Nothing makes sense about the journey. We pass over Padang twice before we land there. We watch the 40 boards (for 11 of us) being thrown like firewood on the tarmac at Jakarta. The streets of Padang are a sight that few of us are expecting: a kind of chaos that seems to flow against reason. Like a waterfall flowing uphill.
Monkeys dissect fruit on the roadside and people move about like scooter-enhanced drones. Weaving, taking risks and living a life on the edge with a cage load of chickens riding pillion.
The port is not exactly confidence inspiring. Half-sunk boats grind against the wharf, wearing their hulls away in the tidal surges like forgotten allies to lofty dreams.
We grovel for two whole days in airports and on trains with a ridiculous amount of boards. Eventually they are decanted into a runabout along with our baggage … and there is finally a sense of arrival.
The Mahogany is styled on an Indonesia fishing boat, but built for surfing. It immediately absorbs our 11 surfers. Despite the thunderstorm and torrential rain, Brett swiftly fills one of the two racks with his seven boards. They’re all brand new and I feel bad that I have some wax smears on my own JS Xero Easy Rider 6’1″. Bones has convinced me to mule his Raging Bull 6’1″ into Indonesia and I feel a bit of ownership for it as I wrench his fins into place.
As we start to thump out of the bay I chat with Chris Scurrah, who is the guru of the Mentawais and an owner of Sumatran Surfariis. He has spent more than 26 years immersed in the culture of Indonesia’s outer islands and exploring their waves. He’s a good man to have on board.
“So you’re the talkative one?” he chides me as he completes a set of 10 pull ups showing me a well-placed deck eave and his commitment to physical fitness.
“Yes, I guess I am,” is my best response. I bottle my myriad questions for a later moment.
He chuckles, knowing full well that my first time ever in the Mentawais is going to completely blow my mind.
I go to bed and struggle the entire night to contain my excitement as the Mahogany thumps through a complicated storm and sea state as it grinds 160km toward the Mentawai Islands. They’re a place that has lived in my imagination for 30 years.
How could reality ever live up to that?
Telescopes was named by Tom Carroll for its perfect telescope-like sections. We were probably more enamoured by it’s crystal clear water and the first day frothing lenses we all wore.
The 30°C water, the 30°C air temps, the boardies and rash shirts. Seriously, does it get any better than this?
Scuzz shows some of us a nearby break and we surf alone for the first time on solid walls that blow our minds. The sharp reef is ever-present in our minds as we avoid the boiling inside sections. The swell wanders around between a 2-3 foot playground and some 4-5 foot sets that amplify the fun.
We quickly learn that wherever this long-period swell is coming from it’s always full of surprises. I get caught inside on one faster than expected section and experience my first full set on the head. Trying to paddle back out through the sets is pointless and I get ragdolled multiple times until I start to question how many more I can take. The water is so aerated you can barely surface for a breath. And the whole time you’re trying to avoid touching the reef. It’s a complicated layer between the surface and the reef.
Eventually I learn to wash through with the sets and paddle out the easy way.
My shave was close, but it is Jeremy Petherick who manages to draw first blood. We still don’t know how he did it, but Jeremy, or Wal, as Darren Clarkson calls him for his Footrot Flats demeanour, disappeared to surf a shallow reef with two others (two very talented female longboarders it turns out). We can only assume he was showing off when he debarked his left shin.
It looks painful. Darren immediately has a Bintang in the hand of his childhood friend as he goes to work to prevent infection. Dr Dazza was quickly appointed the physician of the boat as a result.
We conclude the day with an evening of Bintangs, which just fuel our amp. This is paradise. I pinch myself … just to check.