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Published: April 13th 2017
You would think I'd learn but it seems some people in this world are a bit slow on the uptake. This was my 9th foray into the group of islands off Sumatra's west coast so it's not as if I was sucker punched by the heat and humidity a degree or so from the equator. Yet despite all previous experience and everybody else's advice to slowly ween myself onto the surf, the moment I set eyes on those waves, the "go hard or go home" ethos overrode pragmatism.
Caught up in a haze of fantasy, the first full day involved 2 x 3 hour sessions beneath a flat equatorial blaze. 6 hours and during a forced leisurely paddle back to the boat anchored in the channel, it was time for a flashback. Last year, an acquaintance from Cronulla, albeit a few years riper than myself, had over-exerted himself on day 1 in the exact same neck of the woods. He only made it halfway back up the boat's ladder before ....... home in a pine box. Not a bad way to go but ....
Obviously I didn't suffer the same fate as I'm penning this blog now. However that
evening the day's events caught up. 60 may be the new 50 but at the dinner table of our digs in Kandui Villas, 60 felt like the new 80. Exhausted, body as tight as a snare drum, leaking plenty of blood from an unscheduled excursion onto the coral reef and a size 10 head in a size 9 skin. That same head, glowing red, was used as a beacon by my 11 highly amused companions to guide them through the dark back to our bungalows. I think even my teeth were sunburnt. Thank you sales guy back in Cronulla: "Mate, this is best water resistant sun protection money can buy".
So rather than ween myself onto the surf, I weened myself off, shaving the water time down to a more civilised 4ish hours a day. Not so simple when the waves are served up on a platter around the clock. Surf-wise, this region just doesn't quit.
At any given time on any given day during our week and a half stint at least one spot in the near vicinity was the stuff of magazine covers. Indonesian surf is the real deal, the definition of consistency.
well it was on tap as the number of surfers scouring the Indonesian archipelago is inching ever closer to saturation. Particularly so with the contemporary science that is swell prediction. Forget crystal balls and tea leaves. Modern day swell forecasters have the arrival of new waves down to the hour. As a result, the bush telegraph has surfers zeroing into these islands from all parts of the globe as reports of "the swell of the century" (I think we had the 5th and 6th swells of the century this year) starts hitting the pages of surf forecast sites. We met Brazilians who spent 3 days on the plane/boat/automobile merry-go-round to this isolated corner of the globe. 3 days of surfing then follow the bread crumbs for a further few days back to Rio and Sao Paulo. Now that's commitment. I assume they must also be rather well-healed for such hedonistic self-indulgence.
Charter yachts also start to materialise from the ether. We awoke one morning and 5 had appeared from seemingly nowhere, bobbing languidly in the channels prepped for the new swell. Two days later and hey presto, gone, off to a new set of islands in the chain.
Then there are the ever-increasing number of land based surf camps, like ours, that are popping up amongst the palm trees everywhere. Out in the water, the otherwise spiritual silence is overlaid by an omnipresent background soundtrack of boat engines zipping from one break to the next. A little more crowded than last year, a little less crowded than next year.
We still managed plenty of solo sessions but in today's ambience it requires a few smoke and mirror tactics to shake the rest of the surfing world. This sport has become way too popular globally.
By the final day, the body had acclimatised to something akin to its 60 year old status quo. This in turn led to a conundrum. With yet another new swell of the century pounding the islands, one particular alpha male reef was flaunting its machismo. I had one eye on the distressingly masculine nature of the waves and the razor coral menacing just below the surface, another eye on my birth certificate, which in turn led to my third eye pointing south towards the toilet bowl. With the bravado springing a few leaks, I observed the fine line between cavalier and sanity.
Descretion the better part of valour or purse carrying Nancy Boy? Whatever the take, with tail between the legs, I nursed my bruised dignity back to the more orthodox waves at "Cowards Corner Reef".
At least I made it home roughtly in one piece with the hope of scribing another blog a decade or so down the track, something along the lines of 70 being the new 60. My day of reckoning can wait.
More images @ www.colvinyeates.zenfolio.com
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Glad discretion was still the best part of valour!
D MJ Binkley
Dave and Merry Jo Binkley
This looks and sounds amazing. Such Nice photography.