THE BLACK HOLE

ONE OF THE BIG­GEST SWELLS TO EVER HIT IN­DONE­SIA SAW A BRACE OF THE WORLD'S FINEST TUBEHOUNDS HIGHTAIL IT TO NIAS AND IT WAS BONKERS.

Carve - - CONTENTS - WORDS BY MATT BROM­LEY PHO­TOS BY TED GRAMBEAU UN­LESS OTH­ER­WISE STATED

Indo had an all-time swell re­cently, and Nias was the place to be. Matt Brom­ley and a clutch of the world’s best tube hounds were there to greet it.

ne trav­els to Indo for per­fect, blue bar­rels with just a pair of board­ies and a quiver of small boards. This last Nias swell re­sem­bled noth­ing close to this. Most of the guys in the lineup had im­pact vests, the wa­ter was brown, and the bar­rels were pitch black. It looked more like the Mav­er­ick’s slab than an Indo lineup. The sets were un­pad­dleable, even with some of the most se­ri­ous names in big wave surf­ing out in the lineup.

No­body knew it could get like that…

I had chased the pre­vi­ous swell all the way from South Africa, and it was a bit of a dis­ap­point­ment. The swell peaked overnight and came with rough, lumpy surf. But what lin­gered just be­hind it had quickly be­come the talk on the point. The swell en­ergy in­creased as it drew nearer and sud­denly ev­ery­one was say­ing we were in for the most sig­nif­i­cant swell to ever hit Nias. Boys were try­ing to or­gan­ise skis, and ev­ery­one was won­der­ing if the reef could even hold the in­com­ing en­ergy.

The swell was sup­posed to start show­ing its face the day be­fore. I pad­dled out that evening on my short­board to four foot, rip­pable, fun waves. Then the most in­cred­i­ble thing hap­pened. A per­fect six-foot set came through, of which I got the first one and flew out into the chan­nel. As I pad­dled back out the hori­zon went dark and lumpy. The wa­ter in the lineup sud­denly felt ag­i­tated, and then a twelve-foot dou­bled-up mon­ster marched in.

My buddy from Oz tried to stroke into it, and I re­mem­ber look­ing over the edge, at the ver­ti­cal drop, and watch­ing him get­ting lip launched into the flats! That wave was def­i­nitely un­pad­dleable!

The next three waves sucked all the wa­ter off the reef, dou­bling,

tripling up on them­selves. You could see the shape of the reef as the wa­ter drained back. Gordo had a scratch at one of them too and got ut­terly an­ni­hi­lated, be­com­ing one with the lip.

The swell had ar­rived, and ev­ery­one was sud­denly very ner­vous about what might be march­ing in the next day.

The Day…

I was scared to get out of bed as it sounded like there was a tsunami out there. It was still pitch black. I did my morn­ing rou­tine: prayer, three lit­tle ba­nanas, my shoul­der warm up with the stretch band and plenty of wa­ter to hy­drate for the big day. I stuck my head out of my room, and there was wa­ter surg­ing through the restau­rants. I could make out huge waves bot­tom­ing out and freight train­ing across the reef. It looked ter­ri­fy­ing.

A few guys were walk­ing out through the key­hole; Lau­rie Towner, Marti Par­a­di­sis, and Jug­head were amongst the first to pad­dle out. Only when the boys got into the lineup could we re­ally see how big it was!

Lau­rie pad­dled into a nuts one that ate him down the line, and Jug­head air­dropped through obliv­ion and got smoked. He snapped his board be­fore it was barely light enough to surf.

I started walk­ing out to the key­hole (usu­ally the most leisurely pad­dle out in the world), but then got ripped off my feet by the surge and rode the rapids through the nar­row chan­nel, feel­ing the coral fly by just be­neath my fins. I pad­dled into the lineup and joined the pack, sit­ting next to many of the best big waves surfers from around the world; Ian Walsh, Nathan Florence, Lau­rie, Marti, Mark Healey, Billy Kem­per, Kip Caddy, just to name a few. You could tell that ev­ery­one was un­der­stand­ably scared.

Ev­ery 10 min­utes or so the in­di­ca­tor would light up. And shortly after th­ese beasts would emerge out of the deep. 15-18 feet of mean, thick chunks of wa­ter. As the wave felt the reef, the front would halt as the back of the swell caught up. The bot­tom of the wave dropped away with the lip reach­ing far out into the flats. The crazy thing was you could see the dif­fer­ent lay­ers of rock as the wa­ter drained off the reef. No­body even looked at pad­dling a big one! The eight foot­ers and the 15 foot­ers were break­ing in the same place, so con­sid­er­ing that the eight foot­ers were heav­ing on the reef, you can imag­ine how shal­low and nuts the big sets were.

The boat drama started off the ac­tion for the day. It de­tached from its an­chor and slowly floated into the lineup. The whole crowd roared as we watched this dou­ble up throw the boat over back­ward. We couldn’t ride waves for a while be­cause the boat was half sunk, some­where in the im­pact zone.

Most of the guys were rid­ing 6’4”s and 6’6”s. I was on one of the big­gest boards in the line-up, a nar­row, 6’9” Bush­man. I sat out­side the pack in my own lit­tle world and prayed, to calm my nerves. This big one popped up, that’s what they do out there; the deep wa­ter causes them to just pop up out of nowhere. The wave came out of the south, was fo­cus­ing on the top sec­tion (that’s what you want out there) and looked re­ally clean. I put my head down and said to my­self: ‘I’m go­ing no mat­ter what!’ As I started pad­dling the whole crowd be­gan shout­ing, “Yes Brom­ley!”, “Go!”

With the ex­tra rev up, I flat­tened my chest fur­ther on the board and lent for­ward. I felt like I had ter­rific mo­men­tum, and then sud­denly the wave pulled me back up the face. As I popped to my feet, there was just air un­der me. An­gled a lit­tle side­ways, I tried to keep my rail en­gaged with the wave, but the board just fell away be­neath my feet. The whole way down I was try­ing to claw on with my tip­toes.

When I got to the bot­tom, the board was still some­how un­der my feet, I bot­tom turned and en­joyed this big brown cave all the way to the chan­nel. I re­mem­ber watch­ing the lip reach­ing out over me, far to my left. The wave bent a lit­tle out to sea and shut down right at the end. I came up to some cheers in the chan­nel and then when I pad­dled back to the peak, the whole pack started hoot­ing for me. It was the best feel­ing ever!

Over the morn­ing I saw Miguel Blanco slid­ing into and back­door­ing a crazy big, brown slab and Se­bas­tian Cor­rea and Tyler New­ton get­ting men­tal rides. The bar­rels were pitch black in­side!

By mid­day, adren­a­line and cur­rent had drained ev­ery­one, and the line-up was empty. Lu­cas Sil­veira surfed by him­self over lunchtime, and then the pack hit it again in the af­ter­noon. By this stage the key­hole was a death trap, so we were all pad­dling from the bot­tom of the point.

Again, I sat out­side the pack and an­other re­ally good look­ing dou­ble marched in. I pushed the nose of my board down with my chin and dropped into a per­fect, throaty stand up bar­rel, which spat me out into the chan­nel. This one went pretty vi­ral on In­sta­gram.

When I came in, there was a bad fish smell in the air. Many of the lit­tle sea crea­tures had been ripped off the reef, and there were a bunch of new coral heads washed into the shal­lows, some the size of small boul­ders.

Al­though I had just two waves to speak of from the day, they were life chang­ers. I went to sleep so happy and surfed out. No one was pre­pared for waves like that, and all the lo­cals were claim­ing it was the big­gest day ever surfed out at Nias.

The next morn­ing was ab­so­lutely pump­ing! Things had set­tled, and ev­ery­one traded off 10-foot plus dou­ble drain­ers the whole day with new con­fi­dence from the day be­fore.

I re­mem­ber watch­ing the lip reach­ing out over me, far to my left.

Por­tuguese charger Miguel Blanco in a Nias megabomb.

Boats aren't very good at re-en­tries.

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