One one thousand, two one thousand, three full days of travel one thousand till I was supposed to arrive at my destination. It's been a few years since I came to Indonesia, part because of Covid closures, and part because of my exploratory nature that wanted to try other places on earth. But all it took was the typical overnight layover at the Doha transit terminal (they have a spa and a gym!!!), the sweaty afternoon dragging my four Cohete surfboards around Jakarta's airport terminal 3, and the long 14 hour bumpy boat ride to remote islands. I was once again feeling like home.
I've been to Indo at least 10 times, for a total of over 7 months around the Mentawai islands, surfing the same (amazing) spots over and over, and I was ready for a change. I opted to spend the first two weeks of my 5 week trip north of the Mentawai's, on Telos Island. Telos is supposed to be the last frontier, where surfing crowds have not yet discovered the surf breaks, and where you are supposed to surf alone most of the time. There were 4 main waves that we surfed during these two weeks: Pasti, a very fast, hollow, long, and shallow right, deemed as dangerous on most surf blogs; Nagga, which was something like Pasti's little brother, Rahasia (means secret spot), a perfect barreling left, and Tanggu, a very playful and turn-y right. Pasti definitely lived up to its name. Though I opted to wear reef boots most of the time, every time I pulled in a barrel, it pinched; one time, I decided to surf the wave all the way to the inside. After the wave was finished, the water retreated out of my feet, and a second inside wave broke on me, turned me over, and slammed me on a very sharp coral head. I came out on the surface trying to assess how deep my wounds were and if I would need stitches. It turned out, though I did need stitches, I didn't even have any skin left to stitch(!!!) Not the best start of my trip, but nothing that a roll of silver duck tape couldn't fix so I can keep surfing all day. Telos island, overall, also lived up to its name as the last frontier of surfing in Indo. The whole time I was there, I surfed maybe with 5 people max at any given time. Other than that, I failed to exit any barrel I pulled into, I got a very gnarly and very large reef tattoo from that day at Pasti, I messed up most of my front side snaps that I attempted, got a few more minor reef tattoos, and only had exactly one session that went smoothly and I very much enjoyed: it was the biggest day at the left, Rahasia, where I took out my 6.6 Cohete pin tail surfboard and just had fun dropping in big open wave faces and finally not wiping out. I couldn't help but wonder: maybe I am really not designed for performance, "small wave surfing" on small boards. Maybe I should give up trying to compete with the Greek team at ISA, maybe I will never be good enough...
After my Telos adventure, I opted for more familiar grounds. I was off to the Mentawai's once again! A couple of girlfriends of mine were already at Lance's Right, otherwise known as Hollow Trees (HTs). So off I was, from one 14 hour boat ride to another 14 hour boat ride, from one island to another. HTs is one of the most famous waves in the Mentawai's, as it is known for its perfect righthand barrels, and the shallow inside section known as "the surgeon's table". With an already hurt leg, and an even more hurt ego, my first day surfing HTs was not only unsuccessful, but also terrifying. I kept having visions of myself wiping out and getting shredded on surgeon's table. So I stayed on the shoulder and caught exactly one wave, and went back to my room almost ready to quit surfing. The next few days were better, but only marginally- at least, I thought to myself, I was hanging out with my girlfriends who I don't get to see very often, so the whole trip is not a complete waste of time. Every day, something was wrong with my surfing. My stands were too narrow, I caught the wave too deep, I didn't catch the wave deep enough, my turn was not aggressive enough, I pulled into a closeout. I was mentally exhausted. And then it happened again. A big swell came at HTs, with sets over double overhead. And once again, I felt like home on my 6.6 Cohete pin tail surfboard. I was finally relaxed, and caught some bombs, having a whole crew of guys watching and cheering me on (they seemed impressed) while my friends refused to even surf most of the day. What is wrong with me??? I know that the two shorter boards JT custom made for me are really good boards, so why am I riding them like crap?? Will I ever learn how to shortboard properly? Why was I so surf-confused?
My time in the Mentawai's came and went, and the next thing on my travel agenda was a boat trip at the Banyak islands. I was terrified. How was I supposed to spend 14 days on a boat, at a remote location, with no cell phone service or Wi-Fi, with a bunch of strangers on the boat, all men, while I felt like I could no longer even surf? But there I was, finding myself boarding a very nice catamaran called "The Pulse", setting course for a mystery break called Treasure island and another one called "Bay of Plenty", apparently named after a famous book. First day at the Bay of Plenty, I surfed for 9 hours. I only got cut on the reef a couple of times, nothing as serious as in Telos. The wave was very challenging, a very tight right hand barrel breaking on very shallow reef, so shallow, that you could see the boils from the corral heads on takeoff. At that time, I had already given up on trying to surf well, and had changed my objective to just trying to not die. And then everything changed. The guys on the boat were a bunch of really nice older Australian men, that observed I spent all day in the water, and gave me the nickname "barnacle", or "Barney" for short. Second day we spent at Treasure Island, I also surfed for 9 hours. My first wave was a big open barrel that I made it in and out. My second wave was a big open barrel that I made it in and out. I was finally actually surfing again. When the swell was big, I was getting barreled on my 6.6 (gosh, I love that board). When the swell got smaller, I was getting barreled on my new Cohete 6.0 pink squash tail surfboard (did I mentioned 3 of my 4 boards are neon pink??) when there were no barrels, I was doing vertical snaps, front and back side, on my super skate-y and fun Cohete 5.8 squash surfboard. I started doing laybacks, out of the blue, and kept doing laybacks. What the heck had happened to me? I couldn't complain. My passion for surfing was alive again. I put 9 hours in the water every day. The boys from the tour (they named our group Barney and the boyz) were super supportive. Always treated me like an equal, always respected my surfing skills. I fell in love with all my 4 Cohete surfboards all over again.
I still have so much to learn, and so much to improve on. But now the possibilities are endless. I am no longer scared. I am no longer confused. And I am happy with all my failures. It takes all the failures in the world, in order to get that deep stand-up barrel. All the failures in the world to do that nice vertical snap. I hope for many more failures to come on all my pink boards, cause otherwise we stay stagnant. And why do we even surf, if not to always evolve and always move forward? Ta panta rei.