By Robb Bailey
Every surfer dreams of waking up in the morning to tropical breezes, perfect waves, and an empty lineup. Every surfer also has the task of choosing the perfect destination to fulfill their idea of surfing perfection.
In recent years the Mentawai region of the Indonesian island chain has become the ultimate proving grounds for both top pros and amateurs alike. Almost a rite of passage in the surfing world, this island-checkered paradise is only accessible by boat for most.
The majority of Americans making the journey choose to book a two week boat trip to accommodate their travel and comfort needs, ranging from affordable to outrageous. Heck, these days some luxury catamarans and yachts even book surf trips to the Mentawai’s.
Southern California FCS rep Jeremy Shields ventured on his first Indonesia trip in September of last year. He took his fiancee, South Coast’s own Heather Lamb, on a boat trip organized by Steve Arms, “Big Wave” Dave Semen, Pete Sterling, and a few other Southern Californians.
What would you have planned differently on your travels to or from the boat?
Yeah, our itinerary was pretty brutal. From the moment we walked out our front door to the moment I stroked into my first wave, it took 56 hours. Four layovers, one of which lasted eight hours in an empty, sleeping Singapore airport definitely made our group pretty travel worn. If your itinerary is shaping up to look like you signed up for the gold ticket south-east Asia tour, go a day early and spend some time in Singapore. It’s really impressive how clean that city is run.
How long did it take to get from the mainland to surfable spots?
Our Crossing took us ten hours during the middle of the night. I took top bunk and about 4 Dramamine pills. I almost rolled off that bunk 20 times that night! I’d wake up mid-flight and grab the metal bed post just before crashing to the ground. All part of the experience (laughs)…
What type of gear do you recommend taking to protect from the elements?
I’ve found that Head Hunters (sunscreen) with the brown tint has offered up the most sun protection on my trips. I’ve seen guys get burned through their sunscreen with other brands. A couple guys made mince meat out of their feet on the surgeon’s table (reef) at Lance’s. I don’t like wearing them but if you can’t keep off the reef, booties will save your precious little piggies.
When you took your boards out of the bag for the first time in Indo, were any of them dinged?
It’s pretty much the luck of the draw and someone always pulls the short straw. Luckily, this trip my gear made it unscathed. I even threw in my Firewire with no extra padding and that board made it over just fine.
Best wave you caught in Indo? Describe where, how it happened.
Macaroni’s is the wave were goofy footers can really get their groove on.
We had it 2 to 3 foot overhead on the sets and Brad Gerlach and Dane Ward were out there giving an absolute clinic! Trading off waves with the Ger was pretty surreal. He’d paddle past the guys who were already sitting deep and go sit way up the point. I’d turn on one and ask, “Brad you going on this one?” and he’d say “No, you’ve been waiting, it’s your turn.” He was a total gentleman. As for a specific wave, I think it’s time I go refresh my memory!
Worst injury on your boat while you were there?
I’d have to say it was my good friend Dave Semen from Huntington Beach. I think because it’s so crowded in HB, he likes to catch all the inside ones that everyone lets go. He loves sitting on the inside and he just can’t stand wearing booties.
Man… that combination does not bode well in Indo. His feet were annihilated! Every session we went out he came in with a few more cuts. It looked like Edward Scissor-hands was trying to put on his socks. By the end of the trip he could hardly walk and he had wads of toilet paper wrapped with duck tape about 2 inches thick on both feet, but he just kept charging.
What type of shape were you in when you left for your trip? Did this help/harm you?
I was in the best shape of my life….I had been on a strict diet of Hodad’s burgers and grilled cheese sandwiches for a solid year in preparation for this trip. (laughs) You just kind of rise to the occasion when you get to a place where the waves are perfect.
You’re about to get married. Will you charge as hard on your next trip now that you’re about to tie the knot?
All this talk about surfing Indo again, now I’m ready to book my next trip… so I’ll let you know when I get back!
How did your fiancee Heather surf while you were there?
Heather never ceases to amaze me. She has got more courage than a lot of guys who venture out there. Green Bush has got to be one of the most critical waves down there and even knowing that, it still didn’t deter her from paddling out. It’s always great being with her no matter where we’re at but to see her surf places where some people wouldn’t dare is totally impressive.
Thinking of booking an Indo trip? Great articles you should read before you go: