Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Day 10

Getting caught inside at Greenbush didn't really look like fun..

Andrew on a good one

Who's up?

Our skipper @ Maccas

Eagles purch in the tree at Maccas.

Keith after surfing for six hours was still catching waves

and then had to paddle back to his boat

Andrew and the Freedom III

Maccs sunset

By this time, our trip was winding down. Everyone felt like they had had their fill but we were all still anxious to surf. Our first stop was Greenbush - a glorified close out that occasionally stays open. It too has just recently been "found" and surfed. Luckily for me and every other photographer that goes there, it breaks perpendicular to the shore line. It creates a background full of palm trees and tropical jungle. All the boys got a few good ones and even got caught by a few. Everyone escaped from 'em though and after an hour or so we headed back to the boat. The local villagers aren't nearly as familiar with surfers yet as many of the other villages and haven't quite figured out the best way to make money from the boats that pull up to their islands. These guys filled out an order form and presented it to Carrick. They were asking for just about everything on the boat. He anchored the boat a mile or so from the island but that didn't stop these guys from paddling their canoes out to see to try to score. He was pretty nice about it for a while, but eventually told them to "piss off mates". He did explain to us that they do it for themselves. If there was a chief or church group he'd give them certain supplies that would help the village, but these guys are just being greedy and don't share with the rest of the village.
We headed back to Maccas for an afternoon session and pulled up to see just the Freedom III again. Everyone surfed themselves stupid as the surf there had come up since the day or two before that we were there. There's not too many photos from today because I was in the water most of the day. Everyone got a ton of waves and we all enjoyed a few Bintangs that night and watched the sun go down and empty waves go past.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Day 09

One of about 15 waves like this that Harley scored that morning

Randy had just as many, but the wave looked way easier to surf frontside.

I think I can still hear John talking about this wave - and calling it a c--t.

Goofing off

Brendan @ the right

Notice the perfect shape, then the reef starting to stick up on the outside part of his board

A better look at the dry reef..

Day 9 was a pretty mellow one for me. I was surfed out from the sessions at Maccas, and it worked out to be a good day to shoot photos. The swell was still pretty small but was expected to come up. We anchored near a beachbreak and right reefbreak. Carrick said he'd normally anchor much closer to the right, but the local people paddle out to the boat in their canoes and demand money or food for surfing their wave. Randy and myself hung back while the rest of the crew went to check the right. They soon headed back over to the beachie (as the Aussies like to say) and all jumped out of the boat. Carrick told me and Randy to go check the right again so as soon as Bear got back to the Navi with the speedboat we were off. Harley joined us and in a few minutes we were watching 4-6ft waves peel perfectly across the tip of the small island. They were quickly filling up my camera's memory with images of perfect rights. Again, Bear drove the boat right next to the wave, but this spot was much more mellow as the waves here broke in exactly the same spot every time. And again the water was so crystal clear I think the reef can be seen through the back of the wave in many of the photos. After blazing in the hot sun for an hour or so, Bear had to go back and check on the rest of the guys at the beachie. They quickly realized they had made a mistake when they saw the first few sets come through. Unfortunatley Frank wasn't feeling too hot and went back onboard but the rest of the crew scored. Even the old man John got pushed into a few good ones by his son and our crew.
Later that afternoon, Carrick grabbed Brendan and myself and headed off in the speedie. He told us there was a wave not too far that was a kind of novelty wave. It broke around the inside of point but the swell probably wasn't big enough to surf it. We sat and waited for a few minutes and sure enough four or five waves peeled right past us. They were damn near perfect, but broke right on top of the reef. Carrick and I had written it off and just thought it was pretty cool to see, but I could see Brendan thinking about it. By the time we got back to the Navi, he had convinced himself to do it. Andrew and Randy hopped aboard and I got my camera. Once we got back he hopped right in and we all wished him well. One slip would have landed him on dry rock reef. He managed a few barrels and even a turn or two.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Day 8

Brendan would sit and wait to catch the best waves he could. It usually worked out pretty good for him.

Dry reef at Maccas.

Another sunset

Bear the boat driver

Everyone was excited to get to Macaronis (Aussies call it Maccas). When we pulled up there were already three boats there. Two new ones and the damn Freedom III that had been following us the whole trip. We quickly headed out and everyone scored a few good ones before breakfast. The wave is the end section of a long piece of reef, so you can usually see your wave breaking farther up the reef before it gets to you. This works out because like most of the waves in the Mentawais, Maccas is a pointbreak and there is a gentleman's rule in place which means you wait your turn, then you get to pick whatever wave you want. It was really hard to decided which wave to go on that first day because it wasn't really that consistent so by the time it was my turn, I was ready to go on the first wave that looked good enough. There would usually be better one not too far behind it but I didn't care. It was a little onshore which gave the waves a little texture. The wave itself will let you do whatever you want to do to it. Even I was able to get a ton of turns in and make every section. By the time the wave is over it's really shallow and magnified by the super clear water. I never hit the bottom or reef even though I thought I would a few times. We surfed three times that day and at one point it was only myself, Nick and an older guy named Keith. Keith was retired and spent his days sailing on a 26' sailboat. He said Maccas was his favorite wave in the world, so he comes and docks his boat in the cove nearby. He lives on rice, curry and cereal and surfs every day. He told us he's traveled the world over and we even started talking about the Chesepeke Bay and crabs once he found out Brendan and Andrew live there. He told us he'd been there before and got hooked on Old Bay seasoning.
By the end of the day I was exhausted. The boat was anchored about 150yards from the take off spot, so if Bear or Jeb weren't doing anything we'd ask them to take us over, otherwise we'd paddle. The wave is nearly 100 yards long so you'd have to paddle back out once you rode in too. After ten or so waves that got to be tiring, but addicting. I think we all had a few Bintangs watched the sunset and passed out. We'd be heading in to a port that night to refuel and get water (we ran out of fresh water for showers earlier in the day).

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Day 07

Randy was usually the first one out to surf. Mid afternoon at Lance's.

Bear took our cook Harley out in the speedboat to shoot a few photos and I took their photo.

I definitely didn't want to get washed over that reef.

Just another sunset in the Mentawais
I don't know what to say about day seven other than it was another day in paradise. We set up for the day at Lance's Left - an awesome lefthander that broke across a shallow reef. There was only one other boat there when we pulled up, but they left shortly after to go over and surf Lance's Right. The swell was starting to fill back in, and we had consistent shoulder to head high waves with a few larger ones during the course of the day. The guys surfing backside were freaking out a little because they would watch the wave suck the water off the reef right in front of them. It didn't bother me much cause I made all my waves. I actually thought it was pretty cool. Nice easy take off, get a turn or two off, then the inside would pop up in front of you and you could ride it for a while farther. The only thing that distracted me was the water was so damn clear I could see fish swimming around in front of me while I was surfing.
After lunch I set up my 600mm lens from the boat. The entire time so far I had shot from the speedboat and thought it might be easier to shoot from the Navi. It wasn't rocking too bad and I thought I might be able to get a few good shots with a reasonably straight horizon. I did get a few and it was relaxing having everything available to me - even people to go get me drinks or food and especially shade. I will admit, I was really freaking excited that night when I heard we were going to surf Macaronis tomorrow. It is definitely the best wave in the island chain which could make it the best in the world (for me anyway?).

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Day 06

The beach near on Aloita resort - not a bad view.

Try not enjoying yourself here

Bait fish under the dock

Aloita Resort from the water

Calm conditions on the Indian Ocean

The beak of the lizard fish

Our captain with his catch

Andrew and Nick enjoying a sunset and a Bintang on the Navi

Day, meet night. Night, this is day.

When Day 6 broke, we were still steaming down to a surf spot called Icelands. It's supposed to be a good wave, however there wasn't much swell out there so it wasn't really doing it's thing. It was still WAY better than the surf at home that day, but we were all kind of sunburnt and had a lot of really good surf the past few days most of us didn't surf that morning. Carrick needed to go to a nearby island resort that caters to divers to fill one of his scuba tanks. While we were steaming that night we hit a giant log that put a little scare into everyone. Luckily everything was okay after they removed that part that wedged itself into the bow of the boat. The island was about a half hour by speedboat and we set the fishing lines out to troll for fish on our way there, but didn't have any luck. As we neared the island it was easy to see why they picked this area for diving. The water was so clear you could see the bottom (which you could everywhere else we went, but it was ridicilous here). We tied up at their dock and watched the schools of baitfish being chased under the dock by black trevalle and skip jacks. The water was so damn clear you could see the fish hunting other fish.
When we finally went into the resort, it was breathtaking. Sand paths seperated beautiful wooden bungalows that were right on the water. Palm trees lined the paths, beach and provided much needed shade from the already hot sun. Randy, John and I walked around while the tanks were being filled and talked with some of the guests and took a few photos. John and Randy were having a little trouble adapting to being back on land, but it didn't really seem to bother me. John told us he thought the steps at the resort were going up and down like they do when the boat is rocking.
After we left the resort, we set the lines back out and trolled around a few small islands that looked like they came straight up from the bottom of the ocean. We were about half way around the island when we hooked up with what seemed like a big fish. As it got closer, it was evident that it wasn't that big or powerful but a lizard fish. By the time it was close to the boat, it wasn't even putting up a fight and let Carrick reel it in on it's back. They are an ugly looking fish - kind of like a barracuda but without the teeth. It has a real long beak that hooked both hooks on the lure. By the time Carrick got it free, it was almost gone. We dumped it back and it kinda sunk to the bottom and was probably eaten by something else before it got to the bottom. We didn't have much luck with catching any other fish on the trip back to the boat.
After lunch Brendan and I went snorkeling on a reef near the boat. Jeb took us over in the speedboat and dropped us in the channel and told us the current would take us back to the boat. The reef was mostly dead, but there was an occasional flowering of live reef and colorful fish. It was only 3 or 4 feet deep for a while, then it started to drop off - quickly. We were still a way from the boat and again I started to feel like shark bait. I wished Brendan luck and we double timed it back to the boat.
Later that afternoon we pulled anchor and headed down toward a spot called Lance's left. Back in the late 60's Lance came across this wave while sailing around the islands and liked it so much he decided to make a home for himself there. When other people starting coming there they thought they were the first ones to surf it, until this guy came out of the jungle. I couldn't even image. Anyway, we surfed a nearby left reef break wave called Monkey Jumps. ( I know another weird one - there was no explanation for that one) It picks up more swell and is near the calm anchorage. Frank and Randy surfed while the rest of us watched from the speedboat.
When we got back to the boat we had spectacular sunset and we couldn't even see the sun go under the horizon. The clouds near the horizon made patterns in the sky where night meets day. I guess it's supposed to be like that everywhere, but with light and air pollution it doesn't happen.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Day 05

Burgerworld suited Brendan style of surfing pretty good. It also makes for some really cool backdrops when shooting from the boat.

Randy (still probably feeling the effects of last night) on the wave of the day in the morning session.

Carrick cleaning the Skip Jacks I caught

These two birds were singing the whole time I shot photos from the beach at Burgers.

Our deckhand, Bear, ripping.

This was the where I was shoot most of the photos that day.

Frank the Tank was surfing great

And Carrick even came out later to surf off the hangover.

Late afternoon light coming through the palms in the village.

As I got up on Day 5, I was thinking it would be similar to yesterday. Surf the slab wave in the morning, Burgers the rest of the day. Since Bear was still on his island and Carrick was hung over from a night out (more on that later...) we asked Jeb to drive us over to Slabatha to have a look. He's not as good as Bear with driving the boat, and didn't feel comfortable getting in nice and close to have a look. It was probably just as good the day before, but we couldn't see it. Everyone opted for a surf at Burgers including myself.
I had surfed the night before with Nick, Frank and John while Randy, Carrick and a captain of another nearby boat went fishing. We all had a great session surfing but started to worry a bit about how we were going to get back to the boat as it was starting to get dark. Nick and I were the last ones left in the lineup and it was near dark. I think we (or at least I was) starting to feel like shark bait. But the boat came over to get us right at dusk. It turns out they were a little late because they were busy reeling in a 75lb GT. It was a giant fish that laid in the bottom of the boat. I think everyone had the same reaction the first time they saw it - "oh shit!"
Randy and Carrick went over for a few drinks with the other boat captain and had a few drinks, and kept drinking with our crew when they got back aboard the Navi. Brendan, Harley and Andrew didn't need much convincing to stay up with them. I had already gone to bed but I heard they were a bit roudy. Andrew boxed the captain (at his request) and Harley went wakesurfing behind the back of the speedboat (keep in mind there was no moon and no light).
The next day Burgers was really doing it's thing. The waves came in and wrapped around the point and hugged the reef. The waves were a little steeper that day and I ate it pretty good on the first one I took off on and almost washed over the reef. Luckily for me the wave isn't very powerful and the bottom was soft and I didn't deal with the reef. We surfed for a while then went back to the boat to find our cook and captain still sleeping. Everyone took a little break for lunch then went back out. It was at this point I had the best commute to work I'll ever have. They dropped me off at the sandy beach I checked out the day before. When I got all my gear on land and they started pulling away, I noticed a man walking out of the jungle. I instantly got a little nervous as I wasn't really sure what to expect and I didn't know if I'd be able to get anyone's attention if I needed help. It turns out he had a guitar and was walking down the beach singing. He had to walk right past each other and he turned around and started walking with me and kept singing. After about two minutes of this he turned to me, says "see you later" and walked back into his village.
To get up to the point where I'd be shooting I walked up the beach for a while, but the reef and jungle met up and didn't leave me with much of a path. I wasn't sure if there were snakes and any kind of bugs I should be watching for, so I just charged through and found a great little spot to set up my tripod and camera in the shade. It was the most beautiful place I think I'll ever see. The birds were chiping and singing and the light was great for photos all afternoon. The guys surfed for nearly four hours and we managed a lot of great photos and some video too.
I'm kind of kicking myself for not taking more pictures of the island as I walked up to take photos beacause the sunlight was so bright it made the entire island look like something you only see on postcards - but even better. We pulled anchor that night and steamed south - or north I'm still kind of confused about the directions there.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Day 04 / Exploring

Our first view of the island...

Brendan, Andrew and Nick with the locals..

Soccer is everywhere, even in the middle of an island 100 miles off the coast of Indonesia

Typical village living

I'm sure most of these people are somewhat familiar with digital technology, but they still liked looking at the pictures we took of them.

All over the beach were weird patterns (that looked like crop circles) formed by crabs or ants..

This guy carved an entire canoe from a tree by hand

During the afternoon, we all went out and had a session at Burgerworlds. I managed a few waves on my new 6'8 that Brian Wynn shaped for me. It worked great out there because there was so much wave face to ride on and the wave itself was pretty powerful for being such a mellow wave. Everyone hopped out after about an hour and headed back to the boat. Carrick told us Bear was going to head home to spend the night with his family who lived on an island nearby.
Everyone loaded up with cameras, sun screen, and hats. We were the definition of surf tourists. After a 10 minute boat ride Bear dropped us off on the beach of his island. He took the boat back out, anchored it in the bay and swam in to meet us. The first thing we noticed (besides how beautiful the island is) is how friendly the people are. As soon as the young kids who were playing in the lagoon saw us they started waving and all came to say hello. Nobody once asked us for a handout, but there were alot of smiles and giggles and we did hear them call us "tourist".
The village has about 3,000 people living in it. There were a few shops where they can buy clothes and supplies for everyday life. The main road is paved with concrete and we did notice the sign that Surf Aid had been there to help out at one point. We were told that everyone had a job to do in the village. We even saw a man carving a canoe from a hardwood tree using only a small stone. He was very kind about all of us standing above him as he was working and obliged for a few photos.
Once we got to Bear's house, they invited us inside. It was vey scarcely decorated - just some of his sisters drawings and a few wooden swords on the wall along with a picture of Jesus (most of that village is Christian). It was really hot walking up the trail to the house, and it felt really good to sit in the shade. Their houses are all custom made from hard woods taken from the jungle. The wood is all planned by hand and some of the houses even had marble tile floors.
We headed back out and noticed there were a lot of sports going on. The local kids have a soccer field set up and we walked past a house where two guys were playing ping pong on a wooden table with paddles they made themselves. Really cool..