About

Email: mentawai [at] mentawai [dot] org

Some 15 years ago I registered the domain mentawai.org and put up a rather dry site. It had stuff to do with my Anthropological research that I did on Siberut in 1992-1993. You can check that out if a) you are interested or b) you wish to suffer. For the fieldwork click here; check out the—slightly— more colorful Journal here —it’s a bit more flavorsome, anyway, compared to the Fieldwork analysis.

travel, Sumatra, Mentawai, trekking, surfing

Central Sumatra, well away from the trans-Sumatran Highway. Not Mentawai, but close.

Anyhow, during that time I occasionally ran into pairs of traveling surfers at the Padang port  asking me about the general lay of the islands and such out there. These were some of the earliest to begin hunting waves. A few years later, every man and his esky of coldies is out there. But I’d long gone by this time.

Ignoring the call of a monumentally classic wave field was not easy. Nyangnyang was only a short run south from Muara Siberut. Had my own speedboat too!! But….discipline was the key. I had maximum two years of funding to complete the research and write it up and could not allow myself any thought of pursuing a lifestyle that I had lived for over a decade earlier.

surfing right hander

16 years young Spring 1978

To rewind aways.

The September school holidays, 1978, brought 3 weeks of 4-5 m ground swell cracking onto Victoria’s Mornington-Peninsula. The sandbars can’t handle that, giving us weeks of long lines of closeouts. But the swell dropped enough for 3 epic days at “Centrals”. Walling takeoff behind the reef right out the back, storming along the adjacent sandbar  into an inside reform section and long barrels almost to the beach.

From 12 years old to 24 or 25 I surfed. Traveled west to surf The Bluff and often deserted lineups around Turtles and the more challenging Gnarloo reef, ie. Tombstones, for several seasons, funded by work on the Tom Price-Dampier railroad.

surfing Red Bluff

Desert-ed lineup, June 1982, before the end of the lobster season and the influx of surfer-fisherman from Kalbarri

The destination.

surf vehicle

On the road to the blowhole, half way to the great beyond

The way to get there. And it was home for a good few years.

A short flight north and you’re in Indonesia where Uluwatu was choc-a-block even back in the early 80s. I quickly learnt Indonesian and (everyday) Balinese. A feast of culture and language.

Time to get formally trained in this. After a full year of traveling Indonesia the path led to the Australian National University where there were, and remain, more experts on Indonesia per square nanometer than just about anywhere else on earth, with maybe the exception of Cornell.

It was a road that led to Siberut.

But, just before you head off , nothing captures the quest for a wave like this classic by master film-maker and photographer, George Greenough:

And all I’ve found, I’ve found from pushing on,I’ve found from moving on, For this journey never ends, Will you ride with me my friend, This journey never Ends, Who knows what’s around the next bend…

Leave a Comment

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Charlie Kushner November 14, 2012 at 6:51 am

Nov 13 2012, Bali

Hi Glen:

Really enjoy your site..

I grew up surfing in Hawaii in the early 60s and have been residing in java and Bali since 75. I graduated university of Hawaii in 72 focusing on cultural anthrology of the pacific…
I’m going to the Mentawais as part of a Jakarta based team invited to speak at and discuss the future provincial roadmap at government meetings in Tuapejat next week
and was hoping to get your views on Christie’s plan.
Are you presently in Indonesia or still in Taiwan??
Best rgeards

Charlie

Reply

Glenn November 14, 2012 at 9:25 am

Thanks Charlie. Glad you dropped by. Christie’s plan seems well thought through. But looking at the whole surfing scene from the two most important groups involved here, locals and surfers it’s all a bit sad. Surfers are paying a premium for access to a dream of the perfect wave although 21st century perfection requires a whole brace of rules and regs to make it work. Boy we’re a long way from Morning of the Earth! As for the locals it seems that without Surf Aid around, they’d get little benefit. And it seems Surf Aid’s impact is much less than it would like and indeed was anticipating a decade ago when Dave Jenkins was putting it together. I’ll send you a direct email.

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aurelius yan March 24, 2014 at 12:05 am

Dear Glenn. I think ik remember i ever read quik your book when i was in amsterdam.. wat I remember that you used a lots wrong how to write mentawai’s word. because you know as an anthropologist the same to me. you know we take seriously how to write the word in other language. the same to me if write your language in the same a way can misunderstanding. I dont speak good english. but I think as an anthropologist must be carefully to write the words of the people for our study. I can help you to correct the mentawai words. Because our ears sounds not nice to hear the mentawai words wat you write.. cheers. Aurelius Yan

Reply

Glenn Reeves April 17, 2014 at 8:58 am

Then you’re welcome to rewrite the offending sections my friend. Send them to me and I’ll get them online giving you credit. Problem solved.

Reply