(quite a lot of this was written under the influence of something, alcohol, barrel fever etc so the views and opinions expressed were mine at the time and not necessarily mine now)
I write this now in retrospect sitting at a computer desk 3 storeys up in the CBD of surf less Bris-vegas. Obviously my mind is not with my work, interesting as it may be, I travel back a month to Bali, where as the New Year approached so did a new swell.
After a rather tame celebration of the New Year that was 2001, my brother and myself were up at 5:00 am and off up to the Bukit Peninsula to hopefully score uncrowded at Ulus, hopefully, low tide racetracks. Arrival brought a chuckle from our driver with the comment of, ‘today are you brave?’
We checked it and saw solid 6-foot lines packing the racetrack with the odd bigger set breaking wide. No one out. We were down those steps and out the back as quick as possible, to find some very long waves through racetracks. The bigger ones unfortunately broke wide and as we were chasing the barrels on the 6 footers we got caught inside every time.
This is the wet season and no one surfs the east coast of Bali, thanks to that we got Ulus really nice for a total of about 15 days over a 4 week period. All of them being in offshore or no wind conditions. Anyway after another surf at Bingin with only two local guys, rumours of an extremely fast ferry ride from Benowa (the harbour closet to Kuta and Sanur etc,) to Bima on Sumbawa surfaced.
I knew that from Bima it was only a 2-hour bemo ride to Lakai peak, and the large family of epic waves that surround it. Now apparently the fast ferry was only a 6 hour ride from Bali, So to go from Bali to lakai peak is only about 8 hours right? Well add in a few more hours of stuffing around and the words ‘Jam Karet’ and it turns into a 15-hour haul. Still way easier than the long overland haul, which can take up to 4 days.
With knowledge that every surfer I had met said that there were no waves in Sumbawa (thanks Jim!) in the wet season, and that the wind was wrong, and thoughts of an empty line-up awaiting us, we set off, with the swell still pulsing up and down between 6 foot and 2 foot, hopeful our chances were good.
Now Indonesian boat trips always bring up the worst imaginable images, of vomit infested leaky fishing boats full to the brim of people slowly sinking in the middle of the Lombok Sumbawa Straight. Thanks to my Dad, who had lived in Sumbawa for three years. did not help me quell such fears, as he actually increased them by telling me a story of that last time he crossed from Sumbawa to Lombok on the car ferry he saw the return ferry sinking with over 200 stranded Indonesians with the driver of boat (who was safely in a dinghy waving to him in that wonderfully friendly Indonesian way!
As it turned out this ferry was very much like a plane ride, with an in-flight movie and meal, which was kept down for the entire duration of the ferry ride. One worrying thing was the safety instructions at the start of the boat ride took about 30 mins, and were only in English, now other than us, no one was speaking good enough English to understand it.
On arrival into the Bima seaport we were dismayed to see 15 other surfboard bags obviously heading for the Lakai Peak area. Before we could further lament we were snatched up by an over enthusiastic driver who would drive us straight to lakai peak for 50 000 rupiah each, and don’t worry he only had second gear and he wouldn’t stop for robbers, HONEST!.. After 2 and half hours of seeing how fast the bemo could go in second we arrived at Lakai peak at 3 in the morning to hear the boom of waves, The swell we surfed a day earlier in Bali had arrived. After a quick nap we were out there, we were staying at the Prima Donna surf camp, which is the furthest away from lakey peak (2 mins instead of 10 seconds). From the beach it looked tiny, so with mixed feelings we headed out. To find epic 5 to 6 foot waves barrelling left and right, the crowd being light with only about 15 guys in the water. This was the most crowded surf that I had for the duration of our 10-day stay. Apparently it had been bigger the day before and now the swell was dropping, only about a foot every day, and with perfect conditions.
The people staying at Prima Donna, included Myself and my travelling companion, Adam, both Engineers from Bris-vegas, Three Jordie Boys from Newcastle in England, Dan, Duncan, and Andy. and Fernando, a wandering Brazilian/American who had been drifting between Australia and Indonesia for the last 6 months, and one, Declan Lee-Smith, an Aussie lad form Avoca beach, who absolutely ripped the bag out of everything that moved. We became a crew, as when there were no waves, there was not much to do, other than make fun of, harass and annoy anyone in your vicinity.
Anyway, over the next week, the routine was set, I would get up at 5:30 every morning check the surf, time the sets, declare that it had dropped from the day before, wake everyone else up then paddle out to Lackey Peak, to find that it was 2 foot bigger – (usually completely the opposite to what I thought it looked like from the beach). As the days waddled by stories of waves close by emerged including Periscopes, Cobblestones and a wave called what I though sounded like “Machete’s” that was accessible by a 3 hour boat ride.
The walk to Pericopes is only 40 minutes along the beach from Lakai Peak, So quite often, getting the shits with the 4 other people in the water, one of us would wander down, on a mid to high tide, and get some slightly smaller but longer barrels. We were often joined by the grinning Frenchman who had moved there and opened a little restaurant right on the beach out the front of Lakai Pipe.
Which brings me to my next topic of conversation and next wave, Lakai Pipe, now this wave never got crowded; I think there is a pretty big reason for this. As it wraps around the reef, the swell hits Lakai Pipe (which is directly adjacent to Lakai Peak) and ledges like mad, forming this mad barrel that just throws from here till tomorrow. If you get to the bottom and the wave doesn’t buckle and wrap closing any barrel escapes, you will be greeted to a mindblowingly perfect and large square barrel. It also suffered from Chronic sneaker set syndrome, the ocean would be dead flat, then all of a sudden this 6 foot high by million foot wide lump of ocean would decide to turn into a wave and usually more often than not break on your head. Anyway I had a fair few sessions out here, one in particular on the first day shared by Adam and Declan, where the waves turned golden brown as we took turns in getting barrelled of our nuts.
Luckily for us the surf never really disappeared the whole time that we were there. Waves would pump through consistently day in day out, never getting smaller than say a mellow 3 foot. I heard from some of the boys before us that they had endured 10 days of onshore waves, drinking the town of Lakai Peak and Hu’u dry of Bintangs and that wonderful Alcohol known to all indo travels as ARAK.
Now Lakai Peak is only a very small town that thrives of the surfing travellers that stay there. Among the community are half a dozen or so of local rippers, a couple in particular who know all of the waves inside out and knew exactly which wave to take and when the sets came. Cos the crowd was light their vibe was awesome calling us onto waves and generally having a lot of fun. A great change from the mad vibes at Canggu and Seranagan, But no drama as I mean we would be the same if that many crew were always on our waves. But the guys in Lakai were amazingly friendly.
A good thing to do was if you were waiting for set waves at the peak you could watch the indo grommets and if they started paddling for the horizon, you knew a set was approaching, even if you couldn’t see anything on the horizon. Of course with out fail they were bang on, and an awesome set would march through.
There are many more things that we encountered in Lakai like, Annie one of the owners of the stall on the beach that had the hots for Andy and offered a lot more than her stock to him on a daily basis. Or Carmen and the mob who looked after the surf camp that we stayed in. All very honest and good people. Or a 20 minute day hike that turned into a 5 hour wander up a creek to find Hu’uu the other local village, and then getting a tour of the village from a boy who was very keen to practice his English and teach us some of the local Bimanese language.
Among talks with the locals I saw a very proud, independent, and thriving group of people that were proud to be Bimanese, and very aware of their own identity. So far away form the political goings on in Jakarta, but very vocal about what should happen and how it affected them. But at the same time content to stay where they were. A sentiment that was echoed by our bemo driver and a couple others, stating that they had been under Dutch rule for 350 years, Japan for two (in the war) then under there own rule since and now, and forever more.
Upon looking at the area that we were staying in, I envy the Frenchman who moved here as the area is amazing in its richness and diversity of wildlife and fauna. The reefs contain a lot of fish and I spent a couple of afternoons swimming with crazily big and awesome looking fish, and to be more than once almost speared by the local fishermen who caught some amazing fish everyday.
Lakai Peak and its surrounds is an awesome place, I recently read an article in Australia’s Surfing Life, about how the crew that went to it back in 88/89?, Would never again go, due to its development. But really it is very small scale and it will take a lot of years before it is developed – hopefully never. The village has given it a local human touch to it which added to the whole experience of going there.
Anyway the idyllic lifestyle had to come to an end, and an hour before departure some miniature magic mushrooms that we had been eyeing off all week were picked and given to the cook who cooked them up, dirt and all and served them as an omelette. Rather grey in colour.
All of the boys except Duncan, and Fernando gobbled it down and were all ready to fly, back to the seaport. Now travelling through a different foreign country, with amazing scenery and very happy people with a head full of mushrooms, is something everyone must do. It produced one of those crazy good vibes feelings that stuck with me for days. I feel a few heads of state in certain areas of the world would be better of for it. Anyway enough hippie crap.
We arrived at the Bima seaport and started a game of soccer with the locals, us being soundly thrashed by a group of 12 year olds we settled down to drink the 5 hours away whilst I some how got myself caught up in a friendly? game of Chess with our Bemo Driver. after struggling through a VERY long game of chess with him I sat myself down accompanied with a crew of backpackers who had been slowly winding their way back from Irian Jaya. Stories of gunbattles in the street filtered up with Irian Jaya obviously still a very hot spot. This was the situation at the start of 2001 The area apparently has settled down, but, It is interesting to note the continuing breakup of Indonesia with Timor, Irian Jaya and the northern end of Sumatra all keen for independence.
The boat ride was more eventful, with a lot more vomit, the funniest thing I had seen was Watching Adam trying to sleep on the floor with a couple of puddles of vomit forever encroaching on his sleep space, before he finally awoke face to face with an extra large chunky bit of someone’s post-digested piece of carrot.
We arrived back in Bali, for a couple hours of sleep before hitting Nusa Dua and the bars to see everyone off to their different locations.
The following week involved many more adventures including climbing the live volcano in Bali, feeding the legal ephedrine (speed) to a local Javanese lad who smoked way to much pot, fighting the monkeys at Uluwatu, and getting completely lost over and over again on the crazy roads of Bali.
With that I will leave it with the statement that whenever and wherever you go in indo, it will pump..
Sumbawa wet season 2001 by Sam Pollard