David Archer – Bodysurf Guru
Every two years, some good friends of mine go on a two week surfing holiday. They’ve been to some pretty exotic spots and this year I joined them for a fortnight in the Telos and Mentawai Islands, Indonesia.
Dave, Andy, Paul, Pete, Rosco and Kent are old hands at the surf trip. For Chris and I it’s our first time and the froth level is high. And I’m not a surfer, I’m a bodysurfer. I plan on bodysurfing the reef breaks of the Telos and Mentawai’s, and I haven’t a clue if this is a good, or very bad idea.
After 2 plane rides, a mad taxi dash, and a 16-hour ferry trip, we arrive at Latitude Zero in the Telos Islands where we will spend the first week. Each day, we jump on a speedboat with Adam our surf guide, and head to wherever looks best based on swell and wind conditions.
Day 1_ Easy Peasy (EP’s) – EP’s is a beach break that peels right and left. The waves are pulsing 3-4 foot glassy and clean. It’s a great way to start the trip – warm water and fun, glassy waves.
Day 2_ Missions – Missions is a left-handed reef break right in front of an island Mission building. It’s presenting 3-4 foot fun glassy waves, with some larger sets breaking outside. We discover Belinda Baggs (pro longboarder, Patagonia Ambassador, bodysurfing advocate and all around good guy) in the line-up and chat to her between sets. Her grace and style are an absolute pleasure to watch!
Day 3_ Easy Peasy’s & Bojo’s – The swell has eased a little overnight, so we head for an early morning session at ‘The Gates’. The surf ranges from 2–4 foot. There is not a breath of wind. Monkey’s play on the beach. I could stay here all day.
After lunch, we chance a break called Bojo’s. It’s a bit of haul in the speedboat however, we are rewarded for the effort. 5-6 foot waves peel left across a long reef break, with the shoulder perpetually peaking and eventually petering out in a deep reef pool. Best. Day. Ever.
Day 4_ Pinnacles & Missions – The swell is really starting to ease. Pinnacles is the first break. Named after the lone pinnacle of rock on the point, it just doesn’t get prettier. Reef, jungle, and spectacular rock formations. The waves are small, with the odd 4-foot set lurking to catch you on the inside. Next we try Missions. The surf is pretty small, so after a couple of waves we call it a day.
Day 5_ Easy Peasy’s & Fishing – The swell has really eased overnight however we head to EP’s and have a fun surf in 1-3 foot swell. When the wind picks up, Adam suggests that it’s probably a good fishing afternoon. Four small Barra’s make it a successful expedition! Pete’s lucky fishing shirt is an obvious winner.
Day 6 & 7_ Bum Cracks & EP’s – We anchor the speedboat in a deep channel just off another island paradise. Either side of the channel is a reef break (hence the name). You can choose either a hollow tubing right, or a mellow left. The swell is a fun 2-3 foot, with the odd 4-foot bomb coming through every now and again. The short boards head to the hollow right, whilst I try my hand at the resort SUP on the mellow left.
Day 8_ JB’s (or Dislocators) & Sipika – A big swell pulse has finally arrived overnight! We head off early in search of the best waves and settle on JB’s (or Dislocators). There is no-one here and the waves look epic. JB’s is a left hand point break with a critical take off and a fast barrelling section. Perfect waves just keep rolling through. They are beautiful, hollow 6-8 foot waves with an increasing swell.
On returning to the resort, we transfer our gear on to the Nomad and meet our guide for the next week. Wal is one of the partners in Latitude Zero and a pioneer of this area. The Nomad starts the journey south towards the Mentawai Islands, while we head to one of Wal’s favourite big wave breaks called Sipika. Sipika is a deep water wave that breaks a way out to sea. It bends around in a large arc, looking like a huge stadium Mexican Wave pitching over and breaking.
Day 9 & 10_ Hideaways, Karangbat Left & Telescopes – We steam overnight to the Mentawai Islands on the Nomad and wake up to a stormy morning near a break called Hideaways. The break is pounding 6-8ft+ waves onto an exposed shallow reef with exposed tombstones. We don’t spend long here, and transit (via Karangbat Left) to Telescopes.
Telescopes is another gorgeous left that starts breaking in reasonably deep water. The wave sections and bends at various points. The sections are makeable and the bowls are steep and fun. The wave goes forever so you can sit deep and wait for the bombs, or sit inside and get the ones missed. With 5-8ft waves pounding through on a regular basis, there are plenty of waves to share.
Day 11_ Scarecrows and HT’s – Scarecrows is very much like Telescopes with a little rawness from a more exposed location, pulsing 5-7 foot. The fun part of this wave is the curry bowl that forms on the inside, forcing the wave to become steep then bend in an arc around the reef section. After lunch we head to HT’s.
The break is extremely picturesque and the swell is perfect. The waves are a clean, consistent 6 foot with some bigger outside bombs. There are at least 5 charter boats, and I count 30+ surfers in the line-up. The tide is quite low, and the take-offs critical. It is a spectacular wave!
Day 12_ Rags Left – We head to Rag’s Left today as there is a renewed pulse pushing through from the south, resulting in consistent 6 foot plus glassy sets. Word of the day was ‘Epic’.
Day 13_ Roxy’s – The pulse has subsided, so we head to another right-hand break called Roxy’s. The swell size is only 2 foot, but it is glassy, clean and empty.
Day 14_ Macaroni’s (Maccas) & Lances Left – Macca’s is a popular break, managed by the local resort and village. They restrict the number of boats allowed on the moorings in the area, so we head in early to chance our luck. The waves end up being smallish (2-3 foot) but great fun, no wind, and a friendly vibe.
At midday we head to Lances Left, which is another famous wave that works nicely with a southerly swell. The wave has a number of sections that traverse a shallow reef section, ending up in a deeper water pool. Today, the waves are 2-3 foot, with the odd 5-foot set catching people off guard out wide.
Our holiday is over, and tomorrow we start the long journey home. Our bodies are tired from a minimum of 6 hours of water time per day. The prescription anti-Inflammatories are now like gold. Already, we are starting to plan the next trip. I take this as a pretty good indicator of an epic holiday. That you can go away with 7 friends for 2 weeks, live in the close confines of a communal bunk room boat, and be seriously planning the next trip on the last day. That says it all.
As a bodysurfing experiment, I am stoked. I had no idea at the beginning of the trip how many breaks I could manage. I threw away the surfboard after one day and bodysurfed every break. I was often asked by other surfers ‘Have you snapped your leggie?’, or ‘Did you draw the short straw and have to film your mates?’. I think most were surprised and bemused to hear I was there voluntarily to bodysurf. I had some epic waves – some of the best I have ever ridden. I will definitely be back.