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.
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.
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.
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…“