Is the Mentawais Still an Adventure?

By Ronny Long | 22nd Dec 2017

A Mentawais surf trip is a rite of passage, a coming of age for surfers.

First pioneered by a small group of surfers in the 1980’s the Ment’s became a jealously guarded secret. The surf world quickly became alight with spectacular imagery referred pseudonymously as the ‘sinking atolls’. Photographers and surf journalists were sworn to secrecy and the region’s waves remained unridden by the masses.

Leap forward a decade into the mid 1990’s and the inevitable reveal. The lid had finally been blown off the secret. The masses caught scent and soon after the window to score the best and most consistent waves on the planet ‘alone’ was closing - rapidly. Like the contemporary ‘bitcoin’ phenomena it’s become a kind-of ‘You should have been here yesterday’ thing. But this needs to be made clear 

The Mentawais is still very much a place that you NEED to surf.

Why... Because it's still an Adventure.

Back in the 80’s and into the early 90’s surf discovery in the Mentawais was the real deal adventure - the kind you might not come back from. The search drove you and to surf was, in a way, to adopt a certain level of nihilism - it was the part you played when society pushed you to the edges and when exploring the depths of the Sumatran jungle, it probably served you well. You left the known world and bravely went in search of new ones. It’s been nearly 40 years since then, surfing is no longer a fringe lifestyle. If anything it’s a healthy outdoor activity that gets encouraged by mainstream media because it sells breakfast cereals and clothing. Likewise the Mentawais has changed and has kept astride the particular demands of visitors.

Wi-Fi, double spring mattresses, air-con, ‘Bring the Kids’. 

But despite the comfort and convenience of the vessels and resorts which now litter the region the Mentawais is still an ‘edge of the map’ kind of deal. The isolation becomes pretty apparent during the flight from Australia plus the overnight steam (if you charter) or restless night in a plush Padang Hotel (if you resort). 

The humid tropic heat, that unmistakable sweet clove odour that smacks of ‘Indo’. The blue of the ocean, the dotted green of the scattered islands and the pale white sands form a vivid tapestry and amid the overwhelming hues of colour, there’s that unmistakable thumping sound of waves hitting reef… large waves, smaller waves, waves that break left and waves that break right, hollow waves, waves with long easy walls, waves with sections and freight waves that power along the reef. Mechanical, glossy magazine cover waves that in the stirred something in you to throw a wad of cash down and say ‘F&@k It! Let’s do this!’ 

You’re hardly the first to set eyes on the landscape and like hell you’ll be the first to surf the waves there,  but I can assure you it is better late than never. The Mentawais isn’t the adventure it was, the only pioneering experience you’ll have is a personal one… but we promise you it’s an adventure, a rite of passage, a pilgrimage to one of surfing’s holy lands. An adventure that you NEED to embark on.

Authors note: If you’re after the real deal adventure - dark jungles, awkward bargains with strange languages and malaria? Well, that adventure still exists. You can still be a pioneer but then why the hell are you reading this? Why are you even on this corner of the internet for that matter - shouldn’t you be trawling through Google Earth?
Be gone! Go into the wild and find the waves you’ve always dreamt of with the crowd factor to match… And; if you find those waves, those perfect peeling waves, well then… hush, hush :).

Keep Reading

Resort Latitude Zero: From Dream to Reality
By Richard Kotch | 09th Nov 2022
Way back in 1990 I met Matt Cruden at Lakeys. He was traveling with another surfer (John) from the central...
Read Article
Epic Surf Trip to the Central and Malè Atolls aboard the Ocean Sapphire
By Richard Kotch | 09th Nov 2022
First impressions of the boat had us frothing. The Ocean Sapphire feels solid and confident - she’s an...
Read Article
What to expect on a Maldives Surf Charter - An "occasional surfer's" perspective
By Steve Adam | 21st Sep 2022
It's been a month since I returned from our long-awaited surf holiday to the Maldives. I had the privilege of...
Read Article