time well spent.
From September 20th to October 2nd, I spent my time traversing the Western Sumatran Islands with 8 of my friends, looking for surf aboard a power catamaran.
Towards the end of the trip, the Padang Padang earthquake hit, a day before we were to arrive there. Here are a few hundred photos from the trip.
All aboard the Freedom 3.
The Crew from top left to bottom: Brendan Hearne, T-Roll, Jordy Tappis, Me, Jon Rose, Sage Vaughn, Ryan Skvarla, Josh Brolin, Mark Norby.
The first few days out, there wasnt much swell predicted. We hung out around the playgrounds area and surfed Beng Beng’s, Pit Stops, and Pussy’s, which turns out didnt quite fit the name, handing over several several broken leashes, a couple boards washed into the reef inside, and a solid black eye for Josh. Not bad. Here are a few from that area.
Below, Norby practicing his barrel stance for the future sessions.
Just another empty perfect little lineup. Unnamed.
After the first couple days, we decided to head south to HT’s (Lances Right) to hopefully catch some tubes at the infamous right hander. When we showed up in the morning, there were a few sets, in teh head high slightly overhead range, but after an hour or two, the wind picked up. This led to most of the other boats and land campers/feral’s to leave to retreat to waves that the wind was more kind to. However, our captain Lee reckoned that the swell should start picking up around noon and the wind would glass off around 2pm. Sure enough, his prediction was completely spot on. Here are a few from one of the best sessions of our trip.
Below, Jon Rose in one of probably several dozen perfect in and out stand up tubes.
Pour one out for the homies!
Me on the backhand.
Rose again standing tall, with me claiming in the foreground.
Brendan Hearne with probably one of the best waves of that day, or maybe our trip.
Ryan Skvarla, getting deep on his back hand. Yes, he got spit out.
Jordan Tappis somewhere around barrel number 14 for his session.
After we spent the whole day there, we wanted to check out some different waves while the swell was still around. That night we headed further south and anchored up. The next morning, Captain Lee got us out early to Bat Caves, a pumping right hander that was Double Overhead+ and rivaled Rincon or Malibu with its length and perfection. Only thing different was the 80+ Degree water and not a single person out… The rides were so long that towards the end of each ride, your thighs burned so bad that you couldnt do any more turns and would have to take a mid wave break. Then, you had to deal with the 5 minute paddle back out. On one wave, I clocked Norby getting one of the waves of his life, riding it for 40+ seconds… oh, and he was in speedo’s… Here are a few from BatCaves.
Our very own Zane. The legend Chef cooking some of the best meals I have had in ages, every day and night, for 11 days straight. Best and healthiest I have eaten in quite some time.
T-Roll, off the bottom.
Jordan bashing on a medium one.
Early morning perfection.
This is the micro island, which you can toss a rock from one side to the other, in which the wave breaks and wraps around.
The surrounding area was very lush and photogenic. The haze behind the first ledge is smoke from the fires that the locals build from trash. Without a proper disposal system or dump, the only way to get trash out of site is to incinerate it. Unfortunately, that includes plastics and metals.
Later in the day after the wind picked up a little bit, we pulled anchor and headed further south to Macaronis to try and see if we could get the famed left hander with some size. When we first pulled up, there seemed to be not much swell getting in. From the back/shoulder, it looked maybe shoulder high. It was real disappointing, until that is we paddled into the line-up and saw our first big set roll through…
Below, Jon Rose on the first set that came in… The wave didnt have a back, and in person, resembled a mini-teahu’poo. Photos by Norby.
Below, Ryan testing his late drops on the wave after Jon’s.
Brendan, getting in a little late on one of the ledging double up drops.
Me sneaking one in.
Between sessions, life consisted of chess, diving, fishing, sleeping, reading, sleeping, movies and more sleeping/napping. The sun, heat and excersize really takes a toll on your body that you start really succumbing to around day 5.
While refueling, some groms show off at the local dock.
The bow of the boat was a common hang place when the sun wasnt blasting away. The little seats on the very front give a surreal feeling like flying or coasting as we do crossings and travel to new waves.
Josh trying to converse with the local groms.
Sage by Ryan.
Sage, Gnarby and T-Roll.
Zane, the master shirtless chef from Oz. “Huck it in her dumper mate.” Guy was a legend and supported his cooking skills by an almost even stronger strength in stand-up comedy. Here is his blue-steel.
Towards the end of the trip, with our sea legs strong and confidence high, we started anticipating the rise and fall of the bow over swells and would time it with a jump. A little one would send your feet high above your head seeing we would hold onto the railings to make sure we didnt end up face first on the non-skid deck. Then, Jon came around and showed us up and was hucking himself 8 feet in the air, no hands. Nuts.
This is the boat. if you notice in the top right, above the stern there are racks where we store our boards. When we want to go for a surf, we just holler upstairs, and one of the local Deckhands grabs our board of choice, throws it in the dinghy, and off to the wave.
Jordan, with some evidence of the tolls the surfs take on your body towards the end of the trip. I believe these scrapes were from Lances on the big day.
Some rainy day squalls….
Me, about to eat the bottom of my board after a failed floater at Rags Left.
After 3 days of really good surf, we were pretty beat to say the least. While surfing a fairly well known and good spot, Captain Lee murmured under his breath that there was a pretty fun wave just across the bay that might be worth taking a look at if we were motivated. Jon, Ryan, Sage and I hopped in the inflatable and went for a check. When we first pulled up, it looked like it was maybe chest high at best, little rippable waves. We guessed we would just paddle out for a few waves to get wet, get off the boat and surf a place we hadnt seen before. We were in for a big surprise. For me, this turned out to be the most memorable session of the trip. With low expectations, even to the minute of catching the first few waves, we were caught by surprise with several, consistent, solid overhead ledging double up barrels. While us four were scoring, the rest of the crew was back on the boat a 15 minute dingy ride away. We sent the boat back to get them a couple of times, and after us scoring for over 2 hours, the rest of the crew joined in on the fun. Here are a few right before dark when the waves had died a little.
Brendan backhand no grab.
Ryan, fine-tuning barrel techniques on our small wave boards.
Jordy getting deep.
Gnarby working his top speed turns.
If you look closely in the middle of this photo, there are 3 local kids walking on the beach, holding the nose end of Jon’s 3rd broked board of the trip. Who knows, maybe next year we come back and these groms will be surfing this spot, on Jon’s half board, with some stick shoved in the back for a fin.
We spent another day at this spot, then started our trek back north and ended at Lances left for a our last 2 days. Below, another amazing picture perfect line-up.
During one of our last sessions, while sitting in the line-up at Lances left, I felt a really strong rumble and quickly realized that it was an earthquake I was feeling. This area, as everyone knows, is extremely active with quakes. I asked some friends and strangers in the line-up if they felt it, and no one seemed to have. For a second, I thought I was going crazy, but when I returned to the boat, I confirmed with the captain that yes, it probably was a quake.
After an hour or so passed, we turned the VHF Radio to the BBC feed and learned the news. Padang Padang, the city where the boat docks during the season and the city we fly in and out of to reach the boat, had been hit by a 7.8 quake, with early reports that 60 people were dead. Simultaneously, we heard the news about the quake and subsequent Tsunami in Samoa. For me, this was the scariest of the two scenarios. My best friend from home, Spencer Robins, was working at the Salani Surf Camp, based in western Samoa, right on the sand. With no way of reaching home (no cell service or internet access), I had to be hopeful that he was fine and saw the water receed in time to get out. I kept my fingers crossed.
As we set back to port, the death toll would keep rising via Radio reports. However, no words would be able to ready us or explain the absolute devastation that occured in Padang Padang. Below are a few photos from Me and Jon’s drive through the city as we headed to a Red Cross. There was an insane feeling of pure helplessness as we drove past building after building of leveled buildings of rubble, knowing well that people were alive, inside, trapped, with no way to get help. Many of the buildings were still standing half way, so there would be no way you could go inside to help, in fear of the building collapsing on you. Further, modern machinery such as cranes and bulldozers were almost non-existent. We saw two the whole drive through the city, working on only a couple of buildings while literally hundreds and hundreds of buildings and thousands of people were trapped, helpless. Some calling or texting loved ones and emergency numbers from their cell phones from beneath the wreckage.
Below, a school, barely standing. Chalk board and all. 2 or 3 schools in the area had completely collapsed, some with children and teachers still inside.
On a good note, once in the city, I got service on my local indo phone and got a hold of some friends back home who told me that Spencer had made it out in time from the Tsunami, but also told stories of mass destruction.
A several level matket place, completely gone.
A homestay/hotel that many western surfers stay at while coming thru town on the way to charter boats and land camps.
Jon Rose, miraculously, happened to have brought 10 water filtration systems with him on the boat, with the plan to go to some of the villages in the mountains of Bali after the boat trip to do some humanitarian work. Many local villages lack a proper clean source of water, and use grey, sewer water to bath in, wash dishes, and even drink. With the filtration systems he had, it would supply a village with years and years of drinkable water, produced from ANY non-salt water source they could find. However, when we arrived at the Red Cross in Padang, it was apparent that they needed the filters much more immediately than the villages in Padang since they were literally having to opperate on people from small dixie cup waters and black well water from behind the building.
Most people were left without homes/businesses to stay inside. Therefor, makeshift tents from tarps would be the new homes for thousands of locals.
Indonesian for Police car.
After missing our morning flight due to road closure and mass confusion, we ended up at the airport in the evening, trying to get one of the last few flights out of the day to Jakarta, the Indonesian capital. However, with almost an entire city trying to leave from fear of more aftershocks, it would prove impossible. With no safe hotels in the area to stay in, we decided to sleep at the airport which was just outside the city and had no structural damage.
Below, my make-shift bed from my board bag and a couple damp moldy towels.
Brendan and Jon followed.
Josh, finally getting a hold of people back home.
Luggage cart = sofa sleeper.
Ryan below, going for the raw tile approach. Mind you, this ground was completely filthy, filled with bugs and roaches, with more surprises than I was willing to keep my eyes open for.
Finally, we woke up in the morning and somehow managed to all sqweeze last minute onto a flight and made it into Jakarta.
Below are almost 300 thumbnails of many photos from the boat trip. There were too many to hand pick and embed, so here are as many as you can click through. Sorry for taking forever to get these photos up.