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.
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.
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.