adventures continued, we explored more waves, Kelly and I went to surf a random wave that was absolutely dangerous, but thanks to our blissful innocence we didn’t realized it before we were already in there. I got lucky, Kels a little less.
Quite frankly, it really is a question of luck at this point. Because it’s not *if* but *when* you are going have to pay your “PLAY TAX“. We try to laugh it out as long as it’s just superficial damage. Tiger scratches.
Krui is Indo as we remember it, as we picture it. Raw, real, savage, crystal blue, friendly, simple. It’s an awake dream. So much more beauty than chaos. Don’t wake me up — unless there’s a swell.