DIS­COVER ON THE MENTAWAI

Tracks - - Rapture - BY KIRK OWERS

The ru­mors started in the grunge years. They spoke of a surf­ing par­adise strewn with per­fect waves some­where in re­mote In­done­sia. An ex­ploratory Indies Trader trip with Tom Car­roll and Martin Pot­ter flew un­der the radar in 1992 but set tongues wag­ging when grainy pho­tos of big per­fect surf sur­faced to back up the wild sto­ries. Mag­a­zine and movie trips fol­lowed in quick suc­ces­sion and the se­cret spilled over like a dam in flood. Films like Surfers of For­tune and Feral King­dom feed the flames with high oc­tane se­quences. Pretty soon a fledg­ling surf char­ter in­dus­try was up and run­ning from Padang, Su­ma­tra and grow­ing sub­stan­tially ev­ery sea­son. The Mentawai was so flush with in­cred­i­ble surf it worked as an ul­tra-re­li­able in­dus­try stu­dio and a dream hol­i­day desti­na­tion for pros and pun­ters alike. Even though it be­come busier and land camps started to pop up every­where, more waves kept be­ing found as the char­ters pushed fur­ther afield. Cluey skip­pers kept fresh dis­cov­er­ies to them­selves, de­nied their ex­is­tence or gave false names to spread con­fu­sion. Of course in­trepid surf trav­el­ers had kept their own se­crets long be­fore the re­gion be­came well known. Syd­ney teenagers, Scott Wake­field, Chris Good­now and Tony Fitz­patrick camped rough in the re­gion for five weeks in 1980 and surfed a bunch of waves in­clud­ing Mac­a­roni’s. Lance Knight soloed out to Sipura in 1990 and found the wave-jewels which bear his name. “Call it what you may, it is still the most per­fect, in­tim­i­dat­ing, adren­a­line-pumping wave I have ever surfed”, Lance told Tracks last year. A cru­cial turn­ing point for the Ments was reached on that trip when Knight meet Martin Daly. Daly, a sal­vage diver, had been surf­ing the re­gion for years and in­de­pen­dently found Lance’s Right. He sug­gested the wave been named in Lance’s honor (it was Lance who ac­tu­ally coined Hol­low Trees). Daly, more than any­one else, is cred­ited with open­ing up the Mentawai for surf tourism. Not ev­ery­one likes him for it but it was prob­a­bly al­ways go­ing to hap­pen. Count­less grate­ful surfers have had the trip of their life in the is­lands off Su­ma­tra and surf tourism has un­doubt­edly im­proved health and med­i­cal ser­vices to the area (thanks mainly to Surf Aid). Over twenty since its main­stream de­but The Mentawai is still con­sid­ered the planet’s rich­est and most per­fect wave zone.

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