Beyond the stormy boat ride and the wild pig BBQ, the real point to coming all the way here was obviously to surf impeccable waves. But we would be lying if we didn’t admit that this idea also came with a lot of apprehension. Why? Well, let’s just say that the Mentawai islands aren’t really known for their friendly mellow rides.
Out of the water, this place might look like a cotton-candy paradise, but in reality, taking a trip to the Ments means signing-up for heavy-duty waves… Yes, waves are legendary and almost mechanical, but that is because they powerfully break in shallow water over an unforgiving reef bottom. Because we aren’t super experienced, those waves are a huge gamble: we can win big and score waves we never ever thought we would get to ride OR casually miss our take-off and get dragged over the corals real bad, donating a fair share of skin and blood to the marine life. Sometimes we wish we would have rather chosen to be Monopoly fanatics…
THE FIRST DAY
6AM- The alarm rings, and from our window-less window, we can hear the sound the ocean; we can tell it’s huge.
We order many cups of Kopi (coffee) and start waxing our ‘big’ boards — a longer board with more volume allows you to get more speed at take-off and therefore gives you more chance to catch big waves. On the negative side, it means these boards are less agile than our shorties.
The boys that have been here for a while give us a briefing:
“Okay, so the sets here comes from three different angles. It is not predictable, and therefore you should never find yourself farther in than this little house. Secondo, at all costs, you want to avoid ‘The Surgeon Table‘. This is a ten-square-metre patch of very very shallow water / elevated reef. If you don’t pass the first section of the wave properly, you are going to end up straight on it. If you exit the wave too late, see how the water folds there, well you are also going straight onto The Table. But don’t worry, it’s easy, take the wave at this place, don’t fall, and get out before the last sketchy section… If you fuck it up, do the starfish and always protect you head.”
Us: (With a terrified face) “Ah, yah, ok. Hum, hum, easy…”
Damn it! Sometimes, we feel like people don’t understand what it is like to still be poorly experienced adult surfers. We were born and raised inland after all! We don’t get to choose where we fall. We are still trying to figure out how to read the waves and how to have the right foot position. Sometimes (often) we do very weird shit and spectacular face-plant. At least, we’re giving a funny show… And we get to laugh at ourselves when we see the footage !
Anyway, we gather our women-balls, and stretch a little before going in. At least, the entry is pretty easy because there’s a channel — a corridor of deep water where no waves are breaking. As we arrive to the peak –well using the word “peak” is a bit ambitious, — we regroup, pause, and take the time to analyze the situation from afar. It is impressive, to say the least.
When the BOMB comes, while everyone is “fighting” to get it –paddling as fast as they can to be the first in position to catch it–, we are paddling our ass off on the shoulder to make sure it won’t break on us, smashing us as if we were cabbage patch dolls.
A little local surfer, Dany, shows up and says: “Maybe too big for you today”…
Ah yeah, thanks for giving us confidence, buddy!
The minute later, the set arrives and he starts screaming towards us:“Paddle, Paddle, Paddle! GO! GO! GO!”
Waiiiit whattt ???!!! So one second you’re telling me I shouldn’t be here, and the other you’re telling me to paddle for that gigantic mass of water? Sure, why not?! Let me just call my mom say I might not be coming home tonight.
We finally managed to break the ice and to our own surprise, we all caught a few big mamas on the first day. MC ended up smashing her board, but it was worth it. Game was on!
Here is Israel, M-C’s boyfriend, showing us how to get barrelled.
“If it scares the shit out of you and excites you at the same time, it probably means you should do it.”
We ended up staying at this spot for fourteen days, surfing every day. There isn’t a day we entered the water without feeling our heart pounding inside our chests. The fear is always there, and it never really goes away, especially when you are surfing a spot with a razor-blade bottom. On smaller days, the wave breaks closer to the reef, which doesn’t make it easier.
But why do we do this ?! One who probably say that we are a little crazy – masochist or suicidal maybe – to voluntarily choose to risk to get injured rather regularly. The normal adult never gets to scratch himself as much as we do out there. Sometimes your leash gets all tangled around your ankles or neck. Other times, your board or someone else’s hits you like a missile. Sometimes it hurts in ways that are not physically visible, like when our body gets to bend in ways you didn’t even thought was possible, or when you get held under water for what feels like forever. Are we conscious of the danger? Yes, I guess so… But at the same time we can’t focus on that if we ever wanna catch a wave. It is part of the game. You can get into a car crash while driving to the grocery store… That doesn’t stop much people from driving. But thank the lord we have a travel insurance covering our ass.
But then again, when the world decides to spin in your favour, the rush is SO big, that there is no more need to understand the why…! There is something unexplainable about surfing — and maybe it applies to every extreme sport; adrenaline. The first instant when you make the drop, you feel your heart in suspension, a little like in an elevator ride. And as you land and find your feet, you are present, absolutely nothing else matter in this moment, it all goes very fast and very slow at the same time. You are feeling the power of the ocean, as you are sliding down its face. When you look down, you can see the coral sprinting under your board — don’t you fucking fall, you think! — You rise back up and make a turn. Wooooshhhh. And it just keeps going. You are dancing hand in hand with Mother Nature and it makes it all worth it. EVERY LITTLE SCRATCH.
When the sun finally sets, we all say: let’s just catch one last one…
Ah! Never ever trust a surfer that says is going to catch just one more.
Surfing is the most addictive thing we have ever experienced. It is an insatiable thirst, and just like any drug, you’ll always need a bigger / more powerful dose to get your fix.
This is WHY we had to venture to the most Western parts of Indonesia and put our peach skin on the (surgeon) table. To get our damn fix of salt.