Don’t ask the im­pos­si­ble

Why surf mag­a­zines can never say no to the Mentawais.

Tracks - - Intro - By Luke Kennedy

I know what you want to say. An­other mag trip to the Mentawais. An­other bunch of pro surfers in a boat re-vis­it­ing waves that have graced the pages of Tracks many times be­fore. Maybe it’s all just an ex­cuse for the ed­i­tor to score an an­nual jun­ket and get bar­relled?

While it’s un­de­ni­able that the Mentawai* have been a fre­quently vis­ited surf me­dia hunt­ing ground for over two decades, it is with good rea­son. The clus­ter of is­lands off the coast of West Su­ma­tra is surf­ing’s Gar­den of Eden; a place of won­der and mys­tique, a dream fac­tory where surf­ing fan­tasies are made real ev­ery day. Ev­ery sea­son surfers es­chew other ex­pen­di­tures so that they can scrape to­gether the funds to ride a few glo­ri­ous waves in the Mentawais.

Be­fore I em­barked on this most re­cent trip I was out in mushy waves at the lo­cal when a lineup reg­u­lar turned to me with wild-eyed ex­cite­ment and shouted, “Have you seen Crammy’s In­sta­gram shot at HT’s?” Richard Cram had just rid­den one of the best waves of the sea­son and the In­sta photo had al­most made him more fa­mous than his limp-wristed cut­back in the movie The Per­form­ers back in the 80s. What struck me most how­ever was the raw en­thu­si­asm of the lo­cal talk­ing about the shot. He was a vet­eran of up­teen Mentawai trips and it was ob­vi­ous that the is­lands still ex­isted as his ul­ti­mate source of stoke.

When pro­fes­sional surfers ar­rive in the Ments, it marks the meet­ing of bold forces. If you take a hand­ful of the world’s most gifted surfers and place them in the planet’s premier waves then the re­sults are al­ways go­ing to be riv­et­ing. The best surf­ing in any given year does not get done on the WCT or in Hawaii, it hap­pens in the Ments be­cause the waves fa­cil­i­tate it. As a multi-me­dia surf brand that’s sim­ply too hard to ig­nore. To not go would be like a sports chan­nel turn­ing its back on Wim­ble­don. So we in­vite the surfers and the cam­era­men and set the scene for a spec­tac­u­lar free-surf­ing odyssey.

This is­sue, our fea­ture The Realm, chron­i­cles our most re­cent Mentawai so­journ. Hope­fully it re­minds you how lucky we are as surfers to have a place on earth like the Mentawais to en­joy. For a cin­e­matic per­spec­tive on the same trip jump on Tracks­ and search for the clip The Realm.

For any­one still doubt­ing the ca­pac­ity of the Mentawais to place you un­der its spell, check out our story Un­der the Su­ma­tran Sun in which Mentawai pi­o­neer, Matt Cru­den, chron­i­cles his 25-year-love af­fair with the re­gion. Matt’s Mentawai me­moir will def­i­nitely leave you ques­tion­ing whether or not you have com­mit­ted to the path which de­mands the best of your­self.

While most of us are con­tent to roam from wave to wave in the Ments, like kids in Dis­ney­land try­ing out all the rides, there will al­ways be those who seek to probe a lit­tle deeper. John Bar­ton’s in­trigu­ing jour­ney up river on the is­land of Siberut brings him to con­tact with a Mentawai tribe de­ter­mined to pre­serve their cus­toms as the de­vel­oped world con­tin­ues to en­croach upon their mys­te­ri­ous jun­gle ex­is­tence.

So be­fore you quickly jump to ac­cuse us of mind­lessly re­turn­ing to the Mentawai is­lands, of lack­ing imag­i­na­tion when it comes to travel des­ti­na­tions and of ex­ploit­ing the job to serve our own ‘hol­low’ in­ter­ests, pause for a sec­ond and ask your­self hon­estly. Would you be able to turn your back on some­where as some­where as mag­i­cal as the Mentawais?

* Strictly speak­ing the Mentawai (no “s”) is the cor­rect ref­er­ence for the is­land chain, but the Mentawais has be­come an en­trenched part of he surf­ing ver­nac­u­lar. Both ver­sions are used through­out the is­sue.

Photo: Swilly

A surfer in the Mentawai’s just a few strokes away from mak­ing his surf­ing fan­tasy a re­al­ity.

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