Don’t ask the impossible
Why surf magazines can never say no to the Mentawais.
I know what you want to say. Another mag trip to the Mentawais. Another bunch of pro surfers in a boat re-visiting waves that have graced the pages of Tracks many times before. Maybe it’s all just an excuse for the editor to score an annual junket and get barrelled?
While it’s undeniable that the Mentawai* have been a frequently visited surf media hunting ground for over two decades, it is with good reason. The cluster of islands off the coast of West Sumatra is surfing’s Garden of Eden; a place of wonder and mystique, a dream factory where surfing fantasies are made real every day. Every season surfers eschew other expenditures so that they can scrape together the funds to ride a few glorious waves in the Mentawais.
Before I embarked on this most recent trip I was out in mushy waves at the local when a lineup regular turned to me with wild-eyed excitement and shouted, “Have you seen Crammy’s Instagram shot at HT’s?” Richard Cram had just ridden one of the best waves of the season and the Insta photo had almost made him more famous than his limp-wristed cutback in the movie The Performers back in the 80s. What struck me most however was the raw enthusiasm of the local talking about the shot. He was a veteran of upteen Mentawai trips and it was obvious that the islands still existed as his ultimate source of stoke.
When professional surfers arrive in the Ments, it marks the meeting of bold forces. If you take a handful of the world’s most gifted surfers and place them in the planet’s premier waves then the results are always going to be riveting. The best surfing in any given year does not get done on the WCT or in Hawaii, it happens in the Ments because the waves facilitate it. As a multi-media surf brand that’s simply too hard to ignore. To not go would be like a sports channel turning its back on Wimbledon. So we invite the surfers and the cameramen and set the scene for a spectacular free-surfing odyssey.
This issue, our feature The Realm, chronicles our most recent Mentawai sojourn. Hopefully it reminds you how lucky we are as surfers to have a place on earth like the Mentawais to enjoy. For a cinematic perspective on the same trip jump on Tracksmag.com and search for the clip The Realm.
For anyone still doubting the capacity of the Mentawais to place you under its spell, check out our story Under the Sumatran Sun in which Mentawai pioneer, Matt Cruden, chronicles his 25-year-love affair with the region. Matt’s Mentawai memoir will definitely leave you questioning whether or not you have committed to the path which demands the best of yourself.
While most of us are content to roam from wave to wave in the Ments, like kids in Disneyland trying out all the rides, there will always be those who seek to probe a little deeper. John Barton’s intriguing journey up river on the island of Siberut brings him to contact with a Mentawai tribe determined to preserve their customs as the developed world continues to encroach upon their mysterious jungle existence.
So before you quickly jump to accuse us of mindlessly returning to the Mentawai islands, of lacking imagination when it comes to travel destinations and of exploiting the job to serve our own ‘hollow’ interests, pause for a second and ask yourself honestly. Would you be able to turn your back on somewhere as somewhere as magical as the Mentawais?
* Strictly speaking the Mentawai (no “s”) is the correct reference for the island chain, but the Mentawais has become an entrenched part of he surfing vernacular. Both versions are used throughout the issue.
A surfer in the Mentawai’s just a few strokes away from making his surfing fantasy a reality.