Photos: © Red Bull Media House | Jenya Ivkov
By Jason Polakow
It has been quite some time since my last trip to Indonesia and I’ve been looking into a new adventure in this part of the world ever since. I have never really figured out where the best location might be as there are so many islands within the Indonesian belt that all have potential, but to find the right island that has the perfect balance between wind and swell is the real challenge. Traveling to remote locations that do not have a reliable source of intel is always a stressful time for me. The stress does not come from the time spent traveling but the investment in resources that it takes to pull off a big project in a remote area. Looking at maps constantly only gets you so far, before you have to decide, should I stay, or should I go!
Unfortunately, I cannot disclose the location of the island I went too, as the local crew would not take kindly to their spot being publicized, so my apologizes on not divulging the exact location.
So here’s how the story goes :
After 4 flights, a car ferry and a long taxi drive I finally arrived at my destination after 4 days of travel.
My first view of the ocean did not come till I was dumped on the road from the airport bus in a remote village. It was low tide and I could see about 700 meters of dry reef with tiny waves breaking on the outside.
The local people who help out surfers in this area were not used to all my oversize bags. All the surfers rent scooters with side racks for their surfboards. I needed something bigger and after walking with my gear along the road for about half hour, one of the local stores had a 3 wheeled motor bike with a loading box on the back that I later found out was used for garbage runs. It was the perfect solution for transporting my gear and after negotiating with 7 local Indonesians, I had my ride for the week.
The next obstacle was trying to find a boat big enough for all my equipment and that could motor outside the reef and check other passes in the reef. All the small boats stay inside the reef so I had to find a large fishing boat that would be willing to venture outside the reef and close to the surf. There are some motorized tin boats for the surfing camps, but they are full of surfers and don’t travel to the windy locations that I wanted to check out. I rented a small wooden canoe with a guide that spoke English and together we paddled from fishing boat to fishing boat trying to get someone help me. After about an hour of paddling and chatting with the local fisherman we found a fishing-boat big enough that would accept my terms. The boat itself was super sketchy and probably about 40 years old. The guy would spray a fuel cocktail into the carburetor to get the old girl fired up and the captain steered the boat with two pieces of rope that were tied to the keel. I was loving it!
The next day before the swell we spend the day looking at passes in the reef and trying to figure out the best location to windsurf. By the end of the day I had picked about 3 possible locations including one of the main spots the surfers go. We also had to consider where to put the photographers to keep them safe as the exposed reefs on low tide fill up with water quickly, especially with a pumping new ground swell. I went to sleep that night nervous and hoping it would all work out.
By first light I could see the swell hitting the outside reef. It looked to be good size and myself and the film crew shuttled from the canoes on the shore-line out to the fishing boats that were moved in deeper waters. We motored straight to a location that was on the top of my list. A few surfers were already out and I could see instantly, there was no need to check my other locations out. Perfect 6 to 8 foot waves peeled for an eternity down this reef and there seemed to be 3 main sections to this wave. Surfers were getting sick waves but they had trouble connecting all the sections to this wave, primarily due to the speed and distance between each of the sections. I was basically looking at the most perfect windsurfing wave ever. I could not believe my luck. This almost never happens. I started to freak out on the boat and I could not wait to hit the water.
I rigged on the boat, jumped into the water and was in the line-up in minutes. I could instantly tell that it was almost straight offshore making conditions very gusty. This coupled with very light winds made this location a battle all day long to catch the right waves, but I’ve sailed many locations around the world like this, so for me it was just another day.
To consistently catch waves, I found that one of the best ways was to be out of my straps and wait right at the bottom of the breaking wave. I would get sucked up the face of the wave and as it broke I would then air drop down the wave and shuffle my feet into the straps. It sounds impossible but the wave itself was quite a soft wave, so doing this type of take-off was actually super fun. The only drawback to this was you had to be in exact perfect spot. If you were too far outside and the lip did not catch the board you would peel out the back or if you were to far inside you would get hit, resulting in a very long swim and even longer walk on the reef to get back out to the channel and into the line-up.
The best waves were the ones that had a long wall that looked like they would close-out. The best setup was to catch them at the top of the reef and if your speed and timing was right you could make all the way down the reef, passing the 3 sections and gybe safely into the channel.
I had my mojo going by midday and I was getting a few turns at the top section of the reef then I would blast about 100 meters down to the mid section where the wave had its best wall and shape. You could bust a few airs and hacks, then blast another 100 meters down to the last section where you would still have a good wall to air or slash off a few times. I had so much fun trying to time each of the sections perfectly, so I would arrive at each part of the wave at exactly the right time.
Picture: Red Bull – Ivkov | click to enlarge & download wallpaper
Some of my rides were so long I was getting tired towards the end of the ride and once you pulled off into the channel the top of the reef was at least 500 meters away. Due to the offshore winds I could hug the line-up all the way to the top of the reef and tack at any point along the reef to catch waves that would pop along my journey upwind. It was actually so offshore I could sail from the channel to the reef starboard tack. Not ideal wind direction but still good enough for me to have a blast.
At one point during the day I was almost able to catch every big set and then get back into the lineup within minutes. This is one of the reasons I love windsurfing. We can catch so many perfect waves and put ourselves in the perfect spot every time. When you only get one epic day you want to maximize your time and windsurfing is the perfect tool for that job. Some of the view-points I had during my day would never be seen by a surfer. Being so deep and looking way down the line to your next point of entry is the best feeling in the world!
At times I was the only person in the line-up, watching these perfect waves go unridden. Equally as weird is catching any wave you want at anytime. Being so used to jostling for position with paddle surfers, SUP guys and kite surfers, it’s really a big component to what we do on the water. But here on this lonely reef all that is gone. It’s such a great feeling to just concentrate on waves alone.
By the end of day I had put in six straight hours on the water and there was still enough light to catch more but I was just too tired.
We all celebrated that night with a couple of Bin-Tangs at the bar and very happy we scored epic conditions.