DISCOVER ON THE MENTAWAI
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.