There’s nothing in the world quite like catching a wave at Nihiwatu. The rush of adrenalin as you rise on your surfboard with the wind whistling in your ears, the euphoria as you ride the famous left-hand break with several tonnes of Indian Ocean water crashing down behind you, all against a backdrop of one of the planet’s most beautiful—and exclusive— stretches of coastline; it’s simply sublime.
Or so I’m told by the real surfers at the bar back on land as I recount the string of awkward wipeouts and dumpings that was my surf lesson: Waves 6, Paul 0. You were almost there; you’ll get it next time, they counsel as I nod doubtfully. But fortunately for neophytes like me, Nihiwatu’s attractions stretch far beyond its legendary break.
For more than a decade, Nihiwatu has possessed a near mythical status among surfers. Partly it’s the history of the place—a small and remote resort on the undeveloped Indonesian island of Sumba carved out against the odds by US surfing maverick Claude Graves and his wife Petra in the late 1980s and ’90s. Its cult status also has a lot to do with its exclusiveness—access to the world’s only private wave, and a cap of just 10 surfers in the water at any time. But mainly it’s about the wave itself—an extraordinarily consistent, world-class break nicknamed “God’s Left” that is spoken about in hallowed tones by all who come to pay homage at its crashing altar.
Outside of the surf community, however, the buzz about Nihiwatu has been building faster than an inbound swell since it was acquired by US billionaire Christopher Burch in 2013. Since then, the former husband of fashion designer Tory Burch and co-founder of her eponymous label has spent US$30 million redeveloping Nihiwatu into a worldclass resort that caters to non-surfers every
CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: A TABLE SET FOR LUNCH ON PICTURESQUE NIHIWATU BEACH; INTRIGUING UNDERWATER WILDLIFE; SNORKELLING IS JUST ONE OF THE MANY WATERSPORTS AVAILABLE