JOURNEY TO THE REALM
SEB SMART HEADS OUT TO THE MENTAWAIS WITH A BOAT FULL OF RIPPERS.
Seb Smart jumps on a boat with a bunch of the world’s best for a pootle around some Indonesian reefs.
Ihad been to the realm (the Mentawai islands) once before. I got a wildcard into a comp at Lance's Right (HTS) some years ago. It was different then, and to what I thought. Yeah, it was good but busy, and we only surfed HTS. It was crowded there, and there’s a crew of local groms that paddle out way too charged up on Sunny D, M150, Extra Joss and pure stoke, and suddenly it felt the dream that was sold to me of uncrowded Mentawai perfection was false. Until one hot, boring day Harry Bryant and I found ourselves bored of watching cutbacks to finners from our fellow competitors, so we decided to make the pilgrimage over the hill to the other coast, through the forest, and past a surf camp owned by some eastern Euro nutcase. I know this because I took a coconut from a tree and he came out and threatened me.
He was saying how it is a big crime to do that out there, and how people kill each other for shit like that. I smiled and kept him sweet with my charm, but I thought he was one of those expats that’s too fucked up to live in their own country, so they move somewhere else, and try to police other tourists. I wanted to wrap the coconut round his big bald, tattooed head, but I thought that’d probably result in a rusty machete in my gut, perhaps while I was asleep, at some point down the line, during my stay on that tiny little island. Some moments later we stumbled on a perfect empty left. It was just like the pics on the posters, and my awe of the Mentawai was restored.
Three days later I returned to the UK, broke my kneecap, and everything changed. My planned return had been delayed until further notice.
Fast forward to a few years, tears and experiences later, to 2018, and I was in conversation with a friend, and an excellent photographer, from the same place as me (Cornwall) but who now resides in Australia. Named Swilly.
We were talking about the positive growth of the Cornish Republican Army, how cold it had been at home, but also how I had been enjoying time in New Zealand with my lady, when we suddenly came onto the topic of a surf trip, to the Mentawai.
My eyes glazed over as my memory handed a picture to my mind’s eye of the boulder headed man that threatened me about the coconut, and the perfect lefts me and Harry surfed to ourselves. I smiled to myself and begged Swilly for more info.
Later he told me of a crew of surfers from all over the globe, from the U.S, Maui and Australia. He extended an invitation I was incredibly grateful for, and I snapped it up. Months later I found myself on the plane to Indonesia, destination Padang.
I arrived late at night after a smooth flight in excellent spirits. Usually, I get nervous and drink too much and come off the plane feeling like three years have been shaved off my life, but this time I behaved myself. I watched loads of good films and slept lots. I drank loads of water too. I went to a health shop called Archie
I REALISED HOW MUCH I MISSED INDONESIA, SMELLING THAT FANTASTIC AROMA OF INCENSE AND DIFFERENT TYPES OF PLANTS. IT’S AS IF THE EQUATOR HAS A SCENT TO IT, ONE THAT I LIKE.
Browns in Penzance before I left to buy supplements. I used them to keep myself hydrated and thinking straight through all of the travelling, and it worked well. Viridian electrolytes, magnesium and multi-vitamin spray saw me through okay.
I spent the night in a hotel in Padang where I had arranged to meet the whole crew the next day. I had the best shower and sleep ever and met everyone in the lobby some hours later after the sun had risen.
I realised how much I missed Indonesia, smelling that fantastic aroma of incense and different types of plants. It’s as if the equator has a scent to it, one that I like. It felt so good to be back in Indonesia, a place I had built such a connection without even realising it.
I met the crew that was Davey Cathels, Reef Heazlewood, Nolan Rapoza, Matt Meola, Sheldon Simkus and Finn Mcgill. Photographer Simon Williams and filmer Jon Spenser, from Maui who does bits with Matt out there. Luke, the editor of Tracks mag, came along to surf and write a story on the trip to take back to Australia. The captain of the boat was called Albee who we met on the boat. I felt happy that everyone was so sound and I knew that it was going to be a nice trip, whether we had waves or not.
We were meant to go to north Sumatra, but the swell had changed at the last minute, so we ended up fully committing to the Mentawai and just cruising round to as many spots we could get to during our 12 days at sea aboard the Mangalui charter boat.
The rooms on the Mangalui were pretty cool. The bunks were carved into the wooden boat. Our room underneath the boat at the bow had eight bunks in it, each with a little reading light. We left port pretty much as soon as we boarded the vessel and internet connection instantly disappeared. There was no Wi-fi or anything like that. The first night I felt a bit weird like I had been chucked into jail or something. Isolated in the middle of the ocean with people I didn’t know with no privileges like phones or TV. What if some of these people are dangerous or total weirdos? Plus the suffering from phone addiction withdrawals were playing with my head a bit. Sometimes its easy to think like that when you’re jetlagged and finally lying in bed where it's quiet after all the chaos of travelling and the stresses and noise. Sometimes your mind goes into overdrive and entirely out of sync with your body, and things seem strange, you can feel quite lonely.
I bought a good book in the airport and just knuckled down into that and kept myself to myself for a bit. I was way too tired to try