WELCOME TO THE BEATING HEART OF YOUR ADDICTION
WE ARE THE SPIT
THE TRADE WINDS
THE HOWLING GALE
WE ARE BACKWASH
It’s deep in the hearts of the locals, and deep in the local jungle. A thousand splendid moons. The river is celebrated as something that gives and takes lives, it is everything to so many.. Out on a northern tip of the Sumatran coast and further from the ocean than London, Paris, Munich and most countries capitals a little river village is home to a beautiful and natural phenomena. This is were a very full and new moon at two specific times every 24 hours, the flooding tide creates a perfect wave that can, and does, break for over 20km. There are a few people that have spent their lives and careers in the search of wonders like this. And this is wonderful. But is something so wonderful straight forward? Like a very beautiful woman, king, eagle, mountain range or temple, are they ever straight forward? Has a price been paid or is it yet to?At 10.07 it is coming. A wall of white water over 2km wide thrashing and panting down the river ripping anything and everything out of its way. Trying to remain calm is almost impossible, so much time to make yourself excited, its loud and soft. Its not like the beaches, points, reefs, or river mouths of the ocean - its fresh water, brown and muddy. The people of the river know it is coming and are prepared They move their boats to sections, ox bow lakes that are hidden from the white water and they are wise to do so. This water takes the life of a few locals each year in one way or another.
As the wave approaches you take the boat and step off into the whitewater and track across until you are on the shoulder, then pop up and the longest wave of you life begins. Driving hard off the bottom and cutting back roundhouse for 20 min is not a easy task, so you wait for the wave to be magical for you and you wait for her special sections, you share waves with your friends and enjoy being on a wave in the heart of the jungle. At sections where it closes out you ride prone until she takes shape again and pop up just hoping that your legs handle the challenge. There are times that you come so close to the river bank but are still riding. You could high five the river people on the shore, they are happy to see you trying to dance on there demi god. The support and media boat wait in front of the wave and again at times you are only a few feet from your friends and eddy, they are there excited for you and nervous for them selves, as they are coming to join you. We shared waves a lot on this trip, this makes the experience that much more exciting. But if you fall off, you fall off, and that might be the end of your surf for the day as to get back riding again, Eddy the captain of the bonosurf boat has to navigate through the rivers many shallow sections and debris to get you back in front of the breaking bono. When Eddy cannot get to you for a while, you watch the Bono slowly move away from you and then you are alone in the river, its 2 km wide and your 10ks from the village and the ocean. Last year a croc took a young man from a near by village (the first time in 10 years) and they are there, we saw three crocs this trip in the impact zone, small ones but it gave us that much more inspiration to stay on the wave. Again its part of being in the jungle.
Bore surfing is a beautiful thing but for me it changes the dynamics of surfing a lot. Its not a solo adventure, you’re a team all wanting all of your expectations to be met. All hoping for everything, that 25 min ride, the barreling section. There is no set wave or paddling deep. Just like in a water park you take it in turns and wait until the person before has finished or fallen off. You share a boat together and sleep in the same house, I think you have to be a solid unit to really get into it (and indeed, get through it).
Teiki and Hugo had organized the trip and I was along for the ride. The local airport is supported by only one other airport, then it’s a 5 hour dirt track pick- up ride away and its mind blowing. Rural Indonesia. It exists without the imitate influence of the west. As we were one of the first groups of western surfers to go and as it coincided with the BI annual ‘appreciation of the river festival’ we were treated like foreign ambassadors, but ones that can do magic tricks, smile and make the children laugh. Teiki has lived in and around sumartra since he was 13 and speaks fluent Bahasra so he was our only means of communicating with the local people and it was great that we could. Being somewhere so isolated in this situation wouldn’t have been the same without that connection. Each evening at the festival we were introduced and expected to give talks about the wave and what we think of the wave. Tourists and tourism. Like the river wave in Munich and spots in France, the UK, China and Brazil, the culture that surrounds you is something different from the beach and coastal lifestyle of the usual surf destinations, there is no tourist industry or tourists, not taxi cabs, no seagulls, beach babes, reggae bars or discos, no bureau de change or airport close by. There is not a nice little Italian coffee shop with 3G wifi. No AC, no sun setting on the endless seascape, just the river. All the creature comforts that have become associated with surf travel are gone. And its beautiful. Everybody smiles a lot, they seem grateful because they have what so many people in the world don’t….. fresh water. A river. Clean fresh water everyday. The kids run around naked and play in it, the women go to the river to wash, the men fish, the sun rises over it and the waves comes down it. Crocodiles live in it and everybody respects it.
Backwash Issue Two is a surf anthology featuring Japan, the photography of Chris Burkard and Sergio Villalba, Hamish Laing and Woody Gooch. Kalani Lattanzi swims at Nazare, whilst Amy Kotch surfs barrels whilst pregnant and John Peck knee paddles out as he has done since 1958.Purchase