BE­NEATH SU­MA­TRA SKIES

MATT CRU­DEN'S LOVE AF­FAIR WITH IN­DONE­SIA HAS AL­MOST KILLED HIM A COU­PLE OF TIMES, BUT HE'S NEVER LET GO

Tracks - - Contents - MATT CRU­DEN

In the early to mid 90s I was lucky enough to score a job as the cap­tain of a surf char­ter boat in a nascent surf­ing re­gion called the Mentawai is­lands. The boat was owned by Dave and Jan Hal­let and it was linked to the Surf Travel Co, which was run, in those days, by the in­trepid surfer, Paul King. This was a new area, when the Mentawai were still only a whis­pered Nir­vana amongst a select few. Many of the waves were still undis­cov­ered and there were only a few ded­i­cated surf char­ters in the ar­chi­pel­ago, and a cou­ple of those were around for just part of the sea­son. It was an amaz­ing time of dis­cov­ery where ev­ery­one was tight lipped about the waves, no­body dared tell any­one else what they had found, let alone where. I was skip­per­ing the Katika at the time and we had a GPS with a cover on it, so no guests could know the lo­ca­tion of where we were surf­ing. It was all top se­cret, mys­tery and ad­ven­ture. The early boat op­er­a­tors were not un­der the il­lu­sion that they were the first surfers in the re­gion of course. Our imag­i­na­tions were fu­elled by sto­ries cir­cu­lated about the hard­core over­land trav­ellers in the 80s and early 90s who had marched through the jun­gles and camped out look­ing for waves. I was lucky enough to meet a few of them years later while sail­ing the is­lands. For our guests back then it was un­de­ni­ably like go­ing to the re­motest cor­ner of the earth for two weeks at a time. This was an era pre-dat­ing mo­bile phones and in­ter­net so there was no con­tact what­so­ever to the out­side world; it was just us, the mys­te­ri­ous jun­gle­cov­ered is­lands and what seemed like an in­fi­nite num­ber of set ups

to ex­plore. We were on our own un­til we ar­rived back into port a few weeks later. Ob­vi­ously there were no read­ily ac­ces­si­ble web­site surf fore­casts either (which make us all fore­cast­ing ge­niuses these days). In­stead we’d lis­ten to the HF (SSB) ra­dio and draw our own In­dian Ocean syn­op­tic im­age based on the info we could glean from the re­ports. If you were re­ally lucky you had a weather fax con­nected to the ra­dio. Es­sen­tially it was a rough science that in­volved eye-balling the weather and waves right in front of you, cross-ref­er­enc­ing it with what­ever weather In­tel’ you could get and then mak­ing a cal­cu­lated guess about a four day pat­tern. For ex­am­ple, we’d surf Thun­ders when it was small and when it got to around 4-5 foot we’d drive out to sea and look at ex­actly what di­rec­tion the swell was com­ing from us­ing our ships com­pass and then make the call where we’d sail to from there. In those days there wasn’t much point go­ing any fur­ther than Mac­a­roni’s or Lance’s Right, which are now con­sid­ered two of the best waves in the world. I loved Mac­a­roni’s in par­tic­u­lar and in those early days I of­ten spent at least four days a week surf­ing it, usu­ally with just our boat there. When an­other boat showed up we were stoked, as it meant we had some­one to surf along­side and share beer and ban­ter with that night. It wasn’t the kind of op­u­lence at sea of­fered on boats these days. Most of the time all the guests slept on deck as we didn’t run gen­er­a­tors and hence there was no air con­di­tion­ing. If we had engine prob­lems, we al­ways seemed to man­age by re­vert­ing to good old-fash­ioned sail­ing to get us around. I soon fell in love with Su­ma­tra and the Mentawais and what I was do­ing. I knew dur­ing that first full sea­son, with­out a shred of doubt that this was my call­ing; that I had found my niche and my pas­sion. I fo­cused on be­ing the best I could at what I was do­ing be­cause I was res­o­lutely here to stay. De­ter­mined to have the courage of my con­vic­tions, at the end of the first surf­ing sea­son, I went straight across to Sulewesi to or­der some tim­ber for a boat build in the com­ing years. It had to be dried out be­fore it was suit­able for use, but that bought me some time to learn as much as I could about the is­land chain that had be­come my life’s pur­pose. The rapid growth of surf ad­ven­ture tourism meant the dream to get be­hind the helm of my own boat was re­alised ear­lier than I could of hoped for. With my knowl­edge of the Mentawai in de­mand, I part­nered up with a mate from Aus­tralia, Greg Spindler,

and to­gether we built the Man­galui Ndulu in the mid 90s. Twenty-five years ago the mo­ti­va­tion to build the Man­galui for two, young Ozzie guys was def­i­nitely not about busi­ness, it was a ven­ture de­signed to put us be­hind the wheel of our own boat, so that we could go surf­ing and en­joy as many tubes as pos­si­ble – noth­ing more, noth­ing less. The way we fig­ured the only thing we had to do to ful­fil this dream was to take eight other surfers along with us to pay for the jour­ney. For many years ev­ery sin­gle cent went back into our beloved Man­galui, in or­der to get it to the stan­dard it’s at to­day. The boat build was an amaz­ing ad­ven­ture in and of it­self. We trav­elled all the way from Su­ma­tra across to Sulewesi. This is the Spice Is­lands as it was known in the early 17th cen­tury when the Dutch East Indies Trad­ing Com­pany (one of the first pub­lic ship­ping com­pa­nies formed in the world) sent trad­ing ves­sels there to claim the mo­nop­oly on nut­meg and other spices. At the time, the Dutch were so ob­sessed with se­cur­ing a tiny is­land named ‘Run’ that they even­tu­ally gave Man­hat­tan Is­land, which of course be­came New York, to the British in ex­change for the small, nut­meg pro­duc­ing is­land in In­done­sia. This is also where the real sailors of In­done­sia are based, the Orang Makkasar and Bugis (peo­ple). I love the his­tory of this ship­build­ing re­gion, where the unique skills are passed down through the gen­er­a­tions – no build­ing plans for the hull are re­quired and tra­di­tion­ally no elec­tric power tools are used. Over time the re­gion be­came a cru­cial stopover for tall sail­ing ships and ad­ven­tur­ers like Cap­tain Bligh who would head south to the lower lat­i­tudes, then set a course east, run­ning with the roar­ing for­ties un­til a cal­cu­lated lon­gi­tude was reached, be­fore head­ing north­ward again to­ward Batavia (Jakarta) and then onto the Spice Is­lands to fill the empty hulls with cargo. To this day, this area of Sulewesi is the only place in the world where they are still build­ing gen­uine cargo sail­ing ships (with no en­gines). Based on the tra­di­tional boats of cen­turies past they are still used to sell pro­duce and ferry cargo back and forth on the North/South track across the Java Sea be­tween Kal­i­man­tan, Sulewesi and Java. Greg and I spent a full year on the boat­build­ing project, most of it in the jun­gles of re­mote Sulewesi, with some time ded­i­cated to sourc­ing ma­te­ri­als from the larger cities of Jakarta and Ujung Pan­dang. For the Man­galui, we elected to go with the tra­di­tional, beau­ti­ful shape of the bugis hull, how­ever we added a few west­ern touches such as a flat­ter deck, round ca­noe stern and also the larger bal­lasted keel. These hulls are de­signed to be car­ry­ing cargo. Although we are only car­ry­ing eight surfers, their boards and a bunch of Bin­tangs, we need to add a bit of bal­last to de­liver that same smooth ride that the fully laden, cargo sail­ing ships have. Our keel was made of four huge pieces of the num­ber one grade tim­ber avail­able and we used big, home­made cop­per bolts to hold them to­gether. We also chis­elled out the tim­ber blocks for the keel and filled them with lead, which we melted down on site with a fire and huge wok; em­ploy­ing the same method they would have used in the West cen­turies be­fore. This was all good in the­ory, our larger keel was go­ing to make the Man­galui a beau­ti­ful sail­ing ship, but the only thing we didn’t

re­ally take into ac­count was the launch­ing pro­ce­dure. The fun re­ally be­gan when it was time for launch­ing her on the big spring tide, about a year after work had be­gun. Tra­di­tion­ally these sail­ing cargo ships are made with just one large piece of iron-wood along the bot­tom as the keel. To launch they sim­ply slide the boat into the wa­ter, await the big­ger tides to get the boat across the fring­ing rib­bon of reef along the front of the beach, and into deeper wa­ter. For the Man­galui we used the same tra­di­tional tech­nique with the side stilts (three up­rights bolted to the hull each side with feet bolted to those), so the boat couldn’t fall over, and our big keel in the mid­dle. How­ever, when got her down to the wa­ter and found that it wasn’t float­ing her as the hull or the belly of the ship wasn’t in the wa­ter enough as the keel was too high. We nudged our way out across the reef around a me­tre per day. When the tide was high we had con­stant pres­sure to­ward the sea with a line se­cured from the bow out to sea around a bomby and back to a co­conut tree, with an end­less chain (block and tackle) and a team of guys pulling. We also had about 50 empty 200 litre drums and bam­boo strapped un­der the belly of the boat for ex­tra flota­tion and the main engine revving with the prop turn­ing as well. We made two ex­tra legs, bolted to each side of the bow that were angling for­ward. We would use block and tackle on these with divers on the front legs to lift the hull and then as it lifted the whole ship would lurch for­ward around 1/2 me­ter or so. We could only work on the high tide and then we’d pre­pare dur­ing the low tides. This went on for al­most two months, work­ing ev­ery high tide (day and night) with about 12-15 men as we lit­er­ally crawled the ves­sel across the reef. Slow and steady as we go, these guys are masters of mov­ing big heavy things with­out ma­chin­ery – us­ing block and tackle, co­conut trees and the mind. I’ll never for­get the day she floated, off that reef, away from all those bloody sea urchins. Yee­haaa she was afloat. One of the defin­ing mo­ments of my life. We were so stoked and ea­ger to go that when we sailed off to­ward Su­ma­tra it was ac­tu­ally our test run for the engine. We

fig­ured we could sail if we had prob­lems with engine, which of course, we did, but that’s an­other story. Weeks later we made it to Padang after our first great ad­ven­ture on the Man­galui. Greg and I ran the boat to­gether for the next five or six years. Each of us brought dif­fer­ent skill sets to the table and be­tween us we kept her afloat dur­ing those dif­fi­cult ear­lier times. De­spite the chal­lenges, in many ways these were the won­der years be­cause we had so much of fun, rode more tubes than most pro surfers, played host to many stoked guests and had good times all round. The Mentawai fleet in­cluded only a hand­ful of char­ter boats like The Indies Trader 1 and Elec­tric Lamb, along with the odd fish­ing boat with surfers on board. Moose from NZ spent around six months a year out there from the early 90s on a fish­ing boat out of Teluk Dalam and Nias with other ad­ven­tur­ers like his brother Jonathon and Kylie and Todd Roesler. The Ment’s be­longed to those who had taken a step away from a more tra­di­tional life tra­jec­tory. If you had the time and in­cli­na­tion, the waves were there to plun­der. Danny Madrey and his friends had been surf­ing the place for a few months a year be­fore I rocked up and they were ac­tu­ally re­spon­si­ble for nam­ing a few of the leg­endary spots in the south­ern half of the chain, like Thun­ders, Rags, Mac­a­roni’s, Bengkok’s and oth­ers. Mar­tin Daly chris­tened most of the other breaks in the Ment’s, but we named a few along the course of our ad­ven­tures, which have stuck. This of course is a great le­gacy for the guys that were on those trips and were the first to ride par­tic­u­lar spots. The boat cap­tains were mainly Aus­tralian in this era and what a colour­ful bunch of char­ac­ters they were. We were all great mates and shared a gen­uine sense of nau­ti­cal ca­ma­raderie, even if we still didn’t di­vulge our best kept se­crets about where the waves were. I am sure each one of these guys could write a book full of

great sto­ries about some of the es­capades that went down around that time – night ski­ing in croc­o­dile in­fested waters after 20 bin­tangs, ty­ing boats to­gether at night for wild par­ties and run­ning amok at night­clubs around Padang. These guys are all le­gends and pi­o­neers in their own right. Around the turn of the cen­tury things re­ally started chang­ing in the world. We had the Asian mon­e­tary crises in ‘98, which re­ally af­fected In­done­sia ter­ri­bly and then of course Septem­ber 11, shortly fol­lowed by the Bali bomb­ing, SARS, bird flu and then the bloody swine flu to top it off. The se­ries of dis­as­ters ham­pered the tourism in­dus­try and put a hand­brake on world travel in gen­eral. The Mentawai, and In­done­sia at large, was a very in­ter­est­ing part of the world to be liv­ing in at the time, and yes some­times we did score some very good, un­crowded waves as a re­sult. But all these things were noth­ing com­pared to what the next decade had in store for us in this volatile part of the planet. The en­coun­ters with Danny Madrey’s mates on board the fish­ing boat in the ear­lier days ul­ti­mately proved to be cru­cial, as most of them had lived and worked in Jakarta for many years as ge­ol­o­gists and seis­mol­o­gists. They taught me quite a bit about the Mentawai area and its sus­cep­ti­bil­ity to earth­quakes and tsunamis, and the fact we were long over­due for a shift in the tec­tonic plates. I knew enough to fig­ure we shouldn’t be an­chor­ing in the shal­lower bays at night, in case there was a quake and tsunami. Of course we got slack oc­ca­sion­ally, un­til Mother Na­ture re­ally did send a mes­sage about how mean she can be. The oc­ca­sional Padang earth­quake we had learned to live with es­ca­lated dra­mat­i­cally at the end of 2004, trans­form­ing the south­east Asian re­gion into dis­as­ter­ville. When the ma­jor earth­quake hit the north­ern top of Su­ma­tra in 2004 it gen­er­ated the in­fa­mous Box­ing Day tsunami. My wife and I were in Thai­land, where we had de­cided to sail the Mango for her an­nual dock­ing. We felt the quake in Phuket ever so slightly. It was a long quake and so we sensed it had made a se­ri­ous im­pact some­where. Not think­ing too much more about it how­ever, we de­cided to go to the beach for break­fast. It was, after all, Box­ing Day, so we headed to Pa­tong Beach. Jen was seven months preg­nant with

our sec­ond child and went straight to the res­tau­rant, while I went for a quick jog and swim. Luck­ily I ar­rived at the res­tau­rant about 20 min­utes later, just as the may­hem started. There was yelling and scream­ing in the Thai lan­guage and peo­ple run­ning ev­ery­where in a com­plete panic. The wa­ter must have lit­er­ally started drain­ing out from the beach as I left it and walked across the road to the res­tau­rant. Re­call­ing the ear­lier rum­bling, it clicked for me right away that it was a tsunami with­out even look­ing at the ocean. I told Jen to run and grabbed our one- year old girl, Elke, un­der my arm. Jen thought it was a ter­ror­ist at­tack as there was lots of com­mo­tion and con­fu­sion, and ini­tially she ran the wrong way, sep­a­rat­ing us for a short pe­riod of time. We sprinted away from the ocean and man­aged to climb a set of stairs just as the first wave rushed in be­hind us. I’d say there would have been some peo­ple on the beach that I’d passed while jog­ging and also some peo­ple in that res­tau­rant that didn’t make it that day for sure. We sat up on the 1st floor of a ho­tel, scared as hell. There was a bunch of us and some of the other peo­ple were hys­ter­i­cal – to me the most trau­matic part of the ex­pe­ri­ence was be­ing a part of this mass-hys­te­ria, stuck in this crowd of peo­ple and feel­ing help­less, hop­ing des­per­ately there wasn’t go­ing to be a wall of white­wash com­ing up the al­ley with the next, big­ger wave. Then the fol­low­ing year was by far the most ac­tive year of earth­quakes I had ever ex­pe­ri­enced, like al­most ev­ery day things were shak­ing as part of the whole aftershock event. This in­cluded the quake in March 2005, which pretty much dropped the whole city of Gu­nungsi­toli and raised all the reefs from the North West Te­los, through Nias, The Banyaks and right up to Simuel­lue. I was ac­tu­ally in Oz in Feb/March for the birth of our sec­ond girl, Indi, named after the In­dian Ocean that was hit by the tsunami while she was in mum’s tummy. Doc­tor Dave and the guys at Surf Aid needed some help with aid work along the west coast of Nias after the March 2005 quake. A lot of the bridges had col­lapsed and so there were quite a few vil­lages that had been iso­lated with no food or med­i­cal help. A few of us skip­pers helped out, mak­ing some cargo runs along the west coast via sea with tonnes of rice sacks and other ba­sics. With the sup­port of the Mentawai char­ter fleet, which was pretty much first in situ ev­ery time to eval­u­ate, I think Sur­fAid re­ally kicked arse in these dis­as­ters. All the other larger NGO groups could then come in and ex­e­cute their plans based on the Sur­fAid re­ports and up­dates.

Dur­ing the March 2005 move­ment the whole ocean floor was raised about two me­tres, so ob­vi­ously it pretty much changed ev­ery­thing in re­spect to waves and coast­line. The guys on Asu thought it was an­other tsunami as the wa­ter was suck­ing out ready for the wave, but it was the op­po­site, the reef rose this time. As boat cap­tains we re­ally had to pay at­ten­tion to the charts. Some of those reefs that we used to sail right over, now had waves on them at low tide. And so in some ways it was like re-dis­cov­er­ing the whole re­gion again. As far as waves go, there were a few mon­u­men­tal losses. Bawah still breaks but nowhere near as good. How­ever we also gained a few waves as well. What we learnt is that with the waves be­com­ing shal­lower, it gen­er­ally made them a lit­tle more sus­cep­ti­ble to vari­a­tions in swell di­rec­tion. While we were de­liv­er­ing sup­plies along the coast of Nias we saw a few new waves on some reefs that never ex­isted be­fore, we were like … ‘What!! Did you see that?’ Things did set­tle down for a while but we had a few more after-shocks in the fol­low­ing years. When the Padang earth­quake hit in Septem­ber 2009, I was right in the mid­dle of it, vis­it­ing one of my friends in the Chi­na­town area of the city. This area is es­sen­tially re­claimed land and so the quake (epi­cen­tre Paria­man – not far from Padang) re­ally tore through it. Most build­ings fell or were dam­aged in some way. The quake shook up and down as op­posed to the usual side­ways mo­tion. Cars were bounc­ing on the streets. Ev­ery­thing went crazy and ev­ery­one was think­ing ‘tsunami’ (after the 2004 episode) and so the roads were grid­locked with car­loads of peo­ple des­per­ate to get out of town. My wife, Jen, had flown out that morn­ing (with our youngest ad­di­tion, Mika) to at­tend her school re­union, while our other three other kids were up the hill at our place with Ibu Mar. After the tsunami scare years ear­lier, we moved house from Padang beach­side up to the safety of the hills be­hind Padang, around 10-12km from town. With the cars grid­locked, I had no choice but to leave my ve­hi­cle where it was and jog home, up the hill in my thongs, by­pass­ing houses that had been re­duced to rub­ble, the whole time pray­ing that our home was still stand­ing and my kids were ok. Not know­ing where the epi­cen­tre was and how strong the quake was at that par­tic­u­lar mo­ment is the dif­fi­cult thing. We were all fa­mil­iar with the rel­e­vant cal­cu­la­tions. If the quake was off shore in the Mentawai (any­where from say 80-120 nau­ti­cal miles

off­shore) and the tsunami trav­els at 400 knots, then we’d have around 12-15 min to get out of tsunami ter­ri­tory in Padang town. The quake was a night­mare but for­tu­nately this time there was no tsunami to deal with as the epi­cen­tre wasn’t off­shore. The fol­low­ing year we had an­other quake in the south­west Mentawai is­land area on Oc­to­ber 2010. This one formed a tsunami that fired into Mac­cas bay and due to the bath­om­e­try of the bay, it sort of mag­ni­fied the waves. Un­for­tu­nately, there were a few boats an­chored in the bay with guests on­board the MV Mi­das and Free­dom. Can’t imag­ine the ex­pe­ri­ence the boys had that night. The boats ap­par­ently col­lided and one of the ves­sels caught fire. Luck­ily, all the guests from both boats and the Mac­cas re­sort sur­vived. In true Su­ma­tran form, Mother Na­ture quickly fol­lowed this up with a gnarly low pres­sure sys­tem that just sat off the coast of the South Ments for a week or so, send­ing in 40-45 knots of on­shore breeze which ham­pered the ef­forts of Sur­fAid and the Mentawai char­ter fleet as they sur­veyed the coastal vil­lages for dam­age after­wards. Even with all the volatil­ity of Su­ma­tra, there were still times where I felt like one of the luck­i­est hu­mans in the world. What more could a fella want than to come in from surf­ing some of the most per­fect bar­rels on the planet and to have your wife and kids on the boat with you – un­be­liev­able! There was ab­so­lutely nowhere else that I wanted to be but here, this was me, I’m in heaven, I’m go­ing nowhere. I en­joyed the best of all worlds. Surfers on hol­i­days pos­sess that spirit of ad­ven­ture and pos­i­tiv­ity that makes them great to be around. They’re surf­ing blue rib­bon waves, en­joy­ing chef-pre­pared food, drink­ing cold bin­tangs, ex­plor­ing new re­gions and shar­ing

good times. How­ever, while I en­joyed the ca­ma­raderie and the ban­ter of boat life, to have my wife and kids with me out in the is­lands, full sea­son after sea­son, was spe­cial. There are not many ladies that can or want to do that. I was blessed. That said; one of the big cross­roads for us oc­curred when our tribe of kids started out­grow­ing the surf char­ter life­style. At that stage, we had our third child Kurty and all five of us were liv­ing in that small, aft cabin on the Man­galui. Mind you, we loved it and al­ways have been a tight fam­ily – we still to this day of­ten sleep in one room of our house. The clincher was when we started hear­ing our guests all singing Wig­gles songs, like ‘Wake up Jeff’ while out in the line-up. Many were on long awaited ‘boys’ surf trips and the last thing they wanted was to be trip­ping over kids and toys, and hear­ing the Wig­gles on high ro­ta­tion. We fi­nally de­cided that it was too much to ask of our guests to share their trip with the cap­tain’s brood. Jen and I had of­ten dreamed of con­tin­u­ing this way of life by be­ing in­volved with a re­sort or a surf camp. Surf tourism was still a rel­a­tively new in­dus­try and we were pi­o­neers in this part of the world so it seemed like a nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion. Then after con­tem­plat­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ties we thought ‘bug­ger it, it’s all too hard – maybe we should just go back to Oz and look for a job. ‘Fair enough’, I thought. Jen had al­ready ded­i­cated over a decade of her life to liv­ing in re­mote Su­ma­tra, mean­while I’d had a good run and it seemed like time for the change. So that was that and it was fi­nally de­cided we’d find work in Oz and either man­age the Mango from afar or sell her. After we’d made the call to turn our backs on Su­ma­tra what hap­pened to me over the com­ing months was re­ally mind blow­ing. I felt a bit down and not re­ally into any­thing at all. I wasn’t get­ting too ex­cited about much – even surf­ing – and I fi­nally re­alised why. It was the uni­verse telling us to stick to the plan, keep fol­low­ing our pas­sion, keep hav­ing fun, keep surf­ing in Su­ma­tra and con­tinue evolv­ing with this unique in­dus­try we had carved out a path in. Ul­ti­mately that’s what we did, we changed our minds and went with our hearts and guts – we took the plunge and went to land. We spear­headed this idea with some great part­ners from both In­done­sia and Oz

and to­gether we cre­ated ‘Re­sort Lat­i­tude Zero’ in the Telo Is­lands, just north of the Mentawais. plea­sure This has al­ways been a favourite area of mine, one of those awe­some zones we never men­tioned in the ear­lier days. When the swell was right we’d sneak out of the Mentawai an­chor­ages in the mid­dle of the night and sail north to avoid be­ing fol­lowed. The Te­los was ac­tu­ally dis­cov­ered and surfed way be­fore the Mentawais – most prob­a­bly in the 70s – due to its close prox­im­ity to Nias is­land, but with all the hype about the Mentawai, it sort of got for­got­ten in the 90s. Iron­i­cally when we built the Man­galui in the mid 90s we named her in the Nias di­alect (Man­galui Ndulu is Nias for ‘search­ing for waves’) be­cause we in­tended to op­er­ate out of North Su­ma­tra, but ev­ery­one was hot for the Mentawai. Our mo­tive for op­er­at­ing in the north was to avoid crowd­ing out our mates who were op­er­at­ing in the Ments. It seems crazy now, but at the time we didn’t want to limit the waves for the other three or four boats, ha! Now there is around 50 boats op­er­at­ing in the Ments. There were a few groups in the early days that sailed with us on the Man­galui ev­ery year, nor­mally in the May/June pe­riod. These were the kind of guys who were pre­pared to sac­ri­fice some­thing we knew about for some­thing we might find. Pro­pelled by the spirit of dis­cov­ery they wanted to go search­ing when we had a swell, in­stead of stick­ing to the safety of the es­tab­lished waves. With these ad­ven­tur­ous fel­las we found a bunch of waves in the South Siberut area and some es­pe­cially good ones fur­ther north in the Te­los. We came across quite a few like Bombers, Mon­keys, Depth Charg­ers, Leba, Misso’s and many more. Un­doubt­edly we were not the first to surf some of those waves, but it sure was fun find­ing them in­de­pen­dently, see­ing them break for the first time and work­ing out their best con­di­tions for swell di­rec­tion, tides and winds. The Telo Is­land that we set­tled on as the per­fect site for Re­sort Lat­i­tude Zero was the one that hosted the in­sane wave we called Depth Charg­ers (DC’s). For roam­ing sailors it was the ideal setup, fea­tur­ing a beau­ti­ful sandy beach, a co­conut gar­den and deep-wa­ter ac­cess to the is­land. The lat­ter was a rar­ity in this part of the world as most of the is­lands have fring­ing bar­rier reefs, which make nau­ti­cal ac­cess ex­tremely dif­fi­cult. DC’s is a slabby, fast right-han­der that bar­rels men­ac­ingly across shal­low reef. It’s quite de­mand­ing and we al­ways used to tar­get it with crews of good younger surfers and pros. It ac­tu­ally ex­plodes out the back of the wave as it hits the reef, like a depth charger bomb go­ing off in the old war days – hence the name.

Pho­tos: Swilly

Matt en­joy­ing the perks of his cho­sen path. In­set: After 25 years of Mentawai waves, Matt Cru­den has plenty of rea­sons to smile.

Photo: Swilly Photo: Swilly Photo: Swilly

Main: The Man­galui parked up in an­other cor­ner of par­adise. Op­po­site Bot­tom: Mac­a­roni’s was an early favourite for Matt. With no crowds the vibe was pretty laid back. Op­po­site Top: En­joy­ing the high life.

Photo: All im­ages Swilly.

Main: Rasta rel­ish­ing the spoils of a mis­sion on-board the Man­galui. Insets: The Man­galui has played host to a long list of surf­ing roy­alty.

Above Main: Pan­de­mo­nium in Padang after the 2009 earth­quake. In­set: The Cru­den’s car after they were caught in the 2004 Box­ing Day Tsunami in Thai­land.

Photo: Swilly

Op­po­site Main: Matt with his wife Jen and the Cru­den clan (clock­wise from bot­tom right) Indi, Mika, Elke and Kurt.

Photo: Swilly

Tall palms and a cres­cent of tal­cum-white sand frame Re­sort Lat­i­tude Zero.

Photo: Mick Curley.

Matt and John sur­vey­ing DC’s, which bends around the is­land that plays host to Re­sort Lat­i­tude Zero. . In­set: God’s eye view of Lat’ Zero Is­land.

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