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David Scard

Cheat Notes: The Mentawai Islands

The Mentawais is arguably the mecca of surfing for travelling surfers! 

So why not dive straight into some cheat notes from the people who know the region better than anyone...

Surfers flock to the Mentawais by the boat load every year. It is arguably the mecca of surfing for the travelling surfer. But what can you expect if you have never been? 

Indo veteran and all-round charger, David Scard gives us a few tips on the Mentawai Islands.

Equipment

You have ducked and weaved work, you have saved for a year, sat in the harbour in Padang, overnighted the crossing and finally made it to Nirvana! The last thing you want is a shit quiver of boards to choose from. Here is what I do when considering equipment selection for the Mentawai Islands. It comes down to a few factors:

  • How long are you going for?
  • What kind of waves are you chasing?
  • What level of surfer are you?

Generally speaking the majority of people are heading to the Ments for 10-13 nights. This kind of window gives you plenty of time for at least one or two swells, so its likely you will break a board or put one out of action somehow. So unless you have a really nice group of friends that are the same weight and height as yourself you WILL need spare boards.

The best fit is small wave board, a couple of magic short-boards and at least a step-up board. If you can adjust the step-up board with the benefit of a forecast then happy days!!

Optimal Conditions

The ultimate forecast for the Ments is a 6-10ft southwest swell that holds in a back to back nature, or if the same storm does the full windscreen wiper, with the swell starting SW and staying strong as it moves across the Indian Ocean, morphing into a South swell.

If you combine a solid SW swell with light winds then you will be in for the most uncrowded sessions! All of the charter boats and resort boats take full advantage of the huge array of breaks and this naturally spreads surfers out as options are endless.

The Waves

It would take a lifetime to master all of the waves in the Mentawais and even then you probably wouldn’t have surfed them all with hidden gems still existing and only a handful of experienced skippers who know about them. Only a handful of people would come close to sitting on this mantle piece (Banks, Eltherington to name a few).

You need to tap into your own experience surfing reef breaks at some of these waves. Sometimes positioning in the lineup can be the difference between getting the barrel of your life or being dragged across sharp coral reef.

In saying this, the number of surf breaks in the Mentawais is ridiculous and there is something for everyone. If you don’t want death defying slabs or freight train backhand tubes, you can certainly opt for less consequential waves that are still amazingly fun and give you the best barrel of your life. One wave like this that springs to mind immediately is Bintangs.

If you are an inexperienced surfer, getting as much information from your skipper/guide is highly recommended. A good guide will help optimize every surf and help you with positioning in the lineup and identifying any dangers during the ride i.e. shallow sections and where not to straighten out and so on.

Understand Where you are Going!

Be well prepared when heading to the Mentawais. As amazing and ideal as it is, you are VERY isolated, especially when it comes to any medical help. You need to be as prepared as you can be for your own personal well-being.

Some things to consider:

  • Visit your doctor before you leave to discuss any health issues
  • Make preparations for possible reef cuts, sea sickness, dengue fever, malaria etc
  • If you wouldn’t take the risk dropping into a 6ft wave over shallow reef at home then the Mentawais isn’t a good place to start.
  • Do some training before you leave home. Surf as much as possible, go for a run or swim if there aren’t any waves and watch your diet…cut back on the boo’s.

With all this being said, don’t let it dictate your trip. We encourage you to surf your ass off, come back with a few tubes under your belt.

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